Project ManagementHow to Become a Project Manager in 2023

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Project managers are essential for driving project success in a software development environment. Whether you are a recent graduate, a seasoned professional, or programmer looking to manage teams, this tutorial offers valuable insights on how to start a rewarding project management career this year.

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What Is a Project Manager?

A Project Manager (PM) is a pivotal figure in any organization, tasked with overseeing projects from conception to completion. They are the architects of strategy and the caretakers of execution, ensuring that ideas are transformed into actionable plans and then meticulously carried out. The PM not only champions the vision but also shoulders the responsibility of ensuring that the project aligns seamlessly with an organization’s broader objectives, all while adhering to stipulated budgets and timelines.

Featured Partners: Project Management Software

What Is the Role of a Project Manager?

The role of a project manager transcends mere oversight. Primary responsibilities include:

  • Project planning
  • Defining project scope and setting milestones
  • Allocating resources and tools
  • Foster communication and collaboration between team members and stakeholders
  • Managing risk and developing risk management strategies
  • Monitoring and analysis

They dive deep into planning, delineating the project’s scope, setting clear milestones, and allocating resources judiciously. As the central communication hub, project managers bridge the gap between various stakeholders, from team members to clients, ensuring clarity and fostering collaboration. Risk management, too, falls within their purview, as they anticipate and strategize around potential challenges. Through vigilant monitoring and adaptive strategies, project managers strive to ensure that the project remains on course, adjusting sails as needed to navigate the often unpredictable waters of software development.

What Is the Average Salary for Project Managers in 2023?

The salary for project managers in software development environments ranges from about $80,000 per year for entry level to as much as $160,000 per year or more for more senior levels. The average salary is about $120,000 per year, with a median value of around $115,000 per year. More conservative sources estimate a base salary of about $84,000 to $129,000 per year, with an expected median annual salary of about $114,000, with some companies paying as much as $190,000 or more at the top end.

What Are the Education Requirements or Expectations for Project Managers?

For project managers of software development teams, a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, Information Technology, Software Engineering, or a related field is often seen as a foundational requirement. This provides the PM with an understanding of software development processes and the technical challenges that teams might face.

Some companies prefer candidates with a master’s degree, especially for more senior roles. A Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) can be beneficial as it combines business and managerial insights with technical knowledge. Similarly, a Master’s in Software Engineering or IT Management can be equally valuable.

Common Certifications for Project Managers

Common project management certifications include:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), PMP is one of the most recognized certifications globally. While not software-specific, it showcases expertise in project management processes and principles.
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): For companies using Agile methodologies, a ScrumMaster certification can be a significant asset. It highlights knowledge of Agile practices, particularly the Scrum framework.
  • PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments): This is another widely recognized certification, especially in the UK and Europe. There are PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner levels, focusing on process-driven project management.

We highlight some of the Top Project Management Certifications to help you enhance your career and hiring potential.

Additional Training for Project Managers

Given the rapid evolution in the software domain, continual learning is crucial. Familiarity with project management tools (like JIRA, Trello, or Microsoft Project), programming languages, or emerging technologies (like cloud computing or AI) can be beneficial. Some PMs may also take courses in specific methodologies or tools, depending on the company’s requirements.

Soft Skills and Business Courses

While not always a formal requirement, courses that enhance soft skills like communication, leadership, and negotiation can be incredibly beneficial for project managers. Understanding business strategies, financial management, and client relationships can also be vital, especially for PMs in client-facing roles or startups.

While formal education and certifications are valuable, it’s worth noting that many companies in the tech industry also place a significant emphasis on experience, problem-solving skills, and the ability to adapt to the ever-evolving world of software development.

Steps to Becoming a Project Manager in Software Development

Becoming a project manager in software development involves a mix of formal education, hands-on experience, soft skills development, and often, certification.

Build an Educational Foundation

As mentioned, start by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Software Engineering, or a related field. This will give you foundational knowledge about software development processes.

Obtain Relevant Experience

Start in an entry-level role within software development, such as a developer, a tester, or an analyst. This hands-on experience will give you a deep understanding of the day-to-day challenges, tools, and operations.

As you gain experience, seek roles or opportunities where you can lead a small team or manage minor projects. This will help you develop essential management skills.

Develop Soft Skills

Focus on improving communication, leadership, problem-solving, and negotiation skills. As a project manager, you’ll often bridge the gap between technical teams and non-technical stakeholders, making these skills crucial.

Pursue Relevant Certifications

As noted, project management certifications are incredibly important for a PM to obtain. Obtaining relevant PM certifications, such as those listed above, is highly recommended, especially if you want to work in a large development organization.

Pursue Advanced Education (Optional)

Consider pursuing a master’s degree, such as an MBA or a Master’s in Software Engineering or IT Management, especially if you’re aiming for senior roles or specialized areas.


Join professional organizations like PMI and attend workshops, seminars, and webinars. Engage with peers in the industry, which can lead to mentorship opportunities and open doors to potential job offers.

Stay Updated

The software industry evolves rapidly. Regularly invest time in learning about new methodologies, tools, and technologies. Familiarize yourself with popular project management tools, software development software, and methodologies for both software development and project management.

Seek a Role as a Project Manager

Once you have amassed the necessary experience and education, start applying for project manager positions. Initially, aim for junior or associate PM roles, and as you garner more experience, you can advance to senior PM roles or even program management.

Continuous Improvement

After becoming a project manager, continue to learn, gather feedback, and refine your approach. Consider additional certifications or specializations based on the specific domains or industries you’re interested in.

