By DeVry University
November 4, 2022
6 min read
What Does a Project Manager Do?
As the professionals who organize, plan and execute projects for organizations, project managers play a key role in nearly every industry. Whether the project is a marketing campaign, a renovated building or the launch of a new software program, it’s the project manager who is responsible for overseeing the project from conception to completion. In this article, we’ll answer the question: What does a project manager do? We’ll take a closer look at the project manager’s role and responsibilities and describe some of the skills you need to prepare to pursue this career path.
What Is a Project Manager?
The sheer variety of tasks and challenges that are likely to occur during the lifecycle of a typical project almost ensure that no two workdays are alike for a project manager.
If you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, tend to stay cool under pressure and have a knack for organization, a career in project management might be a great fit for you.
What is project management, and what do project managers do? These capable professionals define the scope and deliverables of a project, manage resources such as materials, software, equipment and work teams required to complete the project and keep it on schedule and within budget.
That last item – within budget – is often the most crucial because complex, large-scale projects, like the construction of buildings and roads, typically must be completed within strict budget and time constraints.
In some cases, incentives may be offered when projects are completed ahead of schedule. This provides further motivation for project managers to be on top of things.
Essential project management skills come into play in this role. Developing them can help you build a foundation for your future in this field. Five of these skills are:
Project managers are often required to lead teams in the execution of a series of goals that culminate in a project’s successful completion. Individuals who demonstrate effective leadership skills may excel in this role.
Project managers must communicate clearly and effectively with team members, vendors, customers and stakeholders, keeping them informed and providing answers to their inquiries. Both written and verbal communication skills are important here.
Project managers should have excellent time management skills and the ability to prioritize and multitask to keep different elements – and ultimately the entire project – moving forward.
4. Critical thinking
An ability to evaluate issues that arise during a project in a critical, non-emotional and unbiased fashion is another characteristic of a good project manager.
5. A sense of humor
A project manager who maintains a positive attitude sets a good example for entire teams, helping them to stay focused, reduce stress and remain productive.
Project management has become more sophisticated in recent years, with various methodologies that may sound familiar. These include Agile, Lean, Scrum, Six Sigma and several more.
Choosing a methodology, or a combination thereof, may be your first task as an effective project manager. The methodologies you use will, of course, depend on characteristics that are specific to your industry. For example, the “Lean” methodology, designed to maximize value and minimize waste, was developed by Toyota in the 1970s and is still widely used in the manufacturing industry.
Project Manager Qualifications
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in project management, you’ll want to consider two main areas of qualification: education and certification. While the qualifications necessary for this diverse role will vary by industry and organization, you may find a bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for this role, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some companies may look for candidates with a graduate degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
A professional certification in project management could enhance your resume and help you stand out among candidates for a job as a project manager, which may make you more appealing to the hiring managers who are often the gate keepers in the hiring process.
If you already have a few years of experience in a professional setting, you may want to consider advancing your career with the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).
If you’re just getting started in the field, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is an entry-level project management certification, also administered by the Project Management Institute, that may help you demonstrate your qualifications for entry-level positions.
Project Management Responsibilities
The list of project managers’ responsibilities can be extensive and require them to wear many hats. Some general tasks that any effective project manager can expect to perform daily include:
1. Communicating with team members and stakeholders
Communication is essential to keep team members and stakeholders such as customers, owners, investors and senior-level managers up to date on the status of projects and any difficulties or potential delays that are identified. Communication with internal and contracted team members is also crucial to ensure workflows are performed efficiently and resources are delivered when they’re needed.
2. Identifying and resolving issues
The project manager is often the first line of defense against issues that may arise in budgeting, resource allocation, personnel or other project aspects. The project manager must resolve any issues quickly and decisively to keep them from causing potentially serious cost overruns or delays in the project’s timeline.
3. Budgeting and cost estimating
Regardless of the project size, it’s the budget that can often be the trickiest component. Once established and approved, budgets must be carefully managed. Project managers review budgets daily or weekly, monitoring them for any irregularities, ensuring cost estimates for services and materials are within budget and reporting their status to senior management.
4. Time management
Often using project management software, project managers are adept at monitoring how their teams are spending time. They will shift resources between multiple projects, if necessary, to be sure they stay on track.
5. Team building
The scope of the project manager’s duties might also include various team-building exercises intended to boost morale, especially after the completion of particularly challenging phases of projects.
According to job outlook data from the BLS, employment for project management specialists is projected to grow 7% on a national level from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations1. About 70,400 openings for project management specialists are projected each year, on average, over this decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or leave the labor force.
You might find that project management roles follow a certain hierarchy, which of course will vary by industry, size of the organization and the size and scope of the projects undertaken by the company:
- Project Coordinators assist with administrative tasks for specific projects.
- Project Managers handle multiple aspects of projects of different sizes and complexities. They might manage several small-to-medium-size projects or a single, highly complex project.
- Program Managers oversee groups of related projects to deliver outcomes benefiting their organization.
- Portfolio Managers oversee a collection of programs, and the various projects within those programs, for an organization.
From creating a website or marketing campaign, to building bridges, tunnels or hospitals, businesses in virtually every industry are likely to have projects that need to be planned, managed and completed. Regardless of a project’s size, successful completion depends heavily upon a project manager or a team of managers with essential skills that include leadership, communication, organization, critical thinking and a positive outlook. A bachelor’s degree may be considered a minimum education requirement and certifications are potentially beneficial in this career.
Boost Your Project Management Skills at DeVry
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in business with an eye toward a project management role, our Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Project Management or our MBA with a Specialization in Project Management can teach you many of the relevant tools and techniques required to lead successful projects and programs within the global business environment. Classes start every 8 weeks.
1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/project-management-specialists.htm#tab-1