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What is a Project Manager?

Project managers supervise and direct various types of projects, from construction to engineering and healthcare. They often work in IT and the energy field, taking assignments of new projects and gathering team members, details, plans, and a budget.

The project manager organizes everything about a project, knowing that, if they know where every detail and piece of paper is, they can help to keep them on-track. Project managers are vital for larger companies especially. They act, not only in a supervisory position, but also as counsel to the CEO or other higher management officers. They report on large projects, keeping everyone in the loop so that emergencies can be responded to quickly and those with the vision can make sure everything comes out as they planned.

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Steps to Becoming a Project Manager

You may be in a postsecondary education program, taking the classes you need so you can move into this career field. Or you may have earned your bachelor’s (and, possibly, your master’s) in a different field. After working for your employer, you might realize that project management is a potential new career for you.

Project managers are highly organized; they adapt easily, and they have excellent communication skills. Using these skills and more, you have the chance to work in project management.

  • Step 1: Find Your Program

  • Step 2: Plan for Your Major

  • Step 3: Get Some Experience

  • Step 4: Finish Your Degree on Time


Step 1: Find Your Program

Before you begin the admissions process, you’ll have to investigate the different universities and colleges in which you are interested. Depending on the field you intend to work in, such as engineering, IT, healthcare, or business, you should explore those majors in the undergraduate catalogs you are reading. You’ll find the program that will allow you to meet your project management career path and goals.

Once you have chosen at least one university and major, research the admission requirements. These are generally graduation from high school or earning your GED, even if you were homeschooled. Once you know that you have met admissions requirements for the college you’re most interested in, you can begin the admission process. Gather and submit all required paperwork to the university admissions office, including taking and receiving your grades for any required standardized tests, so you can learn whether you’ve been accepted or not.

Step 2: Plan for Your Major

Once you have been accepted to a college or university, enroll for your first semester’s classes. At some point early in your college career, you’ll need to visit your advisor and determine which classes you should take each semester. Your advisor will be able to tell you what classes you need to take in a given semester, so that you complete required prerequisites before beginning core courses.

As you are taking your classes, keep in mind the degree requirements for your project management bachelor’s degree. You’ll have to take seminars and classes that will help you to achieve success, starting with your general education classes, such as history, math, English, composition, and your required sciences. Each class, general education or core, will allow you to build a foundation for your major in project management.

Step 3: Get Some Experience

While you are in your project management degree program, make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for internships. Internships, whether paid or unpaid, will give you the hands-on practice that you need before you enter your first job in project management. Even if your internship isn’t in project management, experience in business, IT, or whatever field you’re looking to enter will be vital to your future success.

You will be expected to look to your mentor/supervisor in your internship. Be ready to watch other project managers and supervisors to learn how they make decisions and delegate tasks. When you observe them taking positive steps to move a project to completion, emulate them. When you see someone making mistakes, make note so that you can avoid those errors in the future. Using your education, apply the methods you learn and use the ethics you were taught as you make decisions.

In your college classes, you’ll learn about organizational environment, systems, change, and design, all of which are a part of managing assigned projects.

Step 4: Finish Your Degree on Time

In your junior year, verify that you are meeting the degree requirements at your college or university. Visit your advisor and request paperwork that allows you to see if you have completed all general education requirements and core class requirements. Ask to see what your grade point average (GPA) is, both for your major and cumulatively, and see if there’s anything you can do to bring that average up.

Students who believe they are about to graduate may find that they have credit deficiencies in their degree requirements. This can force you to delay graduation so you can take the missing classes or re-take them so you can pass them. To keep this from happening, make sure to visit your advisor or a specialist who focuses on tracking graduation requirements for students consistently throughout your college career. Request a degree audit so you can correct any deficiencies you may have in your own required classes.

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What Do Project Managers Do?

People working in project management ensure that a project under their control moves smoothly from the beginning through to completion. They are responsible for balancing every detail and making sure the project stays organized, without unrelated details creeping in to cause disorganization.

