How to Become a Project ManagerHow to Become a Project ManagerHow to Become a Project Manager

Imagine the largest athletic shoe manufacturer in the world has chosen a medium-sized marketing company to promote its new flagship sneaker. It’s a million-dollar campaign, with media advertisements all around the world — on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, and on social media.

To make this project happen, the marketing company must assemble a team of strategists, writers, editors, videographers, and office assistants. However, who’ll make sure that each individual knows his or her specific role and timeline and that the client remains satisfied? The company’s executives can’t spend all their time managing a potentially multi-year project, especially with other projects already in various stages of development.

In this kind of situation, the executives turn to a project manager to delegate responsibilities and help ensure that the company meets deadlines and maintains the quality of work expected by the client. How does one become a project manager? The right combination of education and skills is required.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

A project manager serves as the point person for a job, overseeing employees from one or more departments working on different tasks who come together to achieve a greater goal. They often report to executives or department heads, providing regular updates on progress, but the day-to-day role of the project manager is focused on the development of the specific project.

In the example of the marketing company working on the shoe ad campaign, tasks might include checking in with various task leaders, meeting with the head of a small graphic design team to go over ideas for a magazine spread, connecting with stakeholders at the shoe company for feedback on television advertisement storyboards, or sitting in on a discussion of possible slogans with the copywriting department.

Whatever the job, project managers must have specific skills to guide it to successful completion. They must be strong leaders and motivators, keeping teams of potentially dozens of workers focused on a common goal and not getting discouraged by setbacks and delays. They need to be effective communicators and adaptable problem-solvers, as well as adept at managing client expectations and meeting timelines.

3 Steps: How to Become a Project Manager

The process of how to become a project manager can take you down multiple paths, but there are various likely stops along the way. Getting the right education and developing skills in communication and leadership can help you achieve your professional goals.

Step 1: Earn a Project Manager Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree related to project management offers a foundation in business operations and can help students develop essential skills, such as budget management and strategic planning. Bachelor’s degrees in project management, business management, or marketing can all offer graduates a solid background in the key concepts of the field.

Step 2: Further Your Education with a Project Manager Master’s Degree

Often, project managers begin with a bachelor’s degree, and then refine their ability to lead large teams by pursuing an advanced degree in a related discipline, such as Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership. This degree can also help a person gain deeper insight into how to apply different project management styles toward various projects. Students in an advanced program take courses in organizational leadership, best practices in strategic communication, global and intercultural communication, and more.

Step 3: Develop Your Project Management Skills

Project managers need strong interpersonal communication skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to adapt to changes on the fly. They spend much of their time organizing both information and people and prioritizing and delegating tasks.

Students can hone these skills in the classroom, but aspiring project managers also need to gain hands-on experience. Volunteering as a project coordinator for a political campaign, taking on work as an administrative assistant, and interning in organizations that utilize project managers all provide avenues for sharpening these skills in a real-world environment. Aspiring project managers may want to consider gaining this type of hands-on experience in a field that’s relevant to their interests.

Project Manager Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes project managers in the category of business operations specialists. As of May 2021, just over 1 million individuals held this position in the U.S. For the high-level work that project managers do, they earn a median annual salary of about $74,670, according to the BLS. Payscale offers a specific categorization for project managers, reporting a median annual salary of around $77,000 as of November 2022, with the bottom 10% making about $51,000 and the top 10% making about $117,000 annually. This salary range may vary based on location, industry, and experience.

Project manager holds a meeting.

Project Manager Job Outlook

While the BLS doesn’t keep specific job market data for project managers, it expects the number of related managerial positions to grow between 2021 and 2031. Categories such as construction managers (8%); public relations/fundraising managers (8%); and advertising, promotions, and marketing managers (10%) are expanding above the national job market average (5%).

If you’re looking into how to become a project manager, it’s worth focusing on the industries that you’re most excited about and that expect future growth. As those industries expand, so will their need for skilled professionals to manage their initiatives.

Project Manager Career Path

Project manager opportunities are available across numerous industries. Business, healthcare, information technology (IT), and engineering are all industries in which project managers are in demand.

The types of projects that individuals work on depend on the industry, as do project goals. The shoe manufacturer mentioned at the outset may have a goal of boosting sales of a new shoe style, while the goal of a project in a healthcare facility may be to improve patient care rather than boosting the bottom line.

Learn More About How to Become a Project Manager

What project managers do is vital to the success of businesses across industries. If the idea of leading and motivating a team of people to complete a common goal sounds like a satisfying career, then a job as a project manager could be the perfect fit. See how Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership can give you the skills you need to deliver projects that are on time and exceed expectations.

Recommended Reading

Effective Business Communication for Millennials & Gen Z

How to Be a Storyteller in Digital Media and Advertising

Impact of Social Media on Public Relations During Times of Crisis


Association for Project Management, What Does a Project Manager Do?

Indeed, How to Become a Project Manager: A Comprehensive Guide

Indeed, “20 Essential Skills Every Project Manager Should Have”

Payscale, Average Project Manager, (Unspecified Type/General) Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Operations Specialists, All Other

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Construction Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

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