How to Become a Project Manager: 5 Steps

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Become a project manager by building skills and experience, earning a certification or working your way up on a team.

[Featured Image] A project manager wearing black glasses and a floral blouse holds a meeting with her team to discuss the goals of their latest project.

Project managers organise teams of people to accomplish a specific goal, or project, for companies and other organisations. If you are organised, intrigued by people and ready to take on a larger role in your career, project management might be a good fit.

How do I become a project manager?

There are many paths to becoming a project manager. Some may study project management principles in school and apply directly to project management positions after graduating, while others find their way to project management after gradually taking on more responsibilities in their current roles or switching from another field. Whatever path you are hoping to take, here are five steps you should consider to become a project manager.

1. Understand what project management skills you already have.

If you have ever planned, led, budgeted, scheduled or documented the progress of a project, you have accomplished some elements of project management. Did you organise an event in a previous job? Find new ways to make your workplace more efficient? Coordinate volunteers to clean up a beach? Though you might not have thought of it as project management at the time, your past experiences may have given you some exposure to the skills you will need as a project manager.

If you find you have quite a bit of experience already, you may be ready to apply for project manager positions or approach your manager to state your interest in becoming one. If you have a combined three years of experience, you will also be eligible to apply to take the exam for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which may create opportunities for you in the project management world.

2. Build project management experience.

Many project managers get their start in non-managerial positions on a team. For example, IT project managers may work for several years as an IT associate or perhaps as a business analyst supporting the IT team. Their roles may gradually expand as they gain industry expertise, take on managerial tasks, develop organisational skills and learn to work with the members on their team. 

If you are trying to gain project management skills, try looking for opportunities in your current work. Whether you work in a hospital or retail store, tech company or restaurant, chances are there are several items that need to be planned, executed or improved. See if you can join in these efforts. If it makes sense to do so, approach your manager with ideas of how you can contribute and let them know you are interested in developing project management experience.

3. Develop project management skills.

It will be a good idea to sharpen the technical and workplace skills involved in project management. Here are some skills commonly requested in project manager job descriptions:

You can develop skills by taking courses specific to a subject, studying for a certification or practicing them in the workplace.

4. Look for entry-level positions.

Gradually working your way up the ladder while working within a team is not the only way to become a project manager. Many project managers get their start in entry-level organisational positions to build key skills. Keep an eye out for these titles in your search:

  • Project coordinator

  • Operations coordinator

  • Associate project manager

  • Junior project manager

  • Operations associate

  • Administrative associate

5. Consider a project management credential.

A certification or certificate can help you get your foot in the door for project management jobs. Here are a few to consider:

Which project management certification should I get?

If you are looking for an entry-level position, the CAPM or Google Project Management: Professional Certificate are designed for those with little or no project management experience. The PMP is a popular credential for those with three or more years of project management experience. If you are part of a team that uses Agile or Scrum or are hoping to apply to roles that do, certifications in these areas can be beneficial.

Getting started

There are several paths that you may take to become a project manager. Whether you are starting from scratch or trying to solidify your skills after a few years of experience, you will want to make sure you have your basics covered. If you are considering a career in project management, take a look at the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.

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