Project Manager

The Job and What's Involved

Project managers take overall responsibility for the delivery of a project, including planning, co-ordination and financial control. Projects include buildings of all types and sizes, new products - from mp3 players to new aircraft carriers - restoration and environmental projects, and IT-based projects. Projects are also used to help companies make major changes to their business.

Project management is a discipline that can be practiced in many industries and commercial sectors. Project managers are responsible for managing a project from the initial decision through to successful completion, on time and within budget. They manage relationships with the client throughout the project and are responsible for reporting on, and resolving, any issues that may arise. They are also responsible for ensuring the most effective and efficient utilisation of people and resources required for the duration of the project.

Skilled project managers are now viewed as vital to business success in so many different industry sectors - not just the traditional engineering, construction and manufacturing sectors, but also in many service-based areas. Project managers play a key role in areas as diverse as IT, telecom's, health services, education, local and national government, media, sport and leisure.

The work of a project manager generally includes the following stages:

  • Discussion with the client or sponsor to understand and define exactly what is required.
  • Agreeing the scope, timescale, budgets and quality standards required.
  • Developing a detailed project plan.
  • Selecting and leading a project team.
  • Monitoring the project to make sure it is progressing on time, to budget and to the necessary quality standards.
  • Meeting the clients or sponsors regularly to report on the project's progress.

For some projects, project managers may approach external contractors and negotiate with them for the supply of materials and services. They may also arrange training for the client.

The use of computers is an important part of the work. Specialist software is used for project planning and scheduling, risk analysis, time recording, costing, estimating and other aspects of project control.

Hours of work vary between jobs. Some project managers work 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, while others have no set hours. The need to meet deadlines can sometimes mean working long hours, including evenings and weekends.

Much of their work is office based, but project managers also travel to visit clients and to see how projects are progressing. They may spend time away from home. If a project is abroad, they may be away from home for several days at a time.

Initial salaries, for members of a project's support team, may range from around £20,000 to £27,000 a year. Experienced project managers may earn between £30,000 and £60,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Project management is a growing field. The Association for Project Management (APM) has over 15,500 members, and membership is increasing.

Project managers are employed throughout the UK by organisations of all types. They work in construction, civil engineering, banking, insurance, accountancy, law, sales, marketing, information technology, manufacturing and engineering, for public bodies such as the National Health Service, and in local and central government. Some project managers work for consultancy firms.

A project manager may have a permanent contract with an employer or may work on fixed-term contracts for the duration of individual projects. Projects can vary in length from a few weeks to several years.

Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, industry magazines such as Project and Project Manager Today, through recruitment agencies and on recruitment website's.

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications for training in this work, but in practice most project managers have considerable experience in commerce or industry, in business, management, ICT, engineering, construction or science.

Experience in a relevant subject may be gained at any level, from apprenticeship to postgraduate, and people may start in this job without necessarily having a project management qualification, if they have relevant knowledge and experience of the sector.

Some universities run foundation degree, degree or postgraduate courses in project management, often in combination with construction or civil engineering.

For a degree course, candidates usually need at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*- C), or equivalent. Candidates should check with individual institutions for the specific grade or subject requirements.

Applicants with relevant experience may be accepted on to degree courses without the usual qualifications. They may prepare for a degree by taking an Access course.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Project managers are usually selected as a result of their experience and qualifications and trained on the job by experienced colleagues. They may choose to study part time for degree and postgraduate qualifications in project management.

There are also several organisations that offer professional qualifications relevant both for inexperienced project managers and for project managers with several years of experience. These are:

Association for Project Management (APM) - offers project management awards. The APM Practitioner Qualification is an intermediate qualification. The Certificated Project Manager qualification enables the holder to apply for the senior management Constructions Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, once they have completed the managerial-level health and safety test.

Project Management Institute - courses available online.

Chartered Management Institute - offers an extensive range of specialist management qualifications leading to chartered status.

Information Systems Examination Board (for project management in IT) - offers a Foundation Certificate in IS Project Management and an Advanced Certificate in Programme and Project Support Office.

There are also NVQ's in Project Management at Levels 4 and 5.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is important for project managers.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A project manager should:

  • Have strong leadership and people management skills.
  • Be capable of problem solving.
  • Be logical and methodical.
  • Be able to meet deadlines.
  • Have excellent communication skills, both spoken and written.
  • Have strong organisational skills.
  • Be skilled at negotiation.
  • Work well in a team.
  • Work well under pressure.
  • Have good computer skills.
  • Be able to understand complex information.
  • Be able to work on several projects at the same time.
  • Have an understanding of budgetary control.

Your Long Term Prospects

A first post in project management may be as part of the support team in a project. People may then progress to team leader for part of a project and then to project manager.

Project managers can progress to senior management posts, although it may be necessary to move between employers to progress. Some managers set up their own consultancy business.

There may be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

Association for Project Management (APM)
Tel: 0845 458 1944
Website: www.apm.org.uk

Chartered Management Institute
Tel: 01536 204222
Website: www.managers.org.uk

Information Systems Examination Board
Tel: 01793 417417
Website: www.bcs.org

Project Management Institute
Website: www.pmi.org

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