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

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 27 December 2022

Published 12 October 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 interested in leadership roles you may wonder, ‘What does a project manager do?' Being a project manager is a great way to apply your leadership skills in a range of industries. Understanding the common duties of project managers can help you decide whether to pursue this career. In this article, we explain what project managers do, where they work and some of the jobs they hold.

What does a project manager do?

A project manager leads a team of employees working towards a specific goal. The project manager ensures the team completes projects to a high standard, on time and on budget. They usually become involved with projects at the development stage and stay with them until after their delivery. They are responsible for coordinating all the parts of a project to help a project succeed.

Project managers are also the link between a project's stakeholders, such as its senior managers or clients, and the project team. They communicate with all these groups to ensure they understand the project's specifications and progress. They also oversee the project team and identify ways to improve their processes and productivity for a better final result.

Related: What Is a Project Manager?

What are the daily duties of a project manager?

The daily duties of project managers depend on their employer, industry, and the type of projects they work on. Some common duties for project managers include:

  • discussing project briefs and parameters with business managers and clients

  • interviewing and hiring members of the project team

  • briefing project team members about the overall project and their roles

  • delegating tasks to project team members

  • supervising the progress of project team members

  • leading project planning meetings

  • signing off on contracts related to the project

  • approving purchases within project budgets

  • managing project documentation

  • identifying risks associated with the project and managing them to reduce their impact

  • writing project reports and delivering them to the senior management team

Where do project managers work?

Project managers work in offices in a variety of industries. Some of the industries employing project managers include:

  • health care

  • construction

  • information technology

  • engineering

  • retail

  • government and community services

  • manufacturing

  • mining

  • marketing

  • defence

  • telecommunications

  • transport

They spend most of their time in an office setting. They may travel offsite for meetings with clients and check the progress of some projects. This is especially common for project managers in the construction or mining industries.

Related: Key Project Management Skills and How to Develop Them

What does a project manager do to get promoted?

Project managers usually begin their careers in entry-level roles in their industry and receive promotions to management positions. Vocational qualifications and degrees can help people improve their project management knowledge and the chance of securing promotions. Project Management Professional certification and accreditation through the Australian Institute of Project Management may also help people advance in their careers. The following career path is common for project managers:

1. Project team member

Aspiring project managers usually work as regular project team members within their chosen industry. For example, someone who wants to become a software project manager may spend time as a software developer or tester. Working as a team member helps aspiring project managers understand how projects progress and people work together for their success. The experience teaches accountability and industry processes. It also gives team members their first opportunity to observe and learn from a project manager.

2. Project coordinator

A project coordinator performs administrative tasks for the project manager. They make sure all members of the project team have everything they need to work productively and meet their deadlines. They may reduce the workload of a project manager by scheduling meetings, collecting data and tracking the project budget.

Related: How To Become a Project Coordinator (Plus Skills Required)

3. Project manager

With a project coordinator handling administrative tasks, a project manager can focus on project strategy. This strategy includes risk assessment, stakeholder engagement and budget management. Focusing on strategy helps project managers identify factors that may impact the project's delivery. With early identification, they can take action to minimise its impact.

Related: How To Become a Project Manager (Including FAQs)

4. Project director

Ambitious project managers may become project directors. While a project manager focuses on a single project at a time, a project director oversees several projects at once. They make sure their project's fit the business's strategic goals. They also manage large budgets and many resources and work only with management.

10 jobs for project managers

Answering the question 'What does a project manager do?' depends on the industry they are in. Here is a list of 10 diverse job opportunities for project managers:

1. Associate project manager

National average salary: $96,536 per year

Primary duties: An associate project manager assists a lead project manager in delivering a project in any industry. They oversee a small group of employees working on an element of the project. Associate project managers work on large projects involving people from several different departments. Having several associate project managers reporting to a lead project manager helps these projects succeed.

2. Marketing project manager

National average salary: $98,907 per year

Primary duties: A marketing project manager coordinates the marketing campaigns for a specific project. For example, they may manage marketing campaigns for a client or product. They meet with the marketing manager and client to decide the project's scope, objectives and specifications. They then lead a marketing team to develop the marketing strategy, identify marketing opportunities and deliver the campaign.

3. Lead project manager

National average salary: $103,032 per year

Primary duties: A lead project manager oversees a large project. There are lead project managers in many industries with large-scale projects. Lead project managers are the link between project stakeholders and associate project managers. They ensure the project stays on track and delivers progress reports to project stakeholders. They also approve purchases and the allocation of project resources.

4. Engineering project manager

National average salary: $110,186 per year

Primary duties: An engineering project manager oversees an engineering team delivering new products, processes and designs. They guide their teams towards solutions that solve their client's challenges. They also help them identify and minimise the impacts of risks. They create detailed project plans, delegate tasks to researchers and engineers and oversee the project's resources to ensure smooth, high-quality delivery.

5. Construction project manager

National average salary: $111,555 per year

Primary duties: A construction project manager plans and oversees construction projects to make sure they get completed to a high standard and the client's specifications. They manage all project resources, including the budget, contractors and construction equipment. They visit construction sites to make sure contractors work productively, safely and to a high standard on delegated tasks. If the project faces challenges, such as unexpected ground conditions or storms, they find solutions to keep it progressing.

Related: How To Become a Construction Project Manager (With Salary)

6. Information technology project manager

National average salary: $115,355 per year

Primary duties: An information technology project manager oversees and coordinates projects in the information technology sector. They may help businesses identify the ways technology could solve their challenges or help them work more efficiently. They then oversee a team of professionals implementing the solutions discussed. After delivering the project, they may also teach employees how to use the new technology.

7. Finance project manager

National average salary: $129,298 per year

Primary duties: A finance project manager leads a team of finance professionals working towards a financial goal. For example, a finance project manager may lead a team in developing and implementing a cost recovery model. They may oversee a team researching and identifying cost recovery options. They could consult key stakeholders in the business and prepare budget submissions and costing models to help the business optimise its cost recovery efforts.

8. Electrical project manager

National average salary: $129,792 per year

Primary duties: An electrical project manager coordinates the electrical elements for construction projects involving electricity. For example, they might assist with the electrical components of a new block of flats or a renovated shopping centre. They hire and supervise electricians and liaise with the property owner and other contractors to make sure that implementing the electrical systems runs smoothly and safely.

9. Rail project manager

National average salary: $137,488 per year

Primary duties: A rail project manager plans and manages rail projects. For example, they might manage the extension of rail lines into new areas or repairs on existing lines. They manage contractors and resources and ensure the project runs smoothly. They also develop strategies to minimise disruption to commuters.

10. Software project manager

National average salary: $138,824 per year

Primary duties: What a software project manager does is manage the development of software programs. They may lead a team developing a new software program and stay involved with the program through its life cycle. After the program's initial release, they may work with their team to resolve issues and incorporate new features that improve functionality and user experience. They work closely with coders, developers and testers to make sure the best possible program and updates get released on schedule.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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