How to Become a Project Manager
How to Become a Project Manager

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.

Projected Growth

U.S. (2020-30): 6%
Washington state (2018-28): 14%

Median Annual salary

U.S. (2020): $77,420
Washington state (2020): $81,130

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET

“Having the ability to take a step back and ask good questions is critical in a project manager,” says Annette Suh, a project management consultant and former 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,” says 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, 22 million new project management roles will be created globally in the coming decade.

In the Puget Sound area, companies across many fields — like Amazon, Starbucks, T-Mobile and Redfin  — have recently posted openings for project managers. In a tech city like Seattle, having expertise in IT project management is a definite plus.

“Software projects are very common here,” says 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, according to 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 UW 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 (PMP) credential from the Project Management Institute (PMI), which can boost your earning potential. In both the UW Certificate in Project Management and the UW Certificate in Biotechnology Project Management, students earn continuing education units that meet PMI certification requirements.

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 and courses that can help.

For more career tips and industry trends, visit the News & Features section of our website, and subscribe to our email list. To learn more about UW Professional & Continuing Education certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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