How to Become a Project ManagerOverview Training & Certification Skills, Knowledge & Attributes Project Management Methodologies Career Paths Work Environment Compensation F.A.Q Explore Courses
How to Become a Project Manager
By: Jennifer Brown
Last updated: October 18, 2022
You can find project managers just about anywhere, from high-rise construction sites to video game development studios to hospitals and universities across Canada and beyond.
These multi-skilled individuals have sought specialized training and are often found convening multidisciplinary groups, including tradespeople, engineers, IT professionals and marketers, for example, to get complex projects done on budget and on time. A project manager’s purview usually includes planning, procuring, and supervising the execution of a specific and critical project for an organization.
Project management is a growing and in-demand profession for those who have the right skillset. Those professionals who hold project management qualifications such as CAPM or PMP, for example, have become sought after as workplaces have identified the tangible benefits of having someone who can keep all the requirements of an initiative on track and delivered according to established deadlines and budget needs.
According to the Project Management Institute, employers will need to fill nearly 2.2 million new project-oriented roles each year through 2027. This means skilled project managers have great job prospects and can earn competitive salaries ranging from an average base salary of $78,000 and up to nearly $130,000 in Canada, depending on the sector, location, experience and level of responsibility.
In this Career Guide, we will outline some of the training and career options for project managers and detail the factors you need to consider when attempting to match your personal values and professional interests to this dynamic and growing profession in Canada.
Training & Certification
There are no mandatory certification or licence requirements to be able to work as a project manager in Canada, however, there are a variety of project management certifications, like PMP certification, that can be obtained and are required by many organizations with a formal recognition of the role.
Typically, a university degree or college diploma is required as a foundation, in combination with work experience and project management certification, to work in senior project management roles — but pathways can vary considerably from industry-to-industry (see “Career Paths” below). Note that most project managers will combine a bachelor’s degree with project management training focused on a particular industry or specialty.
Ultimately, becoming a qualified project manager will depend on your overall education and level of experience, but it can take anywhere from three months to up to a year or several years to become fully certified as some certificate programs can take up to one year or more. Ongoing training will also be required — represented by PDUs, or Professional Development Units — to maintain your certification.
In terms of certifications, the most common ones are Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) – these are generally not mandatory when applying for roles, but successful candidates typically have either one or both. The CAPM certification is also popular among less experienced project managers. And they are literally thousands of project management courses and PMP exam prep courses available at accredited institutions across the country.
CAPM certification, which leads to the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®, is a globally recognized credential designed to help entry-level project managers gain the knowledge and skills needed to manage large projects and advance in their careers.
CAPM certification is a step toward the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, and only requires a high school diploma (or associate’s degree or global equivalent) and 23 hours of project management education. PMP certification, by comparison, requires candidates to obtain a post-secondary degree and 4,500 hours of experience leading and directing projects to be eligible.
Top programs at colleges, universities and private training organizations will be based on the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)® latest Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® and its internationally recognized certification programs. The Project Management Professional (PMP) is the world’s leading project management certification and now includes predictive, agile and hybrid approaches. The credential is widely recognized as proof of project leadership experience and ability.
In some project management or business administration programs, the project management specialization is included and often achieved with a capstone course, in which you work in teams to develop a project management plan, and prepare for project execution, monitoring, control and completion. If you don’t have a degree or any experience managing or working on projects in a formal capacity, you will eventually need a degree, unless you can demonstrate considerable work experience in combination with successful project management training.
Certificate courses will cover fundamental learning outcomes such as:
- Project management principles
- Project management skills development
- Project resources: planning and scheduling
- Project cost management and cost analysis
- Risk planning
- Waterfall, agile and mixed project methodologies
- Common agile practices like retrospectives, backlogs, stand-ups and demos
This course is an introduction to the world of formal project management practices. Participants learn what project management is and is not and the highlights of how it works to manage complexity. Participants will get an introduction to project management … Continue reading →
If you would like to advance your career in a project management-oriented role, where project management frameworks are evolving from traditional to Agile and hybrid project management frameworks, and the importance of learning about these skillsets, Humber’s Project Management Certificate … Continue reading →
The Masters Certificate in Project Management has been designed from the ground up to build excellent Project Managers – skillful, strategic leaders who can consistently guide projects to success. With a proven curriculum based on A Guide to the Project … Continue reading →
This online, self-paced course prepares new or aspiring project managers to pass the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification exam. This course provides the required 23 education hours and includes everything you need to pass the current exam in … Continue reading →
Foundations of Project Management is a 3-day program where you will learn how to plan, execute, monitor, control and close all types of projects – on time and on budget. It is applicable to projects across all sectors. The course … Continue reading →
The most comprehensive certification program of its kind, the Masters Certificate in Lean Six Sigma – Black Belt Learning Path provides the tools you need to advance your career. Developed specifically to help Canadian organizations reach world-class operational standards, the … Continue reading →
Agile approaches are changing how software is developed and the impact is being felt far outside the technology teams in which they originated. But there are many different agile frameworks out there. How do you choose the right one? This … Continue reading →
In today’s highly competitive world, organizations are using project management to implement strategy and deliver value to their stakeholders. In this course you’ll learn about the five process groups and 10 knowledge areas of project management, and how to use … Continue reading →
Jan 15 - Apr 7, 2024
Jan 22 - Apr 14 2024
Feb 5 - Apr 28 2024
Apr 1 - Jun 23 2024
The course provides students with basic knowledge of the principles of planning, organizing, and controlling administrative aspects of a project in the commercial construction industry. The contents of this course will prepare students for the day to-day administrating, planning and … Continue reading →
This course is intended for students who are new to Agile methodology as well as those who wish to gain a more thorough understanding of the Agile Software Development principles and processes. After a brief overview of traditional approaches to … Continue reading →
This certificate program will prepare professionals with technical backgrounds to become employed in middle-level management (MLM) positions in the field of project management. It is aimed at engineers, information technology professionals, scientists, environmentalists, and other technical professionals. The program focuses … Continue reading →
Skills, Knowledge & Attributes
Effective project managers should be highly organized and goal-oriented individuals who also possess exceptionally good people skills with the ability to clearly communicate the needs of the project and to successfully lead a project team in today’s complex and often hybrid work environments. Strong project managers are good at “managing up and down” — they can marshal needed resources and rally and focus team members around key project objectives, regardless of their seniority within the organization.
