How to Become a Project Manager (Certifications + Skills)

Alexa Drake Alexa Drake  |  November 18, 2019

With any project, big or small, someone has to take the lead.

If you happen to find yourself always leading the group and enjoy keeping things organized, on track, and heading toward a set goal, you might want to consider a career in project management. Project managers are the planners of the operation and they work hard to make sure everything runs smoothly. Ultimately, they’re responsible for the success (or failure) of a project.

Both certifications are beneficial to have since they’re different and aren’t competing methods. Additionally, there are degrees and masters courses that you can complete to boost your repertoire.

There are many things on top of certifications that go into becoming a project manager. In this article, we’ll talk about the skills you’ll need to develop as well as the education that is helpful to have to begin your journey into project management.

Feel free to jump ahead if you’re looking for something specific:
The traditional path to project management
Project management certifications
The project management education process
Project manager skills

How to become a project manager

The process of becoming a project manager is exciting because there isn’t a singular way to do it. While some decide to pursue education as a means to begin their career, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Others may realize later on that they have a passion for project management and take a more untraditional path.

No matter how you get involved in project management, it’s sure to be a rewarding journey. It’s one of the most complex and demanding fields of work out there. Every single event or project will be an adventure and you’ll constantly be pushed to develop your skills to manage them. As a project manager, you work on a project team that looks to you for guidance and motivation, so you’ll need to develop a few key skills to be a great leader.

The traditional path to project management

The most traditional way that most pursue project management is through education and certifications. Regardless of whether you’ve had the desire to become a project manager or have been acting as one unknowingly, taking the plunge and seeking out courses you can take and certifications you can obtain isn’t a bad idea.

Project management certifications

A common first step in becoming a project manager is deciding which certification you want to obtain. There are two main project manager certifications: the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP). Both are offered by the Project Management Institute.

The CAPM certification

What makes the CAPM different from the PMP is that you can get a CAPM certification with little project management experience. Both certifications have their own prerequisites and require you to take and pass an exam.

To qualify for the CAPM certification, you have to have at least 1,500 hours of work experience (roughly equivalent of 10 months in a full-time job). You’ll also need a high school diploma or an associate’s degree.

The PMP certification

To get the PMP, you’re required to complete 4,500 hours of experience. There are two different sets of prerequisites you can qualify for when pursuing a PMP certification. Both require 35 hours of education.

The first prerequisite requires a four-year degree, a minimum of 4,500 hours of work experience (equivalent to about two and a half years in a full-time job), and required project management education. The second prerequisite requires a secondary degree, at least 7,500 hours of experience (roughly four years in a full-time job), and the required educational training.

NOTE: Before you dive into any certification, take a minute to evaluate the experience you currently have and the prerequisites you already match. Then you can decide which certification you’d like to pursue and get to work.

The project management education process

You can complete the required amount of experience hours to qualify for the CAPM and PMP in a variety of ways but they will need to be fully completed before you can take the exam.

Project Management Institute (PMI) offers complete training that will help you qualify for both CAPM and PMP certifications. A perk of the prerequisites is that you can count relevant university classes and dedicated training programs toward your hours. Be sure to log every hour; they’ll need to be recorded when you fill out the certification application.

When you near the end of your training, you can start studying for the exam. PMI has the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide that you’ll need to get pretty familiar with to have a chance of passing your test. When you do, you can update your resume and LinkedIn profile and start looking for a job.

Job boards collect job listings from various sources and organize them in an easy-to-use database for people seeking employment. Once you pass your project management certification exam, you can start browsing the top job boards and apply to relevant positions.
See the Easiest-to-Use Job Boards Software →

Project manager skills

Passing an exam and landing a job isn’t the only thing that needs to be done. There are a few key skills that, when developed, can help you become the best project manager you can be. After all, a project manager is responsible for leading the entire project through the project lifecycle of initiation, planning, execution, and completion. Below are some of the most critical skills and characteristics you’ll want to develop:


If you don’t like planning projects and campaigns with good company, project management may not be the career for you. If you do, you’re already ahead of the game.

Project managers should be sociable and incredible team players, ready to lend a helping hand when needed. PMs are people-oriented and find it fun having to adapt to different people, environments, cultures, and situations. An open and strategic mindset is a project manager’s greatest asset.


Aspiring project managers should be ready to be a leader, coworker, mediator, and supervisor all at the same time. Being able to adapt to different roles when needed is crucial to assisting your team and ensuring project success. Going into this role, you should know that you won’t have a “typical day” and you’ll be using a wide array of project management skills every day.

Problem solver

As the team leader, you’ll be the first person anyone on your team will go to when issues arise. Although this can be a daunting facet of the job, it can also be one of the most rewarding. Helping your team with problems is the bread and butter of a project manager and it sure makes everything a lot more interesting.

As a leader, the bulk of the responsibility for a project or event will fall on your shoulders and you’ll be held accountable for it. This is why attention to detail and a passion for planning are essential in this role.

Familiar with project management tools

As any manager should, familiarizing yourself with the tools of your industry is crucial. If you know the ins and outs of project management tools, you’ll be able to assist your team as well as your clients in a much more efficient way. While soft skills are always important to prioritize, you’ll need to show that you’ve got technical skills to back up your experience.

This is where project management software comes in. This software assists employees, administrators, and teams in managing team goals and long-term projects, as well as coordinating individual tasks. If you’re unfamiliar or need a refresh, check out the top project management software and get real cozy. The better you know how to navigate it, the better you’ll be at helping your team achieve your goals.
View the Easiest-to-Use Project Management Software →

Lead the way

Project management is an industry that is always changing. If you enjoy experiencing different events, cultures, and people, this is the career path for you. No project will be the same. Things will change over time and you may find yourself at the helm of a project you never dreamed of.

Whether you’re working to become a project manager right now or you’re considering it as a future career path, there are ways for you to achieve both. And the best part? You get to decide how you get there, the certifications you’ll get, and the skills you want to polish to make a dream become a reality.

Want to learn more about what project management entails? Get familiar with the industry and read our list of project management statistics.


Alexa Drake

Alexa is a Content Marketing Associate at G2. Born and raised in Chicago, she went to Columbia College Chicago and entered the world of all things event marketing and social media. In her free time, she likes taking her dog on walks, creating playlists for every mood, and finding the best vegetarian food in the city. (she/her/hers)

Never miss a post.

Subscribe to keep your fingers on the tech pulse.

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to receive marketing communications from G2.