Project management is one of the best fields to invest your time and energy in. Although hard, a career in project management is both lucrative and rewarding. Regardless of your background or industry, project management skills open countless opportunities for you that lead to growth and success.
With that said, for someone new to project management, it can be difficult to wrap your head around the project management career path. The problem is that a typical project management career does not usually show up on career roadmaps or organizational charts.
This is why aspiring project managers need a guiding hand to plan their careers effectively. In this article, we will guide you on how you can start your project manager journey.
How Does a Project Manager’s Career Start?
In most cases, the first milestone for any aspiring project manager is to acquire a degree in a field related to project management such as business administration. Although having a degree is not mandatory to become a project manager, but learning core concepts of project management in an academic environment can give you a significant head-start over other candidates.
With that said, there is no restriction to become a project manager based on your educational background. In fact, project management does not belong to any specific field. Projects mostly belong to various lines of business such as art, logistics, digital marketing, software, linguistics, economics, etc. Therefore, it’s useful to gain a degree in your relevant field rather than focusing on a business degree.
In this respect, any college degree is a perfect starting platform for an aspiring project manager. It helps you grasp the foundational concepts of your relevant field and prepares you for a long career in that domain.
Regardless of your career path, degree, or field of interest, you must continuously work on self-development and self-learning to propel your career towards success. A degree related to your field is the first step to establish a career as a project manager; however, despite not having a formal college degree, many individuals have become successful project managers.
For instance, many project managers start as sales executives or IT professionals without attaining a college degree. They build their career over experience, hard work and sheer determination to become project managers at a later stage. Having said that, professionals without an undergraduate or equivalent degree must work significantly harder to make up for their lack of educational experience.
Look for an Entry-Level Position in Management
To start your project manager career, it’s necessary to begin with a management position in your company. A management position is where you have a certain degree of independence in making decisions. You have to manage other people and use them to achieve tasks and goals. At the same time, it’s important to master time management and scheduling to meet deadlines.
Any job position where you can learn and exercise all these skills is a perfect platform to prepare you for the job role of a project manager. The majority of project managers begin their careers as project assistants, business analysts, associate managers, IT experts, and coordinators. These initial job roles help candidates gain essential project management skills, preparing them for the role of a project manager.
Some companies directly offer entry-level positions for project managers. However, these cases are rare and most of these entry-level positions are reserved for candidates who have an extensive educational background in management sciences. This is why you must prepare yourself for a hard-earned path and qualify for a project management role through professional experience.
Continue Gaining Professional Experience
As you gain professional experience in a management role, you must familiarize yourself with project management processes and tools used in your workplace. Taking an active part in company processes and project management techniques prepares you for a project management role.
Before you become a project manager, you must make a list of all the key job roles of your current supervisor. It’s a good idea to treat your supervisor as a mentor and learn crucial project management skills from him or her.
Grow Into the Role of a Project Manager
After gaining valuable experience in management positions, if you are deserving, the company will promote you to the role of a project manager. Even if your current company doesn’t offer you the role of a project manager after gaining considerable management experience, you can apply for the position at other companies.
Nevertheless, before transitioning to a full-fledged project management role, , it’s a good idea to gain experience of at least three years. During this time, you can consider to pursue a Master’s of Business Administration degree. Although it’s not necessary, an MBA degree can help you boost your professional profile.
Go for a PMP Certification
Once you have gained experience as a project manager, it’s a good idea to pursue certifications, such as Project Management Professional (PMP). PMP is an internationally recognized certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
PMP serves as the most objective way to distinguish candidates for a given role. Hence, recruiters at many large firms and multinational companies prefer project managers who have earned the PMP certification. In fact, several governments and commercial organizations hire PMP certified project managers to improve the success rates of their projects.
Furthermore, many reports suggest that the PMP certification can lead to an increase in earning potential. As per the 10th edition of the salary survey conducted by the PMI, as many as 70% of all the survey participants confirmed that their salaries increased in the past 12 months. About 26% of these respondents also received an increment of 5% in the previous year.
At the same time, the survey found that the total salary of certified candidates was 23% higher than the salary of project managers without the certification. According to the survey, this trend was consistent across all major industries.
How Can You Gain a PMP Certification?
Needless to say, acquiring the PMP certification can take your project career in another direction. However, not everyone can appear in this exam. The PMP exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions and you must have three years of professional experience (4500 hours) in project management to be eligible for it.
If you don’t have a college degree and hold a secondary degree instead, then it’s mandatory to have at least five years (7,500 hours) worth of experience in project management. At the same time, you require a 35-hour training on project management education.
Project Management Vanguard provides high-quality project management training to help you prepare for the PMP exam. A career in project management is riddled with hurdles, but with the right guidance and training, you can take your career to the next level.