Project Manager Salary and Career Outlook
Project managers coordinate the various moving pieces that need to come together for organizations to successfully deliver their products and services. They work with different teams within their company as well as externally to ensure that resources are properly allocated to various tasks and that the end result meets expectations.
The nature of a project manager’s skills makes them useful across different industries and businesses—making project management a promising career prospect for those with a knack for problem solving and organization.
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Project Manager Job Description: What Does a Project Manager Do?
The title of project manager can mean a lot of different things and sometimes goes by different names like project coordinator, project expediter or project director. The common theme between these roles within organizations is that it’s their job to ensure all parties involved with a project are on the same page and know what is expected of them.
Generally speaking, when products and services are delivered to customers and clients, they are touched by many different hands within an organization. Entire teams might be devoted to even a small facet of the whole picture, and while this is how organizations bring together great minds to achieve success, there’s often much confusion, a lack of alignment and even disagreements among different teams or individuals.
Most employees within a given company specialize in a particular area, and that speciality is the only way they will touch the project. A project manager keeps all of these moving parts coordinated and in order, while constantly dealing with two of the most important factors of successfully doing business: delivering on time and staying within budget.
Another important aspect of the project manager career is effective communication and good people skills. A good project manager can be the difference between satisfied clients and employees and those who are dissatisfied or overworked. Part of a project manager’s job is to take everyone’s thoughts and opinions into account while striving to achieve strong results for clients.
Some day-to-day responsibilities of a project manager might include:
- Define the objectives and scope of projects.
- Determine what resources a project will require.
- Allocate required resources efficiently and effectively.
- Coordinate between different internal departments.
- Forecast project costs and budget accordingly.
- Create and maintain a project schedule.
- Watch progress closely and manage unexpected delays.
- Find areas to improve on for future projects.
- Communicate progress with clients or senior management.
The number of tasks a project manager might find themselves doing in practice, however, could go on. They must adapt to different situations as their employer requires and apply their versatile skills within multiple different environments.
Project Management Qualifications
Certain types of companies, such as startups and other small businesses, may be more open to entry-level candidates for project management. Hiring managers at large organizations within the health and financial sectors, however, will likely want a track record with multiple years of project management experience.
While this high degree of variance within companies’ qualifications does exist, there are certain qualifications that stand out as particularly common for jobs with the title of project manager:
- Bachelor’s degree in management, business or a related field
- Project Management Professional (PMP) certification
- Excellent computer/software skills
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Knack for problem solving and resource management
- Experience working with a project all the way through
- Management experience
Expect to see many of these qualifications required for employment prospects if you’re considering a project management career, but keep in mind that there will likely be many more that are specific to the job and industry in question. If you need to boost your industry-specific knowledge, learn more about online short courses and certificates that can help you get up to speed in select areas, such as a certificate in project management.
5 Great Industries for Project Management
Employers across many different industries are looking for qualified candidates to fill project management positions. Let’s take a look at five industries that show a promising outlook for project managers at different levels of industry experience and knowledge. The jobs below were selected for annual salary.
As the digital age continues to outdo itself with its innovations and companies operate in an increasingly competitive marketplace, marketing remains very relevant and in need of a new generation of workers—project managers being no exception.
Project managers in marketing work with strategists and analysts as well as clients and management to create collaborative awareness campaigns for brands, creating the timeline and overseeing the coordination between different departments with employees such as writers and designers. Current PayScale data places the average salary of project managers who work in marketing at $62,015 (as of May 2020).
The field of construction is frequently in need of qualified project managers. Think of all the things that need to get done to successfully complete a construction project such as a new housing development or apartment building. A multitude of contractors must come together in projects like these—builders, architects, engineers, and many more.
Someone needs to coordinate the responsibilities of the many parties involved with construction projects, and that’s what the construction project manager does. In addition to ensuring that everyone is on the same page, they also ensure tasks are completed in compliance with legal regulations like safety and zoning laws. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for construction managers in 2019 was $95,260.
You may have heard that in the coming decades many health care jobs like nursing are going to be in high demand because of the volume of baby boomers entering their senior years. This is very true, but the industry’s need to expand in order to accommodate an aging population doesn’t necessarily stop with medical staff.
Part of meeting the health care system’s increasing demands comes at a higher level than the care itself. Hospitals have many administrative and logistical needs involved with providing the best possible care to patients. For instance, if a certain wing in the hospital needed renovation or repairs, these projects would need to be managed just like they would in any other scenario. This is just one example—a project manager in health care will have many opportunities to make a positive difference, and this is a big incentive for many who work in these roles.
Project managers who work in software development combine a unique technical industry knowledge with their management skills to coordinate between technical staff and clients. Doing so allows them to obtain the proper vision of what it is that clients need, and then work intensively with developers to bring it to reality. All while maintaining a schedule, staying within budget and keeping clients informed on progress or setbacks.
Not unlike some of the other career paths, a project manager who works in the financial sector deals with constant change and moving pieces, so adaptability and resourcefulness are key traits in a financial project manager.
Financial services organizations are constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency and implement industry best practices as technological innovations bring new opportunities, as well as implement changes as required in a highly regulated environment. Project managers working in financial services help facilitate all of these changes in a smooth, effective manner.
Project Management Job Outlook
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the world’s leading organization for those who’ve made project, program or portfolio management their profession. They recently ran a study to analyze the demand for project managers and found promising projections for those who are considering a project management career.
Within the 11 countries they studied, researchers found that the labor force that will require project management for their work is expected to grow by 33% from 2017 through 2027—that’s nearly 22 million jobs. This means nearly 88 million individuals will be in roles that require the skills and oversight of a project manager in that time frame. The highest number of these individuals will be in China, followed by India and then the United States.
PMI researchers also found that there’s actually significant GDP that could be lost if these positions aren’t filled and properly managed.
What Is the Median Project Management Salary?
The BLS categorizes product management, project coordination and related roles under “Business Operations Specialists, All Other,” so salary and employment data may contain instances of occupations related to—but not specifically—project management.
The most recent salary data for this group was recorded in May 2017 and shows a median annual salary of $70,010 for all other business operations specialists.
5 Best-Paying Cities for Project Management Careers
Below are the five highest-paying metropolitan areas for project managers, along with the current number of jobs held, according to the BLS.1
|Metropolitan Area||Annual Mean Wage||Employment|
Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich.
California-Lexington Park, Md.
Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead, Mass. NECTA Division
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
Data retrieved from BLS.1 June 2020
5 Top States for Project Managers
Below are the top five states for project managers by total jobs held, with data for share of total jobs and salary included.
|State||Employment||Employment per thousand jobs||Annual mean wage|
Data retrieved from BLS.1 June 2020
Is a Project Manager Career Path Right for You?
Project management can be demanding but also rewarding work. If you enjoy problem solving on both a technical and interpersonal level, have exceptional communication skills and enjoy applying these skills in a variety of situations and work environments, you might make an excellent project manager.
It’s important to remember that project managers across different fields bring very different skills to the table on a daily basis, and many of them are industry-specific. So even if you have all the attributes of a qualified project manager, you must too consider where you would be most fulfilled applying those skills. If you’re in an industry that you feel positively about, it will make you that much more well-equipped to handle anything the job puts on your plate.
1U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017: 13-1199 Business Operations Specialists, All Other Washington, DC: Author. arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference
Last Updated July 2020