What are the Qualifications to Be a Project Manager?

by Ellie Williams; Updated September 26, 2017
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A project manager oversees every aspect of a project, from choosing materials to assigning employees to specific tasks. A project manager must be well-rounded, skilled in both the technical and human relations aspects of leading a team. Because the job duties are so far-reaching, and so diverse, project managers need expertise not only in their industry or in management techniques, but also in communicating with employees and building relationships among their team members.

Academic Degrees

Companies usually select the most educated and experienced members of their staffs to lead projects. Project managers often have at least an undergraduate degree in business, but some employers may require an MBA or other advanced degree. Or, he may need a degree in the industry he works in, especially if it’s a technical field like engineering or aerospace. Some colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate education in project management, either as a standalone degree, or as an area of concentration within another degree.

Project Management Certification

Some employers may require certification in project management, either as a substitute for a degree in project management, or as an additional credential. According to the Project Management Institute, a 2007 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that 80 percent of successful projects are led by a project manager with professional credentials. She can obtain certification in project management through a college or university, or through a professional association like PMI. Certification can be used to demonstrate skill in a specialized area of project management, such as risk management, scheduling or program management.

Organization and Planning Skills

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, project managers must be skilled in planning and organizing every detail of a project, including estimating costs, delegating authority, deciding how to use equipment and materials and measuring progress and results. Project managers must be able to see the big picture and make long-term plans, and know how to estimate and anticipate risks and obstacles. They must also be flexible enough to make adjustments in response to changes that arise during the project.

Communication Skills

Project managers not only oversee and coordinate a project, they also explain the goals for the project and the tasks assigned to each team member. Even if a project manager has years of expertise in his industry and extensive training in project management, he won’t be able to lead his team unless he can communicate effectively. He needs to master how to offer constructive criticism and feedback, how to help team members communicate with each other and how to listen to and understand employees when they come to him with questions, concerns or input about the project.

Team Building

A project manager oversees not only the project, but also the team of employees working on the project. Project managers must encourage cooperation, collaboration and communication among team members, and help them resolve any disagreements that arise during the project. If the project is lengthy, or progress is slow, the project manager may need to boost morale to ensure employees continue to work well together and contribute their best efforts.

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