How do I get Started in a Project Management Career?

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  • Written By: Stephanie Partridge
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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A project management career can be very rewarding and lucrative. It is the job of a project management professional (PMP) to pull in a tight focus solely on the project, even though he or she may not necessarily have experience in the type of work that the project requires. His or her job is strictly to manage. Getting started in a project management career may involve several avenues, including education, certification, and on-the-job training.

Education is always a good place to start, particularly if you are lacking the skills and experience in management. There are a myriad of educational choices available, including online courses, classroom programs, and combinations of the two. Some programs are as short as eighteen months, while a project management degree program can take four to five years. The coursework often covers a variety of topics, from management to human resources to time management to budgetary management.


PMP certification courses are typically 36 or more course hours of instructor led training, and prepare students for obtaining their project management certification. These PMP certification courses are generally quite intense, focused, and very comprehensive. Some programs have prerequisites such as a required number of college credits, a college degree, a certain number of hours of project management experience, a certain number of hours of project management training, or any combination thereof. This varies from program to program, so if you are planning to begin a PMP certification course, it would be wise to check out the prerequisites first.

Even if you are planning to get your certification, it is a good idea to get some practical experience as a project manager. In the long run, experience will help to propel your project management career, particularly when combined with education and certification. You can apply project management skills and principles to just about any job that you have, even if you are not in a leadership position. To apply project management concepts to projects that are assigned to you at work, or even if you are a volunteer, take a focused, organized, management-oriented approach.

Create a comprehensive report or project analysis that lays out the project and details its various aspects. You can do this even if you are the only person on the project. You will start with a project overview, in which you clearly define your work or project objectives. Identify the resources that are necessary for you to accomplish your goal. Before you begin your project, clearly define its deliverables and obtain approval of those deliverables prior to the project start.

Set delivery dates that are realistic, then meet or exceed those projections. Throughout the lifespan of the project, communicate its status to your manager or to the project client. It is a good idea to send out a brief weekly report if you are able. In that report, include status of project, milestones reached, risks or threats, a synopsis of work completed since the last report, and any problems that may impact the delivery date. Identify any problems in the project before you are asked, and include these in your report as well as in the analysis.

At regular intervals throughout the life of the project, include additional information in the project analysis, make recommendations, and offer solutions. At the completion of the project, include a section on lessons learned, then submit the report to your manager. By approaching your projects in this manner, you are giving yourself real-time, on-the-job project management experience. You can highlight this experience as you pursue a project management career.

When you begin to seek and apply for project management jobs, you need a good resume that has a strong focus on management and leadership. Hiring managers tend to look at the total number of years the applicant has in managing projects, the complexity and size of the projects, what type of budgets were managed, and who you reported to. Briefly outline scenarios of things you actually did as you worked in the capacity of a project manager. This will give your resume more power and make it stand out.

Always keep the management aspect of your job duties in consideration so that you can use the experience later on your career path. Look for ways to shape your work to reflect your goals. Whether you choose to get a degree in project management, take a certification course, or work to get the experience, you can make your dream of a project management career a reality.


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