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The world is changing more rapidly than ever. Globally, businesses are being challenged to work in novel and innovative ways. This means the requirement for people to effectively lead this change is growing. 62% of respondents in an industry survey believe that project work will increase. This means the outlook for qualified and experienced project managers is pretty rosy right now. Tempted to get in on the action but not sure how to get started? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll cover what exactly a project manager does and the crucial soft skills needed for success. An added bonus? They’re all skills F4S can help you develop using our free personalized coaching service. We'll also touch on the required qualifications and experience needed for a career in project management. Finally, we'll discuss the future outlook for the project management profession.

What do project managers do?

Project managers are responsible for planning and coordinating projects. They also coordinate the internal and external resources required to deliver their project. They may also need to use project management software.

Project managers need to work with multiple key stakeholders. These stakeholders may be internal and external. Project managers are responsible for monitoring the project's progress. They’ll then report this to senior management. 

Any business that wants to deliver a change might use a project manager. Project managers can be found in all industries and work in both the public and private sectors. This includes organizations from banks to charities and digital startups to construction firms.

Project managers may work with other change professionals. These may include business analysts, process optimization specialists, and change managers. Project managers may work in-house. Businesses may also contract project managers to deliver a specific project. Project managers may be able to work remotely. But they will usually need to spend at least some of their time at the client site.

What are the soft (human) skills needed to become a project manager?

To excel in their career, project managers usually need a recognized qualification. Professional training is important. But several soft skills are also critical for effective project management.

Being a good communicator

Key for successful project managers is the ability to juggle various stakeholder interests. Projects are often fast-moving and complex. Effective communication is crucial for keeping everyone on the same page and updated on progress. If things aren’t progressing as expected, project managers need to be able to explain why. Being able to advocate for better processes, increased budget, or additional resources is a key competency. 

Project managers are also in charge of task allocation. Clearly communicating what’s required and who’s responsible is critical. Without good communication, project tasks may get missed or duplicated. 

Initiative

Every project should have a senior manager who acts as the project sponsor. Often these people are assigned to oversee projects on top of an already busy workload. They might not always be available to make timely project decisions. Project managers need to be prepared to take the initiative. 

Taking the initiative requires project managers to have good problem-solving skills. They’ll need to think critically about the best course of action. And they’ll need to be confident in putting that decision into action

Time management and organizational skills

Staying on top of a project’s various moving parts is a full-time job. Project managers need excellent organizational skills to ensure individual tasks are tackled promptly. This is incredibly important as certain tasks may be dependent on the prior completion of other elements.

By definition, projects are time-bound. So excellent time management skills are essential for successful delivery. Projects that run over time may find themselves without the critical resource necessary for certain tasks. Or they may go over budget and incur the wrath of key stakeholders. Managing their own workload and that of their team is a crucial skill for an effective project manager. 

Setting goals and being decisive

Successful project completion results from setting and achieving many smaller goals. Project managers using an Agile methodology typically review their goals every fortnight. This aligns with the sprint planning process. Managers leading Waterfall projects need to set effective goals upfront during the planning phase. This ensures project outcomes meet business needs. 

As the project unfolds, project managers must constantly monitor and reevaluate. They may need to revise their goals due to changing business environments or market demands. Things can move quickly, and project managers will need to be decisive. The ability to confidently articulate new or changing priorities is a valuable skill. 

Collaboration and interpersonal skills

Project managers have to juggle the client requirements and needs of multiple stakeholders. And sometimes, those stakeholders have competing interests. The ability to facilitate negotiations and effect compromise is crucial. This requires strong interpersonal skills, such as rapport building and relationship management. 

Projects are often fast-moving and complicated. Sometimes they can feel overwhelming for project team members. A good project manager will need effective communication skills to bring clarity and reassurance. They need to maintain an overall view of progress. But, they must also be prepared to roll up their shirtsleeves. Collaborating well with others to drive forward priority tasks is an essential skill.

Develop these important project manager skills

Being a good project manager takes more than a professional qualification. Soft skills are also crucial. They help manage the many stakeholders involved in delivering a successful outcome. 

At F4S, we’ve been studying the motivations behind these types of skills for over 20 years. Our people analytics tools offer insight into the attitudes and behaviors needed to succeed. 

