What Is a Technical Project Manager + How Do You Become One?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover what goes into technical project management, including responsibilities, qualifications, and salary expectations, and learn the steps to embarking on this career path. 

[Featured Image] A technical project manager walks a team through a project plan on a whiteboard.

What is a technical project manager?  

A technical project manager is someone who has technical expertise in information technology (IT), manages IT projects, and leads technical teams within an organization. Because it requires both technical and management skills, you can think of technical project management as a hybrid role. 

If you have a keen interest in technology, want to see projects through to completion, enjoy motivating and encouraging others, and can work well under pressure, a technical project management (PM) career path may be right for you. 

Technical project manager vs. project manager 

Explore how technical project managers and project managers compare in the table below. 

Technical project managerNon-technical project manager
Typically needs a project management certificationTypically needs a project management certification
Has experience and expertise in a field related to technologyMay not have technology experience or expertise
Can lead teams and ensure projects reach completionCan lead teams and ensure projects reach completion
May need a degree in technology, in addition to project management certificationA degree in any field may be sufficient
Manages projects related to technology and that require technical expertiseManages projects that don’t require significant technical expertise

Technical project manager jobs

As of June 2022, Glassdoor lists over 88,000 technical project manager jobs in the United States, some of which are with companies like American Express, IBM, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Wells Fargo, and Pearson Education. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the computer systems design industry, which includes business, financial, architecture, and engineering occupations, employs the highest number of project managers [1, 2].

In your job search, you may come across technical project manager positions at different levels of seniority, including entry-level, junior, senior, and principal roles. You may also see more specialized roles that require technical expertise, such as Agile project manager, Scrum Master, and DevOps project manager. 

Read more: What Is a Scrum Master (and How Do I Become One)?

While there is crossover among these roles, there may be specific differences that you’ll need to keep in mind as you consider your career in technical project management. For example, a DevOps project manager adapts the waterfall or linear PM methodology (emphasizing one final product) to Agile methodology (iterative cycles, each with a deliverable), so that software issues can be corrected throughout the project development process. 

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DevOps, Cloud, and Agile Foundations

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Cloud Native, Devops, Scrum, Cloud Computing, agile, Test-Driven Development, CI/CD, Behavior-Driven Development, Iaas PaaS Saas, Hybrid Multicloud, Agile Software Development, Scrum Methodology, Zenhub, Kanban, Sprint Planning

Technical project manager salary

So, how much can you make as a technical project manager? According to Glassdoor, the salary for a technical project manager, on average, is $119,000 in the United States. Someone in an entry-level position as a technical project manager can expect to make around $75,865, while a senior technical project could make around $133,169 [3, 4, 5]. 

What do technical project managers do? 

Professionals in this role specifically manage projects that involve a high level of technical expertise and act as the lead subject matter expert in their company when it comes to technology. As a technical project manager, you may also be in charge of:

  • Hiring and training technical staff

  • Improving the way projects are planned and resources are managed

  • Managing a budget

  • Researching new technologies for projects and maintaining them

How to become a technical project manager 

1. Obtain professional credentials. 

Technical project managers should have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a field related to technology, such as computer science, software engineering, IT, cybersecurity, or management information systems. Some positions may require a master’s degree. 

In addition, you’ll want to consider getting a PM certification, as this credential is recognized around the world, demonstrates your full understanding of project management terms, concepts, and methodologies, as well as your commitment to systematic processes.  

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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.

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(49,583 ratings)

673,276 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

2. Sharpen your skills. 

Remember that technical project managers have technological and project management expertise. That means you’ll need to sharpen your skills in both areas. 

As a project manager, you’ll need general skills like recruiting and training new talent, managing a team, and organization, as well as specific skills in schedule planning, using project management software, Gantt charts, and Kanban boards, and implementing different methodologies. 

In terms of your technological expertise, look into the kind of projects you want to manage, as well as what employers are looking for to find out what skills you need. For example, as a technical project manager in the gaming industry, you will likely need experience in gaming, knowledge of cloud services like Amazon Web Services, experience with Agile or LEAN software development, and more. 

3. Gain technical and project management experience. 

Your next step is to apply your credentials and skills to actual projects in order to gain relevant experience in technical project management. Reach out to your network to find volunteer or contract opportunities to serve as a project manager. You can also design and run your own project. 

4. Build your technical project manager resume.

As you gain experience, obtain credentials, and build skills for technical project management, it’s a good idea to assemble a strong resume that you can adapt to different job applications. 

Start by researching technical project manager careers on job sites like Glassdoor and Indeed to get a feel for the professional landscape and the opportunities that are available to you. Align your qualifications to each technical project manager job description and describe them in a compelling way on your resume.   

Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume

5. Practice answering technical project manager interview questions. 

Prepare to answer common technical project manager interview questions even before you apply for jobs and land interviewers. That way, you can gain an understanding of what employers are looking for, get into the habit of describing your qualifications in detail, and address the technical side of project management.

Here are examples of questions you may be asked:

  • What inspires you to manage projects from a technical standpoint?

  • How much experience do you have in technical project management? 

  • How have you applied your technical expertise to managing projects in the past?

Read more: 12 Project Manager Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

6. Apply for technical project manager jobs.

Once you have a solid resume template and have practiced a variety of interview questions, return to the job sites and do another search for technical project manager listings. Your goal is to draw upon all the insights you’ve gathered from steps one through four to narrow down the jobs that best match your career goals. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What are the required qualifications, and how do they align with my experience, skills, and credentials?

  • What kind of projects and tasks would I be completing in each position, and how do these align with my interests and passions? 

As you apply for jobs and garner interest from potential employers, be sure to prepare thoroughly for each interview and brush up on your interviewing skills

Read more: How to Answer STAR Interview Questions

Get started with Coursera 

Taking online courses can be a great way to learn about technical project management, build skills, and discover career opportunities. 

Explore these options below: 

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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

(49,583 ratings)

673,276 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

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course

Agile Project Management

This is the fifth course in the Google Project Management Certificate program. This course will explore the history, approach, and philosophy of Agile ...

4.8

(5,100 ratings)

145,567 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Coaching, Influencing, Agile Management, Problem Solving, Scrum

Related articles

Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021: Project Management Specialists, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes131082.htm.” Accessed June 15, 2022.   

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “May 2021 National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Computer Systems Design, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/naics4_541500.htm.” Accessed June 15, 2022. 

3. Glassdoor. “Technical Project Manager Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-technical-project-manager-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,28.htm.” Accessed June 15, 2022. 

4. Glassdoor. “How Much Does an Entry Level Project Manager Make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/entry-level-project-manager-salary-SRCH_KO0,27.htm.” Accessed June 15, 2022. 

5. Glassdoor. “How Much Does a Senior Technical Project Manager Make? https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/senior-technical-project-manager-salary-SRCH_KO0,32.htm.” Accessed June 15, 2022.

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