Learn more about this occupation in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Project management specialists lead people in working together toward the goal of meeting a project’s requirements. We apply knowledge, skills, techniques, and tools to project activities to get the job done.
Project management specialists work across all industries and around the world. Each industry has its own methods, but project management specialists have skills that are transferrable across industries and organizations.
I’m a technical project manager in the corporate investment and banking technology world. I oversee and track projects, focusing on compiling and analyzing data across business lines.
I plan a team’s work and goals into blocks for completing projects in short periods. I also facilitate different types of meetings to help the team share daily updates and problems, showcase their work, or collect feedback. This helps the team make progress by ensuring that each person is working on the right tasks, eliminating problems, and protecting the team from distractions.
Every day is different, but a typical day involves meetings with stakeholders to ensure that the project is on time and that we are resolving problems along the way. I also update and maintain project guidance, including communicating the project’s progress and status to clients.
Some people get into project management because of the variety: no one day is like another. You’re always working on different projects, with different people and teams.
In the technology field, they need initiative to learn the tools and applications that developers and engineers use.
In addition, having good interpersonal skills is a must for all project management specialists. Interpersonal skills help in developing a strong working relationship with the team and peers, as well as with internal and external clients.
Lastly, project management specialists, and arguably all workers, need to embrace uncertainty and navigate through change with a positive mindset. It’s also important to be able to work independently and to have excellent time-management skills.
It was during my 15-year career in the U.S. Army Special Forces that I developed the skills and experience to help me succeed as a project manager. For example, following a Special Forces exercise in Thailand, the U.S. ambassador asked us to conduct a medical outreach project in the neighboring community. I was responsible for all the planning, including writing the project summary, creating the project schedule, and submitting the funding request to the embassy. It was a successful event, and other Special Forces teams replicated our outreach in other remote regions of the country. To this day, I continue to use the tools and procedures I employed for that project.
When I began my transition out of the military, I thought about the experience I had from my 24 years of service. I connected with a career training program that helped me understand how my military training could transfer into the private sector. I then understood that project management would be a good fit for my skills. Once I decided to enter the project management field, I saw massive value in pursuing professional certifications and career training to support my transition.
There are a couple things I love doing. One is working with teams in a dynamic work environment. I thrive in environments that encourage diversity and support collaboration. Another is seeing a project from start to finish. There is a euphoria I feel when taking a project from the beginning to the end.
The most challenging aspect of my role as a tech project manager is learning the evolving technologies and language each organization uses.
Consider pursuing project management certifications, because they add value to your resume and help you gain recognition from hiring managers and others in the project management field. I also recommend joining professional associations for networking purposes and to learn from other project management specialists. In addition to networking, you’ll have access to project management tools, techniques, templates, and learning materials.
Lastly, study, study, study! Study the different technical aspects of the job and what acquiring certification provides. Study the various aspects of the certification process to understand the meaning of project management and what it’s all about. Studying helps you gain the certifications you need to validate your knowledge of project management.
I am passionate about mentoring, coaching, and seeking out opportunities to help others. As a former servicemember, I plan to help transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and military spouses pivot into project management careers.
Patricia Tate, "Project management specialist," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2023.