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Project Management Career Education and Advancement

Jan 2007

Job description
Project management is the process of planning, organizing, staffing, and guiding the process of creating a solution or system. Project managers are responsible for providing a plan and the means on which to base management decisions throughout the life of a project. There are many scheduling software tools available to help project managers perform their job, including PERT, Microsoft Project, Scitor Project Scheduler, and many others. While such applications are usually designed for certain industries or projects, they all use Critical Path Methodology, or CPM. CPM plays a large role in a PM's day-to-day life as they plan and schedule projects, as it determines the order and steps required for completion of a project.

PMs ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget. The position requires multitasking and organizational skills, along with a wide-range of knowledge and exceptional communication skills. Facilitating cross-functional communication across teams can be one of the biggest challenges in managing a project, as it is the responsibility of the PM to keep all lines of communication open between teams and keep conflict to a minimum by aligning the goals of everyone involved.

PMs must also learn to adapt their managing style to meet the needs of the team at each stage in the lifecycle of a project, and to meet the individual needs of team members. Some of the leadership duties they will be required to perform include team assembly, duty assignment, employee motivation, and standard setting.

Large corporations and banks will hire PMs to manage the implementation of new systems, head up restructuring efforts, and outlay standard procedures in the form of company wide project methodologies and project processes. Internet and technology companies depend on project managers to adapt systems, oversee site and product launches, and for the outlining and development of new applications. And in construction companies, PMs help deal with balancing employee schedules and machine use, limited resources and strict budgets.

A day in the life…
Stress can be extremely high in this job, as PMs are responsible for the success of projects, which can often have an affect on their pay and career. It can also be a rewarding position when you are able to deliver a project on time and on budget. PMs should be good analytical thinkers, possess excellent communication and people skills, and have the ability to deal with the rise and fall of project successes and failures.

Education and training
Educational requirements for project managers will vary according to area of specialty. For construction project managers, a degree in civil engineering is typically required. PMs in high tech areas should have more technical degrees such as computer or electrical engineering, information systems, or computer science. In addition, the most successful PMs will also have formal business training, usually in the form of an MBA. It is important that PMs also have some financial background or knowledge so that they are able to understand and plan for project budgeting.

Project management certification is available through the Project Management Institute. Their certification is the profession's most recognized and respected. And many corporations are now starting to require the PMP certification for employment or advancement as a PM.

The following chart shows national salaries for various project management positions.

     Job Title
Years of Experience
Median Salary
   Project Manager
At least 5
   Engineering    Project Manager
At least 8
   New Products    Project Manager
At least 4
   SAP Project    Manager
At least 7

Source:, September 2003
For this month's salaries: Salary Wizard

Job outlook
Project management has seen a significant drop in employment opportunities and salary levels because both are closely tied to the economy in this field. This is because project demand, as expected, increases most when the economy and business is thriving. Because of the current economic downturn, project management opportunities are significantly scarcer than they were a couple of years back. However there will always be a need for PMs because of the increased amount of complex and collateral projects in today's business world that need a great deal of organization and planning to run efficiently.

Related occupations
Project coordinator is an entry-level position that offers exposure to the work responsibilities of PMs.
Project schedulers take on more technical rather than managerial roles, in the form of running software, inputting information, and updating files.
Assistant Project managers
are assigned specific tasks within a project to manage, and meet frequently with the PM to report on progress and any issues that may arise.
Senior Project Managers are common in construction and engineering companies, and responsible for managing all of a company's project managers, and organizing the resource allocation, budget, and priorities across all projects.


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