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 a black shirt stands smiling in front of a whiteboard and a window.

A project manager is a professional who organises, plans, and executes projects while working within restraints like budgets and schedules. Project managers are in charge of leading teams, defining goals, communicating with stakeholders, and seeing 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 helps drive the success of the project.

The project manager role is in demand in just about every industry. Let us 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 five 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 will be tasked with leading a team to achieve a goal.

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

  • Organisation: The ability to prioritise and multitask will keep projects running smoothly.

  • Critical thinking: Analysing 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 energise your team.

Project management can be a challenging career, but you will never face those challenges alone. You will 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 but will often include the capability to track time and budgets, create plans and reports, manage invoices, and share calendars across multiple teams. 

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 will make as a project manager. Which you choose will depend on the industry and type of project. 

For example, if you are 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 maximise value and minimise waste. It is 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 are interested in construction, architecture, fashion, design, computer science, robotics, or something else entirely, chances are you will be able to use project management skills in your career. And since it is 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?

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the median annual project manager salary across all industries in India is about ₹19.2 lakhs [1]. Salary tends to increase with years of experience or increased responsibility. 

Project management: Job outlook

According to the Job Growth and Talent Gap report from PMI, employers will need to fill some 22 lakhs new project management-oriented roles each year through 2027 [2]. Jobseekers with a combination of leadership and technical skills will find themselves in demand in the coming years.

Industries like health care, manufacturing and construction, information services and publishing, finance and insurance, 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 a diverse role and you will 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

Many project managers have a bachelor’s 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 will 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 are 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 to 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 Institute (PMI). The UCI Project Management Professional Certificate fulfills the educational requirements for the PMP exam. By earning this certificate, you will prepare yourself to pass the exam and receive a university-issued credential for your resume. Learn more about how to get a PMP certification.

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): If you are just getting started in project management, the CAPM is an entry-level project management certification also administered by the PMI. 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 will find new pathways to advancement. Here is a look at the hierarchy of project management roles. Keep in mind these might vary from organisation to organisation.

Career LevelTasks
Project coordinatorAssists with administrative tasks for specific projects
Project manager IManages small projects under supervision of the Senior PM
Project manager IIManages one large project or several smaller projects
Project manager IIIManages multiple or high-priority projects
Senior project managerLeads multiple project teams or programs
Program managerOversees a group of related projects to deliver outcomes that benefit the organisation
Portfolio managerManages an organisation’s collection of projects and programs
Director of Project Management Office (PMO)Directs strategic planning of multiple projects and reports to executive management

Get started in project management

A career as a project manager could open up doors in multiple industries. If you are ready to take the next steps toward this new career, consider exploring Google's Project Management Professional Certificate on Coursera to start building in-demand project management skills today.

Article sources


Project Management Institute. "Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Twelfth Edition (2021), https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/pmi_salary_survey_12th_edition_freeversion_final.pdf?v=53b1371a-42f5-43d4-af9f-8e2bc7fa4c0b." Page 10. Accessed February 25, 2022.

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