How to Become a Project Manager

An Expert Guide for 2021

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How to Become a Project Manager blog title image
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A project manager’s responsibilities include planning projects, leading teams, keeping the company’s project within budget and on time, and ultimately taking responsibility for its success and failure. Since a PM is someone who glues and keeps things together, it is vital to work towards becoming an efficient and effective one.

By reading through the basics of each aspect of a project manager’s career growth in this guide, you can become part of this work line right away. However, we may need to address a few crucial questions before moving towards some vital tips to help you become a prolific project manager.

What is a Project?

According to the PMBOK® Guide—Fourth edition (PMI, 2008a, p. 434) the definition of a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique project service or result.” Projects are temporary and close down on the completion of the work they were chartered to deliver.

Furthermore, the PMI, the Project Management Institute, states that “a project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.

And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. So a project team often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.”

Projects are for example:

  • The development of software for an improved business process
  • the construction of a building or bridge
  • the relief effort after a natural disaster
  • the expansion of sales into a new geographic market — these are all projects.

Everything must be properly managed to deliver on-time, on-budget results, plus deliver the learning and integration that companies require.

Project management, therefore, is according to the PMI, the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Project Management has always been practiced informally, but it began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-20th century. PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) identifies its recurring elements:

Project management processes fall into five groups or phases:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing

Practical Application of Project Phases and Their Purposes

What makes up the project lifecycle are the phases of a project. And for tracking and control purposes, a PM can divide the project into customizes phases. Thus, the manager can then elaborate and track each milestone at each stage for completion.

The project type you are working on will determine the basic phases and milestones of your project. You may have different names for each phase of a project, such as developing a building or a metro, while a software project may have implementation, test, build, and requirement phases.

Therefore, the kind of deliverables you seek for at each phase will determine how you name each project’s phases. You can divide a project into the following phases for example:

  • Initial charter
  • Scope statement
  • Planning
  • Baseline
  • Progress
  • Acceptance
  • Approval
  • Handover

With each phase of your project, you can have a set of deliverables that you have agreed upon with the stakeholder before the project commences. If you’re running a software project, you will need to generate the required documents for the requirement phase, the design document for the design phase, and so on. A specific milestone is associated with each phase of the project. With that, you can track the set of deliverables that each phase must deliver for closure and compliance.

project manager tasks
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What is a Project Manager?

A project manager’s role is mainly but not exclusively focussed on planning, monitoring, executing, controlling, and closing projects. Project managers are ultimately responsible for the project’s success or failure, and the whole project’s resources, the project team, the scope, and the budget.

A project manager manages critical client projects. His or her responsibilities include project coordination and completion within scope, budget, and time.

The PM also sets up reports for upper management concerning the project’s status, summarizes, monitors, and assigns responsibilities for the project’s progress, sets deadlines, and manages every aspect of the project.

Project managers also ensure that the deliverables are within the applicable budget and scope while working directly with clients. They also hire new talent to fulfill customer needs, ensure compatibility with other parallel projects and coordinate with other departments.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

As a project manager, your work includes being competent in managing all project aspects, including resources, quality, risk, finance, schedule, and scope, apart from being responsible for the daily management of the project. The skill to stay within budget, adhere to time limits, and achieve definite outcomes with a specific project is also what your work as a PM entails. You may also have to deal with:

  • Ensuring that the project provides the predictable benefits and outcomes
  • Dealing with project changes when necessary
  • Ensuring the project is on budget and time
  • Coordinating work done by different people and external suppliers
  • Motivating the team involved in the project
  • Ensuring that the team completes the work according to the expected quality standard
  • Examining the risks involved in a specific project and managing these risks
  • Planning projects, assess what’s the ideal timeline in light of your organization’s other projects and initiatives
  • Plan, secure, and brief the resources that will carry out the project

Project Manager Skills

To be a successful PM, you need to have many skills, whereas these skills are not all technical. These are job-specific abilities that you have developed through training and education, and you apply them daily.

A good project manager needs hard and soft skills, like:

  • Project planning
  • Managing budget and risk
  • Making decisions
  • Excellent communication
  • Ability to encourage and motivate others
  • Flexibility
  • Relationship building
  • Leadership skills
  • Resilience
  • Dealing with stress

By definition, a PM is a leader. Many essential leadership skills will be beneficial that will lead to producing excellent work. Skills and competencies of a project manager include:

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Writing Skills

It is vital to document a project in concise, clear language from the beginning to finish.

