Skip to content

Making the jump from project coordinator to project manager

This month, I’m talking to project coordinators and their line managers. Are you a project coordinator and, if so, are you able to make the jump to project manager?

There is a clear gap between the role of project coordinator and project manager – at the heart of that gap is responsibility. If the project fails, the project manager is responsible. The coordinator may have used all the tools, built and maintained the schedule, managed the risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies log, and chased signatures for change requests, but they are still not responsible for delivery. If you are a project coordinator who is ready to make the jump, can you see an opportunity in your organisation to take on some project responsibility?

Perhaps you could start with responsibility for a deliverable, a work package or sub-project. It is important to plan your own career and to seek greater
responsibilities that are appropriate to your experience and knowledge.

If you cannot see an opportunity with your current employer to make this jump, then perhaps it’s time to make a different type of jump to an organisation that can offer this development.

I spoke to several project coordinators at recent APM events who are facing this very challenge. They have solid APM qualifications and are ready to take on the challenge of project management, but are frustrated by the lack of opportunity at their current organisations.

Another option can be a sideways move into the project management office (PMO). In the right PMO, this can be an excellent opportunity to gain more exposure to a wider range of projects. If you are a line manager, think about how you can develop your project coordinators and if you are a project coordinator, think about how you are going to make that jump.


Vince Hines is managing director at Wellingtone Project Management, an APM career development partner.

Other blogs in this series:


Find out more about starting / developing a career in project management

6 comments

Join the conversation!

Log in to post a comment, or create an account if you don't have one already.

  1. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 06 January 2016, 05:51 AM

    Hi Vince,You make an excellent point in your blog about the importance of taking responsibility in order to progress in project management. I would argue that a great way to do this is to join the APM and get involved with a Specific Interest Group [SIG] and/or your local Branch. There are currently 14 different SIGs including one for PMO and others for Programme and Benefits Management. They’re all friendly and doing some great stuff.I guarantee that they will make you welcome and provide you with many different learning and development opportunities. This will, almost certainly, include networking with others who may already be doing the type of work that you are looking to do.Joining a SIG or Branch committee as a volunteer will enable you to take some all-important responsibility for making something happen. For example; helping to organise, rather than just attend, an event or conference [See for example Equipping Programme Managers for global Success] or perhaps you would prefer to lead on the publication of articles or social media.At times volunteering may feel a little like attempting to ‘herd cats’ but it will certainly give you some worthwhile experience that you can add to your CV and … it may just turn out to be fun!Merv  

  2. Vince Hines
    Vince Hines 26 January 2015, 04:04 PM

    Hi Ian,Thanks for your comment and it raises the very solid point that of course not all Project Coordinators can make a good Project Manager, or may even not want to take that step.  As a side point I know some very experienced project planners (Planning Engineers) who have a different skill set to those of a PM and do not see being a PM a promotion - they have their own career as Planning Engineer - the size of your screen being the key indicator of success in planning of course :-)Cheers,Vince 

  3. Ian Smoughton
    Ian Smoughton 15 January 2015, 03:19 PM

    It is possible to move from Project Co-ordinator to PM however the organisation you are working for needs to have the structure in place to allow you develop to undertake the PM role.  I started as a PC then moved into desktop project management, portfolio managmentm, team mangement and then Project Management.  This built the skill sets, knowledge, relationships in order to carryout the role effectively.

  4. Ian Smoughton
    Ian Smoughton 15 January 2015, 03:19 PM

    It is possible to move from Project Co-ordinator to PM however the organisation you are working for needs to have the structure in place to allow you develop to undertake the PM role.  I started as a PC then moved into desktop project management, portfolio managmentm, team mangement and then Project Management.  This built the skill sets, knowledge, relationships in order to carryout the role effectively.

  5. Andriy Nikituk
    Andriy Nikituk 02 March 2017, 02:12 PM

    Good article. Also you can get more interesting information about project coordinator here - https://www.signalhire.com/job-descriptions/project-coordinator-job-description

  6. Denise Smoke
    Denise Smoke 11 April 2017, 03:11 PM

    Thank you for this article. I am having the exact experience with taking my career to the next level. Although it is understandable that the responsibility is potentially overwhelming and could possibly set up a project failure, more PMs should take on the role of mentor and coach. I believe this would possibly help alleviate even more of their responsibility. It is a PMs role to delegate!