Project Manager vs. Project Coordinator: What's the Difference?

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

So you've decided you're interested in the field of project management, but you don't know where to start. There are a number of entry- and mid-level positions to consider, many of which don't specifically include "project manager" in the job title. How can you tell which jobs are a good fit for your interests, skills, and career goals? Consider the responsibilities and skill sets that differentiate two common positions in the field: project manager vs. project coordinator.

Project Management Job Description

Project managers plan, initiate, and oversee execution of all elements of a project, and often work with multiple internal teams, contractors, and clients. Project managers may be involved in early discussions with a client and upper management to make sure they have a clear understanding of the client's desired goals and outcomes. They then determine what resources, processes, and other materials will be necessary to complete the project in the desired timeline, and draw up plans for each phase of execution. This may involve delegating tasks or significant portions of the project to coordinators or teams of employees to help maintain a broad overall view of the entire project throughout.1

The project manager is the one ultimately responsible for the final quality of a project, thus ensuring it's delivered on time and to the client's satisfaction. For this reason, project management is more of a leadership role and involves trusting others with completion of specific parts or stages of a plan or process.

Project Management Responsibilities

A project manager’s work begins with the planning that occurs before a project starts. This includes identifying and breaking down the main parts of a process to organize the project into stages with realistic timelines, and accurately estimating the work hours and other resources each major project stage needs. Since the final project plan must account for the company's time and financial requirements in addition to the client's quality expectations, project managers must perform the complex calculations necessary for risk assessments, resource allocation, and budgeting.1

Once a project is underway, project managers maintain a clear and accurate picture of all simultaneous and overlapping parts of the process. This may involve regularly checking in with multiple teams and departments as well as reviewing work after the completion of each stage.1

Relevant Skills

Project managers oversee several parts of complex processes at once. Essential project management skills include:1,2,3

  • Efficiency
  • Long-Term Planning
  • Visualize Complex Processes
  • Multi-Tasking
  • Communication (between upper management, the client, and project teams)
  • Financial Planning
  • Resource Management

Project Coordinator Job Description

Project coordinators may work under a project manager to help with administrative tasks on a specific project. They help make sure all team members and departments have what is needed to meet the deadlines and milestones set by the project manager.2 In order to do this, project coordinators must be familiar with every aspect of the project, including all short and long-term goals, the entire project calendar, and budgeting details.

While project managers oversee the process from planning to completion, the project coordinator’s role is more focused on executing specific stages of a plan.2 The project coordinator's goal is to help enable the project manager to focus on broader issues and any problems that may arise by managing the day-to-day minutiae of a project. Sometimes coordinators may expand their responsibilities to include multiple projects, or move into project management roles with more oversight.

Project Coordinator Responsibilities

Once all stages and timelines of a project are outlined and approved, the project coordinator helps keep all parts of the process organized and running according to plan. This may involve communicating between the client and various teams internally, setting times and dates for meetings to keep on schedule, and relaying any issues with timelines or budgets to the project manager.4

Because a project coordinator's job revolves around the heavily administrative work required to keep all stages of a project moving forward, responsibilities may include work with spreadsheets and reporting, and regularly maintaining and filing paperwork.4

Relevant Skills

Since project coordinators utilize some of the same skills as project managers, desired qualities may include:2,3,4

  • Organization
  • Interpersonal Communication (particularly via phone and email)
  • Problem Solving
  • Time Management
  • Technical Skills and Data-Entry

Pursue Your Project Management Degree at American InterContinental University

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking “project manager” as an occupational category, which reflects the growing demand for this role.5 Moreover, the Project Management Institute projects that 939,532 jobs will be created in the profession between 2016 and 2020.5

Ready to learn more? Request information about degree options and explore online project management degrees at AIU.

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1. “Project Managers Stay in Charge and Out Front.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2006/summer/art03.pdf (Visited 11/20/18).
2. “Project Coordinator Vs. Project Manager.” Vivek Sivasubramani. LinkedIn. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/project-coordinator-vs-manager-vivek-sivasubramani (Visited 11/20/18).
3. “Project coordinator, Project Leader or Project Manager?” Project Crunch. Retrieved from: http://projectcrunch.com/project-coordinator-project-leader-or-project-manager/ (Visited 11/20/18).
4. “Project coordinator.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/youre-a-what/project-coordinator.htm (Visited 11/20/18).
5. “Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes importance of project managers.” Federal Times. Retrieved from: https://www.federaltimes.com/management/2016/10/31/bureau-of-labor-statistics-recognizes-importance-of-project-managers/ (Visited 11/20/18). Conditions in your area may vary.

American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

The presence of specific potential jobs on this list does not guarantee availability of career opportunities. All statistics referenced are national historical averages and the figures in your area and at the time of your job search may be different.
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