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Budget Management Skills

A simple aptitude for math may be the starting point. However, understanding the basic means of financing endeavor, including unexpected cash emergencies, supplies, and salaries, is crucial.

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Capacity to Think Ahead

A project is almost like a living organism. It evolves and changes over time. While it is essential to manage what is happening now, you must not leave out how critical it is to plan for later. [/su_icon_text][su_icon_text icon=”icon: community” icon_size=”31″]

Leadership Skills

There are always many talents that fulfill several roles on a project, and the PM will be in charge of these people. Being on top of the projects’ communication every time and negotiating the challenges of conflict and disagreements are necessary to be a successful leader. As the leader, you may need to motivate your crew to do an excellent job or fix damaged work relationships, if necessary.

Bottom line, as a project manager, you will have to do what it takes to make your project successful. Some people are naturally gifted with leadership and project management skills, whereas for others it might be quite a struggle to rise to your specific project’s challenges. [/su_icon_text]

Project Manager Responsibilities

So, what are the primary responsibilities of a project manager?

In the broadest sense, some main responsibilities include organizing, planning, directing specific project completion as they safeguard these projects to be within scope, budget, and time.

Project managers are responsible for monitoring complex projects from inception to completion and can shape a business’s trajectory, increase revenue, maximize business efficiencies, and reduce cost.

The project types the PM has the task of overseeing, their organization, and industry will determine a project manager’s exact duties. However, project managers share responsibilities across the board concerning the 5-phase project life cycle that has five phases, as mentioned earlier:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and controlling
  • Closing

You may want to consider these as steps, but they are not. Instead, a project manager continues to return to these processes throughout a project’s life. Since project managers influence decision-making than anyone else in an organization, they must use their skills to win employees’ respect and keep that throughout the project and into the future. Other responsibilities of a PM include:

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Managing Necessary Reports and Documentation

Project managers with years of experience know how vital it is to have proper documentation and final reports. If you are new to project management, you need to know that a good PM must fulfill all project requirements through comprehensive reports documenting and the project’s history like what could be done better in the future, who was involved, and what was done. [/su_icon_text] [su_panel][grwebform url=”″ css=”on” center=”off” center_margin=”200″/][/su_panel] [su_icon_text icon=”icon: bar-chart” icon_size=”31″]

Monitoring Progress

A PM and the project team have high expectations and a clear vision of delivering the desired result during the initial stages. However, there will always be some bumps along the way as you navigate the finish line. It is a project manager’s responsibility to take efficient corrective measures while analyzing and monitoring team performance and expenditures. [/su_icon_text] [su_icon_text icon=”icon: flash” icon_size=”31″]

Managing and Analyzing Project Risk

Many unexpected pitfalls and hurdles are lurking when handling a bigger project. Inevitable there will be hiccups on the way. However, before the project commences, a good PM will intuitively and meticulously recognize and evaluate possible risks. With that, they can identify effective measures to mitigate the potential risks, minimize a risk’s impact or even avoid them altogether by addressing potential challenges right away during the initiation or planning phase. [/su_icon_text] [su_icon_text icon=”icon: check-circle-o” icon_size=”31″]

Ensuring Customer Satisfaction

Your projects are only successful when your customers are happy. Involving clients in your projects as much as possible, which will prevent unnecessary surprises, and minimize uncertainty. Some of the key responsibilities of a PM. As a good project manager, you must keep your company’s clients informed and maintain effective communication. [/su_icon_text] [su_icon_text icon=”icon: clock-o” icon_size=”31″]

Controlling Time Management

Whether you deliver a project on time is part of what clients use to judge a project’s failure or success. Thus, meeting deadlines are non-negotiable. Setting realistic deadlines and communicating these deadlines to your team is part of your responsibilities as a PM. It would be best if you also had a good hang on:

  • Maintaining a schedule
  • Developing a schedule
  • Estimating the duration of activity
  • Sequencing activity
  • Defining activity
  • Foresee potential difficulties and allocate buffer time where necessary [/su_icon_text]
project manager responsibilities
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Project Manager Salary

As a PM working in the United States, you can expect to earn around $116,000 per year across all industries. Most project managers’ salaries range from $93,000 to $140,000, which is the highest. Location, gender, skills, or experience determine the salary of a project manager.

