Character of the Work A project manager (PM) is responsible for all that happens or fails to happen to complete the contracted project on time, within budget, with specified quality, and safely. PMs supervise the activities of the internal professionals assigned to deliver the project, but perhaps most critically, PMs deal with the client and external stakeholders affected by the project. The best PMs know well the technical aspects and management systems of their projects, while they remain mindful of the higher-level imperatives of profitability and repeat business from clients. Between projects that they manage, PMs might be pulled temporarily into company offices to help plan other projects or cultivate additional business opportunities.
Education and Training In today’s construction industry, anyone expecting to be chosen for a management position of any kind should hold a baccalaureate degree. A relevant degree, such as construction management, construction engineering, or business management satisfies the need well. It is likely that a prospective PM has spent most of their time in project offices working closely with supervising PMs and superintendents. Upon graduation from a suitable academic program, they often begin their career as a field engineer and then progress to an assistant project manager position. Skill in dealing with clients and subcontractors is essential, but technical ability sufficient to supervise project controls, procurement, and other project professionals is also critical. Well-managed companies provide their prospective PMs with ample exposure to varying job demands. Perhaps the best preparation for success as a PM is a good variety of management experience, since one never knows what challenges await during the next job. Coupled with pertinent training courses that speed necessary learning of details with which they might not be as familiar as they wish, PMs broaden their array of knowledge, skills, and abilities. The best PMs devote themselves to lifelong learning in both formal and informal settings. Those expecting to advance to higher levels of responsibility will perhaps wish to earn a relevant master’s degree, and the MBA is common.
Career Opportunities The project-level decision-making performed well by PMs can groom them for increased responsibilities. Movement to program management or a business unit directorship is not uncommon. These paths can lead to executive positions. But some PMs grow to enjoy their work in the field so much that they decline opportunities to advance into higher-level jobs that preclude direct project involvement. Such proven, field-oriented PMs are often assigned progressively larger and more prestigious projects, as they become available.