Project Managers work in many different industries, typically in a business, construction or manufacturing capacity in order to bring company or client objectives to fulfillment. Their task is to ensure the smooth running of projects through good planning, time management and risk assessment.
Project managers are responsible for seeing a project through from the initial planning stages to completion. Their main task is to break down projects into stages, taking responsibility for monitoring and managing the scheduling, costing and risk analysis of each stage. Anticipating and minimizing risk is a crucial part of the project manager’s role as this ensures that few problems will arise throughout the duration of the project. To minimize risk effectively project managers are required to ask the client or company probing questions in order to identify underlying assumptions and conflicts, and to ensure that all parties have the same idea of the overall project objectives. In order to manage a project effectively project managers usually use one of two methods of scheduling and monitoring projects: PRINCE 2 (Projects in Controlled Environments) or PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge)
Project manager salaries usually start on around £25,000 for employees new to the role with the potential to progress to £50,000 or even higher with further training and experience. Some Project managers prefer to work freelance with typical freelance wages paid at £300-400 a day, again dependent upon experience.
Project managers are responsible for:
- Identifying the ultimate goals of the project through close communication with the company or client
- Agreeing budgets and deadlines with the company or client
- Breaking down the project into manageable stages
- Organising and managing resources
- Recruiting employees to work in the core project team
- Managing and resolving conflicts within the core team
- Delegating tasks to each member of the project team
- Ensuring each stage of the project is fulfilled on time and to budget
- Communicating the progress of the project to the company or client
Being a project manager is a highly skilled position and most industries will expect employees to have a good first degree and sometimes a postgraduate degree in project management or in a subject related to the industry. Typically, project managers have a degree in a business related subject, but science, technology, accountancy and construction-related degrees also lend themselves to the development of project management abilities. Experience can be just as valuable as qualifications, however, and it is possible to work up to project manager level without a degree with relevant in-house experience and on-the-job training.
Project Managers need to have:
- Excellent organisational skills
- Excellent time management abilities
- The ability to plan ahead
- The ability to anticipate and minimize risk
- The ability to think creatively and solve problems when they arise
- Good communication skills (both written and verbal)
- The ability to work to budget and monitor finances
- Excellent attention to detail
- Good management skills: the ability to lead others and to work well as a team player
- A good knowledge of business
- A high level of computer literacy
- Technical skills relevant to the nature of the industry
Typical working hours for a project manager are similar to those for any office-based jobs. Usually project managers work from 9 – 5.30 during the week but when deadlines approach they may be required to work much longer hours, including some weekend work. Depending on the nature of the industry, project managers may be required to work out of the office and sometimes to stay away from home for short periods of time. The role of the project manager can often be quite stressful, particularly when deadlines are approaching or problems arise so project managers need to be able to keep calm at all times and to work effectively under pressure.
Most employers place high value on having appropriate experience within a relevant industry. Any experience of working on projects, within a management capacity or in a business-related environment will be useful for becoming a project manager. It may also be useful to have some experience of using project management software such as PRINCE 2 packages, MS Project or Workbench.
Most large companies in the business, manufacturing and construction industries require in-house project managers. There are also plenty of job opportunities with project management consultancy firms who contract employees out to companies when project management is required. Alternatively many project managers work on a freelance basis: this can be a lucrative way of working but it is also a lot less reliable as it requires freelancers to build up their own list of contacts.
Many employers provide on the job training to allow project managers to develop their skills and in order to carry out more challenging projects within the company. It is common for employers to offer training in PRINCE 2 and other project management software packages. Employers may also offer employees the opportunity to work towards professional qualifications through organisations such as: the Association for Project Management, Project Management Institute or the Chartered Management Institute. Common professional qualifications include Certified Associate in Project Management certification, PRINCE 2 certification and Project Management Professional Certification. Most professional organisations require a good first degree as a prerequisite for advancement to professional qualifications but they usually regard NVQ levels 4 and 5 in project management as an equivalent qualification.
Also known as…
- Project Leader
- Team Leader
What’s it really like?
Phil Howard worked for Morepay, a computer payroll company, for twenty-eight years before leaving the company to set up his own business. He gives us the inside story…
I began working for Morepay Ltd as a centre manager and was later promoted to a line of sight manager which meant I managed the production, printing and dispatch side of the company across all our national centres. A couple of years ago, my section of the company was rationalised which meant several different offices across the location were closed and brought to one central location. Because of my skills and experience as a line of sight manager I was elected to project manage the rationalisation.
A project manager is a very varied and demanding job and no two days are ever the same. At the start of the project I had the responsibility of confirming the objectives of the project with the company director, developing a project team by identifying people with the relevant skills, and working with the team to plan each stage of the project (when it would happen, which members of staff would be involved etc) After that my typical tasks included training staff, advising clients, overseeing redundancies, meeting with the director, contacting suppliers, liaising with software engineers and making sure each stage of the project happened on time.
There were lots of things I enjoyed about being a project manager, particularly the sense of satisfaction that came at the end of the project when everything finally came together and the rationalisation happened as planned. I enjoyed the challenge of being involved in so many different areas of work and I liked having a job that allowed me to use the different skills I had developed over the years. On the downside, the project involved making quite a lot of hardworking members of staff redundant which wasn’t a nice thing to have to do. I also found it difficult when people didn’t return phone calls and when suppliers or other external employees didn’t follow through with what they had agreed. Having responsibility for so many areas of work can be very stressful at times!
For anyone wanting to work as a project manager I would emphasise that communication skills and good planning abilities are key: try to get experience working in a job where you have to communicate with people in all different areas of a company. Communication really is the most important part of project management: if you don’t have comprehensive written objectives from the company director at the start of the project there will probably be lots of problems along the way.
There are so many different skills involved in project management which are useful in all different professions. I left Morepay about eighteen months ago to set up my own business. Working as a project manager gave me lots of vital skills for running a business such as dealing with suppliers, planning my work, meeting deadlines and identifying critical requirements. I don’t expect to go back to being a project manager but I know I will draw on my experiences whatever work I do in the future.