How to Get Started in Project Management

Project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project,” according to the Project Management Institute® (PMI).

A project manager uses a methodical approach to planning and directing every stage of a project from conception to completion. The wide range of industries utilizing project managers include oil, gas, manufacturing, construction, utilities providers, finance, insurance, and information technology (IT). As the global economy becomes increasingly project-oriented, project management practices are expanding to industries that originally didn’t adopt those principles, such as healthcare and publishing. In fact, the healthcare industry had the largest increase in project-oriented jobs in the United States: 17% in 2017, according to PMI.

In an analysis of 11 countries representing developed and/or growing economic powers, project-related job growth was projected to be 33%, PMI reported. By 2027, employers may need nearly 88 million workers in project management roles. The 2017 wages of United States project workers were “far higher on average than wages of non-project-oriented professionals – a premium of 82%.”

Working in the field requires mastering the basics of project management, starting with an understanding of methodologies such as the Critical Path Method, Waterfall and Agile. PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK®) captures the fundamentals.

You can take courses online, which may help you get a foot in the door faster. Earning a degree online is a viable option. You can also work toward other certifications through PMI such as Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® and Project Management Professional (PMP)®, which will demonstrate your knowledge and commitment.

Project management blogs may give you an idea of what it’s like to work in the field. Immerse yourself in industry and project management discourse every way you can.

From IT infrastructure to software development, to healthcare or book publishing, industries needing project management pros are varied. Whichever industry you choose depends on your interests. That choice will also guide your next steps, because you may need to establish some experience in the field before you jump into project management.

Gaining  Project Management Experience

Not many companies hire entry- or mid-level project managers. They are likely to give these roles to trusted, seasoned employees. So how do you get in if no one is hiring entry-level project managers? Make your current job a project management position. Study the five elements of a project. Then examine your responsibilities from a project management perspective; begin implementing project management strategies and documentation practices to perform your duties. Volunteer for other projects that don’t have a formal project manager in place.

For example: Look at the processes involved in your work. Then pinpoint a process or two that is the most time-consuming. Turn those processes into projects. How can you make these processes more efficient? Start by writing down every step, then look for ways to eliminate or automate as many as possible. Present your suggestions, including the time/cost value savings, to your manager.

Check out these tips for more guidance. Then get started! Use your experiences to build a portfolio of project management related experiences you can share with future employers.

Making Your Move

Once you have some experience and you’re ready to shift into project management full time, look for large companies that are involved in multiple projects. These may be ideal employers to start with, as they may often provide opportunities to learn new skills by providing educational opportunities, course credit for internships, and other perks that will help you establish your career in project management.

Apply for openings, and make sure your resume highlights all your project-related experience in your previous roles.

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