Remember, while this pathway provides a structured approach, the world of software development values practical experience and problem-solving skills. Being adaptable, proactive, and eager to learn can significantly bolster your journey to becoming a project manager.

Common Tools for Project Managers

In software development, project managers frequently employ a diverse range of tools to efficiently orchestrate, monitor, communicate, and execute projects. We highlight some of the most important categories below, including:

  • Project Management Software
  • Version Control Systems
  • Communication Tools
  • Time-tracking Software
  • Documentation and Storage Platforms
  • Risk Management
  • Resource Management
  • Testing and Debugging Tools

Project Management Tools

Project management tools help development teams track tasks, bugs, and resources. Some of the top project management tools include:

  • JIRA: Widely favored in Agile settings, it specializes in issue tracking, overseeing sprints, and holistic project management.
  • Trello: This tool offers a visual board layout, making it ideal for Kanban-centric project management.
  • Microsoft Project: This all-inclusive tool excels in in-depth project planning, scheduling, and resource distribution.
  • Asana: This is a dual-purpose tool concentrating on tasks and projects, promoting teamwork.

Jira Project Management Dashboard
Example of Jira Project Management Software

Version Control Systems

Version control systems are also important to become familiar with, as they help teams manage software versions and manage codebases in case issues occur that require developers to rollback to a previous version. Some popular version control software includes:

  • Git/GitHub: Widely used for source code management, Git helps teams collaborate on code, while platforms like GitHub or Bitbucket provide cloud-based repositories and other collaboration tools.
  • Subversion (SVN): Another version control system, though Git has become more popular in recent years.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)

Continuous integration and deployment tools help teams merge and test code changes in a development pipeline. A few popular CI/CD tools include:

  • Jenkins: An open-source tool for automating parts of the software development process.
  • Travis CI, CircleCI, and GitLab CI: Cloud-based CI/CD tools commonly used with GitHub repositories.

Communication Software

In addition to project management and version control tools, communication software is equally important, as it helps foster collaboration and helps teams communicate effectively. Some popular collaboration tools include:

  • Slack: A messaging platform with integrations that can notify teams of code pushes, build results, or ticket status.
  • Microsoft Teams: Collaboration software that integrates with Office 365 and offers chat, video conferencing, and file storage.
  • Confluence: A documentation tool often paired with JIRA to provide teams with a space to collaborate on documentation.

Slack Messenger for Developers
Example of Slack Instant Messenger App

Time Tracking

Time tracking software, as you may suspect, helps project managers track time, invoice for hours, and manage team member schedules. Some popular choices include:

  • Harvest: Helps in tracking the time spent on tasks and projects.
  • Toggl: A simple tool for tracking time and generating reports.

Documentation and Storage

Documentation and storage platforms help project managers share documents and important files, as well as manage access to those files depending upon required access levels. Common options include:

  • Google Workspace: Provides cloud-based tools like Google Docs, Sheets, and Drive for collaboration and storage.
  • Dropbox: Popular for file sharing and storage.

Diagram and Design:

Flowcharts, diagrams, and other software planning tools are helpful for project managers to learn. Here are a few choices:

  • Lucidchart: Used for creating flowcharts, network diagrams, org charts, and other visual representations.
  • Balsamiq: A rapid wireframing tool that helps teams design and iterate on UI concepts.
  • Microsoft Visio: Another popular, long-standing flowchart and topology design tool.

Risk Management and Reporting Tools

Managing and mitigating risks is a prime job for project managers. To accomplish that goal, PMs can use risk management software, such as those listed below:

  • Risk Register: Tools or templates often used to identify, assess, and prioritize risks.
  • Tableau or Power BI: For creating visual dashboards and reports.

Resource Management Software

Software development organizations require plenty of resources that need to be managed and accounted for, including servers and hosting systems, computers for developers, software licenses, and more. We recommend the two solutions listed below:

Testing and Quality Assurance Tools

Software goes through rigorous testing and quality assurance processes. While most of the time you will want to familiarize yourself with the debugging and testing tools designed for specific programming languages, we suggest familiarizing yourself with code quality and testing tools that support more than one language, as the programming language your team works with can change depending on the project requirements.

It’s worth noting that the best tools often depend on the specific needs and nature of the project, the methodologies in use (like Agile, Scrum, or Waterfall), and the preferences of the team and organization. Moreover, the ecosystem is ever-evolving, with new tools emerging regularly. Successful project managers stay updated on these tools and are adept at integrating them into their workflows to enhance efficiency and collaboration.

To help you learn more about testing and quality assurance tools, we suggest you check out our guide to the Best Application Performance Monitoring Software.

The Bottom Line

Project managers are central figures in software development organizations, steering projects from inception to completion and ensuring alignment with broader objectives. Beyond just oversight, their role involves meticulous planning, effective communication with stakeholders, and risk management. In 2023, PMs in software development can expect salaries ranging from $80,000 to potentially over $190,000 in top-tier companies, with an average between $115,000 and $120,000.

To secure such roles, a bachelor’s degree in a related technical field is common, but a master’s, particularly an MBA, is a distinguished asset for senior positions. Certifications like PMP, CSM, and PRINCE2 further validate a PM’s expertise. Aspiring PMs should combine formal education with hands-on experience, certification, and continuous learning. Additionally, proficiency in tools like JIRA, Trello, GitHub, Jenkins, and Slack, among others, is crucial as these tools help streamline the planning, execution, and monitoring of projects in the ever-evolving software development landscape.

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