The projects that you read about in the media are often high profile, with budgets in the multimillions or even billions. They all seem to be led by highly experienced project managers who have the confidence and skills to deal with the complex sociopolitical environments of their projects, international and virtual teams and other factors that make their work particularly challenging.
When faced with that view of projects, you might wonder how people ever got started. But all those high-profile leaders got started in the same way that you can: managing smaller initiatives, practising their core skills and learning through training and on the job.
That’s how to become a project manager in a nutshell, but in this article I’ll explain three routes to entering the profession.
If you talk to project managers or read through the interviews in my book, Project Manager, you’ll realise that there are as many ways to build a career in the field as there are people. However, there are three common ways of entering the job market in a project management role:
- Through higher education
- Through an apprenticeship
- Through direct entry.
There are lots of undergraduate degrees and postgraduate certificates and degrees with a project management concentration. Further education is generally what people think of first when they consider how to become a project manager.
Whether you opt for a module of project management within a degree in a different discipline, or take one with a high proportion of project management, is up to you and will depend on the direction you see your career taking.
A project management individual module is definitely worth considering because even if you don’t end up in a ‘full’ project management role, you can guarantee that most jobs these days will require you to be able to plan and organise your own work and possibly the work of other people as well.
Majoring in project management or taking a combined degree could also give you a professional qualification (or the background and education required to be able to sit the exam for a professional qualification).
That’s a way to round out your education so it’s worth considering if your chosen degree course will count in any way towards industry qualifications.
If not (or if you aren’t going through the higher education route), I recommend these training courses:
- All the courses from OnlinePMCourses are great
- The PM PrepCast has comprehensive courses for becoming a PMP®, becoming a CAPM® and the PMI Agile certification courses.
- BrainBOK is solid PMP® prep material
- Brain Sensei is another rich PMP® course.