How to Get Started
as an Program Manager

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Large companies and organizations have recently started hiring professional consultants with a strong blend of the attributes and skills needed to lead new company projects. This has led to an increase in the number of program manager roles available in the job market.

If you’ve reached a stage in your professional career where you wish to oversee a company’s strategic and long-term goals, you may be wondering how to become a program manager. In this post, we’ll go over the educational requirements, annual earnings, job outlook, and responsibilities for this role.

Who Is a Program Manager?

Program managers create organizational structures to support the simultaneous coordination of several interrelated projects. They oversee risk management, budget control, resource sharing, and team management in sub-projects to achieve company goals.

A program manager puts together a master project plan and collaborates with the key project management teams. They ensure that all team members are held accountable for their work and see projects through to completion. They help prevent project failures and unnecessary financial expenditure.

But there is more to the role of a program manager. These professionals must have a strong educational background and a certain set of skills. Below we consider the basic requirements and attributes that any project manager should possess to thrive.

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in business or a related subject.
  • Demonstrated experience in project management.
  • Proven program management experience.
  • Proven skills in stakeholder management.
  • Previous experience managing projects.
  • Knowledge of project management software and tools.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office products such as Word, Excel, and Outlook.

How Does Program Management Relate to Data Science?

Data science and project management are two fields that support and enable professionals to solve business problems, implement solutions, and monitor outcomes. Program management relies on data science and analytics to guide decision-making. A program manager must be able to analyze and find meaningful insights from data.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Program Manager?

There are a variety of paths to becoming a program manager and they vary in length. It could take anywhere from three months to over three years to become a program manager. Ultimately, how long it takes you to become a program manager will depend on your education, experience level, and your professional goals.

Where to Study Program Management

There are different learning paths to developing your skills for a career in program management, from universities to coding bootcamps. Below we inspect some of the schooling and training options at your disposal to become a program manager.

Program Management Community Colleges

If you can’t afford the cost of a private college, a one or two-year course in program management at a community college can be a good option. Community colleges provide cheaper and hands-on training with smaller class sizes and more scheduling flexibility.

Program Management Universities

Another way to begin your career in program management is to get a formal education from a university. Thousands of universities around the world offer project management degrees. Having a degree also improves your chances of landing a lucrative job.

Program Management Coding Bootcamps

Some coding bootcamps teach program management as part of their programs. Others offer specialized courses that focus solely on program management. Whichever the case, a coding bootcamp program is short and practical and will equip you with the skills you need to begin your career. They also provide job assistance to help you get a job after graduation.

Some top schools that offer program management courses are Thinkful, Kenzie Academy, Springboard, The Tech Academy, and Simplilearn. These programs can be crucial to your professional development and can help you land roles with some of the biggest names in tech.

Online Courses

You could also take online courses in program management. These courses can help you acquire the technical skills needed to begin your career right from the comfort of your home. Platforms like Udemy, Khan Academy, and edX have a plethora of courses on project management. There are even free courses you can take.

How to Become a Program Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Program Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

Landing your first job in program management can be challenging. To lend you a hand, we have put together this three-step guide. This is, of course, not the only one to become a program manager, but it is one of the most common routes to get there.

Acquire a four-year degree

Before moving to develop your abilities as a program manager, it is a good idea to obtain formal project management education from a university or college. Many employers require a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree for this type of role.

Seek experience

Like any other advanced job role, program managers need to gain relevant work experience in related fields like planning and program execution, project coordination, resource management, or program documentation. You can learn the basics of project management by completing smaller tasks and goals in entry-level positions.

Earn relevant certifications

Some employers require that candidates possess additional certifications in program management, while some don’t find it necessary. Either way, having a program management certificate strengthens your candidacy for the position and will help you stand out from the crowd.

Entry-Level Program Manager Job Requirements

Employers looking for entry-level program managers require at least a bachelor’s degree in program management or other related fields. Larger organizations may demand that candidates possess a master’s degree in finance, business administration, or other technical subjects.

Program Manager Salary and Job Outlook

Program managers enjoy large salaries because they oversee key aspects of the business, including goals, risks, financial constraints, and resource allocations. In fact, it is one of the few jobs that pay over $100,000 without an advanced degree.

According to Payscale, the average salary of a program manager is $114,064 per year, with the lowest reported income being $74,000 and the highest $150,000 a year. Your income also depends on factors like your educational level, experience, certification, and skills. Your salary will also vary according to the industry in which you operate.

The current job outlook for a program manager is excellent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, program management jobs will rise by 9 percent over the next ten years. More than 500,000 new job opportunities will arise as a result of this.

Examples of Program Manager Job Interview Questions

  • What are some of the most common causes of project failure?
  • What metrics do you use to determine the success of a project?
  • How do you know which aspects to focus on when managing numerous projects?
  • What technology and project management software do you use daily?
  • Tell us about a project you’ve worked on that you are particularly proud of.
  • Tell me about the most challenging situation you’ve encountered while leading a team of project managers.
  • Do you follow a code of ethics that helps you be a better leader?

