Project Management

Project Management Career and Degree Guide

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Project Management Career Guide

A project manager is a professional tasked with leading a project from inception to completion. Facing obstacles, budget and time-constraints, a project manager is key to planning and executing projects that produce the desired deliverable or result, and these leaders often are compensated well for their hard work.

A project management professional frequently has a hand in assembling the team of individuals, who each are given specific responsibilities to ensure the successful completion of a project, and must juggle the core team's needs with those of partners or clients. The project manager must effectively communicate with each group to help create and implement a logical workflow for each team to accomplish their goal.

Job Responsibilities

During the course of any given project, a project manager may perform the following tasks to ensure the overall success of a project's outcome:

  • Create the project plan, including inventory, time, budget and staff needs
  • Collaborate with other team members to ensure all parties understand the extent of the project and their part in its completion
  • Identify, track, manage and resolve project issues
  • Proactively disseminate information to all involved
  • Identify risks
  • Manage a project's scope to ensure that what was agreed to is delivered, unless changes are approved within the project's lifespan
  • Report metrics on how the project is progressing and whether the deliverables produced are acceptable
  • Manage the project schedule as far as work assignments and completion within time and budget constraints

Necessary Skills for a Project Management Career

Architect and project management guru Richard Fanelli* suggests the following abilities and characteristics for the consummate project manager:

  • Organizational skills – You'll need to create order out of chaos and be on call to report facets of a project at any given time, so the ability to effectively prioritize your time and workflow is essential.
  • Technical knowledge and skills – Becoming an expert in your field and knowing how things are done—as well as being detail-oriented—are strong components of the successful project manager personality.
  • Leadership skills – A successful project manager can see the big picture and communicate it decisively to all of the parties involved.
  • People skills – Project managers deal with all types of people, and your days will be spent working together in meetings of all sizes.
  • Listening skills – A project is a collaborative effort and though you may be in the driver's seat, you'll need to be able to listen to other people and acknowledge the contributions of other team members.
  • Good communication – The motto of project management is "communicate, communicate, communicate."
  • Problem solving skills – Project managers are looked upon to solve the snags that will inevitably arise in any given project, so you'll need to be able to evaluate all the data and find creative solutions to problems.
  • Ability to stay focused – Project managers need to stay focused on the desired result no matter how many distractions and issues occur.
  • Flexibility – Things will always happen while you're managing a project—a component won't arrive on time from a supplier, or a team member might get a new job in the middle of a project—so you've got to be able to make adjustments to your plan in order to reach your intended goal.
  • Conflict resolution skills – It's your project to lead, but team members and outside partners won't always agree with every decision you make. You've got to be a mediator and help bring a win-win attitude to the table.

Degree Program Options

If you want to enter into a project management career, it's a great idea to consider a degree program to set yourself up for success. Getting an advanced degree in project management can teach you the high-level skills you'll need to manage effectively. There are several options for graduate degrees and professional certifications depending on your area of interest, which include Master of Science and MBA degree programs. Your education will include courses that will strengthen your knowledge foundation and teach you the full spectrum of project management concepts and methodologies, such as cost estimation, Agile project management methodology, organizational change management, and quality and process improvement, just to name a few.

Ready to learn more? Keep browsing to learn about this rewarding career or explore your degree program options.

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*Washington Business Journal, "Great Project Managers Have Great Qualities: Do You?"