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Project Manager

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Project Manager

The Work

As a project manager, it would be your job to plan and manage all kinds of business projects, and make sure they are completed on time and within budget.

Project managers can be employed in almost every industry on many different types of venture, from introducing a new computer system to overseeing a large building project. Whatever the project, your work would typically include:

  • finding out what the client or company wants to achieve
  • agreeing the timescales, costs and resources needed
  • drawing up a detailed plan and schedule for how to achieve each stage of the project
  • selecting and leading a project team
  • negotiating with contractors and suppliers for materials and services
  • making sure that each stage of the project is progressing on time, on budget and to the right quality standards
  • reporting regularly on progress to the client or to senior managers.

Part of your work would involve using particular project management methods such as PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environments) or PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) to break down the project into stages and monitor its progress. You would also use specialised software to help with scheduling, costing, and risk analysis.

Hours and Environment

You would often work standard office hours Monday to Friday, although this can vary according to the industry and you may need to work longer in order to meet deadlines.

You would usually be office-based, but may spend some of your time travelling for meetings and to visit contractors and suppliers. If working on building projects, you would visit construction sites on a regular basis. Some jobs may involve overnight stays away from home.

Skills and Interests


  • excellent organisational, planning and time management skills
  • logical thinking with creative problem-solving ability
  • great attention to detail
  • good communication and negotiation skills
  • understanding of budget control
  • the ability to work well with others and lead a team
  • a good understanding of business
  • technical skills relevant to the project
  • good IT skills.

Entry

You could take various routes to becoming a project manager. Many project managers are qualified to degree or postgraduate level, either in project management or a subject relevant to their industry. Others become project managers on the strength of their experience – they might progress after starting in the project support team, or managing smaller projects as part of another job.

A background in one of the following areas is likely to be especially useful for developing project management skills:

  • business
  • management
  • construction
  • engineering
  • accountancy
  • science and technology.

You may have an advantage with a foundation degree, degree or postgraduate qualification in project management. Other useful subjects include business and management, IT or construction management, particularly if your course included relevant work placements.

It can be an advantage to know PRINCE2 and specialist software like MS Project or Workbench before you apply for project management work, although this is not always essential if you can demonstrate enough relevant skills and experience.

Training

You will usually develop your project management knowledge and skills on the job. If necessary, your employer may provide training in PRINCE2 or specific project management software.

You could work towards professional project management qualifications at various levels from any of the following organisations:

See each organisation’s website for more information on their qualifications and training.

You could choose to study part-time for a project management degree or postgraduate qualification whilst you are working, or you could work towards NVQ levels 4 and 5 in Project Management. If you hold a relevant NVQ at level 4 or 5 you can apply for membership of APM.

You may also receive training in Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O), a new system of guidance for best management practice on setting up project offices.

There are also NVQs specific to project management in certain industries. For example, in the engineering or manufacturing sectors you may find it useful to work towards NVQ levels 2 to 5 in Business Improvement Techniques.

Opportunities

You could work as a project manager in most industries, including construction, IT, marketing, manufacturing and the public sector.

You could be employed directly by a company, or by a firm of project management consultants. Freelance contracts for the duration of a project are common, or you may work permanently for your employer.

Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, in specialist publications and recruitment agencies.

With experience, you could progress into senior management or become a freelance consultant.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in new window):

PM Today
Project Manager Jobs

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Annual Income

Salaries depend on experience, the industry and the size and type of project. There may be extra bonuses for meeting deadlines.

  • Earnings are usually between £25,000 and £50,000 a year.
  • Top salaries can reach £80,000 or more.
  • Freelance project managers may be paid around £300 to £400 a day.

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