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Project Manager Career Guide

How to become a project manager.

They keep their team on task, on time, and on budget—they're the project manager. But who is the project manager, really, and what do they do?

Let's dive into a typical project manager job profile to find out what a project manager does, how much they earn, what skills and certifications they need to have, and, most importantly, how you can become one.

Group of young entrepreneurs having a business meeting in front of the transparent wipe board in the office

What is a project manager?

Project managers are the ones responsible for ensuring the entire team understands the needs for certain projects or tasks. They take a leadership role on the team, work across multiple groups within the organization, and often utilize software to keep everything on-track. Project management is a relatively new field that is growing in popularity as more organizations understand the need for one central person who is keeping everything about a project or plan going. 

Project managers do exactly what you'd expect them to do: They manage projects. More specifically, project managers oversee projects from concept through completion and collaborate with all of a project's contributors.

It's a role with an incredible amount of responsibility. A project's success—or failure—usually falls squarely on the project manager's shoulders.

What does a project manager do?

A project manager's day-to-day workload varies depending on how far along the project is. But most project managers share common tasks including:

  • Hold a daily stand-up going over the tasks for the day. Project managers can arrange small check-in opportunities during the day or week to help keep everyone on-task and give updates.
  • Identify and manage the scope of a project. Project managers are tasked with understanding all of the elements needed for a project and being able to communicate that to employees.
  • Assign a team's tasks. Knowing everyone's roles and responsibilities and being able to assign tasks is essential for project managers.
  • Participate in client meetings and communicate with outside stakeholders. Project managers are often involved in many meetings so they can understand the direct needs for everyone on the team.
  • Track a project's budget and schedule. Budget and schedule changes can throw a project off-course, so project managers are needed to keep everything going smoothly.
  • Advocate for the customer or team. Project managers work with everyone involved in a project, so they are able to be the advocate for team members, clients, or other departments when needed.
  • Lead junior members on the team. Project managers may have to help newer or junior employees get up-to-speed on areas of software, training, and tactics.
  • Build new workflows and facilitate vendor cooperation. Workflow software is regularly used by project managers to manage timelines, communicate with vendors, schedule meetings, and assign tasks.
  • Troubleshoot issues. If there is an obstacle, a project manager may create meetings or workaround solutions to help things get back on track.
  • Develop solutions to meet client requests, Ultimately a project manager is focused on solutions to ensure everyone is happy with how the project is going.
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MBA

What education does a project manager need?

Most project managers hold a bachelor's degree and have some experience in their field in order to work their way up. A master's degree can additionally be helpful in helping project managers thrive in their field, and move up to higher roles. Business is an ideal field for project managers because it can help them understand the ins and outs of management processes, budgets, strategy, and more. While there are many fields project managers can work in, business education can help project managers be ready for the different fields where they may be required to work. 

Additionally if you want to become a project manager in an IT specific field, an IT master's degree can help you get the software and management skills you need to work in that industry. An IT specialization can help you focus directly on unique software and systems needed for project success in those areas.

Best degrees for project managers:

Business Management – B.S. Business Administration

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:...

Hone your business acumen and garner added...

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:

  • Time: 68% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,370 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Account executive
  • Business analyst
  • Program manager
  • Director or senior director
  • Vice president

This online degree program is an excellent choice for kick-starting your organizational management career.

IT Management – B.S. Business Administration

IT managers are needed in nearly every organization:...

IT managers are needed in nearly every...

IT managers are needed in nearly every organization:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,370 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Vice president of risk management
  • Product security incident manager
  • Vice president of technical services
  • CTO and CIO
  • Director of IT

Key competencies of these online courses align with industry needs: management and leadership, networks and security, and information systems management.

Master of Business Administration

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business management, strategy, and leading teams:

  • Time: 80% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,325 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President and CEO
  • Vice president
  • Executive director
  • Chief strategic officer

Our competency-based model gives you an innovative learning experience you won't find anywhere else—and our MBA grads tell us they loved accelerating their program to see a faster ROI.

MBA Information Technology Management

Earn the online college degree that can move your career into IT...

Earn the online college degree that can move your...

Earn the online college degree that can move your career into IT upper management:

  • Time: 68% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,325 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Chief technology officer
  • Director of IT services
  • Senior systems administrator
  • Management information systems director
  • Computer and information systems manager

Learn to navigate emergencies, execute strategies, and optimize systems with the competencies within this specialty MBA.

Compare with M.S. IT Management

Management and Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree focused on change management,...

An online master's degree focused on change...

An online master's degree focused on change management, innovation, and leading teams:

  • Time: 62% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,325 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President
  • Vice president
  • Director of operations
  • Executive director

Develop a comprehensive suite of leadership skills and your confidence to navigate changing business structures.

Information Technology Management – M.S.

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready to lead:...

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready...

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready to lead:

  • Time: 89% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,835 per 6-month term.

Included in your program—at no extra cost—is the opportunity to earn the valuable PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification.

Maximize the opportunities that your IT career path has afforded you—earn your master's and keep moving up. 

Compare with MBA IT Management


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What certifications do project managers need?

Some project managers may find benefits in certifications such as the Certified Associate in Project Management credential or the Project Management Professional certification. These certifications can help you enhance your résumé and prepare you for additional career opportunities. These certifications are particularly useful in the IT field, but can be utilized in any industry to help you progress your project management career.

A young man and woman are sitting in a computer lab. The woman is helping with a computer project.

What skills does a project manager need?

  • Great communication
  • Experience with budgeting
  • Scheduling proficiency
  • Ability to learn software and task-tracking systems
  • Strong organization
  • Collaboration across departments and teams
  • Good leadership
  • Knowledge of spreadsheets
  • Time management

How much does a project manager make?

$81,000

The average salary for project managers is around $81,000 per year, with experienced project managers in certain industries earning more than $120,000 per year. The amount you can earn will greatly depend on your education—a master's degree can help you earn more and be eligible for higher positions. Similarly your location and the industry where you are working impact your earning potential.

What is the job outlook for project managers?

33%

Project management jobs are expected to grow 33% by 2027 according to the Project Management Institute.  As more organizations come to understand the value in project management, more jobs will be created. There is already a shortage of qualified project managers, and the talent and opportunity gap is expected to grow. Now is an ideal time to earn a degree and pursue a career in project management because there are many job opportunities.

Where do project managers work?

Any field

Project managers are found in several fields. The role is common in IT, where project managers are often responsible for software development. But they can also be found in any industry where teams need to focus on one project at a time. Project managers are also common in construction, where they oversee building projects from start to finish. In engineering, project managers manage the development of a specific device or piece of technology. In insurance, project managers act much like a construction project manager, overseeing specific insurance claims, such as the restoration of a client's home after a disaster. There are project management roles and opportunities in many industries and fields and job candidates often have a wide variety of options to choose from.

Interested in becoming a project manager?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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