Project ManagementHow to Become a Project Manager

How to Become a Project Manager

Is becoming a project manager for a software development firm your next career move? Before you jump into it, we will describe what a project manager is, how much they make, and what it takes to become a project manager so you can decide if this is the right education and career path for you.

Read: What is Project Management

What is a Project Manager?

A project manager is a person who plans, coordinates, and completes projects. While those tasks are hard enough on their own, a project manager must execute them while adhering to schedules, budgets, and other constraints set forth by the software development organization they are working for.

Besides planning, coordinating, and completing projects, project managers must also define goals, lead teams, correspond with stakeholders, and perform other tasks to ensure projects are finalized successfully. In short, the PM is the one who is responsible for a project’s success or failure.

That is a basic breakdown and introduction to what a project manager does. Let us now take a look at some detailed responsibilities a PM may have during the five phases of a project, which are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring/controlling, and closing.

Regardless of whether a project manager is in charge of developing a new software application or building a high-rise, they will typically be responsible for the following in role as a project management lead position:

  • Determine the project’s scope.
  • Sticking to schedule.
  • Projecting the cost of the project.
  • Adhering to the budget.
  • Managing workers, teams, and other project resources.
  • Chronicling the project’s progress.
  • Corresponding with stakeholders.
  • Evaluating risks.
  • Correcting problems as they appear.
  • Ensuring quality control.

Read: Benefits of Project Management for Software Development

What is the Role of a Project Manager?

What type of tasks could you perform daily as a project manager? That will depend on the day and the stage the project is in, plus the field you are in, but PMs typically perform tasks such as holding team meetings, speaking with stakeholders to relay a project’s progress, interviewing prospective workers, moving resources to cover unexpected issues or expenses, and more.

As a project manager for a software development firm, project management leads will need to monitor development related tasks, which include resourcing of hardware and software such as developer tools (integrated development environments, code editors, code refactoring software, application performance monitoring solutions, and so forth), tracking bugs and issues in code, acting as a go-between for developers and stakeholders, and making sure modules and deliverables are delivered on time.

As for what skills a project manager should have to handle all of those responsibilities and tasks, the list is quite long. Project managers are crucial to an organization’s success, and a PM should hold the following skills to fulfill their position’s needs:

  • Be a leader – This PM skill is a no-brainer, as you will have to lead a team of people, whether large or small when completing a project.
  • Solid communication – Project managers must not only communicate with their team to see a project from its start to finish, but they must also correspond with stakeholders, customers, and vendors to ensure everything runs smoothly.
  • Organized – Regardless of size, most projects have many moving parts. The only way to keep a project running smoothly and ensure nothing slips through the cracks is to be organized, as the PM will have to multitask and set an example for others when things get hectic.
  • Flexibility – Any experienced project manager knows how even the most ideal and well-run projects can run awry in a split second. If you are flexible and can deal with unexpected events quickly, that will make you a much stronger project manager and leader.
  • Critical thinking – No matter how great a leader or communicator or how organized you are, problems will arise during a project’s lifecycle. However, you can reduce potential problems and fix them when they occur by having solid critical thinking skills.
  • People skills – Since you will likely be dealing with people in different positions from all walks of life, you must have a positive attitude, empathy, and even a bit of humor in your human skill set to keep team morale high and stress low.
  • Industry knowledge – Although some project managers may jump between fields, such as IT and healthcare, some hiring managers will look for candidates with specific academic or professional experience in a field. When looking for a PM job, your best bet may be to seek opportunities in a field where you have the most industry knowledge.
  • Budgeting – Although you may not be the one in charge of the budget if you are working for a large company, it helps to have budgeting knowledge as a PM.

Read: Best Project Management Tools for Developers

What is the Average Salary for Project Managers?

Project managers play a critical role in any organization’s success and must often tackle many tasks and responsibilities. Luckily, statistics show that they are rewarded for their hard work, as the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that in a 2021 survey, the median annual salary for a PM was $115,000. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, project management professionals had a median salary of $77,420 in 2020, with the top ten percent earning an average of $135,220 per year and the bottom ten percent raking in $42,180.

What can help you fall in the higher salary tier for project management? Besides your field, advanced education and certifications can get you that income you desire.

What are the Education Requirements for Project Managers?

Education requirements for project managers depend on your field and the organization you are looking to work for. Several types of project managers have bachelor’s degrees in computer science, business, or a field related to their industry. Will all organizations require a bachelor’s degree? No, but it cannot hurt to have one, as it can help you build leadership skills needed for PM work, increase your industry knowledge, and give you a leg up over the competition when looking to get hired.

While some companies may not require degrees and may look more for experience on your resume, others will require candidates to have not only a bachelor’s, but also a graduate degree, such as a Master of Science in Management (MSM) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master’s in Computer Science.

Degrees can make it easier to secure a project management job, plus they can lead to increased earnings. The PMI Salary Survey found that 92 percent of project managers had at least a bachelor’s degree, making this quite the competitive position. And, with advanced education, salaries went up. The average PM salary for someone with a four-year degree was $110,250. Those with Master’s degrees earned an average of $120,000, while project managers with doctoral degrees saw their salaries bumped up to $123,000.

Common Certifications for Project Managers

Degrees are not the only way to get your foot in the door as a project manager, as PM certifications can also help. Some employers may require project management certifications for consideration, such as these:

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) – The PMI administers this entry-level PM certification. It is ideal for someone just getting started in project management looking to secure a PM position without experience.
  • Project Management Professional (PMP) – This certification from the PMI is meant for professionals with project management experience seeking an extra credential for their resume.

Below are some courses that can help you prepare for project management certifications:

You can also check out our tutorial about Project Management Certifications for a more complete list of PM certifications.

Common Tools for Project Managers

Several tools on the market can help make the role of a project manager easier and more efficient. You may be expected to have some familiarity with project management tools to be hired by certain organizations, as they are quite common in the workplace for all types of teams.

PM tools and software usually fall into the following categories:

  • Communication – Software with chat, email, and video conferencing capabilities.
  • Collaboration – Tools for not only messaging, but also file sharing and similar tasks.
  • Scheduling – Gantt charts, digital calendars, and other tools to keep projects on track.
  • Work management – Advanced software that can offer an all-in-one solution for project management in terms of managing resources, budgeting, scheduling, collaborating, and more, such as Hive, Asana, Jira, etc.

Read: Overview of Gantt Charts

Some of the most popular vendors for project management software and tools are reviewed here on this website. They can help project managers choose the best project management software for their projects:

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