Project Manager Job Description (Duties, Salary, Skills, Certifications & More)

By Mike Simpson

I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think about a Project Manager is…

Anthony Gatto.

Wait, who?

Oh, you’re not familiar with the world-famous, multi-Guinness Book of World Record-holding juggler? Among other things, Gatto juggled 9 balls at once for 55 seconds… 9 balls!

Now before my analogy takes us completely off the rails, let me explain.

Being a great project manager is a lot like being my juggling hero Tony (I call him Tony). You start out by “juggling” a couple tasks, and before you know it, you’ve got 6 flaming rings in your hand, and one small slip and the entire show is ruined (and you’re wiping fire extinguisher foam out of your eyes).

The point is, being a great project manager means being a multi-tasking master… one who is able to think on her feet, keep everything organized, and deliver results on time and on budget.

Now let’s dive into the project manager job description to learn a little bit more about this coveted role.

What is a Project Manager?

Do you want to hear something crazy? A project manager is literally someone who manages projects.

Thanks Captain Obvious!

Joking aside, a project manager is generally responsible for “the planning, procurement, and execution of a project”. Translated to English, this basically means that as a project manager, you are the person most responsible for ensuring that a given project is planned and executed on time and on budget.

What are a Project Manager’s Duties?

So as my pal Jeff Gillis says, “…at anytime during the life of the project you may need to be a leader, a planner, a budgeter, an organizer, a politician, and more.

So as you can see (and as anyone who has been a project manager before will tell you), this position can be a lot more nuanced and complicated than simply “planning and executing”.

Depending on the industry, size and scope of the project, and the amount of money involved, the duties of a project manager can look very different. Not only do project managers exist across industries (i.e. construction, healthcare, new media, financial services, to name a few), but these different industries often have different responsibilities required of their PM’s.

More often than not, however, a project manager’s main duties could include:

    • Spearheading project planning and preparation
    • Managing the resources and staff required to execute the project
    • Monitoring the project schedule and milestones
    • Coordinating with any outside project participants
    • Managing any contracts related to the project
    • Facilitating any documentation
    • Reporting on the project status
    • Managing team members
    • Risk management

Now, don’t forget that this list is not comprehensive. As mentioned, the list of duties can vary from industry to industry, so if you are interviewing for a project manager position, make sure you research the position thoroughly.

What Skills do Project Managers Need?

Just like our pal Anthony Gatto, being able to balance several things at once is one of the most important skills required for a successful project manager. In the non-juggling world, we tend to call this multi-tasking. If your ability to manage several tasks at the same time is non-existent, you may want to consider looking at a new field or even better, put in some time to start training your brain to multitask effectively.

Here is a list of some of the other skills required to be an effective project manager:

    • Communication
    • Scheduling
    • Leadership
    • Software Expertise
    • Team Management
    • Problem Solving
    • Motivation
    • Critical Thinking
    • Negotiation
    • Budgeting

What Education or Certification is Required?

Like most industries these days, a bachelors degree of some kind is nearly always considered a requirement. It is also an added benefit if your degree is in the field for the job they are applying for. For example, it doesn’t hurt to have an engineering degree if you are applying for a project management position in construction.

Don’t let that discourage you though. Like so many other industries, many of the best project managers don’t necessarily have a degree in the exact field they are working in. What is most important is having mastered the skill set that allows you to be effective as a project manager.

As for certification, it is not absolutely necessary to have a specific certification when applying for an entry level project management position. However, the more qualifications that you can add to your portfolio, the more likely it is that you are going to stand out against your competition.

For project managers, the most well-known and universally accepted certification is the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. In fact, certified PMP’s “report earning up to 25% more than non-certified project management professionals.

MIKE'S TIP: There are some requirements needed in order to get the PMP, so make sure you do your research to make sure it is something that you can qualify for. Not to mention, there is a $555 fee if you do it through PMI.org, so balance the costs of getting certified against the scope of the position you are interviewing for. Is it an entry level position for a smaller company? Or is it a senior project management position for a large corporation? These are factors you should weigh before making your decision.

What are the Salary Expectations?

As with any position, there are a great deal of factors that go into the salary that one can expect from working as a project manager.

The good news for you is, the average salary for a project manager in the United States is a whopping $136,268!

Now before you go and put a down payment on that new Aston Martin you’ve had on your mood board since college, be weary of what I just said.

This number will be greatly affected by your experience, the level of education you have attained, the skills and certifications you possess, and the industry you are working in.

Being a project manager for a real estate development company in Manhattan is certainly going to have the potential to make more money than a project manager for a tourism website for a town in Northern Montana.

Having said that, what this does show is that there is an enormous amount of growth potential if you are able to gain experience as a project manager.

How to Use the Job Description for Your Job Interview

When interviewing for a project manager position, the most important thing to remember is that the job description (here’s a sample you can look at.) is a gold mine when it comes to your interview. It acts as a “treasure map” that leads you to the pot of gold, or in our case, a job! (Ok, that’s enough of the gold analogy 😉 )

The job description will be filled with the skills and qualities that are desired by the company doing the hiring, and it’s your job to make sure that you are demonstrating that you have these skills in the job interview.

How is this done?

Use the tailoring method when answering your interview questions of course!

You want to answer the interview questions you face by highlighting the skills and qualities that are prevalent in the job description, and use a “success story” from your past that provides concrete evidence of you demonstrating the skill. (Especially for behavioral interview questions.)

As my colleague Jeff said in his article Top 45 Project Manager Interview Questions, “…Odds are pretty high the hiring manager is going to ask you to discuss past projects you’ve worked on. That’s why having specific examples ready is critical. The key is, you want your success stories to be clear, concise and highlight the qualities and skills you know they are looking for.

As we learned above, in a project manager interview, these qualities are most likely going to include (but are not limited to) organization, planning, communication and leadership. So you need to go into your interview having prepared answers that clearly show you demonstrating these qualities. This will be the key to showing the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for their project management position.

Do you see how powerful this strategy is?? Most job seekers just take a quick glance at the job description, think to themselves: “Yep! I want this job and I should get it!” and then never look at it again.

You’re going to be different. You’re going to mine the job description for skills and qualities. Take the skills and qualities that you find there and that you possess and then craft killer answers to the interview questions showing the hiring manager you’re the perfect candidate!

Putting It All Together

As you can see, being a project manager requires several skills and at times, a fair amount of education and certification.

The good news is, with a little bit of dedication and patience, the payoff (at least in terms of potential salary) can be extremely rewarding.

If this is the career path you have chosen for yourself and you are about to begin interviewing for a project manager position, remember that the core competencies are especially important for this kind of work, and you need to remember to tailor your job interview around the skills that the company puts the most value into!

Good luck!

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Check out our other “job description articles” if you’re exploring career options:

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.