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What Does a Project Manager Do?

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.

November 4, 2022

6 min read

Project managers play a key role in nearly every industry. Whether the project involves developing a new website or software program, or building a brick-and-mortar industrial manufacturing plant, chances are project managers are involved in its organization, planning, scheduling and execution. If you've wondered, "what does a project manager do," this article will provide some answers as we discuss the duties and responsibilities of their role, outline some of the skills needed to be an effective project manager and discuss the projected job growth in this occupation. We will also break down how to pursue a career in project management.

What Is a Project Manager?

The Project Management Institute defines project management as the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people. What is a project manager? In business, projects in areas like marketing, human resources, information technology and construction are planned and overseen by project managers who define the scope and deliverables of a project, manage resources such as materials, software, equipment and teams, keep the project on schedule and within budget and keep stakeholders updated along the way.

If you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, stay cool under pressure, have a knack for keeping things well organized and experience satisfaction when you define goals and achieve them, a career in project management might be a good fit for you.

What a Project Manager Does: Job Duties and Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities required in a project manager role may include:

  • Building, leading and motivating project teams.

  • Identifying project scopes, budgets, deliverables, schedules and plans for implementation.

  • Coordinating the internal and external resources needed to conform to the scope, schedule and budget of the project, including development of relationships with third-party resources, vendors or contractors who provide various services or supply materials.

  • Cultivating relationships with project stakeholders and keeping them informed as to the progress of the project.

  • Reporting project outcomes, risks or setbacks through appropriate management channels and managing issues.

Skills You Need to Pursue a Project Manager Career

The variety of tasks required to complete complex projects and the challenges faced by project managers require them to be effective multi-taskers, motivators and communicators, applying a medley of critical project manager skills and qualifications that may include:

  • Organization: Strong organizational skills are elemental here, allowing project managers to ensure that the processes required for successful project completion are running smoothly. In complex projects, the ability to organize information, people and resources, as well as prioritize tasks is crucial.

  • Communication: Project managers need to be effective communicators. This skill is essential to help them communicate effectively with team members, stakeholders and third-party resources such as vendors and contractors. Project managers are regularly called upon to produce reports and presentations to management, investors or other groups, and strong communication skills are needed to complete these tasks.

  • Leadership: Successful project managers possess the strong leadership skills required to oversee tasks, unify and motivate team members, and lead by example to align team goals with those of their organization.

  • Time management: Project managers must have the ability to create project timelines that reflect the timeframes for certain tasks to be completed and consider tasks that can be performed concurrently vs. those that can only be performed consecutively.

  • Budget management: Anyone who’s heard the expression “time is money” knows that budgeting goes hand-in-hand with time management. Tracking all project costs in spreadsheets, identifying where costs are being overrun and determining how to keep things “in the black” are all ways in which project managers create and manage project budgets.

  • Negotiation: To align team members or stakeholders with project goals or resolve conflicts, the project manager must take on the role of a negotiator. This skill can be particularly useful in negotiating pricing, payment, delivery or other terms with suppliers, or in discussions with clients or other stakeholders.

  • Problem-solving: Project management and problem-solving are almost synonymous. An effective project manager has the ability to gather all information associated with a particular problem and use a structured approach to find a solution that gets things back on track.

Is Project Management a Growing Career?

According to job outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of project management specialists is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 20311. The BLS predicts more than 70,000 job openings for project management specialists each year, on average, over this period. This growth is projected on a national level and local growth will vary by location. This projection is not specific to DeVry University graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers.

In making its projections, BLS further notes that demand for project management specialists is expected to be strong in computer systems design services, as more of these professionals are needed to manage the growing volume and complexity of IT projects required to support expansions in remote work.

How to Become a Project Manager

If you’re preparing to pursue a career in project management, think about taking the steps that are most likely to make you a strong candidate for entry-level opportunities. Specialized coursework, industry-recognized certifications, real-world experience, networking and smart job search strategies can all be effective in getting you started in this exciting career.

Earn a Degree in Project Management

Your journey should begin with education. At DeVry, our Bachelor’s Degree with a Specialization in Project Management brings the real world into the classroom, helping you learn the most current technologies and processes in project management, and gain the skills necessary to effectively lead important projects and solve challenging business problems, even in unpredictable environments. This project management specialization can be earned as part of our Bachelor’s Degrees in Business Administration, Management or Technical Management.

