How to become a project manager

What is a project manager?

Put simply, a project manager is someone who manages a piece of work from beginning to end.

And if you dream of a job where no two days are ever the same, then project management could be the role for you.

As part of their role, project managers are responsible for entire projects, including the team, resources and budget. They oversee the initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and closing of projects.

Ultimately, they are responsible for the project’s success or failure.

Project managers are well-rounded individuals, who exhibit a range of soft and hard skills that make them employable across many fields and industries.

If you’re wondering how you can become a project manager, Victoria University has some tips on the qualifications and career steps needed.

Major duties & tasks of a project manager

So, what are the responsibilities of a project manager?

For this, we can defer to The Australian Institute of Project Management, the professional body for project managers.

They list the major duties of a project manager as:

  • Initiating – where the project manager defines the main objectives, purpose, and scope of the project, determines shared expectations and considers how to move the project forward.
  • Planning – when a project plan is created while liaising with relevant stakeholders. Costs, timelines and risks are all defined as part of this process. It’s important to note that the planning phase is ever-evolving, as it doesn’t end until the project does.
  • Executing – when the team implements the work defined in the project plan.
  • Monitoring – where the project manager watches the process and budget to ensures key milestones are achieved. This phase begins with the project and carries on through to delivery.
  • Closing – the final task, in which work is reviewed and archived and resources are made available. The project is then formally signed off on by stakeholders.

How many hours does a project manager work?

There are factors that can impact how much you work as a project manager, including:

  • the industry you're employed in
  • the company you work for.

This role is usually a full-time position, but even with the best planning, looming deadlines or unexpected emergencies can result in overtime.

You may also be required to be on-call or contactable by stakeholders and your team during a project, even while you are physically not at work.

As manager, you will be responsible for organising your team, scheduling tasks and deadlines. It is important to consider how you can create a positive work environment, by rewarding hard work and discouraging employees from constantly working overtime. 

How do I become a project manager?

You can take different pathways and career steps on your way to becoming a project manager.

Employers generally expect you to have project management qualifications, to work as a project manager in Australia.

If you choose to become a project manager without a degree, you will have to develop hands-on project management experience. It will be helpful to then gain formal qualifications, to further develop your technical, organisational and personal skills.

How long does it take to become a project manager?

The length of time it takes to become a project manager depends on your education and career experience.

Any estimate of time will include years spent gaining a qualification (generally around 1–3 years), on-the-job training and the minimum experience needed for this position.

The most direct route is to gain a project management qualification. Once this is recognised, you will be eligible to apply for entry-level positions, that will equip you with the skills needed to become a fully-fledged project manager.

You may already have a degree in another relevant subject (such as business), or be working in roles that involve project management tasks. In this instance, you can continue along this career path, or study shorter courses (such as a Graduate Certificate in Project Management or Graduate Diploma in Project Management at VU) to gain recognition at a faster rate.

Read on to discover the career steps involved in becoming a project manager.

How can I become certified?

1. Identify which project management qualification is right for you

You might be looking to start a new career in project management. Or perhaps you are currently working in this field and you’re after further project management qualifications, to advance your career. There is a variety of courses available to match your career or study experience.

2. Obtain the qualification

If you are deliberately embarking on the career path of a project manager, it will help to have qualifications to back you up.

This will indicate to prospective employers that you can take up a role, knowing what to do.

There are many pathways to becoming a qualified project manager in Australia.

Some options for getting your project management qualification include:

It is important to maintain project management qualifications, as they tend to expire within a few years as new methods and technologies arrive.

3. Register for national accreditation

The final step for qualification is to register for national accreditation at AIPM (Australian Institute of Project Management).

Once you are working as a project manager you can apply for certification as a Registered Project Manager (RegPM).

This is necessary, to demonstrate to prospective employers, clients and colleagues that your skills are validated at a professional level. It also demonstrates your commitment to professional development, in an ever-evolving industry.

4. Master project management

Finding the right project management (PM) tool will help you put everything you have learned into practice.

Most of these PM tools are available as software (such as Jira and Asana), which you can subscribe to monthly or annually. They function in a way that allows agile teams to work collaboratively in real time and with task visibility, to allow easier tracking and reporting for project managers. Often, you can automate work as needed, assign tasks to team members and manage all project resources in the one space.

Can I become a project manager without a qualification?

While it is possible to become a project manager via this path, it's not the easiest or quickest way, when compared to having a formal qualification in the area.

That being said, it is possible to develop hands-on project management experience while in another position.

As daily work often involves projects, employees may slowly grown into the role by taking up project management tasks on offer.

If you find yourself fulfilling the duties of a project manager in your current job and want to further your career in this field, it can be helpful to undertake the following steps:

1. Identify the gaps in your project management knowledge

There are 10 key project management knowledge areas, as identified by the internationally recognised ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge’ or PMBOK:

  • integration management
  • scope management
  • schedule management
  • cost management
  • quality management
  • resource management
  • risk management
  • communications management
  • procurement management
  • stakeholder management.

