How to Become a Project Manager in 6 Easy Steps (2023)

What is a project manager?

Project managers plan, lead teams, keep projects on time and within budget, and are ultimately responsible for the success, or failure, of a project.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Well it is, but like almost anything worthwhile, becoming a project manager also takes some work. But after reading this piece you’ll know how to build your background, grow your skills, and get hired as a real-life project manager.

Looking for tips on becoming a better project manager? Watch this video to learn how to develop your skills even further.

1. How to become a project manager: Getting started

If you think that you’d like to become a project manager, I’m guessing it’s because you already have strong organizational skills and natural leadership abilities.

If so, you’re already off to a good start, because you can treat your career like one big project and use those skills to get it done. Now if you’re just starting out, good for you

(Video) How to get into PROJECT MANAGEMENT with NO EXPERIENCE | UK | 7 TIPS

These first few steps apply to any career, but I’ll go over them briefly anyway: work hard to get good grades in school, eat healthy, get plenty of fresh air and exercise, stay out of trouble, and don’t post anything ridiculous on social media that will come back to bite you in the bottom when you’re looking for a job.

2. Gain informal “project management” experience

You don’t become a project manager by opening up a project management stand, or offering to manage projects on Craigslist. You become a project manager by managing projects. And you can find projects all over the place.

Projects happen everyday in the wild, so do what you enjoy and be ready to apply your organizational and leadership skills when the situation presents itself.

If you’re interested in military service (veterans make great project managers), join your R.O.T.C. Or, if you’re a veteran in a different career, consider that your military experience may be almost all you need to transition into a career as a project manager. If you want to design video games, join a video game developers club. Did you know that many video games teach fundamental project management skills?

That way, you can eventually be a project manager AND work in a field that you love.

3. Work on your people skills

No successful project was ever completed with the project manager sitting at a computer the entire time devising Gantt charts and studying the Cynefin framework.

Okay, maybe some projects ended up being “good enough” even with an aloof PM, but only because someone else picked up the slack and handled all the interpersonal workings that make a project go. And that person probably got promoted over the antisocial PM in the future.

(Video) Steps in a Project Manager Career Path

The point is: projects are made up of people, so project managers must put as much effort into knowing, coaching, and communicating with their people as they spend on the technical side of things.

4. Learn how to use the tools of the project management trade

Soft skills can get you pretty far, and may even be enough to land your first bona-fide project manager position, but, eventually, you’re going to need to show off some technical skills.

If that sounds difficult, fear not. Project management software is designed to assist project managers and their teams with things like collaboration, budgeting, scheduling, and more. Some of the most popular tools available include Microsoft Project, Atlassian, and Basecamp, just to name a few.

Learning how to use new software may sound daunting, but this is 2017, and most good project management software is user friendly and includes plenty of support. There are also lots of online resources available. For example, check out all of these Microsoft Project courses offered by Microsoft.

A Capterra study concluded that “organizations are completing their projects on time and on budget and with higher quality when implementing project management software.” So knowing how to use it is a big plus on your resume.

You wouldn’t try to get a job as an accountant without knowing how to use QuickBooks, Freshbooks, or even Microsoft Excel, would you?

Beyond software, project managers also need to be skilled in things like:

(Video) Project Management: Getting a PM Job (With no Experience)

  • Budgeting
  • Communication
  • Contract management
  • Planning
  • Risk management
  • Scheduling

5. Get certified

The value of a project management certification is a hot topic of debate in the project management community, but there is a near consensus that it can’t hurt your career.

The Project Management Professional certification is the most popular and widely-recognized project management certification. The PMP certification is for working project managers who already have lots of experience, but there are other options out there for those with less experience. For example, the CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management).

Good news: We have found some great courses to prepare you to pass your project management certification.

6. Put yourself out there

Now that you’ve gained some non-project management experience, worked on your interpersonal skills, learned how to use some project management tools, and maybe even earned a certification, you’re ready to start applying for jobs. Job applications are never easy, whether you’re trying to become a zookeeper or a project manager, but if you have thoroughly checked off steps 1-5, you should be ready and confident.

So now it’s time to polish your resume, get your suit pressed, and land some interviews.

Appendix: Where do you look for project manager jobs?

While lists more than 60,000 project manager jobs open at the time this was written, research also suggests that many project managers ascend to their roles without even planning to become a project manager in the first place.

According to Gartner analysis on project manager career paths:

(Video) Can you become a Project Manager?

