With the right choices, you can start or advance a project management career.

Business meetingWhether it’s designing a smartphone for the tech industry, making a movie in Hollywood, or building an office park for a real estate developer, every type of business has projects. Which means every type of business needs project managers.

If you enjoy the satisfaction of navigating a project from start to finish, project management is likely a good career for you. But even if you’re already a project management professional, you may be wondering how to take your career further. Here are some tips for starting and advancing a successful project management career.

Identify Previous Project Management Experience

If you’re looking for your first project management job, you might worry that you don’t have any applicable experience. However, life is full of projects that you could use to strengthen your résumé. For example, if you’ve planned a wedding, run a fundraiser for your place of worship, designed a family garden, or managed a Little League team, you have project management experience. Highlight those experiences when looking for entry-level positions. To strengthen your résumé further, include words like planning, leading, teams, agile, budgets, schedules, communication, collaboration, results, and value.

Understand Both General and Industry-Specific Project Management Needs

No matter which industry you manage projects for, you’ll need to know how to complete the basic process of project management. This includes the steps of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring/controlling, and closing. To master these steps, you’ll want to gain and expand your knowledge in areas such as integrating teams, meeting deadlines, staying within budget, controlling quality, assuring clear communication, managing risk, and fulfilling the expectations of all stakeholders.

In addition to the general skills and knowledge you need to succeed in project management, you’ll also want to fully understand the unique needs and demands of your particular industry. Taking the time to learn about your industry and all its facets can help you specialize your skill set and increase your value.

Know Your Project Management Tools

Project management experts have developed many tools and methods to help project managers guide projects to a successful conclusion. To advance in your career, you’ll want to understand and know how to utilize these tools. Some of the most common include:

  • Network Diagram: A visual representation of all the steps of a project and how they interrelate and depend on one another.
  • Critical Path Method: A project management technique that identifies the most critical tasks within the network diagram so that they can receive special attention.
  • Program Evaluation and Review Technique: An advanced form of network diagramming that estimates time and cost of all tasks along three variables: an optimistic estimate, a “most likely” estimate, and a pessimistic estimate. The weighted average of all three estimates provides what’s considered the realistic estimate.
  • Gantt Chart: A visual method of planning and controlling a project. It’s designed to help project managers see and record progress on multiple tasks simultaneously.
  • Work Breakdown Structure: A project management technique that creates detailed deliverables for the project, allowing for each deliverable to be easily broken down into manageable components.

Network With Project Management Professional Groups

If you want to continue advancing your project management career, you need to keep up with the industry and other professionals. Join your local chapter of Project Management International (PMI), attend conferences, and engage with the project management community’s online groups, such as those hosted by LinkedIn.

Earn Project Management Certification

While you can start a project management career without certification, advancing your career may require becoming an official Project Management Professional (PMP)®. This is achieved through PMI certification, a process that requires you to:

  • Complete 7,500 hours leading or directing projects if you don’t hold a 4-year degree, or complete 3,500 hours if you do hold a 4-year degree.
  • Complete 35 hours of project management education.
  • Pass a certification exam.

Earn a Master’s in Project Management

Of all the business degrees to earn, perhaps the most useful for a project management career is an MS in Project Management. This degree can help you gain knowledge of key project management tools, advance your planning and communication skills, prepare for certification as a PMP, and work toward a higher project management salary.

If you’re concerned that you can’t fit a master’s degree program into your schedule, there’s good news. Online learning is making earning a project management master’s possible, even for those who work full time. That’s because online education allows you to complete coursework from the convenience of your home, on a schedule that lets you choose when in the day you attend class.

There’s a lot you can do to advance your project management career, and earning an MS in Project Management from an online university is a solid choice for working professionals.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Project Management degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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