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8 essential skills to become a project manager

At a glance

  • A project manager is responsible for ensuring that an organization’s initiatives stay on track and within budget.
  • Task and budget management, timeline tracking, software knowledge, leadership and communication are some of the important skills required in this role.
  • University of Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Science in Business with a Project Management Certificate that is aligned to several Project Management Institute certifications.

A project manager is responsible for a project’s planning, execution and successful completion. They work with a team of professionals to ensure all project elements are on schedule and within budget.

To be successful in this career, there are several project management skills a manager should possess. They may range from more technical skills that involve being familiar with certain software to softer skills — such as communication that provides clear instructions or problem-solving that helps anticipate and address challenges. With these fundamental project management skills, a manager may have a better chance of successfully navigating a project from start to finish.

8 essential project management skills

Project management is a demanding profession that requires an individual to wear many hats. Those who are successful in this career can juggle multiple tasks and deadlines while maintaining a high level of quality control. Several skills make this possible.

1. Developing project costs and timelines

Every industry has its unique time-management process for developing project costs and timelines. Therefore, project managers must be familiar with the standard practices in their industry to create an accurate budget and timeline for their project. This process begins with understanding the scope of the project and developing a clear time-management plan. Once project managers understand the work that needs to be done, they can start to develop a budget.

Project managers are responsible for ensuring that the project stays on track and within budget. To do this, they must regularly review costs and timelines to identify potential issues. Then, if a problem occurs, they must quickly develop a solution that does not jeopardize the project’s success.

Careers in project management

2. Managing project management software

Project managers should also be able to use project management tools that help keep track of all aspects of the projects. This software can be used to:

  • Create and track tasks — This ensures everyone knows their deadlines and responsibilities.
  • Develop and track project budgets — This allows the project manager to see where money is being spent and identify potential overages.
  • Create and track project timelines — This helps the project manager see where the project is behind schedule and identify potential bottlenecks.
  • Communicate with team members — This allows the project manager to keep everyone on the same page and address concerns team members may have.

Many types of project management software are available, and the best one for a project manager to use will depend on the specific needs of their project.

3. Conducting statistical analysis

Strong statistical analysis skills are key for project managers because they often need to analyze data to make decisions. For example, a project manager might need to use statistical analysis to:

  • Identify trends — Determining trends helps managers understand how the project is progressing and identify potential problems.
  • Evaluate options — This can help choose the best course of action for the project.
  • Make predictions — Forecasting can aid in anticipating difficulties and developing solutions ahead of time.
  • Assess performance metrics – Learning from projects can help improve processes in the future.

Statistical analysis can be complex, but software programs can make it easier.

4. Managing and motivating teams

Every team is different, and it’s up to the project manager to develop leadership skills to determine what motivates each team member. This can be a challenge, but it’s crucial to find a way to keep everyone engaged and working toward the common goal. Positive team leadership can help push a project over the finish line and is an important soft skill for this line of work.

5. Tracking and measuring progress

Project managers must track the progress of their assignments. This allows them to identify areas where the project is behind schedule and make adjustments.

There are many ways to track and measure project progress, such as Gantt charts, delivery reports and key performance indicators (KPIs). Depending on the industry and the project, there may be other methods for tracking and measuring progress. Again, it’s up to the project manager to determine which methods and tools will work best.

6. Possessing wide-ranging knowledge of business practices

Since project managers often work with teams from different departments, they need a broad understanding of various business practices. This knowledge can be helpful when trying to find solutions to problems. Additionally, being familiar with different business practices can make it easier for the project manager to communicate with teams in different departments.

Some of the business practices that project managers should familiarize themselves with are:

  • Accounting — This is important for understanding financial reports and managing budgets.
  • Marketing — This can help create promotional materials and market the project to stakeholders.
  • Human resources — This is necessary for managing team members and dealing with personnel issues.

Project managers do not need to be experts in every business practice but should have a general understanding of the most common ones.

7. Understanding legal, ethical and regulatory considerations

Some of the legal, ethical and regulatory considerations that project managers should be aware of are:

  • Privacy laws — If the project involves handling personal data, the project manager must ensure the data is protected under privacy laws.
  • Safety regulations — If the project team is working on a new product that will be sold to customers, the project manager must ensure the product meets all safety and quality standards.
  • Environmental regulations — If the team works in a country with strict environmental regulations, the project manager must ensure the team complies with those regulations.

Understanding legal, ethical and regulatory considerations is a complex skill that takes time and experience to master but is essential.

8. Interpersonal communication skills

Working with people is one of the big soft skills in the role of project manager. Some of the interpersonal communication skills that are important for project managers are:

  • Active listening — Listening to what others are saying and trying to understand their point of view.
  • Empathy — The ability to see things from another person’s perspective and understand their feelings.
  • Patience — Important for handling difficult people and managing conflict.
  • Persuasion — Convincing others to support your ideas or decisions.
  • Negotiation — Finding a compromise between two or more parties.

Developing effective interpersonal communication abilities takes time and practice, but it’s critical for everyone in a leadership position.

Implementation of various successful business strategies

A project manager must be able to take a business strategy and turn it into a plan of action that will lead to success. This requires strong problem-solving skills and the ability to think creatively.

Some of the business strategies that project managers should be familiar with are:

Those are just a few of the most essential business strategies that project managers should be familiar with.

How to develop essential project manager skills

Often, project managers can develop the integral hard and soft skills they need to succeed by earning a degree or certificate. This path can help build the theoretical knowledge and project management skills necessary to lead a team effectively. Employers typically require project managers to have a bachelor’s degree, often in a business discipline, as well as be certified in project management, from an organization such as the Project Management Institute (PMI).

In addition to formal education, another great way to develop essential project management skills is through continuing education and professional development courses. These courses can allow you to learn new skills and stay up to date on the latest trends in project management.

Managers can also develop project management skills through on-the-job experience and mentoring. On-the-job experience is an excellent way to learn firsthand, and mentoring can provide guidance and support from more experienced managers.

Project management is an ever-changing industry that necessitates continuous learning. To keep up, a project manager must be adaptable and eager to learn new things.

Learn project management skills at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in learning project management skills to help you in your career, University of Phoenix (UOPX) can help. The University offers a Bachelor of Science in Business with a Project Management Certificate that covers the hands-on application of project management skills in an organizational setting. Curricula in this program aligns to the PMI® Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide v7) as well as several PMI certifications. To learn more, visit phoenix.edu/degrees/business/project-management.

In addition to the bachelor’s program, UOPX also offers a Project Management Certificate (Undergraduate) and a Graduate Project Management Certificate. The University also offers 10 single courses in project management to explore.