Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Qualifications for Work as a Project/Program Manager

Careers in project and program management will need individuals who are highly organized and skilled at organizing even the most complicated systems and procedures, are keen at observation, assessment and decision-making, and possess good people skills. Project managers are in charge of a team of core personnel and members hired on a contractual basis, working together on a project as supervised by the project manager, from the initial stages, to planning and design, to implementation or production, and maintenance.

While the terms project manager and program manager are sometimes interchanged, there are distinctions between the two. A program can be made up of several projects happening simultaneously, meaning the work of a program manager is larger in scope than a project manager, although both project and program managers have to have the same level of high qualifications to be succeed with their project or program, although there can be many project managers answering to one program manager. Program management also encompasses the long-term goals of the company, while projects last a shorter period of time. If the project revolves around development of a product, a product manager works under the project manager.

The three main industries that employ project managers are construction, architecture and software development, although there are other areas that would need a program or project manager, including technology, production and design industries, environmental agencies and companies that offer services instead of products. Project managers are also hired for investment management, asset control, human interaction management, project accounting, and e-commerce, among others. Project management has also spawned new kinds of services, such as customer relations management and project portfolio management.

To get work as a construction project manager, you should have a degree in civil engineering, management, building or construction science. Work experience is a plus, as well as certification from institutions such as the Construction Management Association of America or the American Institute of Constructors. Likewise, architectural project managers must have a background in architecture, as well. In many cases, the construction project manager and the architectural project manager coordinate and collaborate on one project.

Project managers in software development should have working knowledge of computer science to be able to understand and determine timetables and believable estimated deadlines. Project managers in the IT business will usually have studied business and IT, especially now that courses such as IT management are available.

Since project management is so highly complex and a company's future can be determined by the success of failure of particular projects, many companies would rather hire project managers with top qualifications. There are Master of Science in Project Management programs in several universities across the US and Canada, and a Master's Certificate in Project Management is offered at The George Washington University. Instead of an MSPM, MBA graduates are then preferred, and more so if they are certified, either by institutes of their respective fields, or by the Project Management Institute.

In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was established to systematize the standards, tools and techniques used in project management, even among and across the different fields that employ project management. Being a member of PMI will not only keep you abreast of the new updates of the Project Management Body of Knowledge, it will also introduce you to a network of other project managers and possible employers. Its counterpart in Europe, the International Project Management Association, was established a few years earlier.

There are many tools and software that have been developed recently for the sole purpose of making project and program management much easier. Planning and implementation are a breeze once you've mastered the right software. Additionally, many major companies in the US and Canada, as well as in Europe, are employing these software tools for their employees, so project managers should always keep an open mind to new technologies.

The compensation for project managers may depend on the amount of work put in, or on the level of difficulty of the project, usually determined by the hiring company. Full time project managers may receive a minimum of $80,000 annually, while part time project managers, or those hired on a contractual basis, may receive between $40,000 and $70,000 per year for as low as half the hours put in.

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