How to Become a Project Manager in 2022

Do you possess a stack of interrelated skills related to planning, organization, leadership, and communication? If you’re unsure of how to transform these skills into a career, you may want to consider becoming a project manager.

Project managers ensure that their companies make better products on time and on budget while leading productive employees, helping companies satisfy customers, and driving organizational growth. Project management skills are in demand across a variety of fields, including software development, information technology, healthcare, engineering, and marketing.

Ready to learn how to get into project management? In this article, we’ll cover the role of project managers, the education and skills required for the career, and the benefits of becoming a project manager.

What Is a Project Manager?

Very simply, project managers oversee a project from start to finish to ensure that it delivers its intended value through planning, orchestrating, and troubleshooting through the entire product life cycle. To do that, project managers guide projects through a five-stage process: initiation, planning, execution, performance monitoring, and closure.

An image that lays out the five steps that a project manager takes in overseeing a project.

Each stage represents an element related to a project’s timeline. Project managers ensure their completion to best position a project’s success for both their companies and customers.

How to Get Into Project Management

While some project managers leverage their prior experience and opportunity into a new career, others qualify for the role through education and certification. Both paths present unique benefits; your personal route into the role will depend on your starting point and current professional experience.

Pursue a Project Manager Education

According to CareerOneStop, 65 percent of IT project managers hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 92 percent have at least attended some college. Many project managers begin their careers with degrees in business, marketing, or similar disciplines.

For those interested in pursuing a formal degree, programs dedicated to project management are available. Students who pursue other degree programs can approach project management through a master’s program or certifications, which we will cover later in this article.

Another path toward a project management career is through a boot camp. Boot camps provide students with the opportunity to test their project management skills through collaborative hands-on projects that mimic a real-world working environment.

University of Denver Tech Project Management Boot Camp offers new learners, upskillers, and career changers an accelerated curriculum. Over the course of 18 weeks, students become fluent in modern project management, including the software development life cycle, traditional and hybrid project management, and agile methodologies. The online curriculum is flexible, and students finish with the necessary skills to pursue a Professional Scrum Master™ Level I certification.

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Develop Project Management Skills

It’s possible that you possess project management skills without realizing it. Have you organized a volunteer project, such as a neighborhood cleanup or fundraiser? Have you scheduled a large event that required hiring vendors, managing a budget, and organizing staff? Or, have you led a team through the process of writing a request for a proposal? If so, you’ve already played the role of a project manager.

If you’re hoping to qualify for project manager positions, you must also be able to use some technical tools while applying your soft skills. Possessing a combination of these talents and abilities will make you a better project manager.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK) is the essential project management textbook that works from a core of 10 project management knowledge areas every project manager must know:

  1. Project integration management
  2. Scope management
  3. Time management
  4. Cost management
  5. Quality management
  6. Resource management
  7. Communications management
  8. Risk management
  9. Procurement management
  10. Stakeholder management

Because software, apps, and online tools are making a substantial impact on modern project management, technical skills have grown increasingly important in the profession. According to the Project Management Institute, 68 percent of organizations place a high priority on technical skills, and 50 percent want project managers to have strong digital skills.

Technical project management skills begin with implementation. Agile is the most well-known project management philosophy based on a set of principles that inform the way it’s accomplished, and a key component of a project management boot camp.

Project managers can apply several methods to implement the agile philosophy, the most popular of which is Scrum. As an agile methodology, Scrum focuses on performing work in short increments (called sprints) to complete a project in iterative steps.

Project managers have a host of digital tools available to help them save time, money, and resources. Project management software consolidates all the tasks, budgets, schedules, and documents necessary to manage a project successfully, and fluency with these tools is increasingly important for successful project management.

Communication is a core competency that project managers develop — and improve upon — over time. While it might seem obvious, poor communication is one of the main reasons projects fail. In the PMI’s 2021 Pulse of the Profession survey, 28 percent of respondents cited inadequate communication as a reason their projects had failed in the previous 12 months.

