It’s one thing to come up with a great idea, and it’s another to bring that idea to life. There are details big and small to manage along the way from idea to end result. And that’s where project managers come in.
Project managers shepherd a project through every stage from start to finish. They create a plan for a project’s progress, coordinate personnel involved and manage scope, deadlines, budget and quality. And when problems come up, they lead the project team to make whatever adjustments are necessary to get things back on track. Their job requires a combination of hard and soft skills to manage the many moving parts of a project, crunch numbers and evaluate risks while also motivating team members, communicating effectively and providing leadership.
“Having the ability to take a step back and ask good questions is critical in a project manager,” said Annette Suh, IT project manager at Liberty Mutual Insurance and president of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Project Management Institute. “You don't have to know all the answers, you just need to figure out who to go to get them.”
And, at the end of the day, there’s a sense of achievement in the job. “I feel like I accomplish goals every day,” said Suh. “I enjoy solving problems and helping large teams accomplish great feats.”
More Projects, More Project Managers
With the recent economic uptick, companies in industries ranging from construction to health care, biotech to IT, are taking on new projects, and demand for project managers is strong. According a recent PMI report, 15.7 million new project management roles will be created globally between 2010 and 2020.
In the Puget Sound area, organizations across many fields – like Microsoft, Sellen Construction, Starbucks, King County, Group Health and the University of Washington – have recently posted openings for project managers. In a tech city like Seattle, though, having expertise in IT project management is a definite plus. “Software projects are very common here,” said Suh, “so knowledge of the software development life cycle, or SDLC, can only help.”
Becoming a Project Manager
To work in project management, you need a well-rounded mix of education and experience, said Suh. Project managers often have bachelor’s degrees related to the industries they work in. For example, IT project managers may have a degree in computer science while construction project managers may have a degree in engineering. Some project managers have an MBA or have pursued specialized training, such as the Certificate in Project Management offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education.
For people who are new to project management, Suh recommends getting experience managing projects in your current job or by volunteering at a nonprofit. After you have some training and experience under your belt, you can pursue the well-respected Project Management Professional credential from the Project Management Institute, which can boost your earning potential.
Advancing Your Education in Project Management
If you’re ready to start or advance your education in project management, UW Professional & Continuing Education offers several certificate programs that can help.
* Students earn continuing education units that meet PMI certification requirements.