Part of learning how to become a project manager involves learning what the career path is. This is just the set of steps, or sequence, that is taken to get into this role. Let’s take a look at the steps in a project manager career path.
Project Manager Career Path – First Step
The first step in the project manager career path is usually a technical role, or a junior role in the IT industry. Speak to any project manager, and you’ll find that most of them would have started their careers in a junior position. Perhaps this was a software developer, system tester, data analyst, or help desk support.
The aim of this role is to gain experience in the IT industry and learn how it works. Learning how to work in teams, how to handle pressure, and work with external people and stakeholders is all part of increasing your knowledge and improving your experience in the IT industry.
These roles are called “junior” roles as they are usually targeted towards graduate or junior people, those who are new to the industry. They can also be called technical roles – roles that involve a lot of technical skill with software or hardware. They are not always filled by junior people and some more experienced people choose to stay in a technical role, as it’s something they’re good at and are passionate about.
Next Step – A “People” Role
A common step to take after a technical role in the project manager career path is to move into a role that has you dealing with people on a regular basis. This is a big skill for project managers.
A couple of roles that include interaction with others are business analysts and team leaders. Business analysts are responsible for translating user requirements into technical requirements and design. They are heavily involved in communication with all kinds of people in the business, which is a common skill for project managers.
Team leaders are responsible for managing a team, who often perform technical roles, such as software development or testing. This kind of role also involves people management and dealing with various kinds of people.
Gaining experience in roles like this will help you on your way to become a project manager.
Final Step – Getting Your First Project Management Role
Hopefully by now you have some experience in the previous two roles – a couple of years is usually good. This should be enough for you move along the project manager career path into an actual project management position. It may be a junior position – such as, working with another project manager on a project, or you may have your own project to look after.
Either way, you have the skills you’ve learnt in your previous roles that you can bring into this role. Getting to know other project managers, observing them, and working with them, will help you advance your career as a project manager.
From here, after you have your first project, you will find it easier to get more roles as a project manager, and your career as a project manager will move up from there!
There Are Some Exceptions
While this project manager career path (technical, people, then PM) is a common way to get into project management, there are some other ways.
You may have come from a business background – as in, a non-IT role but as some kind of business user or manager. The skills you have learnt here may be transferable and applicable to project management, which allows you to move into a position like this.
You may also have studied project management intensely at university, allowing you to start directly as some kind of junior project manager. I went to uni with someone who started as a project manager straight away, so it’s definitely possible.