What Does a Program Manager Do?

As a program manager, you are responsible for the broad, high-level view of individual projects. Your primary responsibility is to make sure that all aspects of a project are operating effectively and efficiently.

You’ll also be assigning daily tasks to team members and ensuring that all programs are running efficiently. In other words, if you enjoy multitasking, this job is for you. Here is a list of tasks you would typically handle on a program management job:

  • Planning and keeping track of program execution.
  • Assessing and solving risks and problems.
  • Managing interdependencies between projects.
  • Creating budget and status reports.
  • Communication, negotiation, and problem-solving with stakeholders.
  • Resource management across projects.
  • Creating and managing program documentation.

The program manager contributes their skills to help an organization align various projects to meet corporate goals. Here are more detailed descriptions of a program manager’s core responsibilities and roles.

Fulfill Organizational Goals

A program manager helps an organization stay on schedule, on budget, and on the right track to fulfill organizational goals. They coordinate the activities of an entire company by designing strategies and making sure they are implemented. To do this effectively, it helps to be good at delegating.

Manage Project Managers

A program manager controls all the projects within a program. They create the blueprint for a program, then delegate tasks to project managers. They also ensure that all project managers are working effectively toward program goals.

Creates Roadmap for Programs

A program manager drafts the roadmap and company strategy regarding goals and actions that the company should follow to meet its goals. They collaborate with higher management and key stakeholders to introduce new projects or shut down ineffective ones.

Essential Program Manager Skills and Certifications

Essential Program Manager Skills and Certifications

A good program manager should also possess a good mix of soft and technical skills to accomplish their job duties seamlessly. It is also crucial to obtain relevant certifications to maintain your competitive edge in the industry.

Program Manager Skills

Leadership Ability and People Skills

As a program manager, you’re both in charge of seeing complex projects through to completion and managing a team to accomplish that goal. You should be able to motivate and mediate as needed. It is not just about managing tasks but also about managing people.

Effective Communication skills

A good leader must possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills. If you can’t communicate what you want your team to do, you won’t lead effectively. As well as communicating with your team, you’ll also need to interact with everyone involved in the project, from contractors to customers. The job also requires excellent negotiation skills.

Risk and Money Management

Planning a project, no matter how big or small, is fraught with risks. It’s part of your duty to spot potential problems before they become serious. Before beginning the project, you must first identify, assess, and create strategies to control risk. In addition to creating a realistic budget, you have to control costs during program execution.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking ability is also essential. You should be as objective as possible when analyzing and evaluating a situation. This will keep you from acting on emotions or on inaccurate information. You’ll be confronted with challenges daily, and you want your decisions to be unbiased so that you are always acting according to what is best for the project.

Organizational Skills

This skill comprises things like keeping track of tasks, providing quality management, meeting deadlines, and adhering to a schedule. Skills like this can easily be acquired from completing projects. If you think you’re lacking in this department, consider putting some time into developing your organizational abilities.

Program Manager Certifications

A slew of organizations award certificates and professional certifications in the field of project management. If you are a program manager with ambitious goals for your career, consider some of the certifications below.

Project Management Professional

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). A PMI certification proves that you have the project management skills to meet the demands of your employers.

CompTIA Project+ Certification

The CompTIA Project+ certification is another certification for project managers, both inside and outside the IT sector. This certification is primarily for professionals who manage and coordinate small to medium-sized projects.

Project Management Graduate Certificate

Harvard University, through its online learning platform, offers this project management graduate certificate. Composed of four courses, this certificate will help you acquire the technical and soft skills required to manage, monitor, and complete a project.

Reasons to Become a Program Manager in 2021

Pursuing a career in project management is an excellent idea. There is a great need for program managers in the labor market and they can work in a variety of fields. This means that these professionals will not be short of employment opportunities in years to come. If you have a knack for multitasking and love learning, this job is for you.

Program Manager FAQs

Can You Become a Program Manager Without a Degree?

Having a degree is not a requirement to become a project manager. However, the majority of employers opt for candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. The more education, training, and certifications you have, the more likely you are to land a well-paying job in the field.

Is It Hard to Become a Program Manager?

If you are a good leader with the ability to multitask and some project management and business know-how, becoming a project manager won’t be hard. However, entering the field as a newcomer may present some challenges. You’ll have to take time to acquire knowledge and experience.

How Many Hours Do Program Managers Work?

You should expect to work regular business hours. Program managers generally work Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm. They often do 40 hours per week but this can vary widely depending on the industry.

What Degree Do I Need to Become a Program Manager?

Employers generally require a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Communications, Computer Science (if you want to work in IT), or other related fields. Some employers might require a Master’s Degree in Management and Leadership to land a project management role.

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