Projects take place in every industry around the world. Think of all the construction projects you see in cities, or of the marketing projects that happen whenever a new product is released.
The world thrives on projects and this means there will always be a need for project managers. Read on to find out what this role entails, why to enter the field and how to get your foot in the door!
What is a project manager?
Project managers are responsible for the day-to-day running of projects. They are results-driven and goal-orientated creatures with a knack for organisation, leadership and communicating effectively.
A typical project manager will be involved in:
- Planning the project
- Organising and motivating the project team
- Setting deadlines and delegating work
- Carrying out risk and quality assessments
- Working with stakeholders
- Solving problems as they arise
- Ensuring project goals are achieved
- Delivering the project on time
This is not a job for shrinking violets! Project managers are strong leaders who are capable of organising and motivating people. You must therefore be a team player with an eye for spotting risks and solving problems. It can be a challenging job, especially when deadlines loom or things go wrong, so being able to cope with pressure is essential.
Why be a project manager?
Here are our top reasons to choose a project management career:
- Project managers are required in every industry and sector. It is true that sectors such as IT and engineering are major ‘project’ sectors. However, every industry performs projects, so creative and humanities graduates are welcome too!
- Because projects happen worldwide, project managers often get to travel and work with a variety of different people.
- As every industry requires project managers, this means there are lots of jobs out there. Project managers will always be in demand and this won’t change any time soon. Projects will always exist.
- Salaries are excellent. Project managers in the UK earn on average £40-£50k. Depending on the industry and how much experience you have, this salary can reach quite a height.
- Job satisfaction is huge! Being part of a project, watching everything come together successfully and working in a team are all some of the highlights of this career.
How to kick-start a graduate project manager career
Much like any other job, landing a role as a project manager requires experience and qualifications. Here are our top tips for entering the world of project management:
- Which sector do you want to work in? Many graduates use their current degree as a starting point. However, you can also complete further study after graduation in the form of a PgDip or master’s degree in project management. Bear in mind that if you want to manage projects in a very technical field such as engineering, finance or IT, it is normally essential that you have a degree in one of those subjects.
- Work experience is vital. Try volunteering or contacting companies directly to see if you can do work experience with them. If you have chosen the PgDip or master’s route, work placements are often included as part of the course.
- Try getting a project administrator or project support role. These entry level positions give you valuable experience working alongside a project manager on actual projects. Getting an entry level job like this will make it much easier for you to progress onto a managerial role, either at the same company or elsewhere.
- You might see qualifications such as PRINCE2® or AgilePM® mentioned in job specifications. PRINCE2 is a project management methodology. Agile is an ‘umbrella’ term encompassing many different approaches to delivering software. Many employers insist you gain PRINCE2 or Agile certification, because they will be used on the project. It is therefore a good idea to gain at least an entry level qualification in PRINCE2 or Agile, depending on what your chosen sector requires.
Find out more
Ready to take the next steps? Check out your university career service for further advice. They’ll have a list of internships or volunteering opportunities to apply for, plus they can help you write a killer CV.
To find out how salaries vary by industry and which parts of the UK are project management hotspots, read this Project Management Salary eBook. It’s essential for any graduate thinking of pursuing a career as a project manager.
AXELOS are the official PRINCE2 accreditation body. You can find accredited and approved PRINCE2 courses on the AXELOS website. For accredited Agile courses, please check APMG International’s website.
Simon Buehring is the founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train, an accredited PRINCE2 training organization based in London, UK. For over 25 years, Simon has worked as a project manager for a wide range of organizations, both in the UK and internationally, including the BBC, HSBC and IBM.