Without quite being assigned the role, or accepting it, an individual steps into a planning, leading and tracking role for which he or she may not be well-equipped or authorized. Individuals are often known by word of mouth as having coordinated some past projects and are occasionally tapped to do so again. From here, it is not far to a point where ‘… and project manager’ is appended to their real job title, first informally, and later, more formally.—Project Manager Career Paths Are Critical to Strengthening Your PM Workforce, by Matt Light

So whether you’re just starting out or in the middle of your career, whether you’re working at a construction company or a tech firm, it’s more important to have project management skills than to have the project manager name tag. You could find yourself with “…and project manager” attached to the back of your title before you even know it.

The final step

The more time you spend in project management, the more you’ll hear the term “agile,” which is the overarching mindset that virtually all of modern project management is built upon. Being agile means being flexible, adapting to changing conditions, and working in iterations.

So you can be agile in your approach to your project management career by periodically looking back over these steps to make sure you’re staying on the right path. Been spending too much time with your head down in your office? Get out there with your team to see how they’re doing, or pick up an old hobby. Notice that your new hires are throwing around terminology that sounds like a different language? Take a course in a tool you’re unfamiliar with, or consider adding a new certification or refreshing an old one.

Be an efficient project manager by leveraging agile methodologies with agile project management software.

The best part? Every skill you hone during these six steps (except for maybe the certifications) can be applied to just about any career, and can even help you become a better person in general.

(Video) How To Become A Project Manager In 2022

Think about it: time management, organizational skills, leadership qualities. Who wouldn’t benefit from those characteristics?

Your advice?

If you’re a project manager who started off without a plan, I want to know your advice for someone who is trying to get their first job. Send them to me on Twitter @CapterraAC, or continue the discussion in the comments. And if you’re hungry for more project management career talk, check out these pieces:

  • The 10 Most Common Project Management Interview Questions
  • How Much Do Project Managers Make?
  • PMP vs. PRINCE2: Which Is Right For You?
  • The Top 5 Highest Paying PMP Jobs


How do I train myself to be a project manager? ›

TL;DR: The steps to becoming a project manager
  1. Start managing projects.
  2. Keep managing projects.
  3. Learn the skills and theory behind managing projects.
  4. Use Teamwork to manage your projects.
  5. Get better at managing projects.
  6. Decide if you want to get a project management certification.
  7. Continue to manage projects.

How do I become a project manager with no experience? ›

How to get a project management job with no experience
  1. Showcase foundational skills. ...
  2. Sign up with a mentor. ...
  3. Get certified. ...
  4. Find training opportunities. ...
  5. Earn your bachelor's degree. ...
  6. Explore project coordinator positions.

What makes a good project plan? ›

A project plan defines the project's goals, resources, strategies, finances, risks, and plan of action in great detail. In addition, the project management plan includes other relevant documents, such as project charter, risk register, communication strategy, etc.

What makes a good project manager? ›

Good project managers understand and know their market and the industry of their projects. They study the competition and evaluate alternatives. A good project manager stays up to date on the latest trends in the industry of their project, and they exhibit a solid understanding and expertise of their industry.

What should I study to become a project manager? ›

A few ways to get certified include:
  • PM/BA. Earning a degree or certification from a formal undergraduate and graduate education program.
  • PMP (Project Management Professional) Provided by the Project Management Institute (PMI), this is an internationally recognized certification.
  • Agile/Scrum.
Oct 14, 2022

Is project manager a good job? ›

Yes, project management is definitely a good career with high salaries and plenty of variety at work, but it's also a demanding job that can be highly stressful at times.

How can I improve my PM skills? ›

How to improve your project management skills
  1. Prioritise tasks with a project schedule. ...
  2. Make use of project management software. ...
  3. Use effective communication skills to manage people. ...
  4. Be proactive. ...
  5. Continuously develop your project management skill set.
Nov 6, 2019

Can anyone be a project manager? ›

The answer is, yes. You may not have all the skills right now, but with dedication, perseverance, and passion, anyone can learn to be an outstanding project manager. Based on our experience, we'll answer some questions you may have, whether you are a fresh graduate or someone in the early stages of their career.

How hard is it to be a project manager? ›

Project management is one of the most challenging careers as no day will be the same, and you will need all your project management skills to solve every problem. Also, you'll be the first person your team goes to when a problem occurs. They might expect you to hold the answers to any inquiry.

Where can I study project management? ›

The universities that offer Project Management courses are:
  • University of Pretoria (UP)
  • University of Cape Town (UCT)
  • University of South Africa (Unisa)
  • University of Stellenbosch.
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)
  • University of Witwatersrand (Wits)
Jan 4, 2022

What is a project manager job description? ›

A project manager has to plan and develop the project idea. They need to create and lead the team, monitor project progress, set deadlines, solve issues that arise, manage money, ensure stakeholder satisfaction, and evaluate project performance, including the performance of their team members.