What constitutes effective communication? Project managers must lead daily meetings with team members (in Scrum, it’s often referred to as the Daily Scrum), motivate those working on the project, update stakeholders on a project’s progress, and mitigate concerns from all parties. Good project managers are open, transparent, and communicative.

Project managers that struggle to find emails, misplace budget estimates, or double-schedule meetings wind up with frustrated teams and failed projects. Successful project managers know how to manage time, attend to details, and adhere to schedules, and are able to adapt to changing plans while maintaining an organized approach.

At some point in the future, AI will handle a majority of the administrative work related to project management. Effective leaders, however, will remain in demand. The PMI’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession report found that 65 percent of organizations place a high priority on leadership among project managers. “… [I]t will be important for project managers to invest in their leadership skills and other people skills because those will never go away,” a Microsoft project manager explained in the report.

Leadership can be an ambiguous trait, but we know it when we see it. Leaders listen while communicating, exhibit empathy while driving their teams, provide inspiration when team members appear to be flagging, and combine their skills to guide a project to completion.

Obtain Certification

Certifications demonstrate proof of skills and are valuable in many careers — the key is to identify which certifications to pursue. Several organizations offer different project management certifications, including those specific to agile and Scrum. Below is an overview of the more popular certifications.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The Project Management Institute offers the PMP, which it calls “the world’s leading project management certification.” Acquiring the PMP certification establishes your fluency in project management and its several approaches, including agile, waterfall, and hybrid methods.

According to PMI’s 2021 Salary Survey, project managers who hold PMP certification earn a median salary that is 16 percent higher [PDF, 393 KB] than those who don’t. To take the exam, applicants must have at least 36 months of experience leading projects and 35 hours of project management education.

CAPM is PMI’s entry-level certification since it requires no project management experience to pursue. Students use the PMBOK Guide and can take the exam online. The CAPM can be used as a prerequisite for taking the PMP exam.

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE2)

PRINCE2 is an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, a process-based method of project management. The certification has two levels: foundation and practitioner. The foundation level introduces project managers to the principles and processes of PRINCE2, while the practitioner level teaches students how to apply those principles to their projects.

Choosing between PRINCE2 and PMP certifications will depend on factors such as where you work and the project management principles employed there. While different, both PRINCE2 and PMP certifications can be valuable in pursuing a project management career.

PMI’s Agile Certified Practitioner certificate focuses on proficiency with agile principles. For those working in agile project management, this is among the leading certifications. To take the exam, applicants need 12 months of project management experience in the previous five years and eight months of agile experience in the previous three years.

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

Professional Scrum Master™ (PSM)

Scrum is the most-used agile framework, making it a proving ground for certifications. offers three levels of its Professional Scrum Master™ certification, ranging from fundamental to distinguished.

A technology project management boot camp delivers the skills necessary to take the Professional Scrum Master™ I certification exam.

An image that lists the top project management certifications.

Prepare for the Job Search

Once you have acquired the requisite project management skills, certifications, and education, you’re ready to search and apply for industry jobs. Entry-level project manager options include project coordinator, assistant project manager, and associate project manager — all of which are a solid starting point for your initial search.

While every job search is different, they all have some parallels. Beyond having a strong resume, project managers should have a portfolio showcasing their successful projects to prospective employers.

Good project managers understand the benefits of networking since they deal with multiple stakeholders on each project. Begin your networking process by reaching out to leaders in your industry who you respect and for whom you’d like to work. Even asking for advice or a lead can prove to be a valuable networking experience.

If you’re already working, ask to be given more responsibility with a project. Define a goal, form a team, and develop a budget plan; it’s great practice and might get you noticed for other projects.

If you’re pursuing your education through a project management boot camp, take advantage of your program’s career services. These can include portfolio review and interview training. For university students, many schools can match you with employers through partnerships, job fairs, and outreach programs.