Years of Experience

Years of experience also affect a project manager’s salary. It is also the most important factor that determines the salary. Typically, your wage will increase once you have more experience. If you don’t have up to two years of experience as a PM, you can expect to earn about $58,800 per year and approximately $81,100 per year if you have between two and five years of experience. You can earn about $115,000 per year at an experience level of five to ten years.

When your experience spans anywhere between ten and fifteen years, you can expect to earn a salary of $141,000 per year and $148,000 per year if you have between fifteen and twenty years of experience. With more than twenty years of experience, you can get a salary of $162,000 per year if you have.

How to Become a Project Manager

You might be wondering how you could become a PM yourself, now that you understand some of the PM’s responsibilities and why project management is quite important. You will realize that being a project manager can be a rewarding career when you get into it. Therefore, you can have the opportunity to make a real difference to a business’s bottom line. With the rise in demand for project-based work, the PMI estimates that businesses will need about 2.2 million fresh project-oriented roles in a year through 2027.

No wonder more people want to become a project manager and explore the project management career path, with all the opportunities for managers and other related roles on the horizon.

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How You Can Get Started

Normally you would need a degree and project management experience to become a proper PM. Ideally, you already have natural leadership skills and strong organizational abilities if you are thinking about becoming a project manager. With these abilities and skills, managing projects will come naturally to you while you could treat your career like a big project. 😉 [/su_icon_panel] [su_icon_panel border=”0px solid #cccccc” shadow=”0px 1px 2px #eeeeee” icon=”icon: gears” icon_size=”31″]

Work on Your Skills

You cannot complete a project successfully just by sitting at your computer studying the project plan or studying Gantt charts. Since projects are made up of people and the results that they produce, you must get to know, coach, and communicate with every individual as much as you dedicate your time to the managerial aspects of project management. [/su_icon_panel] [su_icon_panel border=”0px solid #cccccc” shadow=”0px 1px 2px #eeeeee” icon=”icon: wrench” icon_size=”31″]

Utilizing the Project Management Trade Tools

Through soft skills, you can possibly get your first junior project manager or project management assistant job. However, it may be necessary to display your technical skills. Wait! Are you getting afraid already? Well, fear not. You and your team can collaborate, budget, schedule, and more using project management software., Zoho Projects, and Microsoft Project are some of the most popular tools available.

You may think it is daunting learning new software, but most of these project management software provide plenty of support, apart from being user-friendly. There are several resources you will find when you go online.

Project management software is a prerequisite when you are running larger projects, as it is too tedious to keep all schedules and associated logs (decision log, risk log, etc.) updated manually. Check out my article about the best project management software for more information. [/su_icon_panel]

Project Manager Certification

More than 97 percent of businesses know how crucial good project management is to their success. Sadly, several project managers don’t gain skills and certifications during their career and tenure in the project management field. Whether you consider it or not, you can get enormous help to advance your career with project management certifications. Businesses will hire you to help with their projects, you could work with top-notch organizations as a certified professional or freelance project management consultant.

It would help if you got a project management certification because:

  • It is a smart future investment
  • Improves project performance
  • You can get better job opportunities and challenging projects
  • You could expect a salary increase
  • Of its global acknowledgment
project manager certifications
Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

Some of the Best Project Management Certifications

You can move your career forward through some of these project management certifications: [su_panel]

Project Management Training Certification

With Project Management Training Certification, you will use a standard format and the organization’s rules to handle the project. While you may not need specific specialization, it is critical to know each field. A project manager’s basic need is to accomplish the target and fulfill the project with the specified time. [/su_panel] [su_panel]

Certified Project Manager

With Certified Project Manager certification, you will have clear competitive advantages to professionals due to its global certification. If your dream job is to implement and manage projects effectively, this certification is ideal for you, and it provides theoretical project management knowledge proof. [/su_panel][su_panel]

Certified Project Director

GAQM conducts Certified Project Director. People consider this certification as project management’s most prestigious level and for its global recognition. Experienced and senior professionals that want to become project management experts and move beyond the typical PPM will find this certification ideal. [/su_panel][su_panel]

