PRINCE2 is the government-standard project management methodology in the UK. It is widely used by organisations across different sectors and industries, throughout Europe and increasingly throughout the world. The two-tier PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner qualifications are prerequisites for many project management positions.
Project management is an increasingly popular career choice for recent graduates. According to statistics produced by the Middlesex University National Centre for Project Management, 1.5 - 2 million people earn their living as project managers in the UK alone.
Requiring strong organisational and leadership abilities rather than specialist industry knowledge, project management provides a varied and challenging career. Project managers are required to co-ordinate projects of every size and scope within environments ranging from hospitals to financial institutions, and advertising firms to charities.
How do I get in?
Getting a project management job can require several years experience within a technical role appropriate to the project, but there are a growing number of junior and trainee project management roles available, as well as vacation and graduate internships ranging from three weeks to a year in length.
It is also possible to gain relevant experience by working in an administrative position within a project team. Project support roles, such as project secretary, typically require excellent IT skills and at least several months work experience within an office environment, with project experience considered advantageous.
However, demonstrable knowledge of project management methods and software (e.g. MS Project) provides bonus points for the CV that lacks practical experience. The PRINCE2 qualification is currently the most popular in the UK, and is standard in the public sector. Becoming familiar with the terminology, principles and structure of the PRINCE2 methodology will make any candidate stand out for a project support role.
Beyond the administrative roles, positions such as project planner and project analyst provide useful stepping-stones for those wanting to pursue a project management career. These usually work alongside the project manager, thereby gaining in-depth knowledge of the specific project and insights into the practical application of project management methods.
The fundamental role of a project manager is to manage a set of resources - people, money, materials etc - in order to accomplish a series of tasks within a defined budget and scope. The project might be the installation of a new IT system, the staging of a concert, or the development and implementation of a marketing campaign.
The project manager is responsible for ensuring that all aspects of the project - the products and reports required, the roles of individual staff members and the deadlines by which specific tasks must be completed - are defined in advance, are communicated to the project team and are monitored throughout the project's duration.
A project manager can expect to earn anything between £20k (in an entry-level position) and £100k plus (in senior roles). According to Arras People,1 most project managers earn between £30k and £50k per year. Forty percent of the surveyed project managers working under contract earned between £350 and £500 per day.
At the top of the tree
At the top of the project management tree is the programme manager, who has total accountability for the planning and successful execution of multiple projects, each run on ground level by a separate project manager. Programme managers usually have at least eight years of experience behind them, including senior project management positions and the organisation of large project teams (50-80 people). Programme management qualifications are also a frequent 'desirable' at this level, the most common in the UK being MSP.
The average salary for a programme manager falls between £50k and £65k, with 81% of programme managers earning more than £35k per year. A well-paid and demanding role, programme management requires in-depth understanding of the project management process, and the ability and drive to make each project happen.
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1Arras People is a leading UK project management recruitment organisation.