It’s worth noting past projects, to identify the skills that have been acquired across these knowledge areas.

Think of a recent project you assisted on, whether at work, in a volunteer setting or while studying.

Maybe you were the one in charge of budget, keeping on top of costs and looking for solutions when unexpected expenses arose.

Perhaps you were on top of the internal communications, keeping the team informed and on task with emails, Teams messages, phone calls or text messages.

These can be counted as legitimate project management skills. Reflecting on scenarios like these will help identify your current experience and knowledge gaps.

From there, you can look for opportunities to upskill and fill in these gaps.

2. Get (more) project management experience

There’s plenty of ways you can work to expand your skills on the job. One of the best ways to learn is by doing.

Consider volunteering and taking on extra responsibilities where possible. Refer to the knowledge areas to ensure you’re gaining the experience needed to round-out your project management skills.

3. Take advantage of learning opportunities

It can be helpful to talk to other project managers (within your company or elsewhere), to help identify and acquire the skills needed for the company you work for or wish to work for, or the industry overall.

You can also lead your own learning by reading project management books, taking a short course and familiarising yourself with project management software.

As it is harder to be recognised as a project manager without a formal qualification, you could look at rounding out your skills with additional study.

At VU, we offer a Graduate Certificate in Project Management and Graduate Diploma in Project Management, if you want to develop new skills for your current project-management position. These qualifications provide you with valuable recognition in the industry.

We also offer a Master of Project Management, which is specifically designed for both current and potential project managers in industry.

As one of the first universities to establish a project management masters degree, we offer long-held, valuable industry connections. Our program is also endorsed by AIPM.

4. Implement what you’ve learned

Use what you have learned to your advantage (or that of your team and your employer)!

Start to build on your acquired skills by looking for opportunities to use them in your daily work.

You’ll find that opportunities to use resources more effectively, or simply to make things easier on your team members, will become apparent through training.

Ultimately, project-based work requires effective cooperation and communication between team members. Eventually, it will benefit the whole team.

What other skills are required?

Outside of formal education, there are important hard and soft skills required to succeed in project management, to ensure productivity and profitability.

Soft skills

  • Decisiveness – a project manager needs to make decisions and stick to them, to keep a project on track and within budget.
  • Communication skills – timely and clear communication is necessary when working with different stakeholders and teams.
  • Leadership ability – it helps to be a natural-born leader, someone people can look to for guidance. This is a skill that can be built on and developed over time. Learn more about what it takes to be a strong leader.
  • Time management – excellent time management is crucial for a project manager. You’re often not only managing your own schedule, but calculating the time needed for tasks assigned to other members of the team.

Hard skills

  • Technical proficiency – a good head for tech is advantageous, particularly as you’ll need to have in-depth working knowledge of PM tools and software.
  • Expertise in budgeting – you will need to hone your budgeting skills, to work effectively with the expenses allocated to a project and keep everything on track.
  • Risk management – it is important to identify risk ahead of time and have a contingency plan in place, to deal with issues as they arise.

Discover the 4 secret weapons of successful project leaders.

Different project management jobs in Australia

If a career in project management appeals, it will help to consider which industry you’d like to work in.

Becoming an expert in your chosen field will help you accelerate along your career path.

Are project managers in demand?

The job outlook for skilled project managers is positive. The Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates that by 2027, employers will need 87.7 million people qualified to work in these roles.

Finding a project management career is more likely in industries that are predicted to experience high growth and therefore need more project managers.

According to the PMI, these include:

  • Construction and infrastructure – Federal and State Governments have pledged record amounts towards these industries, funding an infrastructure boom. If you’re already qualified in a trade or looking for a hands-on career change, this could be the industry for you.
  • Information technology – as our technological abilities increase, individuals with specialist skills are in high demand. If you’re interested in software and web development, network management, data analysis or cyber security, you could excel with a future in the fast-growing IT industry.
  • Business improvement and transformation – companies and businesses are always seeking capable leaders to help manage small and large-scale projects. Choose this field if you’re looking for an exciting career, with global experiences and opportunities.

How much does a project manager earn in Australia?

Project management salaries vary depending on the industry you’re working in and your level of experience.

According to Payscale, Australia’s average project manager salary is between AU$65,000 and AU$160,000 per year, and for entry level positions, the maximum is AU$90,000.

Which industry has the highest paid project managers?

Industries offering the highest pay for project managers, according to Payscale, include:

  • engineering
  • finance
  • IT
  • construction.


Can I be a project manager?

As you can see, the path to becoming a project manager can be as varied as the job itself.

You may unknowingly already be building the skills essential to being a successful project manager.

Look for opportunities to develop the technical, organisational and personal skills required to excel in this field, with a relevant course or degree.

Find out more

Want to know what it's like to study at VU?

We offer bachelor degrees and postgraduate qualifications relevant to various project management roles.