Program managers help employers meet large organizational goals. Meeting these goals usually requires completing several smaller related projects. Program managers oversee the coordination of projects and the employees that run them. They are involved in developing program strategies, evaluating the performance of project teams, and allocating resources across projects and departments.
The challenge and potential reward attract many people to pursue jobs as program managers. To know if a career as a program manager is right for you, it helps to have more information. Discover what program managers do, learn how much this career pays, and how to become a program manager.
The specific duties of a program manager depend on the workplace. For instance, one program manager might oversee the development of a new product. Projects involved with this goal might include identifying customer needs, researching the market, designing the product, and manufacturing it.
Another program manager might be responsible for improving customer service within an organization. Projects involved with this goal might include revamping the company's customer service mission, providing customer service training, and developing a system for customer feedback. In both instances, the program manager would oversee all projects and project managers meet each overall goal.
Defining the role of a program manager helps to distinguish it from that of a project manager. While a project manager is in charge of a specific project within an organization, a program manager is responsible for achieving broad, strategic goals and objectives. Projects usually have specific deadlines, but the end dates for programs may be more flexible, or there may be no end date at all.
Read more: How to Become a Project Manager: 6 Steps
Duties for program managers vary according to the workplace. However, some are generally classified. Tasks common to program managers across many industries include:
Identification of organizational needs and objectives
Program budget creation and maintenance
Program risk assessment
Assignment and supervision of project managers
Collaboration with various department heads
Delivery of progress reports, both orally and in writing
Program management involves various activities, including project coordination, employee supervision, strategic planning, and more. Because this is such an active job, various key skills can benefit program managers. These skills might include:
Ability to work well as part of a team
Ability to work well under pressure
Oral and written communication skills
The program management field offers jobs across various industries, from retail and tech to health care. In addition to the private sector, government agencies also need program managers. These include the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and the Department of the Treasury.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, management jobs are expected to increase by about 883,900 from 2021 to 2031 . This is a growth rate of 8 percent, which is faster than average compared to other types of jobs.
As a program manager, you can expect an average annual salary of about $93,779 This is the estimated amount before extra pay from commissions, profit sharing, or bonuses. Based on pay estimates for program manager positions at various companies, you'll make considerably more money if you work for a tech firm .
While there is no set path to becoming a program manager, these tips can help. You can get an education, gain valuable work experience, join professional organizations, and earn Professional Certificates. A combination of two or more of these steps should make you an extra-valuable prospect.
If you're considering a career as a program manager, it helps to pursue a bachelor's degree. Although employers in some industries require degrees in specific areas like engineering or environmental science, good general fields of study include:
Since many program managers start as project managers, you may want to get your foot in the door this way and try to move up. Ideas for getting project management experience include:
Volunteering to manage community projects like fundraising events or cleanup days
Applying for an internship as a project management assistant
Looking for opportunities to serve on nonprofit boards in your community
Asking to sit in on project management meetings at work
Launching your own small projects at work, like a before-work yoga class or walking club
If you're hoping to move swiftly up the career ladder in program management, an advanced degree might help. You may want to consider an MBA (master's in business administration) or a master's in management and leadership. After obtaining your bachelor's degree, you can expect to put in another two years of study to earn a master's degree.
Professional organizations can help if you're looking to network with other professionals or want to further your professional development.
Organizations you might want to consider joining include:
• IPMA (International Project Management Association)
• AMA (American Management Association)
• ASP (Association for Strategic Planning)
• NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors)
Professional Certificates offer the knowledge you need to get a career or advance in one, and they come in many types. You can find program management certifications lasting from two days to two years. Some examples include:
Program Management: A two-day course offered by American Management Association for experienced project managers, program managers, or other employees involved with programs. Topics covered include program lifecycle components and phases, strategic program management, and how to get and keep stakeholders.
Become a Program Manager: A 19-class course teaching the skills needed to become a program manager sponsored by LinkedIn. Examples of classes include Leadership Foundations, Organization Communication, and Building High-Performance Teams.
Certificate in Program Management: A five-month course from the University of Washington Professional & Continuing Education. Topics covered include the different stages of programs, measurement and maintenance of program benefits, and how to engage stakeholders.
Start by taking one or two project management courses if you want a better feel for program management. The University of Virginia offers Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management on Coursera. This short, eight-hour course explains how to plan and run projects effectively. You don't need any former experience to enroll, and you'll get a shareable certificate when you complete the course.
Projects are all around us. Virtually every organization runs projects, either formally or informally. We are engaged in projects at home and at work. ...
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