"How can I become a project manager in 2021?" is a question I frequently hear. Being a project manager is still (and will always be) a rewarding career opportunity, even in post-pandemic life. And while the events of the last two years may have shifted some of the demand, project managers and project management skills are still in high demand.
The Project Management Institute estimates that employers will continue to need 2.2 million new project managers per year through 2027. And more opportunities may come as a result of many new retirements that have taken place in the last two years. So if this is the career for you, then the time to act is now.
There are some initial steps you need to take if you are leaning in the direction of a project management career. First and foremost, take time to understand what a project is and what the role of the project manager involves. You might want to start by reading a few of our previous articles:
- 6 Expectations of New Project Managers
- 5 Attributes Needed by Successful Project Managers
- You Know You are a "Knighted" Project Manager When ...
- Do Small Projects Need Project Managers?
There are two main ways to become a project manager:
- The "accidental project manager" route - you had no anticipation or preparation for a project management role, but management had a gap to fill and used you to fill it. It is likely you will not receive training or support until you finish your "trial by fire."
- You progress in your career and eventually achieve the role and title. The role often comes first, ahead of the title. But you may receive support in the form of training, coaching, or mentoring.
The first way requires you to find your own resources; the second way may still require hard work on your part. We offer books, courses, and consulting to help. For either path, start by learning the "language" of project management. Getting your Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM®) certification will demonstrate to management that you are committed to pursuing a career.
Next, understand that project management will become a life-long commitment to learning. Start by learning as much as you can about your organization and industry. Many project managers start as subject matter experts who have also demonstrated leadership skills.
A solid understanding of both the art and science of project management is essential. Read, learn, and expand your knowledge of the critical principles and practice areas you need to apply to your projects. Then continue learning and developing your experience for the future. The body of knowledge of project management is growing exponentially, keeping pace with the growth of all human knowledge. You can start learning using our free resources:
- PROJECT Method Micro Guide
- Downloads (downloadable templates and more guides)
- Project Hero Academy (free to join and start learning)
You may find that there are Project Management certificates and degrees available from various colleges and universities. Unless you are 100% serious about pursuing the career, I would suggest that you wait to get some experience and know which direction you are headed in first. That will help narrow down the right program for you. Taking one of these does not guarantee your PMP® certification and studies have shown that more project managers are made by their experience with projects than anything else.
Do not believe that a lack of experience is a blocking factor. If you want to pursue a career, be sure to have a chat with your managers. Let them know what you are seeking and ask for their help. They may be able to add some experiences to your work along the way. Do well with these opportunities and you will find the role and title within reach.
As you continue to acquire experience and knowledge, plan to become a PMP. Those with PMP certifications enjoy 23% higher salaries on average. Finally, be sure to check out our 5-step career roadmap and more about skills acquisition for more ideas. You can do this!
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