how to become a project manager


How to become a... Project Manager

Jessica Tabinor Rail and Transportation

how to become a project manager

There are fantastic project manager jobs available in the UK, with the chance to work on exciting projects in a variety of different sectors.

Keep reading to find out more about the skills you’ll need to enter this field and to discover if a career as a project manager is the right fit for you.

£20-80k dependent on experience

Hinkley Point C / HS2

Undergraduate Degree

What do project manager jobs involve?

Project managers take on the responsibility for ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget, as well as ensuring all key objectives are met. In this role, you’ll be in charge of planning and overseeing all aspects of a project, leading by example and being seen as the main point of contact for key stakeholders.

The role is a varied one, with the opportunity to work in a wide range of different sectors, including:

  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Marketing
  • IT
  • Manufacturing
  • Public Sector

The nature of project manager jobs mean that your day-to-day duties will vary, depending on the industry, organisation and project you’re working on. However, common activities include creating detailed project plans, working out budgets and resources, monitoring and tracking a project’s progress, carrying out risk assessments, recruiting and overseeing specialists and sub-contractors, evaluating results and more.

What is a project manager’s salary?

The salary you’ll earn as a project manager can vary considerably according to the industry you’re in, as well as the organisation and location.

In an entry-level position, you can expect to earn anywhere between £20,000 and £35,000 per year. As you progress and gain more experience, this figure can rise to between £40,000 and £80,000 per year, depending on the industry.

If you decide to go into business for yourself as a freelance contractor, you can set your own rate, with averages falling between £300 and £500 per day.

These figures are intended as a guideline only. 

What skills do I need?

To be a successful project manager you’ll need a good understanding of the industry you’ve chosen to work in, whether that’s construction, engineering, marketing or any other discipline. However, there are a number of key skills that are important for all project managers, regardless of sector.

First and foremost, excellent organisational and time-management skills are key, as is the ability to multi-task and perform well under pressure. You’ll need good communication and interpersonal skills in order to motive your team and manage the expectations of senior management and other stakeholders. A good grasp of maths and some financial expertise is also important, as you’ll need to be able to create and manage budgets.

What qualifications do I need?

It’s possible to begin a career in project management with an undergraduate degree in any subject. However, certain subjects, especially those focused on business or management, will give you a head start by providing you with an understanding of the commercial elements of projects.

If you complete an undergraduate degree in an unrelated subject, you can always opt to complete a postgraduate course in project management afterwards.

Many large organisations offer graduate schemes, allowing you to gain vital industry experience, often while completing further training and qualifications.

What are the hours and conditions?

You can expect to work between 35 and 40 hours per week, Monday to Friday. However, this may vary in certain sectors. You may also be required to work additional hours during evenings and weekends to meet deadlines, as and when deadlines dictate. If you’re a freelancer, you can set your own hours.

Your working environment will vary depending on your sector. You could find yourself spending most of your time in an office, or alternatively could spend a good deal of time based on construction sites or manufacturing plants.

Career progression

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, there are numerous opportunities for progression throughout your career. To help you move up the career level, you may want to look into gaining a professional qualification through organisations such as the Association for Project Management (APM), Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Project Management Institute (PMI).

You’ll develop a number of transferable skills in your career as well, meaning you can choose to move into a different sector if you so wish.

Areas of specialism 

As previously mentioned, there is a demand for project managers in a wide range of different industries, giving lots of opportunities for specialism. Rather than move from one sector to another, many project managers will choose to specialise in one, working to grow their knowledge in that specific field.

To search for opportunities across the sector click here. Or, browse our dedicated HS2 and Hinkley Point C pages for more information.