Our Career Spotlight series takes an in-depth look at some of the most desirable jobs on the market right now. This time we’re shining our spotlight on the role of Project Manager.
A Project Manager is responsible for managing all aspects of a specific project. They have control over the planning, management, coordination and budget of the project.
If you’re thinking about moving into this field, you’ll probably want to know what will be required of you and what you’ll need to bring to the role. Our job profile will tell you everything you need to know.
As a project manager, your role will vary slightly depending on the industry you work in but generally speaking you’ll be required to fulfil these responsibilities:
- Kick off the project - check it’s feasible, work out the budgets, team and resources.
- Plan the project - you’ll have to set the objectives, outline the roles and create a timeline and schedule that meets the needs of your organisation or client.
- Identify risks - manage these to ensure the project is delivered.
- Choose the project team - you need to lead and motivate them to meet deadlines.
- Manage the project - ensuring the project is on track, delivered on time and within budget.
- Report the status of the project - you need to report regularly to management or the client.
- Hand over the completed project - evaluating your team’s work to learn for your next project.
As a Project Manager, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate a wide range of skills including:
- Strong communication skills
- Time management
- Ability to motivate others
- Risk management
- Ability to delegate
- Critical thinking
Most people in project management will start off in junior roles such as Project Administrator or Assistant Project Manager. From here you can move on to a role like Project Coordinator which is a nice stepping stone to working up to becoming a fully-fledged Project Manager.
As you gain more experience and show off your super-star skills, you’ll be able to move into more senior positions like Programme Manager which will give you responsibility for a team of project managers.
Alternatively, you could apply your talents to roles in senior management. If you progress up this particular career ladder you could end up in positions such as Head of Department, Director or Chief Executive.
A recent survey by the Association for Project Management studied the average salaries of the project management profession during 2018.
Its findings indicate that junior roles across the profession carry a generous starting salary. Those in roles such as Project Administrator earned an average salary of £22,500, whilst those working in project support roles enjoy an average of £27,500.
As you move up the ladder there is a good jump in salary. The average salary for project managers comes in at £47,500 whilst those in senior roles earn in excess of £57,000.
If you’re a freelance contractor, you’ll be paid slightly differently as you’ll charge a daily rate rather than earn an annual salary. In 2018, project management contractors earned an average of £450 per day.
Salaries in project management will vary depending on which sector you work in. Energy and construction are where you earn the big bucks with average salaries coming in at over £55,000. The lowest paid sectors for project managers are education and local government where the average salary is £37,500.
You don’t need a degree in project management to be a project manager and although one will provide you with useful knowledge, you’re unlikely to go straight into a role as a project manager post-graduation.
Whatever your educational background, you’ll likely start off in a junior role and work your way up. As you gain experience you may want to study some professional qualifications to enhance your knowledge and skills.
There are a wide range of qualifications available from both the Association for Project Managers (APM) and the Project Management Institute (PMI) which are both highly respected and globally recognised institutions.
Project management qualifications are available from absolute beginner level, so you’ll definitely be able to find a level that suits you.
You can also study more specialised qualifications such as the PRINCE2 courses which train you to be an accomplished practitioner of the globally-recognised PRINCE2 project management method.
A slightly different qualification route you can take is to become an apprentice. At the moment, there are two apprenticeship standards for project management: Level 4 Associate Project Manager and Level 6 Project Manager.
At Level 4 you’ll be working in a junior role such as Junior Project Manager or Associate Project Manager whereas the Level 6 is a degree apprenticeship and will allow you to work in more senior roles like Project Manager.
To get a job in project management it will be beneficial to have experience in managing resources, costs or budgets. If you have proven experience in a leadership role or manage people in any capacity, you can also use this to your advantage when getting into the project management field.
Even if you have no formal work experience in these areas you can still find a way to demonstrate these skills. If you’ve ever done any voluntary work for a charity or for a club or society that involved planning events or projects, you can use this experience to prove you have the necessary skills.
Joining a professional body such as the APM or the PMI as a student member can also be a great way to look for opportunities to gain work experience. You’ll be able to network and keep up to date with the latest opportunities through other members, events and industry publications.
Where you can work
The shorter answer would be where can’t you work! Organisations in both the public and private sector across all industries need talented to people to run their projects so you’ll have plenty of opportunities.
In some sectors like IT or Engineering, you may need some specialist industry knowledge to be able to effectively manage certain projects, so that’s something to bear in mind when looking at job postings in areas like these.
In larger organisations, you’re likely to be taken on as a full-time employee as they’re likely to have multiple projects running long-term.
Smaller organisations are more likely to take on project managers on short-term contracts or on a freelance basis. Taking on contracts like these would allow you to work for yourself which can give you an immense amount of freedom. However, self-employment does come with some risks and responsibilities that being an employee doesn’t so you think carefully about what you want before making this leap.
We’ve also written a guide on how to become a project manager which will give you more information on how to get into this lucrative career.
Looking to develop your project management skills? Find out more about our 100% online PRINCE2 qualifications.