How to Become a Project Manager in 5 Steps

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

As a project manager, you will need to have the skills to lead a team from inception to completion of a project. Find out what it takes to become a project manager in this article from Coursera.

[Featured Image]: Project Manager discusses the latest information with a team member.

To begin a career as a project manager, you need to gain new competencies, understand project management approaches and methodologies, and complete project manager certifications.

As a project manager, you will bring a team together to achieve the specific goals of a project. You'll need to be highly organised, have great people skills and be able to make strategic decisions in order to succeed in this key organisational role. 

Read on to find out more about how you can become a project manager.

How do you become a project manager?

There is no single path to project management. There are project management degrees and master's degrees in UK universities that provide you with the knowledge, skills, and training you need to be a project manager. However, a lot of project managers find themselves on the project leadership career path after showing aptitude on projects, without a specific degree. Whether you have a degree or not, there are certain steps that you need to take to become a project manager. 

Let's take a look at what they are.

Consider the competencies you already have

It's easy to undervalue the competency set they already hold, but you may be more experienced in project management than you think. If you've been the go-to person in a project to reorganise an office, or have been given the role of leading work towards a new compliance audit, then you may have built many of the skills involved in project management.

If you have managed schedules, led teams, developed Gantt charts, and worked through the full project life-cycle, then you may be in a position to apply for project manager roles. 

Not all project manager roles are formally labelled project management. You may have been a coordinator, an office manager, or had another job title. If you have had three years of combined experience doing project management activities, you can take the project management professional (PMP) certification. This will open up new doors to project management in full-time and contract roles.

Build your project experience

A great number of project managers start their careers in more junior project roles. Many software project managers began their careers working as programmers or in a project management office. As you develop more skills you can take on more responsibility, which in turn gives you the opportunity to take on more managerial tasks.

If you have your sights on a career in project management, then take a look at how you can build your experience in your current job position. Make sure you put your hand up for any opportunities that arise. Speak to your manager and to HR and let them know that you'd like to take on more responsibilities and roles in projects that can build your experience towards a project manager role.

As a project manager, you will be tackling complex problems and planning multiple streams of work on a daily basis. It takes a good amount of experience to feel comfortable working on a busy, multi-department project. It takes even more experience to be able to lead the project and manage all stakeholders through the process towards successful completion.

Gain new project management skills

A plethora of skills goes into the project management process. At times you need to be technical and have communications with engineers or IT professionals. And other times you may be presenting a plan to senior management and trying to persuade them to allocate more resources to a certain aspect of a project.

When you take a look through job adverts, you'll see a range of competencies required:

This shows that there are lots of things to do as a project manager. Thankfully, there are plenty of courses available where you can study for a certification and develop the knowledge and skills required of project management.

If you are new to the field, then the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate may be a good place to start. It provides you with the opportunity to learn all the fundamentals of project management in under six months.

Consider junior positions in projects

As mentioned earlier, many project managers work their way up into management from more junior project roles. Take a look for exciting project roles. It can be a good idea to look for roles in your target industry. For example, if you want to be a construction project manager, it makes most sense to look for junior roles in construction projects. This domain-specific experience will stand you in good stead when you look at project manager roles in the future.

Some of the job titles you might want to search on job sites include:

  • Junior project manager

  • Project management office administration

  • Project coordinator

  • Project planner

  • Project administrator

  • Project process consultant

  • Business analyst

Think about getting project management certifications

There are quite a few different qualifications that can help you to move into project management jobs. Here are some that you might like to think about:

Which certification in project management is right for you?

If you are just beginning your career in project management and are looking for more junior project management roles, then the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate or CAPM may be a good choice. 

The Project Management Professional qualification specifies three years of project experience as an enrolment criterion. If you have the experience and can do the qualification, then this can set you up for more complex project roles. 

Agile and Scrum are also much sought-after qualifications and have particular relevance in software development and other incremental IT projects.

Getting started in your career

As with anything, the most important thing is to begin. Take a look at ways to build your skill base and take on more responsibility in your career. Perhaps consider completing a project management certification as a way to demonstrate your commitment to project management and to build your knowledge and competencies.

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