How to become a project manager – role, salary & qualifications

A project management role requires a variety of skills, qualities and knowledge to ensure that a project is completed on time. Project management sounds simple enough however, it has different demands depending on which industry you work in. If you want to become a project manager, this comprehensive guide will provide you with the tools you need to kick-start your future career.

What is project management?

Project management is the art of controlling all the items, objectives and people involved in a project, to ensure that the project is completed successfully, on time and on budget.

The term project management might sound a little bit vague, but this is only because it incorporates a number of skills from different disciplines into one. It’s important to recognise that projects are generally distinguished from regular operations – they are unique endeavours with a defined start and end. So a project manager will be needed to manage all the elements of a particular project, including time, money, resources and people, and make sure that it’s completed according to the success criteria.

A project manager will be involved in every stage of the project – from initiation to closing – and they will need to be in contact with all the managers, suppliers, contractors and staff working on the project.

How to become a project manager?

Before you commit to acquiring project management qualifications, you should do some further research into what a project management career path involves and whether or not it’s right for you. You could do this by reaching out to people who work as project managers (perhaps a family member or friend) or reading blogs and articles online. It’s important to understand what you’re getting into as best as possible before starting.

What qualifications do you need?

There are a number of certificates and undergraduate degrees that can provide you with project management education and qualify you as a project management professional. You could undertake a Diploma of Project Management, a Certificate IV in Project Management Practice or a degree in Business Administration/Management. Depending on the field you want to work in, other undergraduate degrees may also prove valuable. For example, an undergraduate degree in civil engineering would certainly help you as a project manager on a construction project.

To work as a project manager in Australia, you will usually be expected to have completed a Diploma of Project Management or another project management certification; or the relevant qualifications in your chosen field.

It might also be beneficial to do some research into the project management software and tools that are often used for managing projects. You may need to develop an understanding of collaboration programs like Google Docs, Google Slides, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Slack. It’s important to remember that the project management world is a dynamic industry that is constantly changing, so you’ll need to be able to learn quickly and adapt to change.

There are also a number of different frameworks that project managers use to approach a project. You can obtain qualifications in some of these, such as the PRINCE2 framework, while others you may need to do your own research or learn as you go. These methodologies, including Agile, Scrum and Waterfall, are used by different industries to ensure that a project is being controlled and completed as efficiently as possible.

What does a project manager do?

Project management work often requires a project manager to take on many different roles over the course of a project, as they will be heavily involved from conception through to completion. A project manager will be involved in the initiation, planning, execution, control and task completion stages of a project, so they will need to have the ability to work on multiple things at once. Project management skills may require knowledge and competency in a variety of disciplines.

A project manager’s responsibilities might be slightly different depending on the industry they’re working in, but the general expectations will be the same. A project manager will be required to help plan, delegate, budget and provide leadership and moral support, which is why it’s important that they have good social skills.

Planning

One of the most important stages of any project is the planning stage. This is crucial because if a project begins without a detailed plan, it’s much more likely that things will go wrong. The project manager will need to work with the board of directors to define the scope of the project and make sure everyone’s expectations are aligned in terms of deliverables, resources, requirements and timeline. The project manager will be expected to determine key milestones and devise an action plan.

Resource management

Managing resources is one of the complex challenges of being a project manager. A project manager must distribute resources in the most efficient way possible, and then continue to manage how these resources are being used to ensure that operations are neither under nor over capacity. This is a critical facet of project management because if resources are not distributed correctly, the project may not be completed on time. Project management tools and software can assist with this.
Resource management is a task that will need to be done at the start of the project and then continually monitored throughout. The project manager will need to take care of ordering supplies and booking contractors and will be involved with resolving the financial arrangements.

Managing challenges

Even in the most carefully planned projects, problems can arise. It’s the project manager’s job to put into place appropriate risk management and ensure that the project is able to continue moving forward.

Motivation

A project manager needs to be able to get the best out of their project team members in order to ensure that the project runs smoothly. Project management is not just about tracking resources and checking budgets, it’s also about motivating people and ensuring that they have what they need to do the job. For this reason, it’s important for a project manager to have strong communication skills. The project manager will need to be able to give people clear instructions and manage the expectations of external stakeholders against the reasonable capabilities of their staff. They will also be in charge of approving or withholding budget requests.

Post-project analysis

One of the final responsibilities of a project manager is to analyse the project’s workflow and outcome and put this information to use on their next project. The project manager will need to ensure that all necessary documentation is completed, that the required outcomes have been met and that stakeholders have been appropriately informed.

Project management skills

Project management roles are best suited for people with strong leadership and organisation skills. A project manager will also need to have great communication and social skills, and feel comfortable working in a team. The project manager will often be the critical communicator in a team working on a project, and will need to manage multiple people’s expectations, so it’s also important to be able to stay calm under pressure.

How much do project managers earn?

Project management can be quite an intense role that leaves little room for error and may take up a great deal of your free time. Sometimes you will be required to work overtime or on weekends, so your salary will reflect all the work you do and the different roles you take on.

According to ABS stats, if you’re a contract, program or project administrator, you can expect to earn an average of $1,400 a week before tax. That’s well above the average $1,230 a week for other jobs.

Civil engineering project managers earn an average of $1,916 a week. While construction managers earn similarly high average salaries – around $1,719 a week.

Leaning more towards a creative project management path? As a project manager in advertising, PR or sales, you could expect to earn about $1,858 a week.

What industries need project managers?

Project management is a growing industry, and demand for qualified project managers goes beyond the traditional project areas like infrastructure and technology. The demand for project managers in Australia is increasing, partially due to changes in the way we manage projects and the emergence of agile project management. Project managers are needed in a variety of industries, including:

  • Construction
  • Information technology
  • Architecture
  • Government
  • Engineering
  • Events management
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • Mining
  • Manufacturing
  • Electricity, gas, water and waste services

Project managers are also needed in a number of other industries, including creative industries and marketing industries. The skills required for project managers are also applicable across multiple industries.

Start your career as a project manager

Project management careers are suitable for people with great leadership and communication skills who enjoy challenges and are good at working in a team. If this sounds like you, there are a number of different paths you can take towards starting a career in project management.

These include:

  • Looking for existing project management career paths and identifying potential mentorship/internship opportunities with a senior project manager.
  • Gaining skills and education in your chosen industry through undergraduate qualifications or practical work.
  • Completing project management certifications such as a Diploma of Project Management or a PRINCE2 Certification.

Project managers generally note experiencing a high degree of job satisfaction, so this is undoubtedly a great career choice for people just starting out in their professional life or for those looking for a change. Move towards a successful career in project management with Monarch today.