5 Great Things About Being a Project Manager

It’s one of the most in-demand business careers right now—and it can be a great job.

by Andrew RanzingerLast updated: 09/01/2020

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Three out of four companies now have a dedicated project management office, and employers will need to fill almost 2.2 million new project management-type roles each year though 2027—an industry growth of 30%.

According to Payscale, project managers make $74,000 on average, with some making over six figures. If you specialize in a particular type of project management, you could make even more. For example, IT project managers average $89,000 per year

It’s a great time to be a project manager. But is the job right for you? Here’s what project managers do, and five reasons you might want to be one.

What do project managers do?

Project managers make sure projects finish on time, within budget, and hit their goals.

That may sound pretty vague, so let’s break it down. 

In the workplace, almost every project is a group project. The product team has to work with engineering, marketing has to work with sales, and often everyone has to work with teams from other companies. 

These teams all have their own objectives, so anything they aren’t 100% responsible for tends to get lowest priority. Think about the last group project you had to work on in school.

Having a project manager ensures that there is somebody who owns each group project. They help define the objectives, plan the work, and then make sure everyone does their part and things stay on track. Once the project is finished, they measure results.

A project manager’s job isn’t to do the work: it’s to make sure the work gets done.

5 great things about being a project manager

“Project manager” isn’t the sexiest title out there, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a great job. Here are five reasons why:

1. You’ll work with lots of different teams and people

Many roles have clearly defined responsibilities that keep you working with a pretty small group of people. Project management is the opposite—you’ll interact regularly with members of many different teams, often including senior management. 

These interactions will give you a unique understanding of your business and industry as a whole. It will also provide you with great opportunities to network with people from every part of your organization. People know you and see what you’re doing, and if you're an ambitious person who wants to progress quickly, that visibility is crucial.

2. You’ll have a lot of autonomy

Because every project is so different, there’s no handbook for how you need to do your job. Smart companies hire good project managers, then give them a lot of autonomy. You aren’t being micromanaged. 

Once the objectives of the project are agreed upon, it’s up to you to plan out the steps necessary to get there and then make sure the work gets done. Your boss will just want to know that things are on track, and rely on you to sort out the details.

3. You’ll consult on strategy

Project managers are in the unique position of understanding every team’s priorities and having strong relationships with all of them. The more experience you get, the more management will rely on you to help shape strategy when new projects are being planned. 

As someone who has spent time in the trenches, you will have insights into the lessons, best practices, potential pitfalls, and organizational history that will make future projects successful.

4. The work is never the same

With many jobs, it’s easy to predict the type of work you’ll be doing. If you’re a digital marketer, most of your time is going to be spent managing social calendars, creating social media posts, and tracking results. If you’re an inside sales rep, you’ll be spending all day making calls. 

For a lot of people, same=boring. Because the projects and people you work with can be so different, your days will almost never be the same.

Even if you have a plan for your day, it’s usually been derailed by 9 am. You might have a meeting with sales at 7 am to check progress on a joint promotion with a partner company. You’re on your way to another meeting with engineering. But wait! The legal team just flagged a liability issue they missed before, hit Reply All, and now one of the executives from a partner company is calling you to demand an explanation. 

This frenetic pace can be stressful, but it’s far from boring.

5. You’ll develop a killer skillset

Project management is a very demanding job, but successful project managers develop crucial skills that can take them anywhere. 

You will learn the steps to successfully planning, executing, and finishing projects. You’ll learn how to stay calm under pressure, and organized amidst chaos. You’ll develop great communication skills, and the ability to understand and manage all kinds of different personality types in the workplace. You’ll learn how people think, what they want, and how to influence them to align with your goals.

No matter where you go in your career, these are in-demand skills that will make you a strong leader and valuable contributor. 

How to know if you’re cut out for project management

Project management can be a great career, but it’s not for everyone. The work is often fast-paced and stressful, and successful project managers share some key traits. 

Often, they’re the type of people who took color-coded notes in class, got all As, and edited the school paper—all while taking 25 credits. They are highly organized, have an ability to remain calm and optimistic under pressure, and are great communicators. And they tend to be pretty confident and persuasive—managing the big egos they interact with requires a combination of assertiveness and emotional intelligence. 

If you’re laid back, don’t manage time and stress well, or just prefer working on your own, project management probably isn’t a good fit for you. But if you’re the kind of person who starts dividing up tasks as soon as the professor assigns a group project, project management just might be a great career.