Using the resources they are handed, project managers plan out how everything within a project will be handled without going over budget. In addition, project managers have the education and knowledge that allows them to use the right processes and tools that will allow them to complete their assigned projects successfully.

In a project management career path, you’ll know what your project objectives are. You’ll be able to create timely goals, delegate tasks wisely to the right members of your team, and oversee each person without micromanaging. As the project manager, you’ll have your own work to complete, which means you’ll have to trust each team member to complete their assigned work. If a team member isn’t performing to your expectations or those of your supervisor, you’ll know when it’s time to let them be assigned elsewhere so you can bring someone else in and bring them up to speed.

Skills to Acquire

Before you start your major, you should already have some of these skills at a basic level, such as communication and organization. Use your time in school to develop your skills and learn new ones:

  • Organization:
    Learn how to keep large amounts of information organized.
  • Communication:
    Motivate and lead your work teams so everyone knows their role.
  • Critical thinking:
    Learn how to delve through all the roadblocks you encounter, think creatively, and move ahead.
  • Accountability:
    Learn how to keep yourself and your team members accountable to you, themselves, and each other.
  • Cost management:
    Also known as “budgeting.” Learn to control project costs.
  • Resource management:
    Closely related to cost management, this means you accurately apply energy, time, and other finite resources.
  • Planning:
    Knowing how to plan properly means you’ll break down the entire project into smaller, more manageable goals.
  • Prioritization:
    Look at every task and know which one should come first.
  • Leadership:
    Lead your team effectively so they are motivated to stay on task. Let them know you support their work and efforts.

Alternative Paths

One of the best ways to move into project management if you are already in a career, is to return to school for a master’s degree. You should have already learned about the skills on which career managers rely heavily: time management, organization, communication, leadership, and others.

As you begin to study project management, you’ll soon see that it is data-driven. Throughout all of the processes that make up a project, project managers rely heavily on data so they can make their next several decisions in a timely manner and with certainty. If you take supply chain management courses, you’ll see that the software and apps supply chain project managers use help them to keep track of what is happening, what has happened, and what has yet to happen.

In a different profession, engineering project managers may learn that, as quickly as they want to begin making decisions, sometimes it’s better to wait, observe the current process, then begin planning based on how it goes. This is important because you’re usually working with a team, which brings a new dynamic to the process and can quickly shift the best path to project success.

No matter where you end up, your previous experience will inform your new degree and give you an edge as you move back into the work force in project management.

Career and Salary

Where Might You Work?


You may work in a general contractor’s office or at a construction site. Even as a construction manager, you are responsible for managing a construction project. You’ll plan, coordinate, create a budget, and supervise the construction crews who are responsible for building at the home or business site. Your median annual wage, as of May 2017, would be $91,370.

Project managers work in finance and insurance companies as well, accepting responsibility for working with clients and creating their accounts, then planning what work will be done.

You may work in information services, creating an information-based server or computer system for a new client. It will be your responsibility to find out what they need, then make it possible.

Or, you may work in oil, gas, and utilities, planning out and creating a new utility system for a municipality.

Project managers work in almost all professional sectors. Your job duties and roles will vary, depending on what your client or employer needs.

You’ll plan projects out and identify deadlines. You’ll use a spreadsheet to track and develop budgets and enter and create invoices and other financial files. You may also be responsible for creating, tracking, and submitting large files so that projects can be funded and progress to completion.

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Potential Project Management Career Paths

As you browse through job announcements for project managers, make sure to read every word of each announcement. You may need to have some experience in the field; you may need to take an active part in the entire planning process, from beginning to end. You want to look for the positions that reflect your skills, strengths, and talents so you know you’ll be able to do the work effectively.

IT Project Manager Infrastructure
You could work with a biotechnology company that is at the forefront of developments and inventions focused on healing patients who have serious or life-threatening illnesses. Your job would be to coordinate all internal GIS activities connected to the Corporate Network and Telephony deployments, as well as the integration of all of these activities.

