How to become a project manager: The degrees and skills needed to succeed

June 27, 2023 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
Interested in a career in project management? Learn about what project managers do, the skills needed to succeed, and the online degrees that can prepare you for the role.

What do project managers do?

A project manager's responsibilities include planning, organizing and directing all tasks associated with a given project. This typically involves setting deadlines, assigning tasks within a team and managing the priorities for projects on a limited timescale.

Beyond that, the role of a project manager is varied and versatile. Depending on the industry and the type of project, project managers may work with teams of fewer than 10 or more than a hundred people, with deadlines ranging from weeks or months to years to complete a project.

For example, if a large tech firm is hoping to release a new smartphone app, it might hire a project manager to coordinate the teams responsible for the app's development. This can include the coding and software development team that's programming the app, the graphic designers who are designing its physical look for consumers, and the firm's finance department to ensure that the project stays within budget. It's the project manager's role to ensure these separate pieces of the project come together to produce a great app within the firm's timeline.

While the world of tech is one example, project management plays an important role in many other industries as well. For example, brick-and-mortar projects need management, which can include anything from helping a shoe company release its new line of winter boots to working for a member of Congress who's launching a new initiative to serve constituents.


Necessary project management skills

One of the most important skills needed to be an effective project manager is an excellent capacity for organization. Given that project managers are responsible for keeping track of many separate aspects of a single project, you need to be comfortable in a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment where daily tasks may not be the same two days in a row. This is especially true for managers working with large teams that may be spread out across multiple time zones or even nations.

A project manager needs to be an effective communicator, both in writing and verbally. As with any management role, a project manager assigns duties to other team members and must be precise and clear in setting expectations around what needs to be done and what the relevant deadlines are. Project managers also need to build trust with their teams so team members feel comfortable coming to them with any questions or concerns they may have.

Additionally, a project manager needs to understand the project they're managing. This means being able to learn quickly and develop industry-specific knowledge. For example, a project manager will likely need a basic understanding of construction when working for a housing developer, or an understanding of machine learning when working for a tech firm. This will depend on where you're looking for work and how you want to apply your project management skills.

There are also some specific technical and software skills that may be useful as a project manager or a candidate for a project manager position. In particular, knowledge of accounting and customer relations management (CRM) software, such as Salesforce, can be useful for project managers who’ll be tracking a project's budget, and it's a qualification that employers often look for.


Who hires project managers?

One of the valuable aspects of careers in project management is the high demand for them in almost every industry. While project management is often touted as a great career option for people without technical backgrounds who want to get a foothold in the tech industry, there are also numerous non-technical options for those who want to work as project managers.

Since nearly every field, from health care to tech to local government to restaurant supply, has long-term projects at one point or another, the skills of a project manager can find a home nearly anywhere.


Earn your project management degree online with Arizona State University

If careers in project management sound interesting to you, you may be wondering if you need a specialized degree to work in the field. While some project managers get started with minimal training, studying project management can help you develop critical skills that give you an advantage when applying for project manager positions.

ASU Online offers two undergraduate degrees online for individuals who are interested in studying project management.

In both ASU Online programs, you'll be exposed to the many aspects of project management and gain experience through working on projects and assignments designed to prepare you for everyday work in the role. This experience will assist you in the job application and professional certification process, as you'll already know the field and may even have an idea of what you’ll specialize in.

If you already have an undergraduate degree and are looking to break into project management or take your career to the next level, ASU Online offers the Master of Project Management degree program.This program is designed to enhance your professional expertise and help you develop the skills you'll use in public, private and nonprofit settings as a project manager.

Choosing a college major concentration: Specializing for success

Wondering what major concentrations are and how they it work? Read on to learn about degree concentrations and if one is right for you. 


Step 1 of 2

Get started today

To learn more about ASU Online or a specific program, fill out the form below and check your email for information on next steps.

* Indicates a required field

This is a required field.