If you’re searching for a project management job, you’ve no doubt come across a range of different job titles. Which one should you go for? The ‘project manager’ job descriptions have a wide variety of roles and duties, which can make it hard to know what’s right for you.
And therein lies the challenge.
What ‘project manager’ means to one business will be slightly different to how another company uses the term.
There are some industry-recognised job titles – the ones you’ll most commonly see. In this article, we’ll go through what they mean and what you can expect to do in one of those roles.
What are the different types of project managers?
Project managers work on things that have a beginning, a middle and an end, with a defined end result. That’s what a project is.
These days, many people do the role of a project manager without having the job title. So many jobs have an aspect of being able to manage projects as part of what the person is supposed to do. However, in this article, we’re focusing on people who predominately manage projects. In other words, people for whom project management is their main daily focus.
While the core skills of being a project manager remain the same, industry insiders often think of there being different types of project manager. The most common way of defining different types of project manager is by industry. For example:
A Digital Project Manager will oversee projects to do with online initiatives, digital marketing, software, apps and so on. They may mainly work with agile approaches and often in a client-facing business such as an agency (although large firms may have in-house Digital PMs too).
An IT Project Manager is – unsurprisingly – based in the IT department of an organisation. They work on technical projects, which could be software, application, platform, infrastructure, security, or projects that bring together subject matter experts in all IT disciplines to deliver something.
A Construction Project Manager is a specialist working in the construction field. They have an understanding of design and build, and often have to manage a lot of suppliers to complete the finished project.
A Legal Project Manager supports legal teams to deliver either process improvements and internally-facing work, or legal projects for clients. This role tends to require a legal background and training.
In fact, most industries have project managers. You’ll find job titles such as Engineering Project Manager, Marketing Project Manager, Publishing Project Manager and more. Basically, all that means is the project management job is specialised in a particular industry.
What that means for you is that you can choose an industry that excites and interests you. Whether you love retail or catering, tech or medicine, there will be a project management job in that field.
Entry level project management job titles
If you don’t yet have the project management certification and experience to go into a project manager job, you’ll be looking for job titles for entry level positions.
Here are some example job titles to watch out for.
Project Administrator: This is the most common entry-level position. You work on one project, supporting the rest of the project team with mainly admin tasks.
Project Co-ordinator: This is a similar role to the Project Administrator, but people with this job title are more likely to do ‘hands on’ project work as well as admin.
Project Support Officer/Specialist: We see this job title used in the public sector. It’s similar to the Project Co-ordinator. It’s a job where you assist the project manager with whatever needs to be done.
Project Controller: If you want an entry level job in heavy industry like engineering, construction, then look for this job title. It’s often a hybrid role between Co-ordinator and someone who focuses purely on project planning.
Document Controller: If paperwork is your thing, this is the job for you! A document controller is responsible for filing, managing and looking after all the documentation created by a project. These days, that’s going to involve a lot of electronic filing and version control, but also managing ‘wet signature’ contracts and other signed materials.
What position is higher than a project manager?
If you already have the project manager job title, look for positions the next level up. These include:
Senior Project Manager: A senior project manager is someone with more experience and/or responsibility than an ‘ordinary’ project manager. If your company has job families, you should be able to see what it takes to get promoted into a senior PM role. In this job, you will either have responsibility for one large project, or multiple projects, and you might have project managers and other team members reporting directly to you.
Project Lead/Director: This is another job title I’ve seen that covers the role of a senior manager working to support a project. They are not a ‘hands on’ project manager, but they are kind of a day-to-day working sponsor, embedded in the project team. This role is a core decision-making function and sets the direction for the project. It’s often someone with product/deliverable expertise instead of someone who has come up through the project management career path.
Programme Manager/Director: A programme manager oversees a programme of work, or sometimes more than one programme. This job title might have project managers reporting in to it.
Portfolio Manager/Director: A portfolio manager is a senior leadership position in an organisation, overseeing an entire portfolio of change projects.
Project Management Office job titles
There’s another whole area of project management: the Project Management Office. These are not delivery roles. Instead, people with PMO job titles are in a crucial support function. Here are some common job titles you’ll find within the PMO.
Project Office Co-ordinator: This is a generic title for someone in an entry level position working in a Project Office supporting projects. They may do reporting, data analysis and other admin tasks.
Programme Office Co-ordinator: This role is similar to the Project Office Co-ordinator, expect they are supporting a programme instead of a project office.
PMO Analyst: This is another relatively junior job title, for someone who works in a PMO. The role will include a range of tasks, depending on the type of PMO.
PMO Specialist: If you are particularly skilled in a project management area, you might see this job title. It is for people who have a specialist subject matter expertise like planning, risk, law etc. Only larger PMOs will have specialists – most of the PMOs I am aware of have generalist resources, drawing in experts from the rest of the organisation as required. Other job titles might mention the specialism e.g. Project Planner.
What do the different project management roles do?
Above we’ve seen the different project management job titles and I’ve given a very brief overview of what the jobs entail.
When you apply for a job, be sure to ask for the job description and person specification to give you a clearer idea about what to expect in the role.
For a more general overview of the different career paths for project managers, I love the UK Government’s Project Delivery Capability Framework. While it’s aimed specifically at public sector project managers, it goes into more detail about what jobs at different levels are responsible for. Even if you don’t want a public sector job, you’ll be able to learn a lot about what different project management job levels are out there.