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Project Manager Job Description

Project Manager

PROJECT MANAGER FAST STATS

  

Salary

$71,937

Education

High school or

bachelor’s degree 

Experience

2 years with bachelor’s

5 - 7 years without

Upward Mobility

Above average

Certification

PMI-PMP or

PRINCE2

Job Outlook

33% growth

2017 - 2027

Project Manager: Understanding the job

What is a project manager?

A project manager is someone an organization employs to oversee a project they are planning. Project managers function as a point person, the conduit between senior management and the teams doing day-to-day work on the project. In short, they should have all the answers about an ongoing project they are overseeing.

Whether the project is commissioned by a client, assigned from upper management, or pitched by the project manager, the project manager sees it through from initiation to completion, making sure it has effective personnel, stays within budget, and wraps up on time.

Project managers need to have expertise in project areas that are specific to their industry, so the specifics of a project manager job description will vary based on the range of industries they cover, from finance to architecture to pharmaceuticals.

The following soft skills are commonly found in the typical project manager cover letter:

| organization | time management | adaptability | problem solving | interpersonal & communication skills | leadership | creativity |

Top project manager skills

What project managers do

Every project manager job description starts with communicating with clients, senior management and other relevant stakeholders to make sure a project meets their needs and stays on path. Project managers are expected to complete projects with the funding senior management allots them (often a fixed amount), so proper budgeting is a daily consideration in all project manager jobs.

All project managers consult with other departments within an organization to requisition the most effective personnel and proper resources to complete the project at hand. At times, successful completion of a project requires skills, talent or additional workers that an organization cannot immediately provide. Project managers recruit and hire employees to fill these gaps, including temporary hires and subcontractors. Once all of the personnel are assembled to tackle a project, project managers assign them responsibilities, tasks and roles then monitor and evaluate their work, whether they’re working individually or in groups.

Projects usually come with deadlines, and project managers are responsible for their teams meeting them. That means controlling for teamwork and efficiency, easy access to resources, and sufficient skill proficiency to get the job done. All project manager jobs require writing up progress reports and eventually final reports to present to senior management and clients to make sure projects meet specifications and accomplish stated goals.

What great project managers do

1. Great project managers are master problem solvers.

They listen to clients’ or management’s goals, ask questions to assess the scale and scope of their vision, analyze the ways their organization can materialize that vision, choose the most effective one, and assemble the people and resources necessary to make it happen.

2. Great project managers are natural leaders.
Their teams follow them because they are knowledgeable and experienced in their field, handle unexpected challenges with confidence in their team, trust team members to execute without constant oversight, and inspire team members to take ownership of their work.

3. Great project managers produce under pressure.

Project managers are under constant pressure to make sure 1) projects meet deadlines and 2) end users are happy.

''...expertise is the most direct route to becoming a project manager''

It’s difficult to control for all the moving parts of a project and have them come together under an imposed deadline. Sometimes personnel work at one pace and resource acquisition at another, or management’s priorities change and budgeting or strategic approach has to be readjusted. Great project managers thrive under those conditions and produce.

Likewise, when reporting to finicky clients or executives, project managers have to be ready to accept that stakeholders may want the project to go in a different direction or to be completed more quickly or with fewer resources. Great project managers adapt to challenges like these and inspire their teams to follow along.

A project manager plans a project with her team, using sticky notes on a wall

Typical day as a project manager

We’ve covered a number of things that project managers do or things that pop-up in all project manager jobs in a given day. Most of them center around leading and managing a project team and checking in with stakeholders to report progress.

Other daily activities for a project manager include:

  • Keeping records (spreadsheets, charts, reports) to assess needs in real time
  • Securing resources from outside vendors or other departments in the organization
  • Checking in with team members to measure their progress against the project plan
  • Reviewing expenditures, accounting and billing to secure budgeting
  • Analyzing progress and projecting limitations to guide team momentum
  • Attending workshops and organizing training for team members
  • Researching similar projects in the field for newest and best practices
  • Requisitioning the most up-to-date tech and IT

Project manager basic duties

Project managers are both leaders and managers. That means consulting with other managers for instructions and direction and guiding a team towards a new or evolving and specific goal.

Leadership duties

  • keeping work on time and on budget
  • guiding teams through changing objectives
  • providing teams them with training
  • documenting team progress
  • ensuring smooth access to resources
  • communicating team needs to stakeholders

Management duties

  • implementing feedback from stakeholders
  • assessing limitations to manage risk
  • responsible budgeting
  • supervising subcontracted work
  • making sure team adheres to guidelines
  • researching similar projects in their field to keep up with innovation

A project manager's hands as he explains something to his coworkers

Becoming a project manager

Project manager job requirements

There are several different routes to becoming a project manager and therefore several different sets of project manager job requirements. That being said, expertise is a constant requirement and is the most direct route to becoming a project manager.

