A Guide to the Project Management Career Path

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More and more organizations are recognizing the value of having trained and experienced project management professionals on staff. Project managers are responsible for creating teams of skilled professionals, developing plans to achieve certain objectives, communicating between workers and executives and executing strategies to ensure success. Depending on where a professional is located, the size of their employer and the scope of their expertise, project managers can take home between about $50,000 and $230,000 in salary, plus various benefits.

If you believe that you are well-suited to a career in project management, here is a basic guide to the path you might take to reach success.

Essential Qualifications

As members of the management team, project managers are more than a step above entry-level workers, and as such, these roles typically require more advanced qualifications from job applicants. In truth, the exact qualifications for project managers vary from employer to employer, so you might need to research requirements in your area before you pivot your career.

Most project managers have some form of bachelor’s degree in business, ideally a project management degree from a respected university. If you lack a degree in project management, you might spend time taking courses that improve your knowledge and skill associated with human resources. Some project managers have pursued higher education in the field, which improves their chances of acquiring higher-level employment with larger companies. Additionally, some project managers obtain certifications, like the PMP cert from the Project Management Institute. Such certifications can help demonstrate a professional’s specialization in unique fields, like tech.

No two project managers are exactly alike — but professionals in this role tend to share many of the same traits and talents. Project managers must be excellent communicators, capable of translating information for different team members to ensure comprehension at all levels. Thus, project managers tend to be confident and capable in social situations. Project managers must also be excellently organized to keep their teams on track to success. Thus, project managers tend to keep their spaces neat and tidy and utilize tools like calendars and inbox filters to keep themselves in order. If you recognize both of these tendencies in yourself, you might make an excellent project manager.


You can experiment with the project management role before committing your entire career to the path by interning for or shadowing a current project manager. You might look for available opportunities in project management consulting firms, where you will be given the opportunity to see how project managers work in real life. Though internships and shadowing are not necessarily essential to success in the project management field, these experiences can help you develop a more realistic idea of the career and build your experience and network for the future.

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Project Management Path

The right qualifications will earn you the opportunity to function in entry-level project management roles, which tend to have names like “project coordinator” or titles including words like assistant, associate and junior. In this role, you will provide support to a project manager as you gain real-world experience that will prepare you to function as a full-fledged project manager yourself. An entry-level project management role usually pays around $60,000, depending on your location and the size of your employer.

After a few years in an entry-level position, you can take the step into true project management. Project managers take full responsibility for the progress and productivity of their teams, which means you should only move into this role when you feel ready. You might specialize in higher-paying fields in tech, construction or healthcare if you have the experience and certifications to prepare you for the unique workload. Specialized project managers can earn upwards of $100,000, and non-specialized project managers take home around $90,000 in salary.

A few project managers will continue to climb the career ladder into senior project management positions and perhaps even into the c-suite. High-level project managers oversee projects of bigger scope, which might involve larger budgets, broader territories or longer time frames. Due to the extra complexity of these projects, senior project managers demand salaries upwards of $120,000 and perhaps more than $170,000, depending on location and field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, project managers are in demand. By tailoring your education and experience to this field, you can give yourself a rewarding career in project management for life.

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