What is a project manager?
Project managers play the lead role in planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing out projects. They are accountable for the entire project scope, the project team and resources, the project budget, and the success or failure of the project. To succeed in their role, project managers must be adept at coordinating resources, managing budgets, measuring and tracking project progress, and communicating with team members and stakeholders. They also assess risks and resolve any issues that arise throughout a project’s life cycle, often being called on to make difficult decisions regarding complex and competing priorities in an effort to achieve desired project outcomes.
Project manager responsibilities
A project manager, with the help of their team, is charged with multiple responsibilities that span the five project phases of a project life cycle outline below. Each phase emphasizes a different mix of project management skills and knowledge areas, including integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk procurement, and stakeholder management.
Initiating phase: During a project’s initial phase, project managers are responsible for developing the project charter and identifying the relevant stakeholders involved in achieving the project’s intended outcome.
Planning phase: In developing a project management plan, project managers must define project scope, create a work breakdown structure (WBS), and gather requirements. They must also plan, define, and develop schedules and activities, as well as estimate the resources necessary to complete the project, determining each activity’s estimated duration. With this as a guide, they can then plan and estimate costs, determine budgets, identify human resource needs, and establish plans for communications and quality management. They must also identify potential risks, perform qualitative and quantitative risk analysis, and plan risk mitigation strategies, while also identifying required procurements and setting stakeholder expectations.
Execution phase: During thisphase, project managers are responsible for directing and managing all work for the project, including the following: selecting, developing, and managing the project team; managing all aspects of communications; taking action on securing necessary procurements; performing all aspects of quality management; managing all stakeholder expectations.
Monitoring and controlling phase: Once work is under way on a project, project managers must monitor the project work and initiated any necessary changes while validating and controlling the scope of the project, its costs, and the quality of its deliverables. Project managers must also oversee all team and stakeholder communications, control procurements, and manage all stakeholder engagements.
Closing phase: To complete a project, project managers must close all phases and procurements, settle budgets, hand over deliverables, conduct project post-mortems and reports, and return personnel to the resource pool
Project management skills
Effective project managers need more than technical know-how. The role also requires a business mindset, team building and conflict resolution capabilities, and change management expertise, among other key skills in high demand. At a base level, project managers must exhibit leadership, be able to motivate team members, communicate, prioritize, and problem-solve. Adaptability is another key nontechnical skill project managers must have to succeed.
But to be a highly effective as a project manager, you must be a strategic business partner fully vested in organizational success, and you must be able to roll with inevitable setbacks. Combined with the necessary technical skills, certain attributes will place you in higher demand as a project manager, providing a strong foundation that will enable you to adapt to the constantly changing dynamics of a project while putting your stakeholders needs first above all else.
For a closer look at these and other key project manager attributes, see “10 traits of highly effective project managers.”
Project manager certifications
Becoming a certified project manager can open up doors for career opportunities and higher paying jobs. There are various educational institutions offering project management certifications with multiple specializations. The most widely recognized institution is the Project Management Institute (PMI), but there are others. Key project management certifications include the Project Management Professional (PMP) and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). For more, see our list of the top project management certifications available today.
If open source project courses are of interest, also consider some of these free project management courses to help improve project-related knowledge and skills. Many businesses are adopting agile as the preferred project methodology, creating the need for employees to develop their knowledge in this area. Agile certs such as the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) can give you a leg up, as can Scrum-based certs such as the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). See our lists of top agile certs and top Scrum credentials to take your career to the next level.
Project manager salaries
The high level of skills and responsibilities of project managers has garnered high salaries. According to Indeed, base salaries for IT project managers in the US range from $68,690 to $144,781, with an average annual salary of $99,725, among over 3,200 salaries reported. Project manager jobs
The great part about a career in project management is that virtually every industry sector worldwide needs project managers with various specializations, making it a good career choice. Companies in the healthcare, aviation, technology, software development, engineering, construction, real estate, publishing, financial, marketing, manufacturing, education, insurance, government and many more need and seek good project managers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics outlook for project managers is bright. Essentially, any business that has projects needs project managers.
Websites to go to find jobs in the project management space:
Project manager resume tips
Landing a job as a project manager means paying close attention to what your resume says about your skills and abilities. Because your resume is an extension of you professionally, create the best first impression to ensure it gets noticed and lands an interview. An employer has to value your resume enough to want to pick up the phone. Here are five secrets to creating the best project management resume to help land a position as a project management professional and other tips and templates to create a polished resume to showcase your experience.
Project manager interview questions
Once in an interview, the tough part begins. Most candidates know how to talk about their strengths and skills, but the best are prepared to answer more challenging interview questions, such as “What do you think your role is as a project manager in terms of achieving company-wide business objectives?” and “How and when have you utilized technology to improve or enhance your effectiveness as a project manager?” For more, see our 12 difficult project manager interview questions to prep for.
Another key strategy in advance of your interview is to conduct extensive research on the organization you are interviewing with. Undertaking the following efforts will help you prepare answers that better align with the organization’s specific business context:
Research the industry the business resides in
Research the nature of the business, its activities, products/services, stakeholders, etc.
Review the business vision, mission statement, short-term and long-term objectives
Search for information on the management team and overall business culture
Determine how your role as a project manager and leader may impact that particular business, and in turn, also how it may be impacted by that business
Think about how you can best utilize your training and experience to advance projects successfully at this specific organization
More on the project manager role:
IT Leadership, Project Management, Project Management Tools