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Duties of a Project Manager

By: Kelly McCloskey - Updated Jul. 23, 2014

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If you have been exploring the project management career or maybe you have just been assignd your own first project, then this article is written with you in mind.

Project management encompasses almost every aspect of our lives. Those who wish to pursue this career, are the kind of people who love combing through current processes to find better ways of doing things, who enjoy talking to in-house and external professionals to learn about emerging systems, state of the art software and even how new scientific breakthroughs like neuroplasticity can help a team, an office or an entire company perform better. What do people like this do for a living? A little something called Project Management.

Project Manager Duties

Simply put, project management is exactly what it sounds like – managing, organizing and prioritizing tasks among a group of people in order to achieve a final result. It's an ideal career choice for those who want their jobs to be challenging, creative and never the same from week to week. A career in project management is sometimes referred to as a career in 'controlling chaos' and, for some, it's a perfect fit for their personality. But that doesn't mean it's for everyone. How can you know if project management is right for you? Consider the following †list of responsibilities, however it's important to note that the job description of a project manager can vary depending on industry and organization, but most managers follow a similar template as to the one outlined below:

Project Initiation

  • To ensure all options are attainable, undertake a feasibility study.
  • Sourcing and hiring suitable team members to work on the project
  • Establishing a set of guidelines to be followed throughout the project

Project Planning

  • Developing a project plan or blueprint based on set goals outlining the sequence of all activities and tasks
  • Monitoring the project's financial expenditure as scheduling labor
  • Risk management, by creating a risk plan in order to monitor, evaluate and mitigate risks

Project Execution

  • Managing the project schedule and keeping all counterparties updated
  • Resolving issues ad-hoc
  • Regular follow-ups and status checks with team members along with ensuring adherance to quality standards.
  • Moderating problems between team members.

Project Closure

  • Prepare and supply a project closure report and communicate the closure to all stakeholders once project has been completed.

This is the average 'To Do' list for a project manager at the start of any project. From here, tasks are added based on project specifics and the job isn't done until the project is successfully completed and delivered. Then it all starts again with a new project, a new set of goals and, many times, a whole new team. Although project managers working within one company can often work with the same team members several times, there is usually a rotation of people and project managers must be able to handle a variety of personality types and egos.

What to Expect and How To Get Started

‡Ten Most Important
Skills and Competencies for Project Managers
1. People Skills
2. Leadership
3. Listening
4. Integrity, ethical behaviour, consistency
5. Strength or building trust
6. Verbal communications
7. Strength at building teams
8. Conflict resolution, conflict management
9. Critical thinking, problem solving
10. Understanding and balancing of priorities
Project management has become an increasingly important position within several companies. As project management is a relatively new field, it is still being developed in terms of a set curriculum as well as salary tracking through the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although the BLS does not currently maintain records of salary inform ation for project managers, they do refer to salary insider experts and estimate an average salary of around $89,000 annually with some earning in the neighborhood of $90,000 - 120,000 depending on the industry.

Project management is a truly 21st century career field. It requires professionals to be able to reach out and network with a huge cross-section of people and maintaining good social skills along with traditional business acumen, making it a perfect union of old school business smarts and modern day social skills. This is also reflected in the course and class options for those wishing to break into the field. Courses in project management are available through traditional universities as well as online courses. Certifications from professional organizations such as the Project Management Institute include.

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) – The most commonly used certification, this programs establishes your experience and can help make the difference when negotiating a starting salary.
  • Program Management Professional (PgMP)– This certification is for managers able to handle multiple projects that all come together to advance the overall goals of a company.  This is a certification for project or program managers with an advanced degree and a minimum of 4 years of experience.
  • PMI Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)SM – Portfolio management focuses on professionals who examine, evaluate and manage processes, technologies and methods used by junior project managers.  Project portfolio management requires the ability to analyze data and work with several project managers at once.
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) – A certification for managers who use agile practices, which focuses on the managing of design and building technologies for engineering, new product development and IT.
  • PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) – As risk management becomes an increasingly important part of corporate culture, this certification is for project managers who thrive on solving a crisis and have proven they can truly embody grace under pressure.
  • PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) – This is the newest credential offered by the PMI and it reflects the growth and evolution of the field.  Designed for project managers who specialize in solving scheduling.

The entry point according to Bob Lewis, a Minneapolis-based consultant, is "an apprenticeship with an experienced project manager; the progression moves from small projects through large programs; and the end-point is leading your company's PMO (program management office)"*.

Getting started in project management is a two part process. First, it is imperative that you develop an understanding of business in general as well as learning more about the specific industry in which you wish to work. For example, building onto a business degree with courses in public relations and health care can help project managers who want to work with hospitals, nursing facilities or other healthcare organizations. Many industry experts suggest that student volunteer, intern or get into part time employment in their chosen industry as they are making their way through school. This two step approach of schooling and real world experience can help give young project managers an edge once they enter the workplace. This also gives students and emerging project managers the opportunity to explore a number of specific industries in order to find the ideal fit for their future.

* InfoWorld, " To Ensure IT Success, project management shouldn't be a bridge, but the destination", Aug. 14, 2000.
† The Project Management Life Cycle, Jason Westland.
‡ Jennifer Krahn, "Effective Project Leadership: A Combination of Project Manager Skills and Competencies in Context," PMI Research Conference Proceedings (July 2006)

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