A career in project management: skills, training and opportunities

Serkan Ceylan, Director of the School of Project Management at Arden University, describes the ins and outs of a career in project management and explains why training is essential for any professional looking to ensure success at long-term project management.

Employers often find themselves in a position where they have a significant lack of knowledge and experience due to retirement. They need young employees who are eager to learn, eager to expand their industry knowledge, and willing to get the formal skills in place that will get them started.

There’s no shortcut to industry experience in a field as complex as project management, but earning an industry-recognized qualification should be a first stop. This gives them the theory and practical skills needed to get off to a good start in the industry, and a solid foundation on which to build their careers.

Strong demand

Project management is a very rewarding profession, which allows even newcomers to the sector to make a difference within an organization. And because the skills required by project managers are in high demand by employers, positions often come with good pay and opportunities for advancement.

According to a recent report from the Project Management Institute, 25 million new project managers will be needed by 2030 to keep up with the demand, making project management a secure and rewarding career choice in the long run.

Above all, for students who want to make an impact throughout their careers, project management offers an opportunity to make a real difference, not only to their employer but to the state of our national economy. Between 2019 and 2030, a lack of project management skills is estimated to cost the European economy $83.1 billion, according to a recent report by the Association for Project Management.

This number is almost double that of North America and the second highest in the world, after China – and the only way to close it is to produce more high-quality project management graduates capable of entering in an industry that employs over 2 million workers in the UK.

The right skills

There is a range of qualifications for young people wishing to enter the project management profession, from short courses to full degree programmes.

As with any profession, the more education a student can acquire early in their career, the more likely they are to excel and succeed. However, in project management, the benefits are considerable due to the importance of the incidental project manager – professionals who have excelled in their jobs and have therefore been asked to manage projects without ever being offered formal qualifications, training or learning opportunities.

In addition to formal qualifications, potential project managers should consider how they can engage with relevant professional bodies to ensure they gain industry insight relevant to the sector and are able to undertake continuous professional development to ensure they remain at the forefront of an -evolving project management industry.

Trace a school path

Acquiring formal training specific to project management is essential for any student looking to ensure long-term success in a career in project management. They should check that all qualifications are accredited by industry bodies, such as the Association for Project Management, to ensure that they will be relevant to the jobs they aspire to, once they have obtained their diploma and that they will enter the field.

Power skills, or soft skills, are an extremely important part of any job in any industry, but in project management they can act as a superpower when paired with formal training. Being able to communicate effectively and influence at the highest level are essential skills to be able to deliver projects on time and on budget.

But we cannot overestimate their impact. Project management failures can occur when professionals hide behind these soft skills, without having the training and experience to back them up. This can prevent projects from achieving the desired results and lead to substantial costs for businesses and the economy.

According to the Standish Group, 65% of projects undertaken worldwide fail and do not add potential value for organizations and society as a whole.

About the author: An experienced academic, Serkan Ceylan has taught at universities across Europe and is non-executive director of the International Project Management Consortium. He was also a member of the APM Board of Directors for the Wessex Region and is the author of the book “AgileFrame: Understanding multi-faceted project approaches for successful project management”.