Career Clarity: What Does a Project Manager Do?

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If you type the term “project manager” into a job-listing database, you will get well over 1,000 hits. Project management is in high demand these days—both as a career and as a part of the work expectation in other careers.

Despite the demand, many people are in the dark about this elusive job title. What does a project manager do? And what does it take to become one?

Whether you are motivated by a career change, an advancement in your current position, or plain old curiosity, read on to get the scoop on this popular, yet mysterious, job title.

What does a project manager do?

“Project management [refers to] overseeing all of the different projects or initiatives of a company and monitoring their progress and completion,” says Ethan Wasserman, partner and project manager at Clutch Maven, a Florida-based marketing company.

Specific duties in this position can be extremely widespread, as it is applicable to nearly every industry. Wasserman says project managers are usually overseeing new initiatives such as launching a new product line for a retail company or developing a website. Project managers are accountable for the success or failure of the project they are assigned.

"You need to have a heartbeat on all accounts."

Though they are not doing the work directly, they must possess some degree of knowledge regarding all aspects of their respective projects. It’s their job to keep a pulse on the progress of each project, ensuring all team members are sticking to the budget and timeline.

“You need to have a heartbeat on all accounts,” says Joel Fatherree, project manager at Pennsylvania-based EZ Solutions. He says the work revolves around managing client expectations and communicating with all parties involved to keep things running smoothly.

Wasserman believes that even small companies who often regulate project management to current employees would benefit from hiring a separate project manager to launch new expansion and promotional initiatives. “If you want your business to grow and stay relevant to consumers, it is the project manager that oversees that growth,” he explains.

What skills do you need to be a project manager?

“When it comes to skill sets the most important tool is organization. The ideal project manager is mentally organized and even meticulous,” Wasserman claims. He adds that a good project manager should also possess exceptional interpersonal and communication skills. They act as the point person for various teams within a company, so they must be able to clearly and confidently translate information between parties.

Project managers start with a detailed plan, thinking though every aspect of the job, explains Vicki Wrona, president of Forward Momentum, LLC. Then, they implement the plan while controlling the overall effort to get desired results, making adjustments when necessary.

Wasserman’s experience taught him that sudden budget changes or checkpoint requests from leadership are all a part of the gig. Agility and adaptability on the job are important traits for a project manager, as there will inevitably be roadblocks that must be navigated.

What is the job outlook for project managers?

Put simply, it’s looking good! More and more companies are using project-based methods to get work done, resulting in an upsurge of opportunities for anyone experienced in the job.

In fact, it’s expected that 15.7 million new project management roles will be added globally through 2020, according to a study by The Anderson Economic Group. Another significant indicator of the increasing importance of this position is that membership in the Project Management Institute of the United States has more than quadrupled over the past six years.

What type of education or training is needed to be a project manager?

Wrona claims more and more companies and government agencies are requiring Project Management Professional (PMP) certification for their employees or sub-contractors. While employees might be given the task of project management as one of their many tasks on the job, an official certification will not only teach the necessary skills but also open doors to new career opportunities.

Wrona believes her PMP certification is more instrumental than her MBA when it comes to gaining new job prospects. Her experience with the certification led her to offer PMP training classes, believing that certified candidates will stand apart from other job seekers in many different fields.

Are you up to the task?

So the next time someone asks, “What does a project manager do, anyway?” you can provide an educated answer. Now that you have a fundamental understanding of the field, do you think you have what it takes to excel in this career? Check out 10 pro tips for effective project management!

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a content writer for Collegis Education who writes student focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She earned her MFA in poetry and teaches as an adjunct English instructor. She loves to write, teach and talk about the power of effective communication.

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