How to Become a Project Manager in 5 Steps

Written by Coursera • Jul 20, 2021

Become a project manager by building skills and experience, earning a certification, or working your way up on a team.

Project manager in an office setting

Project managers organize teams of people to accomplish a specific goal, or project, for companies and other organizations. If you’re organized, intrigued by people, and ready to take on a larger role in your career, project management might be a good fit.

Learn more: What Does a Project Manager Do? A Career Guide

How do I become a project manager?

There are many paths to becoming a project manager. Some may study project management principles in school and apply directly to project management positions after graduating, while others “accidentally” become project managers after gradually taking on more responsibilities in their current roles, or switch from seemingly unrelated fields. Whatever path you’re hoping to take, here are five steps you should consider to become a project manager.

1. Understand what project management skills you already have

If you’ve ever planned, led, budgeted, scheduled, or documented the progress of a project, you’ve done some elements of project management. Did you organize an event in a previous job? Find new ways to make your workplace more efficient? Coordinate volunteers to clean up a beach? Though you might not have thought of it as project management at the time, your past experiences may have given you some exposure to the skills you’ll need as a project manager.

If you find you have quite a bit of experience already, you may be ready to apply for project manager positions, or approach your manager to state your interest in becoming one. If you have a combined three years of experience, you’ll also be eligible to apply to take the exam for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which may create opportunities for you in the project management world.

2. Build project management experience

Many project managers get their start in non-managerial positions on a team. For example, IT project managers may work for several years as an IT associate, or perhaps as a business analyst supporting the IT team. Their roles may gradually expand as they gain industry expertise, take on managerial tasks, develop organizational skills, and learn to work with the members on their team. 

If you’re trying to build up project management skills, try looking for opportunities in your current work. Whether you work in a hospital or retail store, tech company or restaurant, chances are there are several items that need to be planned, executed, or improved. See if you can join in these efforts. If it makes sense to do so, approach your manager with ideas of how you can contribute, and let them know you’re interested in developing project management experience.

3. Develop project management skills

It’ll be a good idea to sharpen the technical and human skills involved in project management. Here are some skills commonly requested in project manager job descriptions:

You can develop skills by taking courses specific to a subject, studying for a certification, or practicing them in the workplace.

Ready to get started? 

Develop core project management skills with the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate. You can learn what you need to be job-ready in six months or less.

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Read more: 11 Key Project Management Skills

4. Look for entry-level positions

Gradually working your way up the ladder from within a team isn’t the only way to become a project manager. Many project managers get their start in entry-level organizational positions to build key skills. Keep an eye out for these titles in your search:

  • Project coordinator

  • Operations coordinator

  • Associate project manager

  • Junior project manager

  • Operations associate

  • Administrative associate

Keep learning: What Does a Project Coordinator Do?

5. Consider a project management credential

A certification or certificate can help you get your foot in the door for project management jobs. Here are a few to consider:

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

  • Google Project Management: Professional Certification

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

  • Certified Scrum Master

  • Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I)

  • ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP)

Which project management certification should I get?

If you’re looking for an entry-level position, the CAPM or Google Project Management: Professional Certificate are designed for those with little or no project management experience. The PMP is a popular credential for those with three or more years of project management experience. If you’re on a team that uses Agile or Scrum, or are hoping to apply to roles that do, certifications in these areas can be beneficial.

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Read more: 6 Popular Agile Certifications in 2021

Hear from a project manager at Google about how she went from being a business analyst to her current role.

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JuAnne became a project manager after being a business analyst on her team. Here's her story.

Getting started

There are several paths to becoming a project manager. Whether you’re starting from scratch or trying to solidify your skills after a few years of experience, you’ll want to make sure you have your basics covered. If you’re considering a career in project management, take a look at the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How long does it take to become a project manager?

If you have previous managerial experience, you may be able to become a project manager within a few months. If you’re just starting on the road to become a project manager, building up your experience may take a few years.

Do project managers need a degree?

Though it might be easier for project managers to advance to their roles with a degree, they’re certainly not always required. If you don’t have a degree, working your way up from within a team or earning a certification might make sense for your career path.

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Written by Coursera • Jul 20, 2021

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