It’s also important to understand process and have a good grasp of the required technical aspects of successfully managing projects. This may involve having knowledge of certain software tools and tracking progress against established deadlines.
PM professionals also understand the connection between the project at hand and the demands of the business they work for and the organization’s overall strategy. Here, industry knowledge combined with impeccable project management skills can get you far. It’s also why some project managers pursue a change management certificate to support things like digital transformation; software development or web development courses to deepen their technical understanding of the projects they are managing; and even event planning courses to help them facilitate large stakeholder and company meetings.
PM professionals will also, of course, need to be capable of and comfortable with working with interdisciplinary teams.
Important hard and soft skills for project managers
The art of project management really comes down to how you work with and manage people as well as applying critical applied skills to get the job done. That means there are some specific “soft” or people/interpersonal skills that project managers must possess to be effective and successful in their roles as well as a set of “hard” skills.
Some of the soft skills include:
- Time management
- Conflict resolution
- Leadership experience
- Ability to be decisive
- Team building
- Critical thinking
Key hard skills include:
- Budgeting/financial management
- Risk management
- Familiarity in working with and analyzing data
- Industry expertise
Some of the typical responsibilities of a project manager include:
- Developing an action plan for project completion
- Dividing a project into smaller tasks
- Delegating tasks to team members
- Identifying project stakeholders and manage expectations
- Bringing together the right people and resources to ensure project completion
- Managing procurement processes and supplier relationships
- Performing regular monitoring to track project progress
- Undertaking corrective measures to ensure project success
- Documenting project activities, lessons learned, and goals achieved
- Reporting on completed stages of projects
Project Management Methodologies
Exactly how the project is executed will depend on several factors, including which project management methodology is used to take the project forward and keep it on track. Some of the most popular project management methodologies include:
Agile Project Management is an iterative approach to delivering a project, which focuses on providing continuous releases that incorporate customer feedback. It means that incremental steps are taken towards the completion of a project. This approach is frequently used in software development projects since the benefit is that you can adjust as you go along rather than only at the end. Agile projects demonstrate more flexibility, empowerment and collaboration.
Scrum is an agile method of iterative and incremental product delivery that uses frequent feedback and collaborative decision making. Scrum provides a structure for delivery but does not tell you how to do specific practices, leaving that to the team to determine.
Lean Project Management is also an agile methodology that increases customer value by eliminating waste from each project phase. The use of Lean techniques will result in cutting waste in your projects, producing greater customer satisfaction and improved profit margin.
Waterfall project management follows a linear, sequential formula and provides a clearly defined sequence of execution with project phases that don’t move forward until a phase receives final approval. Once a phase is completed, it can be difficult and costly to revisit a previous stage. It works well for work that has predictable, recurring processes, but it can leave a development team unable to adjust faster than a competitor.
Kanban is a project management tool that leverages the visual display of information. Like using sticky notes on a whiteboard and moving them around based on where the task is in the process. The visualization helps teams to “see” the work and better understand its flow. It also helps a team communicate with one another.
Six Sigma focuses on understanding customers’ requirements and eliminating defects and waste. This is achieved through knowledge of statistics, engineering and project management, as well as the underlying processes and systems. According to the PMI, the objective of using Six Sigma (or Lean Six Sigma) in projects is to improve an organization’s products, services and processes across various disciplines, including production, marketing, finance, and administration.
This list isn’t exhaustive. There’s also Scrumban, eXtreme programming (XP), and the adaptive project framework (APF), for example. But the above approaches are the most commonly used and will serve the vast majority of project management professionals.
Project managers often get their start working in an entry-level position and gain experience that leads them to take on greater responsibility in project management or project coordinator roles. From there, after acquiring certain experience and certification, they may move up to become a project manager, senior project manager, director of project management or vice president of operations.
