How to become a project manager – a complete guide for 2022

by | Dec 9, 2021

If you’re someone in your company that others look to for advice, skill, and leadership, you might be a prime candidate for becoming a project manager. After all, leaders in an organization are looking for people who can execute the company’s vision and accomplish large goals with specific projects. 

If you’re interested in a career in project management, understand that the word “manager” is perhaps the more important part of the title. You will have to be comfortable with monitoring and controlling the work output of employees to succeed.

With these things in mind, here is a complete guide to how to become a project manager.

What does a project manager do?

Think of project managers as orchestra conductors. It may look like they’re just waving their hands, but without these vital leaders at the helm, nothing runs as smoothly. 

The project manager role involves managing projects from beginning to end. If you’re overseeing work that others are doing towards a common goal, you’re managing the project. 

Project managers are responsible, largely, for the success or failure of a project. Good project managers get the best out of their team members. While project success may be on the manager’s shoulders, they can’t accomplish their goals without the team.

There are different types of project managers, too. Portfolio managers, for instance, manage teams of people who are responsible for investing clients’ money effectively. They’re responsible for decisions to bring their clients the best possible returns, even if they aren’t the ones to do the “grunt work” on the accounts.

What are the top skills required to become a project manager?

At this point, it’s important to mention that there isn’t a degree necessary for becoming a project manager, though there are degrees, training, and certifications that can give an advantage to someone who wants to plan a career as a project manager. 

Project management skills don’t necessarily come from a college course, however, and many businesses are more interested in technical skills, such as data analytics and leadership ability. 

Project management experience is a plus, but it’s not always a necessity.

To be more specific, companies that want to hire project managers are looking for skills like:

Risk management

Every project comes with some risk. Whenever a company is pouring money into a new product or service, there’s a possibility the market won’t respond. 

As a project manager, it’s your job to ensure that that risk is mitigated. In other words, customers shouldn’t be turned off because you failed to execute the project or develop it properly.

Budgeting

Staying within the bounds of the budget is essential for project success. A proper budget shows that you’ve researched your materials ahead of time and planned accordingly to make your project a success.

Agile project management

Taking the project in the right direction can require flexibility. With agile project management, you learn to adapt to market conditions as you move through the project’s life cycle. That way, you’re not developing a product that there’s no market for.

Waterfall project management

In waterfall project management, the project is accomplished in specific, set phases. This is the more traditional approach to handling a project, so it’s important to understand the best practices of waterfall methodologies.

Scrum

Scrum is a form of agile project management in which a small team has a Scrum Master who removes obstacles in the way of the work. All work takes place in short “sprints,” and the team meets regularly to discuss any roadblocks that stand in the way of completing their tasks.

Organization

Keeping track of many moving parts without letting any details slip through the cracks is an essential part of project planning. As a project manager, you will be overseeing a team of workers and ensuring project success, which means that you need to be organized.

Communication

Projects live or die based on solid communication. If the team members don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, don’t understand what others are doing, or don’t know what you want from them, they can’t accomplish their goals. 

As a project manager, the responsibility for communication falls squarely on your shoulders. Give your team the information they need for project success.

Leadership

None of the skills above matter if your team won’t follow you. Commanding respect and getting the best out of other workers will be a daily task.

Technical Skills

Understanding computers and technology isn’t negotiable in the modern age. If you’re going to manage a project in the 21st century, you’ll need to have reasonably advanced technical skills and the ability to understand concepts related to managing data, SEO optimization, and digital marketing.

A project manager position will involve many moving parts, so having the right temperament and personality will also be incredibly valuable. Companies can train managers to use particular software or to follow policies and protocols, but soft skills aren’t taught as easily. 

You will need to have command over your schedule, be able to deal with stakeholders, and procure resources. People will be looking to you for answers, and you’ll need to be able to find them.

Which certificate is best for project managers?

Getting certificates can be beneficial to your career path in becoming a project manager, and there are many project management courses to choose from. Project management certificate courses can be taken online or in a classroom. Depending on the company you end up working for, they may also require some additional certifications.

The most common certificates sought by hiring managers are:

Google Project Management

Getting this certificate will prepare you for the responsibility of an entry-level project management role. It will give you a foundational understanding of agile project management, how to create proper documentation flows, and how to implement meaningful communication with your teams.

Asana Project Management Certificate

With the Asana Project Management Certificate, you will learn the essentials of project management, project planning, as well as risk, quality, and integration management. This training will prepare you to use project management skills, master the Asana platform, and prepare for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam.

Software Development Processes and Methodologies

Offered by the University of Minnesota, this certificate will teach you about the latest in software development and project management software. It will also train you to manage a team of software designers, employ various development philosophies, and use critical thinking skills to choose the best methodologies for each project.

Project Management Professional

Given out by the Project Management Institute, this is an excellent, prestigious certification to get. It emphasizes people skills, the technical aspects of project processes, and strategies to use in the business environment. This certification teaches waterfall, agile, and hybrid approaches to project management.

Certified Project Manager (CPM)

The International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) offers several levels of certification, from Junior to Senior, in both waterfall and agile methodologies. In this course, you will learn the basics of organization, implementation, and planning.

Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)

This certification is offered by the EC-Council, which was formed following the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks to combat hackers and cyberterrorists. While it also teaches leadership and management skills, it primarily focuses on the technical skills that many project managers will need. 

How long does it take to become a project manager?

If you go the route of working your way up the corporate ladder, it can take a few years to become a project manager. Fortunately, it takes just 18 months to become a certified project manager through Pathstream’s Asana Project Management Certificate online course.

Entry-level project managers do exist, but these positions tend to be more of a training ground for future occupants of the project management office.

Some positions that can be an excellent starting point to a career as a project manager are:

  • Junior Project Manager
  • Associate Project Manager
  • Project Coordinator
  • Operations Coordinator
  • Operations Associate
  • Administrative Associate

While these positions don’t carry the responsibility and weight of being a full-fledged project manager, they do allow employees to show that they can take on a certain level of responsibility, which can help candidates to be considered for larger roles in the future.

Project managers can make excellent incomes commensurate with their level of skill and responsibility. The median project manager salary in the United States is $131,278, with a high end of over $160,000. 

So even if it takes ten years to work through the ranks at a company, you might find that you’ll be able to command excellent compensation with the right experience, certificates, or certifications.

Become a project manager: is it right for you?

If you have the drive, the determination, and the skillset, becoming a project manager is a worthy journey. It won’t be a quick one — you will likely have to work your way up through the ranks in a corporation or get years of study, training, and certificates under your belt. But if you have the passion, it can happen for you.

If you’re the type that is ready and willing to abandon a project when it gets dull or difficult, this isn’t the career for you. 

Remember that businesses aren’t necessarily looking for people with the most degrees and courses listed on their resumes. They want someone who will get the job done, who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves to get things done, right along with the team they’re leading.

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