How to Become a Project Manager

Career Path Guide

The first thing you need do, is determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for the work involved in this occupation:


• You have a good understanding of budgets and scheduling

• You have a customer focused approach to work activities

• You enjoy selecting and leading a team

• You are willing to be accountable for the outcomes of a project

• You can ensure projects are completed on time and adhere to quality standards


Below we've outlined what you'll need to get started down this career path. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Required Education

In order to become a project manager, you typically need either a bachelor’s degree, a technical degree, or a diploma in a subject related to the industry in which the prospective employer operates, combined with applied work experience and demonstrated knowledge of the industry.


An education in one of the following fields is highly applicable to a future career as a project manager:


• Accounting

• Applied Science

• Business

• Construction

• Engineering

• Information technology

• Management

• Manufacturing

• Project Management

• Urban Planning




Experience Needed

Education and experience related to project management is required if you want to become a project manager. For some project manager jobs, the more education and experience you have related to project management, the less amount of actual industry experience you need.


Someone applying for a project management job in information technology who has education and experience in engineering, for example, may not require much actual experience in the information technology industry, because their general skill set in project management can be applied to any industry. 


Getting a job as a project assistant, or a job in some other capacity on the project support team is a great way to gain experience in project management. With enough experience, you can progress to roles that will have you managing small projects, and eventually work as a senior-level project manager. 



Typical Project Manager Salary

The salary level of project managers can vary depending on their level of education, their level of experience, their demonstrated aptitude, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors.


For the United States and Canada there is no reliable salary information available specifically for Project Managers, although we can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary level of Canadian and American workers in related occupational groups. 



Salary in Canada


According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Construction Managers occupational group is $61,651 per year. Service Canada also notes that Canadian workers in the Computer and Information Systems Managers occupational group earn an average salary of $83,374 per year, while workers in the Primary Production Managers occupational group earn an average salary of $80,963 per year.



Salary in the United States


According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Construction Managers occupational group is $82,790 per year. The BLS also notes that American workers in the Computer and Information Systems Managers occupational group earn a median salary of $120,950 per year, and workers in the Industrial Production Managers occupational group earn a median salary of $89,190 per year.





What is a Project Manager?

General job description


Project managers are responsible for managing the strategic, financial, operational and technological aspects of projects in a variety of industries. They must ensure projects are completed on time, to specification and within budget. This includes devising and implementing a plan and a series of actions that lead to the successful completion of a project.


Project managers can be employed in almost every industry on many different types of projects, from introducing a new information technology system to overseeing a large construction project. The industries in which they most commonly work are:


• Information, Communication and Technology Industry

• Construction Industry

• Engineering Industry 



What Do They Do?

General job duties


• Identify the needs of the client and the desired outcomes of the project

• Determine the project costs, required resources and scheduling

• Prepare detailed plans and schedules for how to achieve each stage of the project

• Select and lead a project team

• Use specialized software to help with scheduling, costing, and risk analysis

• Negotiate with contractors and suppliers for materials and services

• Ensure contractors and suppliers deliver services and goods as per agreement

• Ensure progress of project is on time, on budget and adheres to quality standards

• Ensure project documentation is kept up to date

• Provide client or senior managers with progress reports and concerns  



Skills You'll Need to Be Successful

In order to become effective in a career as a project manager, you need to posses a certain set of skills. These skills will allow you to perform your job duties with competence, and are likely to be listed as requirements on Project Manager job postings.


• Able to communicate effectively with direct reports, contractors, team members and upper management

• Able to effectively manage project budgets

• Able to effectively schedule employees, contractors and supplier deliveries

• Able to maintain an accurate and up-to-date project plan

• Able to diplomatically resolve conflicts and disputes

• Ability to prioritize tasks, manage time, and remain focused on desired outcomes

• Demonstrated ability to identify process gaps and enhancement opportunities

• Able to see and assess interdependence and cross-organizational impacts and implications



Personal Traits Needed

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a project manager, you need to have certain personality traits. These personality traits will help keep you interested in your job as a project manager, and will help you maintain a positive attitude towards your job duties.


• Leadership and initiative

• A willingness to take responsibility and ownership

• A willingness to be accountable for project outcomes

• Customer service focus to work activities

• Enjoy directing the work of others

• Enjoy making important decisions

• Able to handle stressful situations and frequent deadlines



What Types of Employers are There?

Project managers may be hired as employees of an organization, or they can be self-employed as contractors for that organization. Many different types of organizations may employ them, including:


• Aerospace companies

• Architectural and engineering firms

• Colleges and universities

• Construction companies

• Government departments

• Hospitals and healthcare organizations

• Information technology companies

• Interior design firms

• Marketing companies

• Oil, gas and mining companies

• Scientific research organizations

• Self-employment

• Software development companies

• Telecommunications companies




Project Manager Jobs

Check our job board below to find Project Manager postings in your area.


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Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Project Manager, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


• Chief Operating Officer (COO)

• Construction Manager

• Management Consultant

• Project Assistant

• Operations Manager




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a project manager.



Occupations in Alberta:Project Management Professional.” (March 28, 2013). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 9, 2020.

You’re a What?:Project coordinator.” Kathleen Green (October, 2015). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 9, 2020.

Explore Careers:Business Project Manager.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved January 9, 2020.

Articles:Do You Have What It Takes to be a Project Manager?.” (January 24, 2019). American Management Solution website. Retrieved January 9, 2020.


Please Note: Some of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.




Scholarships for Getting Into This Field

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Project Manager can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a project manager. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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