How to Become a Project Manager With or Without a Degree

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Project managers are crucial in helping teams achieve work goals and successfully navigate the most complex projects for their companies. If you’re excellent at effectively communicating and organizing your time and others’, this job can be an ideal fit for you.

The project manager position might not be the easiest to tackle. Those who find it appealing often have numerous questions and concerns about the background and skills required for this profession. Read on to discover the answers to these questions and explore two straightforward ways to become a project manager.

Do you need a degree for a project manager position?

As the role of a project manager involves significant responsibility and self-management, some may assume that a degree is a prerequisite. While this is true in many cases, it’s not always a strict requirement.

So, how can one become a project manager? Currently, there are two distinct paths:

  1. The traditional path—involves studying and pursuing a project management degree and then entering a relevant career.
  2. The non-traditional path—perfect for those who hadn’t initially planned to become project managers and didn’t obtain a relevant degree. However, they started managing projects at some point in their career and now need to support their position with professional qualifications.

Traditional path

Here’s how to get a project manager job if you opt for a traditional path:

1.    Get a degree

Pursue a relevant academic degree in project management, business administration, information technology, or a related field. Having a bachelor’s or master’s degree will grant you a deep understanding of the principles, methodologies, and best practices essential for this position.

2.    Master the tools

This position is about using lots of relevant tools daily; that’s why you must master them. Keep in mind that the list of the best project management tools may vary depending on the industry and the preferences of a specific organization. Nonetheless, the most popular PM solutions include industry staples like Microsoft Project, Jira, Trello, Asana, and, each helpful in streamlining tasks, collaborating, and project tracking.

3.    Gain experience

You can look for projects within your academic program, internships, or entry-level positions to practice and gain practical experience in this role. Build a portfolio showcasing successful projects and leverage this experience to refine your project management skills.

Non-traditional path

For those pursuing a non-traditional route to become a project manager, follow these steps:

1.    Identify and fill the gaps in your knowledge

If you didn’t specifically learn and train how to become a project manager, chances are you may have knowledge gaps or areas that need improvement. You can use online resources, books, and workshops to self-educate and address these gaps. Also, consider engaging with experienced project managers, attending industry events, and joining professional networks to gain insights into this role’s best practices and current trends.

2.    Obtain the necessary certification

Certification can bolster your existing expertise and add credibility to your profession. Some of the most recognized certifications for this role include:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

3.    Monitor the technologies and trends in the niche

To grow in this role, you also need to stay informed about the latest technologies, methodologies, and trends in project management. You can achieve this by reading industry publications and blogs and attending webinars or conferences. This profession demands continuous learning, so don’t hesitate to explore new things, whether it’s innovative project management tools for creatives or newly emerging approaches.

FAQ: What qualifications do you need to be a project manager?

This can be a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as project management, business administration, engineering, information technology, finance, or a related discipline. You can also acquire certifications like Project Management Professional (PMP) and Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) to enhance your qualifications.

FAQ: How long does it take to become a project manager?

This largely depends on the path you choose. A bachelor’s degree may take around four years, and you might need additional time to gain relevant work experience. If you already manage projects, you might still require a few years to obtain certifications and develop all the necessary skills.


Top 5 project management skills to master

Is being a project manager hard? This largely depends on your personal traits and the skills you have. Luckily, even if you don’t have industry-specific skills, you can build and improve your general capabilities. Here’s what you can work on to make your role as a project manager more manageable:

1.   Communication

72% of business leaders believe that effective communication helps increase their team’s productivity. This skill is also one of the most critical ones for project management. It helps convey information clearly, facilitates active listening, and ensures that both the team and stakeholders understand the project’s goals, expectations, and progress.

Project managers should also learn to tailor their communication style to suit different audiences—team members, executives, or clients. This adaptability in communication is crucial for successful project execution and all parties’ engagement.

2.   Leadership

Leadership in project management is more than just a task assignment. A proficient specialist must inspire, motivate, and guide the project team, fostering a collaborative environment to achieve common objectives. A skilled project manager needs to be able to set a compelling vision, make informed decisions, and provide support during challenges.

Leadership also requires you to identify the strengths of individual team members and know how and when to utilize these strengths effectively.

3.   Organization

A project manager’s profession requires you to manage numerous tasks, timelines, and resources within a project. This can be difficult without well-honed organizational skills.

Such skills include creating and maintaining project schedules, allocating resources efficiently, and ensuring that project objectives align with your company’s goals. A well-organized project manager can predict and track projects effectively and keep the team focused and motivated throughout the project lifecycle.

4.   Problem-solving

Well-developed problem-solving skills allow you to efficiently manage unexpected challenges and obstacles that might appear during the project. This skill is also about resolving such challenges and coming up with a set of preventive measures to minimize and mitigate risks.

A project manager with strong project-solving skills can ensure that the project will be delivered on time and with the expected outcome despite the potential obstacles.

5.   Adaptability

These days, people with solid adaptability skills are 24% more likely to be employed. This is especially true for project managers who work in a dynamic environment with a high possibility of unexpected changes.

Adaptability allows you to navigate uncertainty, embrace change, and adjust project plans accordingly. An adaptable project manager remains focused and calm when challenges emerge, is open to new methodologies and technologies, and is skilled in navigating their team through transitions and uncertainties.


FAQ: What are the five main steps to becoming a project manager?

Becoming a proficient project manager involves five key steps:

  • Getting education for foundational knowledge;
  • Developing skills;
  • Mastering project management tools;
  • Networking within the community;
  • Actively engaging in real-world projects for practical experience.

To sum up

The project manager career is exciting and dynamic. You can earn a degree to start pursuing it or follow the non-traditional path and gain practical experience and relevant certification. Building the skills required to become an efficient project manager will help you succeed in this role.