Looking for a graduate degree in project management? We offer 4 master’s degree programs to help further develop your business and project management skillset. Better yet, each of the following programs are accredited by the Project Management Institute Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education (GAC) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP):

Pursue Professional Certifications

Industry-relevant certifications can help you stand out among other job candidates or pursue advancements within the project management career you’ve already started. The Project Management Institute offers a number of certifications that verify project management skills in different aspects of the discipline:

  • Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPM): Intended to be a first-step project management certification, the CAPM verifies your aptitude in the fundamentals of project management, the role of project managers, the project management environment, procurement, communication and other aspects of the discipline.

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): Passing the 180-question exam required for this certification verifies skills in 3 key areas – people, process and business environment. Holders of this credential have the skills to effectively lead and motivate project teams, use predictive, agile and hybrid approaches to determine the best way to manage a project and highlight the impact of a successful project on strategic and organizational goals.

  • PMI-RMP (Risk Management): The PMI-RMP certification focuses on risk management as an essential facet of organizational activities and is intended to position its credential holders to identify problems before they occur, assess project risks, mitigate threats, maximize results and meet deadlines.

  • PMI-PBA (Business Analysis): The PMI-PBA credential verifies skills in the areas of business analysis and project requirements gathering, which are critical components of successful project completion.

  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP): Created for practitioners of the Agile project management approach, a methodology that uses short cycles or sprints to develop a product or service, this certification formally recognizes knowledge of Agile principles and skill with Agile techniques.

Consider an Internship

Internships can provide on-the-job training to build professional skills that employers may be looking for. Earning and completing an internship in project management can provide several benefits, including:

  • Networking opportunities: While working in an internship, it’s likely that you will work alongside people who could provide strong professional references. This includes team members and others at the company where you’re interning but could also be extended to professionals in adjacent organizations. Introduce yourself to as many of them as you can and stay in touch after completing your internship by connecting on social media.

  • Career development: An internship may provide on-the-job training that will add to your skills and help you stand out when prospective employers review your resume. Project managers work in many different industries. If you’re not sure what field you’d like to pursue, completing internships in a few different industries might give you the real-world experience to help you decide which is best for you.

  • Compensation: Businesses occasionally offer paid internships that will compensate you for your time while you’re gaining experience and contacts. Even if unpaid, an internship can help you gain the training and experience you need to pursue a paid position.

Apply for Positions

You’ve earned your degree, pursued project management certifications and may have even completed an internship. Now it’s time to focus your attention on landing that first job. Begin with a daily scan of job listings on employment websites and in any other industry-specific resources you’re aware of. The brief list of roles below will give you an idea of what keywords to use in your search. This is also a good time to put those networking contacts to use by reaching out and making them aware of your career objectives.

At DeVry, our Career Services team is ready to support you during school and after graduation with a range of services like one-to-one career coaching, job search strategies, interview coaching, resume writing, networking tips and more.

In any given industry, project management professionals can hold a variety of titles. There is, however, a common hierarchy as individuals acquire more experience in project management and advance in their careers. Roles in project management reflect this hierarchy and can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Project coordinator: In this entry-level position, the project coordinator serves as an administrative assistant, generating and distributing reports to the project team and stakeholders and functioning as an assistant to the management team.

  • Project scheduler: Typically hired for large-scale projects, the project scheduler uses project scheduling software and other project management software and tools.

  • Assistant project manager: Assistant project managers sometimes directly assist the project manager but are frequently assigned specific tasks to manage. They will meet regularly with the project manager to report on progress and discuss issues that have arisen.

  • Project manager: The project manager is responsible for bringing projects to a successful conclusion. They stand alone in running projects or lead management teams. They will often delegate tasks to assistant project managers, oversee budgets and schedules and report to stakeholders.

  • Senior project manager: Typically found in larger organizations, the individual in this position is responsible for running multiple projects. In this capacity, they are sometimes referred to as program managers.

Prepare for Your Career in Project Management at DeVry

Now that you understand the question “what does a project manager do”, we can help you get on the path toward your future in this dynamic field. Our project management programs can teach you many of the relevant tools and techniques required to lead successful projects and programs within the global business environment.

Our degree programs in project management can be completed 100% online or in a hybrid format that combines the flexibility of online learning with an on-campus experience.2 Let’s talk about how you can get started in our next session. Classes start soon.


2 Program, course, and extended classroom availability vary by location. In site-based programs, students will be required to take a substantial amount of coursework online to complete their program.

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