Your career

What does a project manager do?

The project manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the project and must be competent in managing the six aspects of a project, i.e. scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality and resources. Project managers work on specific projects that have definite outcomes, have time limits and have to stay within a budget.

These tasks typically include:

  • planning what work needs to be done, when and who’s going to do it;
  • looking at the risks involved in a particular project and managing these risks;
  • making sure the work is done to the right standard;
  • motivating the team of people involved in the project;
  • co-ordinating work done by different people;
  • making sure the project is running on time and to budget;
  • dealing with changes to the project as and when necessary;
  • making sure the project delivers the expected outcomes and benefits;
  • some project managers also have specialist technical knowledge.

How to become a project manager

Choosing project management as your career is an exciting first step. There is more than one way to become a project management professional. Watch our short animation to learn more.

Choosing project management as your career is the first step on an exciting career path. There is a continually growing market for project management skills, for several reasons:

  • Organisations are becoming more project orientated.
  • Organisations are looking to improve their project success rates.
  • Organisations are recognising the link between strategic ambition and projects.
  • As work becomes more global and complex, this drives demand for improved project management.

Project management is not just about being organised. The personality traits of a senior project manager are similar to those of a successful entrepreneur: they take responsibility, they lead and they drive a team to achieve success. Not everyone makes a good project manager. There are many roles within project management though that will suit most people.

Some of the more common job titles are listed below complete with a brief explanation:

  • Project administrator

    This person performs a support function within a project environment. Some awareness of basic concepts such as risk, issue and change management along with familiarity with project management terms is useful.
  • Project co-ordinator

    Working with a project manager or as part of a project management office (PMO), this person brings the basic skills of project management discipline to project teams. Typically takes ownership for maintaining project risk, issue, change logs as well as project schedule and sometimes cost tracking. This person has good spreadsheet and planning software skills.
  • Project planner

    A specialist role found on larger complex projects, particularly capital investment projects. This person is dedicated to updating a complex schedule using software such as MS Project. A planner has keen attention to detail and should understand concepts such as critical path analysis and earned value management.
  • Project manager

    Responsible for project delivery, this person must drive the project forward to achieve the desired benefits. The job title Project manager is widely used and can mean many different things. Understanding level of ownership, particularly budget, helps clarify the seniority of this role.
  • Programme manager

    This is a senior role with responsibility for achieving strategic benefits through undertaking a set of related projects. The programme manager is likely to lead a team of project managers and will report into senior management.
  • PMO manager

    Projects and programmes can start and end, whereas the PMO is a department that forms part of business-as-usual. The PMO manager will not run projects themselves. Their role is typically to ensure consistency in approach to selecting, planning, running and closing projects. The PMO will be the conduit for project status reporting, performance analysis and information for senior management and is likely to have very solid project management experience themselves.

The APM Role Profiler has been developed to assist individuals in identifying their existing project management strengths and weaknesses, utilising APM role profiles and a subset of competences from the APM Competence Framework (2nd edition). This quick and simple guide is available for members here.

Project management is a growing profession and changing fast. It has never been so important for project professionals to demonstrate their skills and for organisations to assess their capability. Project management skills are transferable. The tools and techniques of project management are universal and a good project manager should be able to add value in any environment.

A project manager should:

  • be effective at planning, monitoring and reviewing;
  • be able to manage resources;
  • be able to motivate and encourage others;
  • be decisive and able to work well under pressure;
  • be aware of who the project will affect and manage the effect it will have on them;
  • command respect and trust;
  • be able to resolve conflicts;
  • be good at problem solving;
  • have an understanding of health and safety;
  • possess excellent communication skills both verbal and written;
  • be able to co-ordinate work carried out by different people and organisations;
  • be able to work as part of a team and on their own initiative;
  • be able to control and monitor budgets;
  • possess good IT skills.

It is also important to:

  • be interested in seeing a project through from start to finish
  • enjoy taking responsibility
  • be motivated by achieving set goals or targets.

    The APM Competence Framework is a resource that reflects the complexity of the modern project management profession. It describes APM's new view of the competences necessary for effective project, programme, portfolio management and PMO in today's environment and in our view of the future needs of the profession. It allows professionals to measure their skills, knowledge and professional needs against specific roles and competencies. Now you can marry the skills you have to the skills you require.

For individuals in the profession, the new APM Competence Framework enables you to assess the knowledge and experiences that you have against the knowledge and experience you require to progress your career, and to identify the study pathway that will best suit your requirements.