Take our assessment today. It’ll help you better understand your own motivations. Plus, you’ll also discover how they relate to these essential project management skills. After the assessment, Coach Marlee will offer you personalized insights. These will help you improve your performance. As well as feedback on your motivations, you’ll get insights related to any blind spots.

You can use this information to set a personal development goal or learning plan. Then use F4S’ free coaching to maximize your performance and excel in your project management career.

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How long does it take to become a project manager?

Now you know the crucial soft skills required to become an effective project manager. But what other qualifications or experience are required? Let’s take a look.

What higher education is required?

There are no particular higher education requirements to become a project manager. Some universities do offer degree courses with a project management specialization. Here are a few examples.

Arizona State University offers an online degree in Organizational Leadership (Project Management). The University of South Wales offers a BSc in Construction Project Management. Cranfield University offers an MSc in Programme and Project Management.

The theories, methodologies, and principles taught in degree courses can also be gained through other routes. These include accredited industry qualifications. Some people may fall into a project management role from other careers and may learn these on the job. 

What licenses, certifications, and registrations are needed?

Learning on the job is possible. But a professional qualification makes you stand out from the competition. There are hundreds of project management courses out there. Look for one accredited by these governing bodies:

  • Association for Project Management (UK)
  • Project Management Institute (US, Global)
  • Australian Institute of Project Management (Australia)
  • Axelos (UK, global delivery through PeopleCert)
  • Scrum.org (US)
  • ScrumAlliance.org (US)
  • ScaledAgile.com (US)

Choosing a project management certification will depend on which methodology you want to pursue. 

Projects follow either an Agile or Waterfall methodology. Agile projects complete tasks in short sprints. These usually last around two weeks. At the end of each sprint, the project team prioritizes what should be tackled next. Under the Agile umbrella, there are a number of frameworks, such as Scrum, SAFe, and Kanban. 

Waterfall projects are thoroughly planned upfront. Work is completely sequential. Each task is completed in order according to what other tasks are dependent on it. Some approaches, such as PRINCE2, combine both Agile and Waterfall principles.

Different project management certifications are required for different roles. There are overarching project management qualifications. For example, the PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP). 

There are also niche qualifications, such as the ScrumAlliance’s Certified ScrumMaster. Coursera offers the Google Project Management Certificate. If you’re interested in project management jobs at Google, that could be a great option. 

What on-job internships or apprenticeships are typically undertaken? 

Some project managers start as project assistants before moving up to lead teams. Organizations with in-house project management may offer internships or secondments to interested employees. They may even sponsor them to take a professional qualification while gaining experience.

There are also project management apprenticeships available with several large organizations. These include BAE Systems, British Airways, Toyota, and Vodafone. 

The Association for Project Management offers two apprenticeship pathways. The Level 4 Associate Project Manager Apprenticeship takes 12–15 months to complete. Apprentices gain the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) during the program. The Level 6 Integrated Degree Apprenticeship usually lasts four years. As well as the PMQ, graduates of the program receive a degree in project management.

What advancements or specialization opportunities are there?

There are almost limitless ways to advance your project management career. As you become more experienced, you may decide to take a specialized qualification. This could include learning a different project methodology or framework. For example, perhaps you initially took a PRINCE2 qualification. You might decide to broaden your technical skills with a qualification in one of the Agile frameworks.

Or you might continue your career journey with a complementary qualification. This could include a change management or project management office (PMO) certification. The Change Management Institute maintains a global network of endorsed training providers.

Some project managers might wish to gain additional training or job experience as a program or portfolio manager. Program managers are responsible for a suite of aligned projects. Portfolio managers are responsible for a collection of independent, unrelated projects.

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What are the career opportunities and outlook for project managers?

The ability for businesses to respond to change will need to keep maturing to meet the challenges of the fifth industrial revolution. Revenue for IT project and portfolio management is set to hit US$4.57 billion by 20242

This is good news for experienced change practitioners. More and more industries are becoming project-oriented, driving the demand for these skills. Indeed, business leaders rated improved project management as one of their top priorities through 2021–223.

With this level of growth, demand for project managers is set to outstrip supply. Twenty-five million new project manager jobs will be needed by 2030 to close this talent gap4. And this is not just in traditional markets. Economic growth in developing countries is driving up demand for project professionals. Globally, China and India have some of the fastest-growing requirements for project managers5

Growth in existing project-oriented industries will continue to grow. Construction, for example, is expected to require 13.2% more project professionals by 20306. However, non-traditional industries will also have increased requirements. The information and publishing industry is predicted to require 15.2% more project managers7. And management and professional services are looking at an 11.3% growth in demand8.

