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Last modified date

Dec 4, 2023

What is a Project Manager – A Brief Guide

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Laurențiu Bancu

Blog average read time

5 min

Last modified date

December 4, 2023


A project manager is the person responsible for planning, organizing, and overseeing a project from a defined start to finish, regardless of industry.

Not to be confused with a product manager, the project manager is responsible for the project’s success and has to manage scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality, and resources.

Types of project managers

A project manager is vital in the construction, architecture, engineering, insurance, or software industries.

Based on their expertise, project managers can be split into two major categories:

  1. Traditional or certified project managers have formal training and a bachelor’s degree and usually have “project manager” in their title.
  2. Accidental or “unofficial” project managers have gradually assumed project management responsibilities and find themselves accountable for overseeing and delivering projects as an essential aspect of their job.

What does a project manager do?

Whether you plan to become a project manager or you plan to hire a project manager, if we look at the project manager’s responsibilities, here’s a list of the main things a project manager has to do to ensure project objectives are met:

  • Meet with the project sponsor (client) to have a clear understanding of the project’s purpose
  • Choose specific methods, methodologies, and frameworks that will be used through the project life cycle
  • Create a project charter, a brief document outlining the scope, participants, benefits, and objectives.
  • Create a plan with a list of activities that need to be done and assign people to them
  • Meet with the team and talk about the activities’ duration and create a project schedule
  • Create a communication plan so that everyone in the project can stay in the loop
  • Maintain accurate timesheets, create time reports, and identify risks and bottlenecks that might slow down the development of the project.
  • Ensure the team has all the tools, goods, and services required to complete their job.
  • Negotiate and modify the project schedule based on the feedback received from the team.
  • Keep the client and other essential stakeholders informed on the project’s progress.
  • Keep costs under control
  • Evaluate team performance and project quality
  • When the project is completed, create a report with a list of good and bad things that happened throughout the project life cycle.

Seven reasons to become a project manager

A project manager’s job is not necessarily easy and sometimes challenging and stressful. But if you have already decided to become a project manager, or if you’ve been given this role by accident, here are a few reasons why this career is worth a shot.

  • You’ll have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line
  • You’ll earn good money (the average project manager salary in the United States is $92,000)
  • You’ll have the opportunity to improve and perfect your soft and technical skills constantly
  • You’ll be constantly challenged, and you won’t get bored
  • The core set of skills will allow you to work in various industries
  • Project manager is a job that’s here to stay. It is estimated that by 2027, employers will need 87.7 million individuals in project management-oriented roles
  • You’ll have the opportunity to meet new people

If you’re serious about pursuing a project manager career, read our complete guide on how to become a project manager.

Project manager essential skills

Now that we looked at what a project manager does and why it is worth considering becoming a project manager, the next important question is: do you have what it takes to become one?
To be a successful project manager, you need both hard (or technical) and soft skills.

Technical skills are the knowledge you gain through education, training, or experience. For example, understanding project management methodologies, using specific software, programming languages, statistical analysis, foreign languages, or web design are all hard skills.

Soft skills are habits and traits that define you as a person, how you work, and how you relate to others.

While soft skills are universal and necessary to create a functional work environment, most hard skills are more industry-specific and necessary to perform technical tasks successfully. Below is a list of the most important soft skills that a project manager should have:

  • The ability to lead
  • Disciplined and organized
  • Good communicator
  • Critical thinking
  • Good negotiator
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Accountability
  • Work ethic
  • Empathy

Project manager education

Not having a diploma in project management is not necessarily a disadvantage, but if you study it daily in an academic environment, you’ll have a head start.

Also, college activities don’t allow you to see the actual consequences of your decisions. Therefore, working on an actual project that can teach you accountability and outcome management would be ideal.

Thousands of Universities around the world offer project management courses. These examples are degrees that you can obtain through online project management education:

Project manager certifications and qualifications

Your qualifications and certifications are part of your project manager’s hard skills.

Pay attention, though. Even if you can get countless certifications, not all employers accept them. Also, you should study certifications related to the projects you work on or the industry you’re involved in.

Here’s a list of well-known project management certifications that you should consider:

Where to find a project manager job

There are tens of websites where you can search for jobs in project management, regardless of the way you prefer to work, at the office or remotely. Here are the most important ones:

Project Manager career path

Like in other jobs, a project manager can advance his career in time. A project manager can become a senior project manager, director, VP, or C-level.

One of the paths that a project manager can go through is the following:

  • Project Coordinator / Assistant Project Manager > Assists the project manager and takes care of administrative tasks
  • Junior project manager > Manages smaller projects under the supervision of a senior
  • Project Manager > Manages projects from small to large
  • Senior Project Manager > Leads multiple teams
  • Program Manager > Oversees multiple projects
  • Portfolio Manager > Manages a collection of projects and programs
  • PMO (Project Management Office) Director > Creates the strategy for all the projects
  • COO (Chief operating officer) > Oversees day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a business

Of course, the duties and responsibilities vary from one role to another, but also the benefits. The average salary of a project coordinator in the US is $54,000, while the average salary of a COO is 160,000.

Project manager’s tools and resources

Being a project manager is challenging. You must study and constantly improve your soft and hard skills. Luckily, plenty of resources and tools will make your life easier.

Project manager challenges

As in other jobs where you work with people, the project manager’s job is challenging. Here are the most important ones the project manager will face:

  • With great power comes great responsibility – while the project manager is a team leader and coordinator, he’s responsible for the project’s success or failure
  • The PM will have to deal with those who undervalue this role
  • The PM is responsible for a contingency plan and has to find solutions when the project is stalling
  • Usually there are many people involved in a project, and it’s project manager’s responsibility to ensure everyone is satisfied and can do their job correctly.
  • A PM has to be prepared for leaving a project and take over another one

If you plan to become a project manager, check this step-by-step guide on becoming a project manager.

Laurențiu Bancu

Author

Laurențiu started his marketing journey over 18 years ago and now leads a marketing team. He has extensive experience in work and project management, and content strategy. When not working, he’s probably playing board games or binge-watching mini-series.

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