Become a Project Manager

Project managers play a crucial role in product creation, whether that’s a piece of software, a new pharmaceutical drug, or a building. It’s a complicated job that requires a strong grasp of tech, a limitless capacity to organize, and a healthy dose of leadership.

Project managers must be meticulous schedulers, problem-solvers, troubleshooters, negotiators, and even mediators. They not only guide teams but also work within them, setting the right tone while demanding excellence. Further, project managers must be adaptable to change effectively as they chart detailed work itineraries.

Whether they’re working in software development, IT project management, or even construction, project managers must think about the big picture while attending to the smallest details. The best project managers maintain consistency while managing change, a deft skill that keeps them in demand.

Benefits of Becoming a Project Manager

If you’re looking for a dynamic career with plenty of growth potential, becoming a project manager might be the course for you. The market for project managers is expanding as companies address a worldwide talent gap to build a “more project-oriented” [PDF, 2.4 MB] global economy, according to the PMI.

Project Manager Job Outlook

The PMI reports that by 2027, global employers will need 87.7 million project management professionals — that projection includes more than 213,000 new project manager jobs annually in the United States alone.

Even more exciting, this growth will occur in a variety of job sectors. CareerOneStop forecasts a 9 percent annual increase of IT project managers in the U.S. through 2030. Meanwhile, the PMI estimates that the global healthcare economy will see a 17 percent growth in project management professionals. Industries such as manufacturing and construction, information services, and finance will require experienced project managers as well.

What happens if these roles go unfulfilled? According to the PMI, the global economy faces a $20.2 trillion GDP loss ($208 billion in the U.S.), making the project manager talent gap a crucial matter to address.

Project Manager Salaries

Project manager salaries vary based on industry, skills, experience, and job location. That said, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the mean annual salary for project managers is $84,290. Some of the highest-paying industries for project managers include computer manufacturing ($118,950), banking ($112,620), and software publishing ($107,580), according to BLS. CareerOneStop reports the median annual salary for IT project managers at $92,870.

What’s more, project managers continued to generate earning potential even during the pandemic. According to the PMI’s 2021 Salary Survey [PDF, 393 KB], 50 percent of global respondents reported that their total compensation had increased during the previous 12 months, with 22 percent reporting that their compensation packages had increased by at least 5 percent.

Opportunities in Colorado are plentiful. The BLS says that Colorado has the highest concentration of project management jobs of the 50 states (the District of Columbia leads the nation). In addition, the Denver area ranks second behind D.C. among regions with the most project management specialists.

How to Become a Project Manager FAQs

Project managers oversee projects in many industries to make sure they are completed on time, on budget, and to the customer’s satisfaction. They guide projects through five essential phases: conception, planning, execution, performance, and closure. Within these steps, project managers create and modify schedules and budgets, lead teams through their work, and communicate progress with key stakeholders.

Obtaining project management skills and education opens a world of possibilities. Project managers can pursue job opportunities in software and technology, healthcare, marketing, manufacturing, and operations. In addition, skilled project managers can work as consultants in a variety of industries. Entry-level project manager jobs include project coordinator, assistant project manager, and associate project manager.

Product managers take charge of a product’s life cycle from its initial vision to its final release. Project managers, on the other hand, are responsible for overseeing individual projects, including those needed to create that product. Think of the difference between the product (such as a software app) and the project (such as an update to that app). Product and project managers have distinct roles and can work together.

Become a Project Manager Today

Project management offers a career path full of promise. It allows professionals to apply their leadership, organizational, and communication skills — in addition to important technical skills — in a demanding field.
New project managers are entering the field at a dynamic time which, as we have shown, is generating new and exciting job opportunities. To make the most of this moment, consider enrolling in University of Denver Technology Project Management Boot Camp.

In the boot camp, you’ll learn about project management through a market-driven curriculum, gain real-world experience, and benefit from career services to jump-start your job search. Upon completion, you’ll have the necessary skills to succeed in modern project management, along with a portfolio of relevant projects to showcase to employers.

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