Program Manager Career Path
How To Become a Program ManagerA program manager ensures that a company fulfills its organizational goals typically by supervising several projects concurrently. If you're someone who has strong time management and leadership skills, a career in program management might be a solid option for you. In this article, we will discuss the six steps required to become a program manager.
Obtain at least a bachelor's degree.
To become a program manager, many companies want you to have at least a bachelor's degree in business administration, computer science, communications, or marketing. Larger companies might require a master's degree in an area such as finance, project management, or business development. These programs typically include courses focusing on program management and human resources. If you plan to work in a specialized field such as information technology, you might opt for degrees in computer science or information technology.
What type of degree should you pursue to become a Program Manager?
84% of people working as a Program Manager earned a Bachelor's Degree
What skills do you need to be a Program Manager?
- Written Communication
- First Aid
Start as a project manager.
Many program managers begin their career as project managers since it's a natural progression from one to the other. A project manager oversees a single project, whereas a program manager coordinates multiple projects within a single program. You will manage each assignment while keeping the company's strategy in mind. If you're overseeing a large project that includes junior project managers or coordinators, work closely with them to ensure deadlines are met. Management should notice your leadership qualities as a project manager when you apply for a program manager position.
The jobs you pursue as a project manager should reflect the industry where you ultimately want to work. Construction, business, and marketing all have unique projects and project requirements. Look for opportunities for more responsibility and projects with multiple phases and demands.
Procure program management experience.
After you spend time as a project manager, you garner experience working on a single project. However, to prove to potential employers that you can handle multiple projects, consider taking on volunteer opportunities. It takes thousands of hours leading and directing projects to become a program manager, so signing up as a project coordinator or expeditor for volunteer projects can give you experience.
Focus on developing your management skills, and you can attend leadership courses like the Certificate of Organizational Leadership offered by the Merrick School of Business or the Leadership Essentials certification from the Cornell Certificate program. Gather accolades and certificates to boost your resume and help you qualify for more advanced opportunities.
Learn from a program manager mentor.
Working as a program manager can be a bit overwhelming because you will be in charge of many projects instead of just one. Program managers must stay organized and know how to manage others well, and a mentor can help you hone those skills. Locate a mentor who can give you some tips about how to best navigate the job and industry. If you don't know a mentor personally, you might be able to find one at a conference or other networking event. Try connecting with a former professor, if possible.
Secure certification from established organizations.
One of the ways you can supplement your qualifications as a program manager is to obtain certification. Two of the more common certifications include the following:
- Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM): This certification signals that you have the essential technical and functional capabilities needed to work as a program or project manager.
- Program Management Professional (PgMP): The Program Management Institute (PMI) offers certification that declares you are proficient in managing complex programs. PMI is the leading global organization for those working as program managers.
Program Manager Career Path
Related careers in the Product & Project Management Industry
Interested in other Product & Project Management careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Program Manager skills. Discover some of the most common Program Manager career transitions, along with skills overlap.