How to Become a Project Manager: 6 Steps (2022)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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

[Featured image] A project manager in a white button-down shirt and black glasses stands in front of an office with a glass wall.

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 six 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.

For more ideas on project management skills you may already have, check out this video from a project manager at Google:

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Explore the variety of skills you'll use as a project manager.

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 workplace 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. 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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professional certificate

Google Project Management:

Start your path to a career in project management. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than six months. No degree or experience is required.

4.8

(67,366 ratings)

860,323 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Organizational Culture, Career Development, Strategic Thinking, Change Management, Project Management, Stakeholder Management, Business Writing, Project Charter, Project Planning, Risk Management, Task Estimation, Procurement, Quality Management, Project Execution, Coaching, Influencing, Agile Management, Problem Solving, Scrum, Effective Communication

Read more: 11 Key Project Management Skills

4. Enhance your project manager resume.

As you gain experience and skills in this field, take the time to enhance your resume. Review project manager job listings, from entry-level to advanced roles, to find out what companies are looking for.

Highlight your qualifications that match the job requirements and feature them prominently on your resume. 

Use action verbs to describe tasks you performed in previous roles, and when possible, emphasize any quantifiable outcomes.

5. 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: Project Manager Career Path: From Entry-Level to VP

6. 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:

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: 7 In-Demand Scrum Master Certifications 2022

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.

Read more: What Is a Certified Product Manager (and How Do I Become One)?

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.

Placeholder

professional certificate

Google Project Management:

Start your path to a career in project management. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than six months. No degree or experience is required.

4.8

(67,366 ratings)

860,323 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Organizational Culture, Career Development, Strategic Thinking, Change Management, Project Management, Stakeholder Management, Business Writing, Project Charter, Project Planning, Risk Management, Task Estimation, Procurement, Quality Management, Project Execution, Coaching, Influencing, Agile Management, Problem Solving, Scrum, Effective Communication

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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