Where can project managers work?

Project managers can work in both the public and private sectors. They are traditionally employed in industries such as construction. But there are few organizations that project management doesn’t touch. 

Project management knowledge and skills are needed in a wide range of business environments. From a tech company startup to multi-million dollar defense contracts. Project managers may spend some of their time working remotely. However, most will need to spend at least some of their time at the client site. 

Project managers may be employed in-house or contracted for a discrete project. They may be employed in small Agile teams or large, cross-functional programs. Project managers may initially gain experience in other roles, such as project administrators. More experienced project managers may run programs or larger portfolios of work.

How much can project managers earn?

What project managers earn can vary significantly between roles. Entry-level positions pay less than those that require specific project management experience. Formal project management education is usually a prerequisite for higher-paying roles. Common certifications, such as the PMI's Project Management Professional, can also put you ahead.

The median salary for a project manager in the United States is US$75,9519 annually. New York is the highest-paying city, with an average annual wage of US$90,089. The average salary in the United Kingdom is £45,933 (US$56,056)10. In Australia, it’s AUD$127,817 (US$85,716)11.

In emerging markets, the average project manager salary is lower. In China, project managers can expect to earn ¥186,566 (US$26,749). This is likely an indicator of the lower cost of living and the immaturity of the industry in that market.

Frequently asked questions

How do I become a good project manager?

Becoming a good project manager requires a wide variety of skills. You’ll need a combination of professional qualifications and project management experience. Knowledge of project management can be gained through formal project management training. You can also learn about project management methodologies and project management tools while on the job. 

Project managers also need to build competence in the soft skills we’ve outlined above. Soft skills such as effective communication, teamwork, and being decisive are crucial. F4S can support you in improving your soft skills with personalized coaching from Coach Marlee.

How do I become a project manager without experience?

To get started in project management, look for an internship or apprenticeship. There are plenty of companies that offer early-career opportunities. You can gain experience in a project environment while studying for a professional qualification. If you can’t find an internship or apprenticeship that suits you, look for a project administrator role. Roles in project administration will help you build valuable practical experience.

How do I become a project manager without a degree?

A degree isn’t necessary to become a project manager. Certain universities do offer a project management degree program. If you’re an aspiring project manager, formal project management education is a great way to get started. But it’s not required. Many more people take a professional qualification instead. Look for a qualification accredited by one of the organizations listed above.

How do I become a construction project manager?

The construction industry is one of the largest project-oriented industries. Some construction project managers start in more junior roles. They build up their specialist experience before moving to more senior roles. Others take a construction project management qualification to help them break into the industry. For example, the University of New South Wales in Australia offers a Master's degree in construction project management.

Some project managers already work within the construction industry when they switch careers. For example, they may be engineers or surveyors by trade before moving into project management.

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Reshimi Buthello, VP of People and Culture and Change Management Expert, Baraja

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Show References
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  1. Global project & portfolio management market 2024 | Statista - https://www.statista.com/statistics/397794/it-ppm-market-revenue-worldwide/
  2. Talent-gap-report-2021-final.pdf (pmi.org) - https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/career-central/talent-gap-report-2021-finalfinal.pdf?v=a7ff5855-2b86-4578-9b7f-3dbe26d0402d&sc_lang_temp=en
  3. IBID
  4. Project-management-skills-gap-report.pdf (pmi.org) –  https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/business-solutions/project-management-skills-gap-report.pdf?rev=421b8b65348b428dba032b7a6543bbaf
  5. Talent-gap-report-2021-final.pdf (pmi.org) - https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/career-central/talent-gap-report-2021-finalfinal.pdf?v=a7ff5855-2b86-4578-9b7f-3dbe26d0402d&sc_lang_temp=en
  6. IBID
  7. IBID
  8. Project manager salary in United States (indeed.com) - https://www.indeed.com/career/project-manager/salaries
  9. Project Manager I Salary in United Kingdom | Salary.com - https://www.salary.com/research/uk-salary/benchmark/project-manager-i-salary/uk
  10. Project manager salary in Australia (indeed.com) - https://au.indeed.com/career/project-manager/salaries
  11. Project Manager I Salary in China | Salary.com - https://www.salary.com/research/cn-salary/benchmark/project-manager-i-salary/cn

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