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Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Project Manager


In today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape, project management has emerged as a critical function for organizations aiming to achieve their strategic objectives efficiently and effectively. As businesses increasingly rely on projects to drive innovation, growth and change, the demand for skilled project managers continues to rise. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how to become a project manager, outlining the steps you can take to embark on a rewarding career in the field.

Project manager assists colleague with a project at their desk.

How to Prepare for a Project Management Career

Before diving into the specifics, it’s essential to understand the core responsibilities of a project manager. Working in just about every industry, project managers are tasked with overseeing the entire lifecycle of a project, from conception to completion. They coordinate across teams to ensure projects are delivered on time, within budget and to the required quality standards. 

This role involves strategic planning, resource allocation, risk management, stakeholder communication and team leadership. If you’re interested in gaining the multifaceted skill set required of project managers, consider the following steps: 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor’s degree is considered the minimum educational requirement for project managers. While the field is diverse and welcomes professionals from various educational backgrounds, certain majors will better provide you with the foundation you’ll need for a successful project management career. 

A bachelor’s degree in project management is ideal, but degrees in business administration, management, engineering and information technology are also commonly pursued by aspiring project managers. These programs often cover important topics like organizational behavior, project planning, financial management and information systems, equipping students with a broad skill set that is applicable across industries

2. Choose a Project Management Specialization

Project management is part of a wide range of industries and sectors, each with its unique challenges and opportunities. As you progress on your journey toward becoming a project manager, it can help to consider where your interests and passions lie. 

For example, you might envision yourself leading large-scale construction projects, implementing innovative technology solutions, or orchestrating complex marketing campaigns. By identifying your niche early on, you can tailor your education and training to align with your career aspirations, positioning yourself for success in whichever industry you select.

3. Pursue Certification

While not mandatory, obtaining a project management certification can significantly enhance your credentials and credibility in the field. The Project Management Institute (PMI®) offers several globally recognized certifications, including the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) and the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Certification

Agile methodologies have also become integral to effective project management in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. There are a range of Agile certification opportunities you can pursue, including the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® and the Disciplined Agile® Scrum Master (DASM) certification

To qualify for these certifications, candidates must meet specific requirements, including a combination of project management education and experience. The certification process typically involves passing a rigorous exam that tests candidates’ knowledge of project management principles, processes and best practices. 

4. Acquire Industry Experience

In the realm of project management, experience is more than just a valuable asset — it’s a prerequisite for success. While formal education and certifications can provide a solid foundation of knowledge, it’s the hands-on experience that truly sharpens your skills and prepares you for the challenges of real-world projects. 

As an aspiring project manager, you should seek out opportunities to immerse yourself in project environments. Whether it’s through internships, entry-level positions or volunteer work, every opportunity to contribute to a project is a chance to learn and grow. You might consider starting by taking on roles like project coordinator or assistant project manager where you can support more experienced professionals while gaining firsthand exposure to project management practices, from stakeholder engagement to risk mitigation. 

It can also be helpful to actively seek feedback from mentors, supervisors and peers. By reflecting on your successes and challenges, you can continuously refine your project management skills while demonstrating a commitment to learning and improvement. 

5. Consider Post-Baccalaureate Education

In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, continuous learning is essential for staying ahead of the curve. Many consider building upon their repertoire of industry knowledge and skills by pursuing advanced education in project management, such as a master’s degree or graduate certificate program

Post-baccalaureate opportunities like these allow you to delve deeper into specialized topics such as project risk management, procurement and strategic leadership. This will help equip you with the advanced skills and knowledge needed to tackle complex projects and lead high-performing teams. Advanced education can also open doors to senior-level positions and career advancement within your organization. 

Take the First Steps Toward Becoming a Project Manager

As you embark on this journey into the world of project management, it’s important to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come your way. Each project is a chance to learn, grow and make a meaningful difference with your work. 

Success as a project manager isn’t just about delivering projects on time and within budget — it’s about building strong relationships and fostering collaboration while driving positive outcomes for your organization and stakeholders. By following the steps outlined above, you’ll gain what you need to lay a solid foundation for a fulfilling and impactful career. 

The Project Management Department at Saint Louis University (SLU) can provide you with the preparation and guidance you’ll need for a fruitful project management career. Explore our program options below: 

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