11 Key Project Management Skills

Written by Coursera • Updated on Dec 29, 2021

You'll want to have a basic understanding of project management principles to be a good project manager, but workplace skills are just as important.

Aspiring project manager deciding what skills she needs to work on

Project management requires a combination of the technical know-how of managing a team and project, plus several indispensable workplace skills. They’re good skills to have, as the demand for project managers is high and expected to grow. A report by the Project Management Institute found that there will be demand for 25 million project management professionals by 2030 globally. That translates to roughly 2.3 million new project management positions a year [1]. 

That’s good news for people who are looking for jobs that allow them to interact with people, solve problems, and put their organizational talents to use. Here are 11 technical and workplace skills you’ll want to have as a project manager.

Technical project management skills

1. Project management approaches and methodologies

Project management methodologies are the specific rules and procedures that determine how you manage a project. Different project management methodologies are suitable for different situations. Being familiar with the basic differences can help you pick the best one for a project. Although some companies might want you to stick with one approach, knowing about others can give you better context for what you’re doing, and why. 

Some common approaches to project management include Waterfall, a traditional, sequential approach, and Agile, which prioritizes adaptability. Within these approaches, there are several methodologies. For example, Scrum is the most commonly used Agile methodology. Others include Lean, Kanban, and XP (Extreme Programming).

Read more: 7 In-Demand Scrum Master Certifications

Ready to explore more? 

Learn project management methodologies and other essential skills with the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.


2. Project initiation

The start of a project—when much of the project is planned—is often critical to its success. And though it might sound simple, there are many moving pieces to think about in the initial phase of a project. Initiating a project includes setting achievable and specific goals, picking a team, determining resources, and holding a kickoff meeting. 

3. Budgeting

Most every project will have budget constraints. Knowing where costs might pile up, and how to prioritize tasks and delegate resources is often an important part of making sure a project doesn’t go over budget.

If you’re working on a large project or for a large company, you might not be the primary person responsible for managing the budget. But it’ll still be good to know what elements can add to a budget, how to decrease costs, and when you need to increase it.

4. Risk management

No project comes without potential risks. As a project manager, you’ll want to be able to identify when and how unexpected events that could derail your project might happen, how to decrease the chances of them happening, and how to respond if they do. How much of a time buffer should you add to unpredictable projects or tasks? If something goes awry, how would you adjust your scope or resources? Having an eye for potential risks and how to mitigate them can ensure smoother project delivery.

5. Project management tools and software

Technology has made sharing findings, schedules, and communications across teams and stakeholders convenient. As a project manager, you’ll often be expected to know how to use collaboration and communication software, and to take the lead in managing them.

Some tools you might be expected to use include:

  • Collaboration tools like Google Sheets, Google Drive, and Dropbox

  • Work management tools like Asana, Trello, Jira, and Smartsheet

  • Scheduling tools like digital calendars and Gantt charts

  • Communication tools like email, chat, and video conferencing software

Getting started with Asana

Learn how to create, organize, and sort tasks in Asana in a free guided project from Coursera.


6. Industry knowledge

Project management professionals can work in many different fields, including IT, health care, and construction. Sometimes hiring managers will prefer candidates who have academic or professional experience in the field. If you’re looking to switch careers to become a project manager, it can be worth looking for opportunities within an industry you have knowledge in.

Workplace skills

7. Communication

Communication is a key skill for project management professionals to have. In fact, insufficient communication is often cited as a reason why projects miss deadlines, go over budget, or otherwise get derailed.

Good communication doesn’t just mean being able to speak well in front of people—though that’s important too. Project managers should know whom to communicate with, when, and how often. This might mean setting up expectations in the beginning of a project about how often communications will happen.

Communicating effectively

Learn how to develop trust, apologize, be persuasive, and choose the best medium for your message through the Improving Communication Skills course from the University of Pennsylvania.


8. Organization

Organization is crucial for project managers. Coordinating timelines, meetings, and efforts with different teams, contractors, or even other companies means having the discipline to stay on top of communications and tasks. 

9. Flexibility

Even with a perfectly planned project, problems arise. Deadlines might be missed, bad weather can derail construction, people get sick or change jobs. If you’re a person that can deal with unexpected changes, your job as a project manager will go more smoothly.

10. Leadership

Leadership can help make all the disparate parts of a project team come together and work as a unit to get things done. Leadership includes influencing decisions without being overtly authoritative, knowing how to motivate team members, and balancing the needs of your team with the needs of the project.

Strengthen your leadership skills

Like most other skills, leadership is a skill you can learn and sharpen. Learn the psychology and human behavior in leadership through the Leading People and Teams Specialization from the University of Michigan.


11. People skills

Your role as a project manager is to complete projects successfully. And while sometimes that means staying organized and communicating with the right people, it can also mean motivating your team, fostering a culture of collaboration and openness, and resolving potential conflicts. Understanding that different people have different work styles, motivations, strengths, and growth areas will allow for more effective teams and more successful projects.

Rachel, a project manager at Google, switched careers from bartending to project management—and her people skills were what helped her make the switch. Listen to her story below.

Here's Rachel's story about how she transitioned from being a bartender to being a project manager.

How to build project management skills

Sometimes there’s no better teacher than hands-on experience. You can build project management skills by taking on more managerial tasks in your workplace. You can also look for volunteer opportunities in your community that will allow you to help plan and execute projects.

You might already have project management skills: If you’ve helped to organize any new initiatives professionally or personally, you probably already have some project management skills, even if you didn’t call it that at the time. Be sure to highlight these experiences when you apply for project management jobs.

How to include project management skills in your resume

As you put together your resume, highlight your project management skills by describing the scale of your project, the size of your team, and the positive results of your efforts. For example, you might say: “Led team of four developers to redesign a payment platform with a budget of $2M to complete project on time.”

You can also emphasize project management skills by including them in a “skills” section of your resume. If you haven’t led a project before, list your experiences where you had a hand in planning or implementing a new effort. 

Get started in project management

Project management skills are in demand. If you’re ready to get started, consider enrolling in the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate. Learn the job-ready essentials of project management, like initiating projects, risk management, and change management, in six months or less.

Related articles

Article sources

1. Project Management Institute. "PMI Talent Gap Report Highlights Persistent Disparity Between Available Talent and the Growing Demand for Project Management Skills, https://www.pmi.org/about/press-media/press-releases/pmi-talent-gap-report-highlights-persistent-disparity." Accessed December 6, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Dec 29, 2021

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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