Guest blog: How to kick-start a career in project management

Guest blog written by Simon Buehring, founder and CEO of Knowledge Train

Project management takes place in every sector and industry. Projects make change, positivity and growth happen.

Because of the essential nature of projects, project managers will always be in demand. And because every industry employs them, this makes a career in project management open to all graduates.

Read on to discover more about the career and how you can enter the field.

What does a project manager do?

Project managers are responsible for the daily running of projects. They are strong leaders, driven to get results and able to communicate effectively with a diverse range of people. They have an eye for spotting risks and solving problems.

A typical project manager plans projects, works with stakeholders and sets deadlines for project teams. During the project, they carry out quality and risk assessments, whilst motivating the team to achieve project goals on time and within budget.

Here are some excellent reasons to become a project manager:

Open to everyone – there is a common misconception that only certain industries perform projects. This is not true – every industry carries out projects. Project management is a career path all graduates can follow, regardless of their degree programme.

Career progression – experience builds expertise, so experienced project managers can either move onto more senior positions or become highly sought-after consultants.

Travel – projects are performed worldwide, so many project managers get to travel. Even better is that the same skillset, experience and qualifications are required everywhere.

Highly rewarding – being part of a team that delivers a project successfully, after months of hard-work, is perhaps the highlight of this career. Also, the average project manager earns £40-£50k in the UK. Depending on experience and industry, many project managers will earn even more.

How to start a project management career

There are a number of routes into project management. If you are keen to enter this career, ask yourself the following questions:

Is your degree alone enough? 

Many graduates can use their degree alone to gain a job or get onto a graduate scheme. This is certainly true for graduates who have completed industry-specific degrees, such as computing, marketing or business management. The skills learned on these courses are normally transferable to a project-based career.

Other graduates choose to complete further study. This is especially true for those who have completed a theoretical degree, where they might not have gained the right skills. A PgDip or master’s degree in project management would be useful for such graduates.

Lastly, you might have heard of PRINCE2® or Agile. Many employers use these to manage projects, so want potential employees to hold certification. As it is the most common method, gaining at least entry level PRINCE2 certification is recommended.

Do you have relevant experience?

It is vital to gain experience. Volunteering or gaining work experience is the best plan of action, but also think about projects you worked on at university. If you have chosen to do a PgDip or master’s, work placements are often included as part of the course.

If you can, try to get an entry level project administrator or project support role. Support roles give you the chance to work with project managers on real projects. The experience gained is second to none and makes progressing onto a project management role much easier. 

Find out more 

Speak to staff in your university career service. They can help you review your CV and offer further advice on work experience, graduate schemes and volunteering opportunities.

Find out how salaries for project managers can vary depending on industry and location by reading this Project Management Salary eBook.

PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

Simon Buehring is the founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train, an accredited PRINCE2 training organization based in London, UK. For over 25 years, Simon has worked as a project manager for a wide range of organizations, both in the UK and internationally, including the BBC, HSBC and IBM.

Look out for Careers’ Project Management skills course, which usually run every Autumn and Spring Terms.