A Career as a Project Manager

Overview

Strictly speaking, project management is not an industry but rather it is a discipline, one which can be practised in many industry sectors.  Generally, Project Managers are responsible for managing the complete lifecycle of a project from the initial requirements analyzis through to successful completion on time and within budgetary constraints.  They manage relationships with the client throughout the project and are responsible for reporting on, and resolving, any issues that may arise.  They are also responsible for ensuring the most effective and efficient utilisation of people and resources required for the duration of the project.

A Project Manager will normally recruit their own project team and will also negotiate contracts with any external service providers or suppliers.  To ensure that the project runs smoothly and that all standards, targets and objectives are achieved, methodologies are applied, the most popular being PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environments), which has been adopted as standard by Government.  There are also a range of software applications, such as Microsoft Project, designed to manage specific project controls, simulate possible outcomes and produce estimates.

The nature of the project and the particular industry sector defines the nature of the working week for a Project Manager.  The role will generally involve some office work and some travelling to ensure that the project is progressing.  The Project Manager will also attend regular meetings with clients, suppliers and any other subcontractors employed specifically for the project.

A Project Manager has to be highly organized and efficient with a logical and analytical approach to problem solving.  They often have to manage more than one project at a time so must be capable of handling conflicting priorities and deadlines.  As they are accountable for the project budget, they must be experienced in financial and cost controls and they should also have a good standard of computer literacy.

Entry requirements

Many Project Managers hold degrees closely related to the industry sector in which they work, otherwise they will have gained many years of management experience before progressing to the role.  In general, experience is more important than qualifications as more specific training can be provided by the company as necessary.  The Association for Project Management (APM) offers an Introductory Certificate, Practitioner Qualification and Certification training as well as Risk Management Certificates.  The Project Management Institute (PMI) also offers the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP) qualifications which require several hours of documented project experience as evidence before they can be awarded.

Progression opportunities

Opportunities in project management are available in many industries, including IT, construction, manufacturing and engineering as well as in the public sector.  Some Project Managers are employed on a full-time basis whereas others prefer to offer their services in a consultancy capacity.  The salary is very good with some Project Managers preferring to charge a daily rate and others being entitled to bonuses for the achievement of budgets and deadlines.  Due to the sheer diversity of the industries requiring Project Managers, there are an increasing number of overseas opportunities available for those possessing the required experience and qualifications.

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