What Is a Project Manager? A Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about skills, salary, requirements, and reasons to consider a versatile career in project management.

[Featured Image] A project manager in business casual clothing leans against cardboard boxes and talks to their coworker.

What is a project manager?

A project manager is a professional who organizes, plans, and executes projects while working within restraints like budgets and schedules. Project managers lead entire teams, define project goals, communicate with stakeholders, and see a project through to its closure. Whether running a marketing campaign, constructing a building, developing a computer system, or launching a new product, the project manager is responsible for the success or failure of the project.

The project manager role is in demand in just about every industry. Let’s take a closer look at what project managers do, why you should consider a career in project management, and how you can get started.

What does a project manager do? Tasks and responsibilities

A project is typically divided into four different phases: initiation, planning, execution, and closure. 

Throughout the lifecycle of a project, the project manager is responsible for:

  • Defining the scope of the project

  • Staying on schedule

  • Planning a project’s cost and sticking to a budget

  • Managing project resources (including teams and workers)

  • Documenting the progress of the project

  • Communicating with stakeholders

  • Assessing risks

  • Troubleshooting

  • Leading quality assurance

The sheer variety of tasks means no two days on the job (or two projects) are quite the same. On any given day, you might be interviewing and hiring new talent, managing team meetings, reallocating resources to cover an unexpected expense, or updating stakeholders on the progress of the project.

Learn more about the lifecycle of a project in this video.

Essential skills for project management

In this position, you play a key role in a company’s success. While many technical and workplace skills go into efficient project management, honing these five skills can help you build a foundation for success in the field:

  • Leadership: You’ll lead a team to achieve a goal.

  • Communication: You’re often the first line of communication for team members, vendors, stakeholders, and customers.

  • Organization: The ability to prioritize and multitask will keep projects running smoothly.

  • Critical thinking: Analyzing and evaluating a situation critically helps prevent issues before they happen.

  • A sense of humor: Approaching a project with a positive attitude can ease stress and energize your team.

Project management can be a challenging career, but you’ll never face those challenges alone. You’ll often work alongside team members and use software or online tools specifically designed to streamline the process. The specific project management software depends on the project or company. Still, it will often include the capability to track time and budgets, create plans and reports, manage invoices, and share calendars across multiple teams. 

Want to see a day in the life of a project manager? Watch this video from the Google Project Management Professional Certificate.

Project management methodologies

As you learn more about project planning, you may encounter terms like Agile, Scrum, or Waterfall. These refer to various methodologies—a set of guiding principles or strategies—for managing a project. Common approaches and methodologies include:

  • Agile

  • Lean

  • Waterfall

  • Scrum

  • Kanban

  • XP (Extreme Programming)

  • Six Sigma

Choosing a methodology (or a combination of methodologies) is one of the first decisions you’ll make as a project manager. Which you choose will depend on the industry and type of project. 

For example, if you’re working in software development, you may choose to employ Agile techniques. Scrum, an approach to Agile management, uses daily team meetings and short (for example 30-day) “sprints” to develop projects quickly and efficiently. The Lean method, developed by Toyota in the 1970s, seeks to maximize value and minimize waste. It’s still commonly used in the manufacturing industry.

Why pursue a career in project management

Just about every company has projects. That means just about every company could use a project manager. 

Whether you’re interested in construction, architecture, fashion, design, computer science, robotics, or something else entirely, chances are you’ll be able to use project management skills in your career. And since it’s such a versatile career, you can leverage these transferable skills to enhance your resume, no matter where your career takes you.

How much do project managers make?

The median annual project manager salary across all industries in Canada is $87,606. Most project managers earn between $69,000 and $113,000 in industries like construction, human resources, and marketing, according to Glassdoor as of June 2024[1].

Project management: Job outlook

According to the Anderson Economic Group and Project Management Institute, Canada will see an increase of 90,000 jobs in project management in the decade leading to 2027 [2]. Job seekers with a combination of leadership and technical skills will find themselves in particular demand.

Industries like health care, manufacturing and construction, information services and publishing, finance and insurance, and management and professional services are expected to see the biggest growth in project-oriented roles, according to the PMI report.

Project manager qualifications

Project management is diverse, and you’ll find that qualifications often vary by industry and company. When looking at what you need to build a career in project management, consider two main areas: education and certification.

Higher education

A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum requirement to become a project manager, and many project managers have a degree in business, computer science, or an industry-related field. While not always a strict requirement, a degree can help you develop the leadership skills you’ll need on the job. Some companies may look for candidates with a graduate degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Management (MSM).


Whether you’re just graduating from college or looking to pivot to a new career in project management, a professional certificate or certification could help enhance your resume and make you more appealing to hiring managers. 

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): If you already have a few years of experience working on projects in a professional setting, you can advance your career with the PMP credential from the Project Management Professionals of Canada. 

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): If you're just getting started in project management, the CAPM is an entry-level project management certification. Designed for those without formal project management experience, it can help open a path to several entry-level project management positions. Read more about the CAPM certification.

Career pathways in project management

Getting your first job is only the beginning. As you hone your skills and see projects to completion, you’ll find new pathways to advancement. Here’s a look at the hierarchy of project management roles. Keep in mind these might vary from organization to organization:

Career LevelTasks
Project managerPlanning and overseeing projects to be completed on time and within budget
Senior director of project managementLeads multiple teams or programs
Vice president of project managementOversees a group of related projects to deliver outcomes that benefit the organization
Executive project managerManages an organization’s collection of projects and programs
Directs strategic planning of multiple projects and reports to executive management

Getting started in project management

Choosing a career as a project manager could open up doors in multiple industries. If you’re ready to take the next steps toward this new career, consider enrolling in the Google Project Management Professional Certificate through Coursera. This program covers foundational skills, including project documentation, stakeholder communication, and using Agile and Scrum practices. through Coursera.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Project Manager Overview, https://www.glassdoor.ca/Career/project-manager-career_KO0,15.htm.” Accessed June 4, 2024.

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