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Functional Manager vs. Project Manager: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A functional manager is responsible for the daily operations of a department or company, while a project manager oversees specific projects. Both positions require leadership skills and the ability to work with a team, but there are several key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between functional and project managers, and we provide tips for those interested in pursuing a career in management.

What is a Functional Manager?

Functional Managers are responsible for the overall performance of a specific function within a company. They often oversee a team of employees who all specialize in the same area, such as marketing, finance or human resources. Functional Managers develop strategies and goals for their team to improve efficiency and effectiveness. They also create budgets, track progress and report results to upper management. To be successful, Functional Managers must have strong leadership and problem-solving skills. They must also be able to work well under pressure and meet deadlines.

What is a Project Manager?

Project Managers are responsible for leading a team of employees to complete a specific task or project within a given timeline. They develop project plans, track progress, and ensure that the project stays on schedule and within budget. Project Managers also work with other departments to ensure that all necessary resources are available and that everyone is on the same page. They typically report to a senior manager or executive.

Functional Manager vs. Project Manager

Here are the main differences between a functional manager and a project manager.

Job Duties

Functional managers and project managers share some job duties, such as creating a project plan, delegating tasks to team members and overseeing the budget. However, their other job duties differ because of their different focuses. Functional managers focus on the inner workings of a department, while project managers focus on completing an objective.

For example, a functional manager might create a project plan that outlines how they can improve their department’s processes. They might identify certain challenges within their department and develop solutions for them. A project manager might do the same, but they would likely apply the functional manager’s solutions to a project. This means that a project manager might use the functional manager’s solutions when creating a timeline or determining costs.

Job Requirements

Functional managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration or another related field. They might also pursue a master’s degree, such as an MBA, to gain more knowledge about how businesses operate. Additionally, functional managers often have several years of experience working in their department before they’re promoted to management positions.

Project managers usually need a bachelor’s degree as well, but their field of study can vary. Many project managers have degrees in engineering, computer science or business administration. However, some employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in project management or a related field. Project managers might also be certified through the Project Management Institute (PMI), which offers different levels of certification depending on a candidate’s experience and education.

Work Environment

Functional managers typically work in an office setting, but they may also travel to visit their team members. They often have a set schedule and spend most of their time working on projects or completing tasks for the department. Project managers usually work in an office environment, but they may travel to meet with clients or attend meetings. They also have a flexible schedule that allows them to complete tasks quickly.


Functional managers and project managers share some similarities in the skills they use on the job. Both types of managers need to be able to plan, organize and delegate tasks. They also both need to have excellent communication skills to interact with their team members and other stakeholders. However, there are some key differences in the skills each type of manager needs.

Functional managers typically need to have a deep understanding of the department they are managing. This includes knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and being able to troubleshoot problems that arise. They also need to be able to develop long-term plans for their department and ensure that it is meeting its goals.

Project managers, on the other hand, need to be experts in time management. This is because they are often working on tight deadlines and need to ensure that their team is making progress according to the schedule. They also need to be able to juggle multiple tasks at once and be comfortable with ambiguity, as projects can often change direction.


Functional managers earn an average salary of $87,260 per year, while project managers earn an average salary of $87,628 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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