Career change to project management

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Project management has a wide range of rolls and an ongoing demand for more resource. Organisations of all types need to increase their project management capability.  You may hear a lot of talk about automation and project management skills changing. But even with this trend there will be a shortage of people to carry out rolls.  People considering a career change can fill some of these roles. There will be a significant change in how project management is delivered over the next five to ten years. But there will be the need for project management into the foreseeable future.


Is project management for you

Project managers must be leaders. They need to inspire teams to deliver. That is underpinned by good communication skills, excellent organisation and the energy to drive the project to its ultimate goal. Your experience of managing a budget, managing people and solving problems can give you a great foundation on which to consider project management.


Project management is not just about project managers.  There are a wealth of other roles involved in managing projects. You may seek to start your project management career at something like project admin or project support roles. Moving into project leadership or project management office roles; then progressing to managing projects.  Then maybe beyond to programme management or portfolio management.


But regardless of the level you aspire to, or the type of role you will adopt; project management in all its forms offers a career that will change overtime. Each day will bring new challenges. It can be both rewarding and frustrating, but also satisfying and fulfilling.  


Changing your career

Assuming you already have some experience in another field. Coupled with a desire to transfer into project management, how do you go about it?  There is a mass of training, qualifications, education courses and professional development programmes that can get you started. It is difficult to know what to do and the best path to take. Formal qualifications of a project management related degree are very costly. They will take time and can mean you may not earning money while you are doing it.  


Professional qualifications like PMP, PRINCE2, and chartered project management status are also costly, but less so than taking a degree. The professional qualifications do however often require practical experience as well as just passing exams. This presents us with a bit of a catch 22; because you need the qualification to get a job and experience; but you can’t get that first roll without some form of certification.


Although many organisations are looking at offering project management apprenticeships; these seem to be rarely open to those that are changing career. The apprenticeships seem to be oriented towards those leaving full time education, with a degree. 


It is likely you have to start at an entry level in project management in rolls like:

  • administrator
  • project support officer
  • project controller
  • trainee Project Manager

These are all common entry level roles. But even in the entry level roles people are expected to have some skills and experience. Ensure that you highlight your current competencies and build on what you can offer.  There will be instances where you have had to use project management like skills in your current role.  Whether that is planning something or helping others execute a task.  It could be solving problems, identifying risks or just encouraging others to deliver value.