Competences:

27 competences, each based around the outcomes that professionals need to achieve. See an example of the competence for Team Management.

Role Profiles:

14 role profiles across project, programme, portfolio management and PMO, measured against a rating scale for the specific competences that are relevant to each role. See an example of the role profile for programme manager (advanced).

Rating scale:

The scoring system for assessment of mastery uses a 5-point scale and requires separate assessment of application and knowledge. It uses 5 levels of performance defined in developmental terms - aware, practiced, competent, proficient and expert.

Project management career

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  • Project disciplines include project management, project administration, project support office functions, project planning, programme management, programme planning, portfolio management. Please note this list is not exhaustive.
  • Project disciplines are a wide and diverse career choice which span a number of different industry sectors. In order to get a flavour of some of the different industries, take a look at the list of APM Corporate members.
  • Become an associate member of APM, the Chartered body of the project profession, and make links to the disciplines through the many benefits APM offers.
  • If you can, talk to people who are already working as project professionals and learn from their experiences. If you are already working in a company that employs project professionals, ask if you can shadow them or get involved in some ways with the projects they are currently managing.

Who are Project Managers?

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What does a project manager do?

The project manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the project and must be competent in managing the six aspects of a project, i.e. scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality and resources. Project managers work on specific projects that have definite outcomes, have time limits and have to stay within a budget.

These tasks typically include:

  • planning what work needs to be done, when and who’s going to do it;
  • looking at the risks involved in a particular project and managing these risks;
  • making sure the work is done to the right standard;
  • motivating the team of people involved in the project;
  • co-ordinating work done by different people;
  • making sure the project is running on time and to budget;
  • dealing with changes to the project as and when necessary;
  • making sure the project delivers the expected outcomes and benefits;
  • some project managers also have specialist technical knowledge.

What roles can I choose from?

Some of the more common job titles are listed below complete with a brief explanation:

The APM Role Profiler has been developed to assist individuals in identifying their existing project management strengths and weaknesses, utilising APM role profiles and a subset of competences from the APM Competence Framework (2nd edition). This quick and simple guide is available for members here.

Project administrator

This person performs a support function within a project environment. Some awareness of basic concepts such as risk, issue and change management along with familiarity with project management terms is useful.

Project co-ordinator

Working with a project manager or as part of a project management office (PMO), this person brings the basic skills of project management discipline to project teams. Typically takes ownership for maintaining project risk, issue, change logs as well as project schedule and sometimes cost tracking. This person has good spreadsheet and planning software skills.

Project planner

A specialist role found on larger complex projects, particularly capital investment projects. This person is dedicated to updating a complex schedule using software such as MS Project. A planner has keen attention to detail and should understand concepts such as critical path analysis and earned value management.

Project manager

Responsible for project delivery, this person must drive the project forward to achieve the desired benefits. The job title Project manager is widely used and can mean many different things. Understanding level of ownership, particularly budget, helps clarify the seniority of this role.s

Programme manager

This is a senior role with responsibility for achieving strategic benefits through undertaking a set of related projects. The programme manager is likely to lead a team of project managers and will report into senior management.

PMO manager

Projects and programmes can start and end, whereas the PMO is a department that forms part of business-as-usual. The PMO manager will not run projects themselves. Their role is typically to ensure consistency in approach to selecting, planning, running and closing projects. The PMO will be the conduit for project status reporting, performance analysis and information for senior management and is likely to have very solid project management experience themselves.

What skills do I need?

Project management is a growing profession and changing fast. It has never been so important for project professionals to demonstrate their skills and for organisations to assess their capability. Project management skills are transferable. The tools and techniques of project management are universal and a good project manager should be able to add value in any environment.

A project manager should:

  • be effective at planning, monitoring and reviewing;
  • be able to manage resources;
  • be able to motivate and encourage others;
  • be decisive and able to work well under pressure;
  • be aware of who the project will affect and manage the effect it will have on them;
  • command respect and trust;
  • be able to resolve conflicts;
  • be good at problem solving;
  • have an understanding of health and safety;
  • possess excellent communication skills both verbal and written;
  • be able to co-ordinate work carried out by different people and organisations;
  • be able to work as part of a team and on their own initiative;
  • be able to control and monitor budgets;
  • possess good IT skills

It is also important to:

  • be interested in seeing a project through from start to finish
  • enjoy taking responsibility
  • be motivated by achieving set goals or targets.

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