IT Project Manager Senior
You should have, at minimum, a BA or BS in computer science, Engineering, Business, or an equivalent discipline. You could need to have up to 7 years of experience managing at least one high-complexity IT product or infrastructure project. An advanced degree in Business, Computer Science, or their equivalent is also required.

Project Managers, Equipment Manufacturing
This professional will coordinate all phases of project completion and deliverables; ensure all projects meet the customer, company, and applicable safety and environmental standards.

Project Management Consultant
The consultant must have experience in project management with large, complex, multi-million dollar projects. You’ll also need verifiable experience in supervising project teams and personnel.

Project Manager-Associate, IT
Project managers should be able to use formal project management methodologies, plan out project timelines and milestones, track progress, monitor, and communicate the status of a project on a regular basis.

Management and Program Analyst (Project Manager)
Project analyst will manage projects using both Project Management and Agile disciplines. You’ll be given various goals and assignments that you will be responsible for completing within a specified timeframe.

Construction Project Manager
Successful candidate will have a bachelor’s degree in project management, structural engineering, civil engineering, construction management, or architecture. You might need to verify previous work experience in architectural design, project management, or construction management.

Assistant Project Manager
This employee will be a project engineer working as an assistant to the project managers. They will be responsible for assisting the project managers with projects already underway, so the company maximizes safety, quality, and profits.

Project Manager Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Construction Managers $58,000 $77,000 $92,000
Project Managers $56,000 $78,000 $91,000
Construction Project Managers $53,000 $75,000 $87,000
Senior Project Managers $76,000 $95,000 $115,000
Project Engineer Construction $59,000 $74,000 $95,000

Career Outlook

Project managers should have a good outlook for employment prospects, as of 2016. Employment is expected to grow about 11% between 2016 and 2026.

Entry-level project managers may start their project management careers as project analysts or project coordinators. They may be assigned to work directly with project managers as their assistants or as junior project managers. Or they will be working as work process managers, tracking how well a project is progressing.

They may become project leads working with project managers and learning what they need to know so they can be full-fledged project managers on their own. Finally, they may work as project control specialists, focusing on the control of the work project and ensuring that every team and department is performing as expected.

In project management, you may be expected to earn a certification. If you earned your business degree focusing on project management, then, once you have undergone training, you will be ready to get started.

If you chose an alternative route to working in project management, expect to begin working with tools such as Gantt Charts. You may use PERT and CPM techniques.

If you graduated with your degree in project management, then you’ll already have the skills you need when you start your first day on the job. Even with your degree, look for professional certifications, especially if you plan to move into an advanced position.

Advancing From Here

Working in project management, you will have the opportunity to advance, should the opportunity arise. If you have the right project management degree, such as an MBA, you may be able to move into general management. Your MBA program should have a concentration in Project Management. As a general manager, you’ll be overseeing, not just individual projects, but entire divisions within a company.

Next, you could be tapped to move into the Executive Office suite, especially if you have earned your MBA. Your skills and experience in project management can easily be expanded to running the entire company. In addition, you may be responsible for creating goals and policies to enable to company to grow and thrive.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What skills do chief information security officers need?

Working as a chief information security officer requires a mix of hard and soft skills. You need communication, leadership, and teamwork. You also need some hard skills such as cryptography, penetration testing, risk management, and budgeting.

How much do you make as a chief information security officer?

Chief information security offices earn an average salary of $193,000 and those who specialize in computer systems earn and average salary of $232,000.

What does a chief information security officer do?

Chief information security officers have many responsibilities. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Cyberrisk and cyber intelligence
  • Security operations
  • Security architecture
  • Governance
  • Data loss and fraud prevention
  • Security architecture
  • Identity access and management
  • Investigations and forensics

What is the job outlook for chief information security officers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects chief information security officer jobs to grow by 31% through 2029.

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