A program manager is a person who is responsible for overseeing the development of a project or the implementation of a new process. The program manager is usually in charge of a team of people who work together to complete the project.
A program manager is usually responsible for both the day-to-day management of the project, including coordinating the work of all team members, and the overall vision for the project. The program manager must be able to work with the project team to ensure that the project is completed within budget and on time.
Program managers often work in the fields of engineering, information technology, manufacturing, or consulting.
Program Manager Job Duties
The responsibilities of a program manager vary depending on the type of organization they work for, but in general, they include:
- Developing, implementing, and evaluating programs to achieve organizational goals
- Working with management to establish objectives and budgets for assigned programs
- Facilitating communications and coordination among all the people and agencies involved in a program
- Ensuring compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies
- Monitoring and analyzing progress and ensuring alignment with the project’s objectives
- Providing feedback to management about program strengths and weaknesses
- Implementing corrective actions and accountability procedures to ensure continuous improvement of programs and projects
Program Manager Salary & Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of May 2020, the median annual wage for program managers was $95,000. The highest-earning 10% made more than $162,000.
The employment of program managers is projected to grow 5% from 2019-2029. The demand will be driven by the need to manage growing organizations, as well as the need to develop and implement strategies to compete in a global economy.
Program Manager Job Requirements
The program manager is responsible for the successful implementation of an entire project. He or she must have a mix of education and experience in order to excel in this position.
Education: A bachelor’s degree in a related field of study, such as business management, information technology, engineering, or project management is often required.
Experience: Program managers often work their way up the ranks, starting as project managers or team leaders. They may work in a variety of positions before moving up to program manager.
Certification: PMI offers the Project Management Professional certification. To become PMP certified, a candidate must pass the Project Management Institute’s exam, maintain their PMP certification through continuing education, and pay an annual certification maintenance fee.
Program Manager Skills
The following skills are required for this job:
Analytical skills: Program managers must be able to evaluate and understand the technical aspects of a project.
Ability to communicate well: A program manager must be able to clearly convey ideas and instructions to other team members.
Able to handle stress: Program managers are under a lot of pressure since they are responsible for the success or failure of a project. It’s important that they can handle stress well.
Interpersonal skills: The program manager will work closely with clients, vendors, contractors, employees, and other stakeholders throughout the life cycle of the project. Therefore, interpersonal skills are essential for building good relationships with these individuals.
Technical knowledge: Program managers need a good understanding of the technical aspects of their organization’s products or services.
Program Manager Work Environment
Program managers typically work in an office environment. The work is often deadline-driven, so the time spent in the office can be extensive.
A program manager may be required to work on a team with other managers, engineers, and technicians. They must be skilled in group dynamics and able to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and levels of expertise.
Program Manager Career Advancement
In order to advance in this field, you’ll want to demonstrate leadership and a strong ability to communicate and collaborate. In this position, you’ll use your skills to ensure all project members are moving forward based on the same strategy.
You’ll also be able to identify ways to streamline your workflow and improve your processes. This will help you complete projects faster and more effectively. Once you have mastered this position, you might consider becoming a senior program manager, program director, or even a vice president position. The responsibilities of these roles can vary greatly depending on the needs of the company and the organization’s goals.
Program Manager Trends
Here are three trends influencing how Program Managers work. Program Managers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Increased Demand for Project Management
As companies grow more global and seek to establish themselves as the go-to source for specific products or services, they will look to improve efficiency by streamlining their internal processes.
Improved efficiency will require additional project management and managers who can work with internal stakeholders and outside vendors to ensure that all aspects of a project come together seamlessly.
Accelerated Pace of Change
Because the future is always changing, program managers will need to develop skills that allow them to effectively adapt to changes in their environment.
For example, one study found that it takes an average of 6 months for companies to adapt their strategy after a major change has occurred, suggesting that program managers who can identify and implement necessary changes more quickly will be well-positioned for success.
Increased Importance of Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills are often a more valuable asset than technical skills in the field of program management, largely due to the diverse nature of this role.
In addition to possessing technical knowledge and project management expertise, successful program managers also need strong interpersonal skills in order to ensure that their team members are properly motivated and coordinated.
How to Become a Program Manager
1. Planning Your Career Path
Program managers often hold a broad role in the workplace and are often tasked with multiple responsibilities at once. This means that there is no one-size-fits-all career path for program managers; instead, aspiring program managers should focus on their strengths and tailor their education and experience accordingly.
2. Writing a Resume
In the case of program manager positions, it’s important to emphasize your leadership and organizational skills. The best resumes for program managers highlight their ability to get things done and see projects through to completion.
This means that you should list all of your accomplishments in a way that highlights your ability to plan, prioritize and execute. Make sure to include the results of your work in your resume as well. This will show employers that you can take initiative and complete tasks independently.
3. Applying for Jobs
You can get a lot of insight into how to get a job as a program manager by asking the right questions. A great place to start is by reaching out to your network, which will allow you to ask your contacts about their career paths and what it’s like to work in the industry. You can also try to get some insight into the hiring process by reaching out to a program manager at a company you’re interested in working for.
4. Ace the Interview
In order to succeed in an interview as a program manager candidate, it is important to show your knowledge of the field and have examples ready about how you have helped to improve the process in other organizations.
Also, keep your responses concise, but make sure they are complete enough for employers to get a clear picture of your qualifications. If possible, practice answering interview questions so that you are prepared for any curveballs.