Project Management Career Guide

Global organizations across industries need project managers to connect strategy with execution.

Effectively completing projects on time and within budget is vital for driving innovation and delivering results. Project management practitioners are needed serve as the point person and manage all aspects of a project, including people, materials, time, cost, objectives and more.

Project management professionals, experts who utilize the skills, tools and techniques needed to complete these projects, are in high demand.

Job Outlook and Salary

By 2027, 87.7 million people will be needed in project management-oriented roles, according to a 2017 report by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Industries that are projected to have the most openings between now and 2027 include the following:

Projections can be attributed to several causes – an increase in jobs requiring project-oriented skills, uptick in talent demand in developing economies, including China and India, and growing attrition rates as skilled professionals decide to retire. For example, the attrition rate in manufacturing will result in 97% of job openings, according to the PMI report.

Project management professionals in the U.S. earn an average salary of $111,969, according to results from PMI’s project management salary survey released in 2015. 

How to Become a Project Manager

A career in project management can be challenging, rewarding and dynamic, as practitioners often work in fast-paced environments in a variety of industries and functional business areas.

Project management is a good fit for those with excellent communication skills, problem-solving abilities and other leadership qualities. Practitioners also need to be comfortable with change, have strong people skills and be able to work with cross-functional teams and stakeholders inside and outside of the organization.

While there is no typical career path for a project manager, Florida Tech Adjunct Professor Wayne Brantley, a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), suggests individuals earn a degree in the field of their choice – marketing, IT, business –to gain experience before pursuing a project management role.

“You start out technical in some job of your dreams, and you get moved on up the pipe. You become a team lead, you become a manager, a supervisor, as you move on up, your career is evolving, and that’s people that end up in project management,” Brantley said.

From there, you can earn the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification from the Project Management Institute. According to PMI, those with the certification earn a salary 20% higher than those without a PMP. Since the certification sets a standard of excellence globally, earning a certification indicates you have demonstrated your abilities, competencies and knowledge within project management. You can also earn an MBA with a Specialization in Project Management if you want to learn core business fundamentals and the specialized knowledge in PM areas including time, cost and quality management.

In many cases, Brantley explains that those entering into project management, after gaining some experience in their field, are likely to be moved into junior positions, often referred to as a project coordinator or project scheduler. From there, experience, increasing responsibilities and additional education can help a person move up to more senior positions, including project manager, program manager and portfolio management.

The PMI lists the following career path and salary data:

  • Project Manager I (Coordinator or Scheduler)
    • $88,889 salary
    • Oversees a small project or phase(s) of a larger project. Reports to a senior project manager, Portfolio Manager or Program Manager.
  • Project Manager II
    • $97,618 salary
    • Manages multiple projects or one larger project. Responsible for creating a project team and allocating individual responsibilities, resources needed and budgeting time needed for completion. Reports to Portfolio Manager or Program Manager.
  • Project Manager III (PMP Certified or Senior PM)
    • $108,763 salary
    • Oversees high-priority projects, often requiring high levels of integration and considerable resources to complete. Additionally, this person manages the project from original concept to final implementation while ensuring adherence to quality standards and possibly communicating with company executives regarding the projects.
  • Program Manager
    • $121,082 salary
    • Manages multiple related projects, and in most cases, ongoing operations. Works with project managers to monitor schedule, cost and performance. Usually responsible for stakeholder management, including those outside of the organization.
  • Portfolio Manager
    • $133,287 salary
    • Duties vary depending on size of the organization and scope of the projects; however, a portfolio manager typically oversees an entire portfolio of projects and is responsible for ROI and alignment to an organization’s strategic objectives.

Other Career Possibilities in Project Management

In addition to the careers above, which are industry nonspecific, here are some growing opportunities for those seeking a future in this field.

IT Project Manager Career and Salary Profile

An IT Project Manager oversees IT projects including managing software development, merging databases and other network additions. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science, paired with additional work experience, is required for this position. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information systems manager, which often refers to IT project managers, is projected to grow by 12% between now and 2026.

Health Services Project Administrator Career and Salary Profile

A Health Services Project Administrator’s duties and responsibilities vary depending on organization. In some settings, an administrator may direct teams for specific projects, including determining objectives, analyzing cost, and establishing timelines. A bachelor’s degree is a typical requirement in this field. However, some employees may require advanced education, such as an MBA, as compared to other opportunities that may only require a BA and healthcare experience. According to BLS, medical and health services managers, including health services project administrators, is projected to grow by 20% by 2026.

Project Management Consultant Career and Salary Profile

Project Management Consultants are typically brought in to help companies execute projects from planning to completion. A PM consultant may also analyze data and identify inefficiencies within the current process. A bachelor’s degree and work experience is a typical requirement. However, some companies may show preference to those who have advanced degrees, such as an MBA, or with certifications.

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