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How to build a successful Project Management career

by | Jan 28, 2022 | Project Management

Why Pursue a Career in Project Management?

Project management is one of the fastest-growing career areas today. By 2027, project management jobs are expected to grow by 33% worldwide. With over 214,000 new project-oriented positions created each year in the U.S., there has never been a better time to pursue a project management career [1].  

Thousands of companies and industries need qualified project managers to successfully plan and execute projects from start to finish. A project management career path offers professionals stability, competitive pay, and abundant opportunities for career advancement. This article takes a closer look at the career path and salary outlook for individuals interested in getting started with a career in project management.  

What is project management? Learn more in this video.

What is the Career Path for a Project Manager?

Project managers are essential in nearly every industry. Although a project management career path relies heavily on an individual’s personal and professional goals, there are several requisite skills and qualifications that one can learn to be successful in any project management position. 

The role of a project manager can be complex and challenging. A skilled project manager must use a combination of technical skills (i.e., technical knowledge and abilities) and non-technical skills (i.e., interpersonal skills) to achieve project success.

These skills include but are not limited to:

  •  Knowledge of project management tools and software
  • Time management skills
  • Mastery of project management methodologies
  • Budget management skills
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Professional communication skills
  • Ability to resolve conflicts and manage a team

In addition to formal education or degree programs, individuals can also gain industry-specific specialization and certifications such as the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) certification to improve career advancement opportunities. Learn more about how Pathstream can help you prepare for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) Exam here.

There are several possible career paths that a project management professional might follow. Below is an overview of a typical project management career path.

Project Manager

A project manager or project coordinator is typically an entry-level position for individuals with 0 – 2 years of project management experience. A project manager is responsible for creating and organizing a project plan, managing a team, communicating with key stakeholders, and executing a project on time and within budget.

Project manager positions have high career growth potential. Individuals can grow into more senior-level roles (i.e., project manager II or senior project manager) that involve managing more complex projects or larger teams. To progress along this career path, individuals can hone different tools or techniques required to complete a project successfully. A professional may also advance into a more senior role by gaining experience managing multiple projects across various departments.

Once a professional has gained experience working at the project level, there are opportunities to advance along the project management career path by pursuing program or portfolio management positions.

Program Manager

The role of a program manager is considered a mid-level project management position requiring multiple years of previous experience in project management or a related field. A program manager is responsible for executing several related projects – also known as a program – in a coordinated way to achieve a company’s desired outcome. 

The program manager acts as a strategic planning partner for the organization. They must analyze the benefits of a program to the organization and create a high-level program plan that achieves organization-wide success, not just results for a particular project or department.

Portfolio Manager

A portfolio manager is another possible career pathway for individuals with several years of project management experience. A portfolio manager is responsible for managing an organization’s entire portfolio of programs and projects. Unlike a project manager or program manager position, a portfolio manager’s role focuses more heavily on doing projects at the right time rather than simply completing a project successfully.  

This type of management position requires additional strategic and analytical skill sets. A good project portfolio manager increases a business’s value by ensuring all programs and projects align with the organization’s strategic direction and goals.   

Senior-and-Executive Level Roles

Senior-and-executive level project management positions are considered expert-level project management positions. Individuals must have at least five years of advanced project management experience to qualify for this type of role. These roles include job titles such as director of project management or chief operating officer (COO).

A director of project management oversees the strategy and success of the entire project management division. They are among the highest level of leadership within a business, managing multiple projects or program managers and interacting with other high-level leaders to achieve organization-wide goals. 

Industry-Specific Project Management Roles 

In addition to the positions outlined above, there are several types of industry-specific project management roles, such as construction manager or IT manager. Industry-specific program manager job qualifications vary based on industry and level of specialization.

To advance into an industry-specific role, a project manager may need to learn specialized skills related to that field, such as digital marketing or software development. Learn more about industry-specific project management roles below.   

How Much Can You Make? Project Manager Salaries by Role

The average salary of a project manager in the United States is $79,000. Project manager salaries range between $25k – $125k per year. Project managers with over five years of experience can expect to earn over $80k on average.

As with most jobs, the exact amount a project management professional can expect to make depends on several factors, including role, level of education, years of experience, company or team size, location, and industry. Below is a list of project manager salaries by role for four of the top project management positions in the U.S.

Construction Project Manager

A construction project manager, also known as a general contractor, is responsible for overseeing the construction or maintenance of an industrial, residential, or public infrastructure project. This position requires collaboration with key stakeholders such as investors, government officials, engineers, architects, and subcontractors. In addition to developing a project plan and securing the necessary approvals, a construction project manager is also responsible for monitoring and controlling material and labor costs.

The average salary of a construction project manager is $97,180/year or $46.72/hour. By 2030, construction project management positions are expected to grow by 11% or 51,400 new jobs, approximately 3% faster than the average growth rate for all occupations [2].

IT Project Manager

An IT project manager, also known as a computer and information systems manager, is responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing computer-related activities in an organization. They determine which computer hardware and information systems will best support the needs and goals of an organization. In addition to analyzing computing needs and recommending improvements, the IT manager is responsible for overseeing the installation and maintenance of the organization’s computer systems. 

The average salary of an IT project manager is $151,150/year or $72.67/hour. By 2030, IT project management positions are expected to grow by 11% or 52,700 new jobs, approximately 3% faster than the average growth rate for all occupations [3].

Engineering Project Manager

An engineering project manager is responsible for overseeing and directing the development of new products, designs, or processes for an organization. This type of project manager uses their engineering knowledge to create detailed project plans, lead research and development projects, supervise a team of engineers, and coordinate activities such as designing and executing plans for a new interstate bridge. This position requires a background in engineering, typically a bachelor’s degree in engineering or higher. 

The average salary of an engineering project manager is $149,530/year or $71.89/hour. By 2030, engineering project management positions are expected to grow by 4% or 8,100 new jobs, approximately 4% lower than the average growth rate for all occupations [4].

Marketing Project Manager

A marketing project manager is responsible for planning and executing marketing campaigns that generate interest in an organization’s products or services. This role can be specific to one department or encompass the entire organization. They are responsible for coordinating market research studies, identifying potential market opportunities, developing competitive pricing strategies, and creating organization-wide marketing plans. 

The average salary of a marketing project manager is $151,150/year or $72.67/hour. By 2030, marketing project management positions are expected to grow by 10% or 31,800 new jobs, approximately 2% faster than the average growth rate for all occupations [5]. 

Starting Your Project Management Career with Pathstream

Career opportunities for project management professionals are plentiful in the current global economy. Before taking the next steps on a project management career path, it’s important to gain the skills and training needed to succeed in a project manager role and stand out from the competition. 

At Pathstream, our mission is to prepare students for high-demand, digital skills careers like project management. We offer courses in program management software like the Asana Project Management certificate to help you master one of the leading project management tools used by companies worldwide and prepare you for a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM ®) exam. Learn more about how Pathstream can help you advance your project management career here.  

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