The ultimate guide to becoming a successful project manager

Tue 16 May 2023

A lady is drawing charts on a whiteboard with a male colleague.

70% of projects fail due to poor management, so companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of having highly skilled, experienced and qualified project managers.

Becoming a successful project manager requires experience, skills and knowledge, but navigating the steps to becoming a successful project manager can be difficult and confusing. 

This blogpost will give you all the tips, tricks and steps you need to know on your journey to becoming a successful project manager.

What qualifications and experience do I need to be a project manager? 

Although in the UK there's no legally required qualification for becoming a project manager, many employers prefer those who have an educational background in a business-related field. This demonstrates the candidates’ knowledge and expertise in the field. 

There are a few educational avenues you can take to become a project manager:

If you’re looking to become a project manager, we recommended the Level 5 CMI-approved Project Management Qualification. Not only does it grant you Chartered Project Professional status, but it’s approved by the well-recognised Chartered Management Institute.

It also costs much less than a degree AND can be completed in a shorter time frame. Employers find this qualification desirable as it shows you have the skills and the qualifications to be a competent, successful project manager. 

Can anyone be a project manager?

In the UK, anyone with the right skills, experience and project management qualifications can become a project manager.

You just need to have the passion to work towards your career goals and achieve the qualifications needed to make your CV stand out from the crowd.

Are project managers in demand in the UK? 

Due to the growing complexity of business operations, almost all industries require project managers to manage tasks, ensure goals are met and deliver results.

Employers are seeking competent project managers who can oversee projects from start to finish, communicate with stakeholders and manage the project towards success. Those with experience and qualifications are more attractive candidates for employers, who are looking for competent, well-rounded individuals. 

Do project managers get paid well in the UK? 

Depending on your skills, knowledge, expertise and qualifications, project managers in the UK are well paid. The average annual salary for a UK project manager is between £31,000-£76,000. 

How do you become a project manager? 

Here are a few steps you can take to becoming a successful project manager:

Develop project management skills 

To become a successful project manager and a desirable candidate for employers, you must have the necessary project management skills.  These skills include: 

  • Strong communication skills
  • Leadership and teamwork abilities
  • Time management skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Critical thinking 
  • Attention to detail
  • Risk management
  • Financial management skills
  • Adaptability to change
  • Multi-tasking skills
  • Stakeholder management and relationship-building skills
  • Proficiency in project management software and tools.

Acquire project management experience 

As with many management jobs and senior positions, experience is necessary to ensure you can carry out day-to-day tasks efficiently. Many individuals with years of experience may find themselves in project management positions without the educational background to embed their skills and teach them best industry practices.

So, although it's important to have experience, it's also important to have an educational qualification relating to project management. 

Gain a qualification 

As mentioned earlier, it's important to gain a qualification. This can also be the first step you take towards your career as a project manager. A qualification in project management is important to learn all about project management and project planning techniques so you can be a successful project manager.

What are the career pathways for project managers?

Many industries require project managers, so it’s a career with endless options and opportunities! Here are a few career progression pathways project managers can take: 

Entry roles

Industry work

Many professionals who want to become project managers begin their career in junior, non-managerial positions. They then work their way up to senior positions after years of building experience. 

Junior project manager

Junior project managers can be a project assistant, a project coordinator or an assistant project manager. These positions typically oversee less complicated, low-responsibility projects. 

Average UK entry-level project manager salary: £35,971.

Mid-level roles

Project managers 

Project managers oversee operations and are responsible for improving processes, guiding the team, and ensuring the project is on track to reach targets. 

Average UK project manager salary: £45,913.

Senior roles

Senior project manager 

With more experience, project managers can access senior roles and take on more complex, high-risk projects. 

Average UK senior project manager salary: £63,675.

Director of project management  

Directors of project management typically oversee multiple project managers, interact with stakeholders and align multiple projects to meet a shared goal or target of the organisation. 

Average UK director of project management salary: £87,050.

VP of operations/ Chief operating officer 

The highest positions of project management in the industry, these professionals are responsible for planning and organising the business side of projects, as well as implementing new strategies. 

Average UK VP of operations project manager salary: £95,680.

Average UK COO salary: £77,894.

What is the best course for project management in the UK?

The Level 5 CMI-approved Project Management Qualification provides learners with the skills, knowledge and expertise they need to become a successful manager in entry level and senior positions. 

In contrast with other qualifications such as Prince2 foundation certificate and practitioner course certificate, the Level 5 CMI-approved Project Management Qualification gives you the knowledge and understanding to apply the best project management methodology for a particular project. 

You’ll gain the title of a Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) and a qualification recognised by the Association for Project Management, showing employers you are a skilled professional.

Unlike project management degrees and apprenticeships, the CMI Project Management Qualification can be completed in a short amount of time for a fraction of the cost of a degree!

If you’re looking to become a project manager, enrol in our Project Management course today to start your career as a project manager. 

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Project Management

Learn the latest mix of tools, techniques, processes and skills in project management and achieve an internationally recognised qualification.