If you enjoy working with people and have strong organizational skills, project management can lead you to a variety of career paths and provide a path to more senior roles, depending on the organization for which you work. Planning and tracking a project from the beginning, collaborating with others to overcome challenges, and seeing your efforts end in measurable success can be rewarding aspects of the job. Project managers also enjoy working on many different types of projects. They become valuable knowledge workers in an organization which strengthens your ability to stay and move up in an organization.
Here are some areas of specialization for project managers:
The current construction boom means there is a need for competent construction project managers. These professionals break down what must be accomplished during every phase and work with clients, architects, engineers, and subcontractors including compliance with safety, zoning, and legal regulations.
From aerospace to manufacturing, engineering project managers work with engineers to figure out how to create something new or solve a given problem. They also pay close attention to the business side of engineering projects, such as allocating resources, staying on schedule, and keeping clients updated.
Project managers in this field work for public and private organizations in developing new energy systems or improving existing ones. Are you interested in renewable energy or energy transition projects? A project manager on a wind plant project may take charge of selecting and clearing a site, gathering bids from contractors, keeping track of materials and equipment, and maintaining a safe environment.
Software project managers use their solid technical background plus their ability to explain concepts to laypeople to turn ideas into reality. After achieving a firm grasp of what the client ultimately desires, software project managers work with tech staff to figure out the steps needed to make it happen and the tests required to ensure quality. Along the way, they stay abreast of deadlines, budgets, and potential problems.
Perhaps the highest-paying project management career path, IT project managers combine their technical prowess with business acumen to direct their organization’s computer-related activities. They keep an eye on factors such as upgrades, installation of new equipment, security, departmental requirements, and cost efficiency. Working with vendors to address needs and negotiate deals is often part of the job.
As the demand for more efficient healthcare services increases, project managers will be in demand in the years to come. A new long-term care or other hospital facility or clinic would require someone to oversee each stage of its development. Such projects involve collaboration with doctors, department heads, donors, hospital board members, and vendors—each with their own priorities. Such a scenario demands that a healthcare project manager well have great communication skills and juggle multiple responsibilities in a high-pressure environment with many stakeholders.
Pharmaceutical project managers oversee new ideas from conception stage to marketing and work closely with doctors, researchers, and marketers on testing new products, keeping records, monitoring risks, ensuring compliance with medical and legal standards, and getting the word out about new products.
Marketing project managers oversee brand awareness campaigns and collaborate with marketing strategists to develop a vision and execute to reach a target audience. They develop timelines and oversee the work of writers, designers, analysts, and others responsible for bringing objectives to life.
Do you prefer to work for yourself? Organizations often need help with one-off projects and don’t have the skillset internally to tackle project management work. Consulting project managers provide the skills and mindset needed to coordinate major projects. They identify objectives plan out specifics around timelines, deliverables and costs, track those assigned to the various tasks, keep everyone involved updated, and problem-solve as situations arise.
Project managers typically work in an office environment, although some may need to be onsite at worksites if they work in construction, engineering or other professions where projects are taking place outside of an office environment. They spend much of their time at a computer, corresponding with project contributors, using project management software and holding meetings or calls about the status of different projects. They may need to work overtime or irregular hours depending on project deadlines. Project managers may occasionally need to travel for work.
Working as a project manager can be demanding depending on the organization, its culture and the number of projects you will be managing at one time or over the course of a year. Expect to manage a variety of people, to be well organized to stay on top of all deadlines, and to be in communication with multiple “stakeholder” groups contributing to a project.
Some potential stress points of a project manager’s role include the deadline-driven nature of the job especially as various project milestones approach and the need to manage people and expectations across various disciplines.
Many PMs find job satisfaction in the accomplishment of milestones throughout the course of a project and in the ability to bring people together and motivate them to complete a project on time and for under projected costs.
By the nature of the project management role and need to maintain and upgrade qualifications on a regular basis, PMs can take steps to move up in their careers and gain greater fulfillment by obtaining additional certifications. They also have considerable responsibility and respect in the organizations in which the work and interact with a wide variety of people across a company, which means they can cultivate greater opportunities for future advancement.
Project managers often report to other senior managers or to the director of vice-president level of an organization. While it is common for project managers to be based in an office, some, such as those in the construction or engineering field also work in the field and during hours other than 9 to 5.
Data from Indeed.com in the United States indicates 67 percent of project managers are satisfied with their salaries.
The national average salary of a project manager is $78,050 per year. Some companies pay up to nearly $130,000 per year. Project managers working in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta earn higher salaries than the national average. (In Toronto, for example, the average project manager earns $84,000 per year.)
To increase your earning potential, you can narrow your search to more lucrative industries and locations. Your chances of earning a higher salary also increase with advanced certification and experience.
|Role||Average Salary in Canada|
|Senior Project Manager||$108,249|
|Marketing Project Manager||$68,507|
|Architectural Project Manager||$75,786|
|Construction Project Manager||$86,766|
|IT Project Manager||$93,346|
|Engineering Project Manager||$99,351|
Jennifer Brown is a journalist and communications professional with extensive experience creating engaging content internally and externally for various B2B and consumer audiences. As a journalist, she has written about and interviewed leaders in the health care, education, legal, enterprise technology and cannabis sectors.