That could look like someone with a high school or associate’s degree working their way up through an organization from an entry-level position to become a project manager after enough years of experience.

Expertise can also be gained by studying subjects surrounding project management at the university level in a 4-year bachelor’s program, though employers typically require at least two years experience of project management or being an assistant project manager in addition to studies. Typically in technical fields such as graphic design or engineering or IT, a university degree in the specific discipline is required.

Though they are not among the mandatory project manager job requirements, a certification can provide one source of project management expertise companies are looking for.

''...your ability to lead a team, be creative in solving problems, and expertise in the field will go a long way to putting you at the top of the list of applicants''

The two main certification institutions that employers look to are PRINCE2 and Project Management Institute (PMI) whose Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most prominent and widely recognized.

Project management certification courses are a great way to prepare to earn a qualification which can make for an attractive source of expertise when applying for a position and writing a project manager cover letter. Project manager interview questions usually probe for expertise in management or in a specific field, so applicants shouldn't hesitate to show what they know and what they've learned.

Ideal project manager resume

An ideal project manager resume contains at least 5-7 years of experience in a given field as a project manager or an assistant project manager. A university degree in a subject related to the hiring industry along with project management certification will be attractive qualities to employers, particularly for those shopping their project manager resume around to companies in technical fields.

When writing a project manager cover letter or answering project manager interview questions any evidence of your ability to lead a team, be creative in solving problems, and expertise in the field will go a long way to putting you at the top of the list of applicants.

Project manager salary

Salary.com lists the average project manager salary as of September 2018 at $71,937.

The wide range of fields in which project managers work creates a wide variation in project manager salary. Construction, IT, engineering, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tend to be on the highest end of the earnings scale (upwards of $140,000/yr) while generic project managers with 0-2 years experience are on the lower end of the scale (as low as $65,000/yr).

"Being a project manager may be a high pressure position, but it also has a high ceiling for advancement, salary increase, and position within an organization."

The latest PMI commissioned study reports an optimistic outlook for project managers with a 10-year job growth projection of 33% which represents an increase of 2.1 million jobs between 2017 and 2027, so preparing for a career as a project manager now may be a wise investment.

Is project manager the right job for me?

According to US News and World Report, project managers are most employed in industries like oil and gas, construction, finance, architecture, engineering, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, business and information, and insurance among others.

Considered alongside general project manager positions, a project manager’s day may be spent communicating with senior managers and stakeholders, supervising production processes in a manufacturing facility to assure customer satisfaction, or developing reports and scrutinizing budgets to satisfy management and support team members.

Being a project manager may be a high pressure position based on deadlines and client satisfaction, but it also has a high ceiling for advancement, salary increase, and position within an organization. If the organization demands it, you could advance to a program manager position which involves the management of many projects and the managers and teams that work on them.

Be prepared to work hard to earn the experience and qualification required of a project manager, and then to use your expertise to show aptitude for handling multiple projects and proposing projects of your own.

Top project manager skills:

Teamwork

Project managers have to work with teams on both sides of their responsibilities: first with the team that they assemble and manage, and second with the team of senior management, executives and clients whose ideas they materialize in the projects themselves.

That’s a lot of teamwork that requires different approaches, which we’ll discuss in our next skill.

Diplomacy and interpersonal skills

Meeting client needs and satisfying senior management, both of whom may often have unclear or unrealistic visions of a project’s scope or direction, is a special skill that requires a deft touch. You have to listen thoughtfully, communicate gracefully, and steer the conversation from both a position of expertise and service.

Similarly when leading a team of workers one has to inspire independence and self-responsibility alongside a team-reliance mentality. These are difficult skills that require a lot of experience and often some training to fully acquire.

Leadership and management skills

It’s obvious that a project manager should have management skills, in other words making sure that people and procedures function well. It’s equally important that they have leadership skills, in other words guiding teams towards new goals and new challenges with every project.

Organization and analysis

These skills include budgeting, assembling reports, inventory control, resource acquisition and distribution, evaluating team efficiency and efficacy, and proposing changes in project direction to stakeholders. All of these are critical components of daily project manager work.

Similar or related job titles

  • Program manager
  • General project manager
  • IT project manager
  • Senior level project manager
  • Operations manager
  • Manufacturing manager
Last updated: 12 Dec 2018

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