What Is Project Management? Everything You Need To Know – Forbes Advisor

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Businesses rely on competent project managers to keep their operations running smoothly. These professionals oversee projects throughout their life cycles, ensuring teams stay focused and on schedule. This essential skill set makes project management specialists valuable employees across diverse industries, including construction, technology, finance and manufacturing.

This article gives an overview of what project management is and how to start your project management career, including degree options and recommended certifications.

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Project management uses specific skills to deliver valuable products and services to consumers across various industries. Project managers play a vital role in the construction of new highways, the development of software to maximize business efficiency, and strategies for relief efforts following natural disasters.

Project timelines and goals can vary. Projects are usually broken down into tasks and deliverables, requiring a competent manager to navigate these moving parts.

Learners can study project management at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels.

Like most bachelor’s programs, a bachelor’s in project management typically takes four years of full-time study to complete. Most undergraduate project management curricula consist of approximately 120 credits.

Many schools offer standalone bachelor’s programs in project management. Other schools may include project management as a concentration within a bachelor of business administration program. The latter provides a broader business foundation, while the former provides more specialized and comprehensive project management coursework.

Most project management master’s degrees require students to complete approximately 30 to 45 credits within one to two years. Learners may have the flexibility to pursue these programs on a full-time or part-time basis.

Requirements for master’s programs in project management vary by school, often including case studies, hands-on experience, and projects to mirror the tasks project managers are likely to encounter in their careers.

The project management space values tangible skills and a proven track record. Project management certifications demonstrate expertise and can increase your employment prospects. Certification can even raise your earning potential; the Project Management Institute reports that its Project Management Professional® certification boosts salaries by 33% on average.

PMI administers and awards the certifications listed below. Each option has its own education and professional experience requirements.

The CAPM credential is intended for entry-level project managers aiming to establish themselves in the field. Candidates must pass an examination covering the fundamentals of project management. CAPM certification is a common first step for people who want to earn PMI’s project management professional certification.

The PMI-ACP certification is for experienced project managers who demonstrate proficiency in agile principles and techniques. The certification covers agile approaches like Scrum, Lean and Kanban. Candidates must pass a three-hour examination consisting of 120 multiple-choice questions.

The PMI-PBA credential is for project managers specializing in business analysis. These professionals define business requirements and shape outputs and outcomes. Candidates can take the required examination anytime from their home or office.

PMI offers the Project Management Ready certification for professionals who want to apply project management principles across various industries. This credential primarily targets industry newcomers, including high school and college students.

According to PMI, 50% of projects fail to meet the initial agreed-upon timeline. The PMI-SP certification is for professionals who want to master project scheduling to help their teams complete their tasks on time. Candidates must pass a 3.5-hour exam consisting of 170 multiple-choice questions.

The PMI-RMP credential is for professionals with advanced risk management and large project experience. The certification is a good option for professionals at all managerial levels, from project managers to C-suite executives.

The PfMP designation is for senior-level portfolio managers seeking career advancement. The certification demonstrates advanced competency in portfolio management and the consistent achievement of strategic objectives and high return on investment with portfolios.

The PgMP certification is for professionals who oversee multiple projects for their organizations. To earn this credential, candidates need at least 48 months of project management experience or PMP® certification. Bachelor’s degree holders should also hold 48 months of program management experience within the last 15 years, and those without a bachelor’s need 81 months.

The PMP designation is the gold standard for professional project managers, signifying expertise and mastery in the field. Candidates must complete 36 months of professional project management experience within the past eight years, CAPM certification or 35 hours of project management professional development, and a four-year degree.

Candidates without a bachelor’s degree can still qualify for PMP certification with 60 months of professional project management experience. Additionally, all candidates must pass a 180-question exam.

According to PMI, employers must fill approximately 25 million project management roles to meet global demand by 2030. This talent gap makes qualified project managers highly valuable in the current job landscape.

The positions below are some of the roles available to project management professionals. We sourced career data from this section from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Median Annual Salary: $101,480
Projected Job Growth (2021–32): 5%
Job Description: Construction project managers oversee construction projects from start to finish. Their tasks may include developing and managing budgets, sourcing and acquiring materials, and making critical decisions regarding the project’s future direction.

Median Annual Salary: $104,830
Projected Job Growth (2021–32): 28%
Job Description: Health services managers oversee business and administrative activities within healthcare organizations and facilities. They may manage budgets, staffing and company initiatives.

Median Annual Salary: $164,070
Projected Job Growth (2021–32): 15%
Job Description: Information systems managers supervise and manage computer activities for their organizations. Their daily tasks may include adding new users, setting policies, providing training, and handling computer-related issues and crises.

Median Annual Salary: $95,370
Projected Job Growth (2021–32): 6%
Job Description: Project management specialists oversee projects throughout their life cycles for employers and external clients. Common tasks include managing staff, managing budgets, scheduling, and acquiring resources.

Project management delivers valuable products to consumers through a specific set of professional knowledge, skills and strategies. Project managers are vital across various industries including construction, business, healthcare and information technology.

The purpose of project management is to ensure that organizations can achieve strategic outputs and deliverables. In simpler terms, project management sees that companies accomplish their goals for success.

Project managers use several approaches and methodologies to ensure project success. Major types include Waterfall, a traditional approach in which tasks are tackled one at a time in a specific order; Agile, in which team members tackle small steps simultaneously; and Lean, which focuses on efficiency. Other paradigms include Scrum and Kanban.

The project management field defines five stages of the project life cycle. According to the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, also known as the PMBOK®, these stages are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing.

Mikeie Reiland is a writer who has written features for Oxford American, Bitter Southerner, Gravy, and SB Nation, among other publications. He received a James Beard nomination for a feature he wrote in 2023.