As a PRINCE2 training course provider, we receive many enquiries from people who want to know whether PRINCE2 will help them when applying for a role in project management.
Requiring strong organisational and leadership abilities rather than specialist industry knowledge, project management provides a varied, exciting and challenging career.
With 1.5 to 2 million people in the UK earning their living as project managersi, and an estimated 15.7 million new project management roles to be created globally from 2010 to 2020ii, the popularity of project management as a career choice shows no signs of slowing down.
When looking for roles, many jobseekers will find that certification in a project management method is a prerequisite for many jobs.
The most popular method in the UK is PRINCE2, widely renowned as the method of choice amongst organisations across all industries, and seen as a standard in the public sector.
As the two-tier PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner qualifications are prerequisites for many project management positions, getting fully PRINCE2 certified is certainly a step in the right direction.
How do I get in?
Although becoming PRINCE2 certified will provide a boost to your CV, getting a project management job can require several years of experience within a technical role appropriate to the project.
If you are taking your first steps into project management, there are a growing number of junior and trainee project management roles available, as well as graduate internships, which can all give you a solid starting point in which to work your way up.
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.
Working in project support gives you an excellent insight into the way project managers work, and gives you a lot of experience in working on actual projects.
If you are finding it tough to get into an entry-level project role, boosting a CV that lacks practical experience can be done by gaining certification in a project management method or software, and you can always add relevant experience from your personal life.
The most widely used project management method in the UK is PRINCE2, so becoming familiar with the terminology, principles and structure of this methodology will make any candidate stand out for a project support role.
Knowledge of project management software such as MS Project can also prove to employers that you are equipped with the practical skills needed for the role.
If you have no formal ‘on the job’ experience in projects, why not take inspiration from your personal life?
Remember that time you expertly planned your best friend’s hen/stag do, or when you managed an event such as a wedding or quirky night out? Add it to your CV.
Experience can also be gained from getting involved in voluntary work, such as conservation projects, voluntarily teaching people new skills or planning fundraising events.
By taking on projects outside of the formal business environment, you are still gaining the vital experience and skills needed for the role, as well as providing a boost to your CV.
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 coordinate a finite set of resources - people, money, materials - in order to deliver products (or outputs) which the customer has specified. Some examples of products might be a new IT system, the staging of a concert, or a marketing campaign.
The project manager is responsible for planning, communication with different stakeholders, reporting to senior management, managing issues and risks, and monitoring the progress of the project.
According to the UK government’s National Careers Service, the average starting salary for a project manager is £20-£30,000 a year, which rises to £30-50,000 a year once they are more experienced.
Salaries can get very good depending on experience and industry, with an average of £67,500 reported for senior project managers, and highs of £100k reported for those at the height of their career.
At the top of the tree
Presiding over the project manager is the programme manager, who is responsible for the planning of multiple related 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.
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.
At the top of the project management tree, however, is the portfolio manager, who oversees the entire portfolio of projects for an organisation, managing them all in order to meet important financial and strategic goals for the business.
Portfolio managers will need excellent analysis skills to be managing the finances, resources and risk of each project, and P3O is the most popular qualification for this role in the UK.
The average salary for a programme manager is just under £68,500 per year, and portfolio managers earn an average of £77,500, with many earning much more.
As a career with excellent progression and salary opportunities, it is easy to see why you are looking into becoming a project manager, and certification such as PRINCE2 will help you make that vital first step.
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iEis.mdx.ac.uk, (2014). National Centre for Project Management - Middlesex University. [online] Available at: http://www.eis.mdx.ac.uk/ncpm/background.html [Accessed 13 Nov. 2014].
iiPMI's Industry Growth Forecast: Project Management between 2010 & 2020. [ebook] Project Management Institute, p.2. Available at: http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Business Solutions/PMIProjectManagementSkillsGapReport.ashx [Accessed 13 Nov. 2014].