What makes a project successful? ›

Successful projects are those that 1) meet business requirements, 2) are delivered and maintained on schedule, 3) are delivered and maintained within budget, and 4) deliver the expected business value and return on investment.

What is a simple project plan? ›

Your project plan is a formal document that outlines an entire project's goals and objectives, specific tasks, and what success looks like.

What are the 5 stages of a project? ›

Five stages of project management
  • initiation.
  • planning.
  • execution.
  • monitoring and control.
  • closure.

How do you define a project? ›

A project is defined as a sequence of tasks that must be completed to attain a certain outcome. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the term Project refers to ” to any temporary endeavor with a definite beginning and end”. Depending on its complexity, it can be managed by a single person or hundreds.

What are the 7 phases of a project? ›

Take a look at the seven stages of the project management lifecycle to achieve optimal results regardless of your industry.
  • Planning. Also called initiating, the planning stage is the most important part of the project management lifecycle. ...
  • Analysis. ...
  • Design and analysis. ...
  • 4. Development. ...
  • Testing. ...
  • Implementation. ...
  • Maintenance.
Jul 11, 2022

What are the 6 standard phases of a construction project? ›

Likewise, a project that results in the development of a new product might contain the following phases: conceptual, technical feasibility, development, commercial validation and production preparation, full-scale production and product support.

What are the 4 main processes of project management? ›

Planning, build-up, implementation, and closeout.

What are the 5 stages of the project life cycle? ›

The five stages of the project life cycle are:
  • Initiating.
  • Planning.
  • Executing.
  • Monitoring/controlling.
  • Closing.
Mar 18, 2022

What is project life cycle? ›

The Project Lifecycle is the sequence of phases through which a project progresses. It includes initiation, planning, execution, and closure.

What is project management life cycle? ›

The project management lifecycle consists of four steps: initiating, planning, executing, and closing.

What is the first step in project planning? ›

Step 1: Identify and meet with stakeholders

Make sure you identify all stakeholders and keep their interests in mind when creating your project plan. Meet with the project sponsors and key stakeholders to discuss their needs and project expectations, and establish a scope baseline, budget, and timeline.

How do you define a project? ›

A project is defined as a sequence of tasks that must be completed to attain a certain outcome. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the term Project refers to ” to any temporary endeavor with a definite beginning and end”. Depending on its complexity, it can be managed by a single person or hundreds.

What is the first step of construction? ›

Creating a Concept and Design. The very first stage of construction is to create a concept, followed by a design and blueprints. Typically, this is done with the help of an architect to ensure everything is up-to-code and that the design will be structurally-sound and stable.

How do you create a project management plan in 9 simple steps online? ›

How to create a project plan online
  1. Step 1: Identify all stakeholders. ...
  2. Step 2: Define roles and responsibilities. ...
  3. Step 3: Hold a kickoff meeting. ...
  4. Step 4: Define project scope, budget, and timeline. ...
  5. Step 5: Set and prioritize goals. ...
  6. Step 6: Define deliverables. ...
  7. Step 7: Create a project schedule. ...
  8. Step 8: Do a risk assessment.

What are the main project activities? ›

Project Management Activities List
  • Resource Management. ...
  • Scope Management. ...
  • Control of the estimation process. ...
  • Control scheduling. ...
  • Communication Management. ...
  • Project Risk Management. ...
  • Configuration Management. ...
  • Monitoring and planning.
Aug 24, 2021

What are the 5 management process? ›

At the most fundamental level, management is a discipline that consists of a set of five general functions: planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. These five functions are part of a body of practices and theories on how to be a successful manager.

How do you select a project? ›

How to select a project
  1. Make sure the project fits the company's strategy. Discuss with all stakeholders whether a project you're considering fits into the company's overall business strategy. ...
  2. Understand your company environment. ...
  3. Consider and analyze historical data. ...
  4. Decide who will be the project champion.
Jun 22, 2021

What quality should a project manager have? ›

Effective communication skills.

One of the qualities of a good manager is being a good communicator so that he can connect with people at all levels. The project manager must clearly explain the project goals as well as each member's tasks, responsibilities, expectations and feedback.

Why is project management important? ›

Project management is important because it brings leadership and direction to projects. Without project management, a team can be like a ship without a rudder; moving but without direction, control, or purpose. Leadership allows and enables team members to do their best work.


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