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How Do I Become a Project Manager?

Pursuing higher education in project management will expose students to fundamental concepts like time, cost and quality management.
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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2014
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There are four steps required to become a project manager: post-secondary education, certification, experience and interpersonal skills. A project manager is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the team members, creating the project plan and managing the budget. All these items are necessary to have a successful project, regardless of project type.

Project managers can be found in the engineering, construction and information technology industries. The specific skills for each industry may vary, but the core project management skills are the same across all industries. Post-secondary education is a prerequisite to become a project manager, with a three- or four-year degree from an accredited university or community college a standard requirement for most employers. The field of study may vary, but typically, a degree in business, engineering or computer science is acceptable.

Certification as a project manager is coordinated through the Project Management Institute®. This organization offers internationally recognized certification as a Project Management Professional®. The designation requires a combination of education and experience. A comprehensive exam is required before the designation is awarded.

A minimum of three years of project management experience is required to qualify for the project management certification. It is very rare for anyone to obtain a project management role without at least three years in the workforce. The skills necessary to succeed in this role develop over time and with maturity.

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The personal skills that are required to become a project manager include leadership, team building, problem solving, negotiating, communicating and planning. Leadership skills primarily focus on meeting the needs of other. These skills include interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, balancing priorities and managing others.

Team building is very important, as most projects required people from different areas to work together. The ability to diffuse conflicts and encourage cooperation is very important. Holding people accountable for their work and ensuring that no one is blaming other areas is central to the success of any large project.

A project team is usually formed to meet a need or solve a problem. All projects have problems. There are technical, functional, logistic, timing and interpersonal problems. When you become a project manager, you will spend most of your time planning to reduce problems and solving current problems.

Negotiations and compromise are part of any project. Working with others requires a give and take balance between your immediate needs and their needs. Communication skills are critical to ensure that the team is focused on the same goal, moving forward toward that goal and is driven to meet specific milestones.

A lack of organization skills can easily derail an otherwise successful project. Keep all paperwork in order, create and circulate minutes from each meeting, manage the change request process and ensure that all modifications are communicated in writing to all involved parties. Build a disciplined paper trail surrounding change requests and apply it consistently. This simple item alone can make a huge difference in the project.

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