Professional in Project Management

The GAQM organizes Professional in Project Management. There are project management modules in its mid-level certification, including completing, controlling, executing, and planning projects. Managing projects, developing different approaches, project measures, and schedules is part of what you will get. With this qualification, you can motivate your team to perform at their best and handle risks and crises like an experienced PM. [/su_panel][su_panel]

Master Project Manager

You must meet the American Academy of Project Management requirements of ethics, industry knowledge, experience, training, education, and continuing education to apply for the Master Project Manager certification. Anyone with technical and business responsibilities can apply for this certification and not just project managers. [/su_panel][su_panel]

Associate in Project Management

As an entry-level certification, you will gain a good understanding of the Project Management Framework with the Associate in Project Management certification. Applying and getting this certification means that you have the required knowledge on an entry-level, and it is a critical globally recognized credential in the project management domain. To be successful, you need to score 70 percent from 50 Multiple Choice Questions in the duration of 1 hour. [/su_panel]

Product Manager vs. Project Manager

Even though product managers and project managers carry out different responsibilities and tasks, people often use them interchangeably. Even though the two are involved in managing something, what makes the difference is what they are managing.

Product vs. Project

It is crucial first to identify the difference between a product and a project. A product does not necessarily involve a set timeframe, and it creates continuous value for clients. A project has a clear definition for delivery and activities as a temporary endeavor.

Product Manager’s Responsibilities

The focus of product managers is to create a product that the company’s customers want and need. While creating a vision of the products’ future, they are also responsible for managing its entire life cycle. Some of the factors that govern a product manager’s job role are agility and continuous development since customers’ expectations and needs change every day.

Another key responsibility of a product manager is to create a product roadmap. They can detail the particular steps that the product team needs to take while meeting the product vision through the product map. However, the product manager’s job continues even after finishing the product. Their responsibility involves monitoring the product’s continuous development and progress with promotion and market research after its creation.

Project Manager’s Responsibilities

Some of the PM’s responsibilities involve splitting strategic plans into task-oriented, actionable initiatives. They supervise a project’s delivery and ensure that it is completed within a set of resources, budget, and time. Essentially, their responsibility is to ensure success while putting the plan into action and monitoring its progress.

It can be quite difficult to manage a project’s scope as the project manager needs to manage risks or any issues that may emerge, manage the project team while allocating and aligning resources, budgets, and time. A project manager needs to be a well-organized individual.

Program Manager vs. Project Manager

Both program and project management styles have basic concepts. Since programs are ongoing, greater efforts and projects are single-focused, smaller endeavors, the difference is mostly based on scope. Regarding overall responsibilities, scope, and size, the differences are profound even though it tends to be subtle in project manager vs. program manager.

In terms of overall organizational and leadership style, both project managers and program managers have basic similarities. However, there are also considerable differences.


Project managers deal with their staff directly, while this is not necessarily the case for program managers.


Programs are longer-term endeavors of up to 3 years while projects are usually shorter and are delivered with a year.


Program managers tend to be more senior and have advanced knowledge of the organization as well as project management methodologies.


Project managers usually manage smaller budgets due to the shorter duration of projects vs. programs.


Program managers have even larger responsibilities than project managers.


Program managers have far more resources under their watch. Programs certainly have a defined endpoint even though they can go on for years, as it is a combination of related projects that feed into a greater overarching objective.

To sum up, While the program manager has the responsibilities of tracking and managing the programs’ big picture and overarching deliverable, a project manager on the contrary focuses solely on the one project at hand.


It is crucial to develop the necessary skills to execute a project from initiation to delivery if you want to pursue a career as a project manager. One way you can learn is to ensure you earn an advanced project management certification or degree. With that, you can get hands-on experience in the field while enhancing your marketability to employers, increasing your salary, and improve your skills. You could also turn this into a freelance project management consultant role in the long term.

Get in touch today to get your projects done professionally.

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Mandy Schmitz
Mandy Schmitz
Mandy Schmitz is a freelance consultant and project management expert with 10+ years of experience working internationally for big brands in fintech, consumer goods and more. Join me here on to learn how to optimize your business operations and find the latest product & software reviews.


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Mandy Schmitz is a freelance consultant and project management expert with 10+ years of experience working internationally for big brands in fintech, consumer goods and more. Join me here on to learn how to optimize your business operations and find the latest product & software reviews.

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