How To Become a Project Manager (Including FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 21 December 2022

Published 20 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are a natural leader with strong organisation and management skills, a career in project management may be an ideal choice. Project managers ensure company projects get delivered according to specifications, on time and on budget. Understanding how to become and succeed as a project manager can help you decide whether this is a suitable position for you. In this article, we explain how to become a project manager and answer some of the most common questions about this process.

How to become a project manager

The steps project managers take to secure their role vary depending on their company and industry. Project managers can also choose which formal qualifications in project management they obtain, if any. However, the following steps are a typical career path to become a project manager:

1. Gain industry experience

Project managers usually spend many years working in their industry before securing their roles. Getting industry experience helps you understand how your sector works. It also gives you the opportunity to work as a project team member and observe the way experienced project managers operate. You can learn what successful project managers do and use their strategies when you secure a project manager role.

2. Volunteer for leadership roles

Volunteer for positions that give you more leadership experience at work and your community. Leading a school fundraising team, captaining or coaching an amateur sports team or launching a market stall all show you have key project management skills. Add these experiences to your resume to improve your chances of securing a project management position.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Volunteer Experience

3. Study project manager courses

While some companies promote employees to project manager positions over time, studying project management can give you an advantage over your peers. A Certificate IV in Project Management Practice is a good starting point as everyone is eligible for this course. Completing this certificate is a prerequisite for the Diploma in Project Management. University courses such as a Bachelor of Project Management or, if you already have a degree, a Master of Business Administration can help prepare you for a project management role in industries that value tertiary education, such as finance and healthcare.

There are also some industry-specific project management courses. For example, if you work in construction, you could complete an Advanced Diploma of Building and Construction or Graduate Diploma of Construction Management at TAFE or an independent vocational training provider. You could also obtain a Bachelor of Construction Management and Property at university. These courses teach you project management skills and industry-specific topics, such as construction technology and quantity surveying.

4. Get licences and registration

Obtain any certificates or licences required to work as a project manager in your industry. For example, construction project managers need a licence from the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS). They also need to register as a project manager with their state or territory's building authority.

You may also get national accreditation from the Australian Institute of Project Management. Registered Project Management certification proves your project management skills and project manager experience, so it can make you more employable.

Duties of a project manager

A project manager handles every aspect of the planning and delivery of projects for their business or its external clients. The exact duties of a project manager depend on their company, industry and the size and type of their projects. However, some of their common duties include:

  • Meeting with clients and senior leaders to discuss project requirements

  • Hiring the project team

  • Assessing the steps required for each project and the team members best suited to project tasks

  • Delegating tasks to the project team and supervising their output

  • Developing or supervising project documentation

  • Approving and monitoring project expenses to make sure they fit within project budgets

  • Leading project planning and progress meetings

  • Coordinating the tender response process, where applicable

  • Signing off on contracts

  • Providing project updates and progress reports to clients and senior leaders

  • Identifying, managing, documenting and reporting any risks to the project and its delivery

  • Implementing strategies to overcome project challenges

  • Delivering the project to the client or employer by the project deadline

Read more: What Does a Project Manager Do? (With Job Descriptions)

Skills that project managers need

The skills project managers need vary depending on their industry and the type of projects they oversee. However, businesses typically look for people with the following hard and soft skills when promoting or hiring project managers:

Leadership

The best project managers are strong leaders who can motivate and inspire their teams to perform at their best. They feel comfortable delegating tasks and leading project meetings and presentations. They stay connected to their team members and help them overcome challenges, work more productively and resolve disputes with other team members. They also use negotiation skills to settle on budgets and deadlines they feel their team can reasonably meet.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Communication

Project managers use their communication skills to understand and explain project requirements. They use active listening to confirm they understand project specifications. Smart questioning helps them clarify any requirements that are unclear. They also know how to break down complex concepts into more accessible terms. Their public speaking skills help them lead engaging project presentations. Written communication skills help them write reports and send email updates to team members, clients and senior managers.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Organisation and time management

Project managers need strong organisation and time management skills to make sure each project gets completed to a high standard by their deadlines. These skills help them create project plans and ensure all team members execute their tasks efficiently. Projects involve many tasks completed by various team members, so it takes strong organisation skills to track them all. Successful project managers recognise when team members are behind schedule and take action to minimise the impact of their delays. Being well organised ensures team members meet every project specification, rather than overlooking details.

Related: Time Management Skills: The Importance of Including Them in Your Resume

Problem-solving

Sometimes despite a clear plan, project managers face challenges that can impact their projects. For example, a construction project may face delays due to poor weather or illnesses in the team. Project managers use their problem-solving skills to reduce the impact of these challenges and deliver their projects as close to the deadline as possible. They could ask for a project extension, request changes to the plans that reduce labour or hire new contractors, for example.

Self-management

While project managers may oversee other people, self-management is also a key skill for them. Although project managers have a project team, who take care of their own tasks, they are responsible for the entire project. Being a responsible person who can deliver a project in a specified timeframe is crucial. Project managers are also responsible for staying calm, even if they feel frustrated by team members or their clients. They can regulate their emotions and show a positive attitude to maintain good relationships.

FAQs about becoming a project manager

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming a project manager:

How do I start a career in project management?

Volunteering for new opportunities and enrolling in a project management course are the best ways to start your project management career. While you're waiting to get a project management title, volunteer for jobs that use project management skills, such as leading meetings and writing reports. When employers can see you can manage these tasks and have a proactive attitude, they're more likely to promote you to a project management role.

Enrolling in a project management course can also strengthen your case. These courses can teach you skills like delegating tasks, motivating others, managing budgets and public speaking. A combination of experience and study usually helps people start their project management careers.

How do I become a project manager without a degree?

Having several years' experience in your industry, especially completing tasks and showing skills linked to project management, can help you become a project manager without qualifications. Several relevant vocational qualifications can also help you secure a project management position. Vocational project manager qualifications, such as the Certificate IV in Project Management Practice, are great options because anyone can enrol, including early school leavers and people with low ATARs. Although there aren't any formal project manager requirements of study, vocational qualifications can give you an advantage over other applicants for project management roles.

Do project managers get paid well?

Project managers receive good salaries for the extra responsibility their positions demand. According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a project manager is $118,868 per year. However, salaries can vary depending on a project manager's experience, qualifications, industry, employer and location. Project managers with in-demand skills, such as operations management, contract management, change management and engineering design also receive higher salaries than their peers.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing.

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