Project Manager Career Path: From Entry-Level to VP

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Project managers might go on to become senior project managers, directors, or even vice presidents and other executives.

[Featured Image] A project manager wearing a plaid shirt, is talking to and demonstrating procedures to his team.

There is no one way to become a project manager. And although that means you will have many options as you embark on your project manager journey, it can make deciding what to do next a little confusing. Plus, what options do you have after you have been a project manager for several years?

An aspiring project manager might build experience in an industry before stepping into this role, then go on to become a senior project manager, director, or even vice president or other executive. Here is a closer look at a project manager’s potential career path.

All salary information comes from Glassdoor as of August 2022.

1. Work in the industry.

Many project managers get their start in non-managerial roles and work their way up to project manager as they take on more responsibilities. A software development project manager, for example, might start out as a software developer and a construction project manager might have some experience as a civil engineer. Others may work as consultants to get exposure to business processes and sharpen management skills.

Doing hands-on work in your industry can give you an advantage as a project manager. You will understand the ins and outs of the work required, empathise with team members and have a better grasp on how to approach a project.

2. Entry-level project management 

As you launch your career, consider spending some time in an entry-level project management position like project coordinator, assistant project manager, associate project manager, or junior project manager. These positions help project managers plan and oversee a project’s success. 

Working in these roles can help you learn more about this field and bolster your experience before you apply to project manager positions. 

Average India salaries:

  • Project coordinator: ₹4,95,610 [1]

  • Assistant project manager: ₹8,50,000 [2]

  • Associate project manager: ₹12,00,000 [3]

  • Junior project manager: ₹6,02,857 [4]

How to become a project coordinator (or a similar role): If you want to be a project coordinator or work in a parallel role, it will help to develop good communication and organisational skills and have some experience in the industry in which you are working. You can also consider an entry-level certification, like the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification or a certificate like the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.

3. Project manager

Project managers plan and execute projects to help organisations improve processes, develop new products, build structures, or complete other initiatives. A project manager supervises a team through the project by ensuring the schedule, budget, and communications are aligned to achieve the project’s goals. Project managers can work in many different industries, including construction, health care, tech, finance, government, and IT.

Average India salaries:


  • Project manager: ₹16,00,000 [5]

  • IT project manager: ₹14,00,000 [6]

  • Technical project manager: ₹19,00,000 [7]

  • Construction project manager: ₹9,00,723 [8]

  • Health care project manager: ₹1,52,410 [9]

How to become a project manager: Working your way up from a non-managerial position or junior position can be a good way to start. Earning certifications like the Project Management Professional (PMP) or others in Scrum or Agile, can be helpful.

4. Senior project manager

Senior project managers help execute projects with larger scopes, like scaling processes across teams, developing complex products, or leading projects with longer time frames. They generally have several years of experience in this field. 

Average India salary for senior project managers: ₹26,00,000 [10]

How to become a senior project manager: Gaining hands-on experience managing different types of projects with different people will be the main way you step into a senior position. You will want to prioritise gaining as much knowledge of project management as you can as well, either through coursework or by certification. Sharpen your managerial skills, as you will often be planning the work of other project managers. You can also find a mentor to help navigate your next steps.


5. Director of project management

Directors of project management oversee the strategy and success of a project management division within a business. They work to ensure individual projects are aligned with the larger goals of an organisation and create a blueprint for how those goals can be achieved as a project management team. They can manage multiple project managers, work cross-functionally, and interact with higher-level leaders within the organisation.

Average India salary for director of project management: ₹43,00,000 [11]

How to become a director: You will want several years of management experience, plus exceptional leadership qualities, like communication, problem-solving, and the ability to influence people positively.


6. VP of operations, COO

Several years of being a leader in project management might get you to high-level positions, like vice president of operations or executive positions like chief operating officer. These high-ranking business leaders implement new strategies across the business.

Average India salaries:


  • Vice President of operations: ₹36,00,000 [12]

  • Chief Operating Officer: ₹32,00,000 [13]

How to become an executive-level manager: You should have extensive experience building and managing teams and have strong business acumen. Getting an MBA may also help you learn the business skills to enable you to succeed at the executive level.

Is project management a good career path?

This career is in high demand. The Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates that the global economy will need 2.5 crore new project professionals by 2030 in order to keep up with demand [14]. 

This career path can be a satisfying one for those who enjoy working with people and have strong organisational skills. Planning and starting a project from scratch, collaborating with others to overcome challenges, and seeing your efforts end in measurable success can be hugely rewarding. Project managers can also enjoy being able to work on many different types of projects and learn from each of them, as no two projects are the same. Some potential downsides include the demanding nature of the job and the emphasis on meeting deadlines.

Getting started

The variety encountered in a project manager’s career path means there are plenty of opportunities to shape your own trajectory. If you are ready to start learning, consider the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate to learn the fundamentals.


Article sources


Glassdoor. "Project Coordinator Salaries in Republic of India,,5_IN115_KO6,25.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed February 28, 2022.

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