As an aspiring project manager or someone who’s just starting out in this field, you may be wondering what could be the junior vs senior project manager salaries. In each role’s level of pay, what is the scope of their responsibilities? How long does it take to become a senior project manager?
This article will answer all these questions and list the career steps that a junior project manager needs to follow to become a senior project management professional. Keep reading to find out more about the junior vs senior project managers’ profession.
What Is a Project Manager?
A project manager, also called PM, is a person primarily responsible for managing projects end-to-end. These specialists are in charge of project planning, acquisition, execution, and delivery. They act as a project coordinator and deal with the scope, resources, and risks involved in the project lifecycle to ensure success.
Junior vs Senior Project Manager: Areas of Responsibility
Junior and senior PMs have different responsibilities. Junior PMs are assigned to help out and make the senior PM job easier. Junior PM’s responsibilities revolve around oversight, administration, and overall management of projects. Senior PMs define problems, mentor subordinates, and plan out the whole project. Here’s a more detailed look at junior and senior PMs’ functions.
Junior Project Manager Job Description
- Manage people. Juniors don’t lead people, they manage people involved in the project. Junior PMs tell individuals how to do things. They focus on short-term goals and whether everyone is doing the right thing to ensure that they meet the project’s objectives and timelines.
- Create solutions. Junior PMs are more involved with coming up with immediate solutions. They define every aspect of the project so that other team members know what to do. They are more focused on the “what” and “how” of the project tasks.
- Assist senior managers. A junior PM helps with some of the tasks of a senior manager. They delegate tasks, assign resources, keep track of work, and update senior managers on the progress. That’s how they learn and grow in the job.
- Monitor project. Juniors are involved in overseeing the project lifecycle and the main project tasks. They keep an eye on the development, implementation, and evaluation of programs and projects. With this approach, they also give suggestions on how to improve the process if there are any blockers and bottlenecks.
- Manage releases. Project completion within the time frame and budget is the overall goal, and junior PMs make sure that the team works toward that goal. In the last phase of projects, they manage releases, which includes testing and deploying the project.
Senior Project Manager Job Description
- Lead the project team. Senior project managers lead by motivating others and defining the shared vision for the long-term project goal. As experienced project managers, they focus on people management to promote innovation and creativity, and encourage everyone in their team to deliver game-changing projects with their interpersonal skills.
- Define the project’s problem statement. When you step out of the “what” and “how”, and step into the “why,” you’re trying to define a problem that the project is trying to solve. This is what a senior PM does. The better they can define the problem, the better action plan they can create.
- Mentor junior project managers. One important responsibility of a senior manager is mentoring and training junior PMs and project management team leaders. Senior PMs coach team members to be better leaders and improve their skills on project management methodologies and best practices.
- Communicate with key stakeholders. Senior PMs obtain, process, and analyze business data to make better decisions. However, to implement these decisions, they need the buy-in of the project stakeholders. That’s why they communicate regularly with clients and partners to report project status and recommendations.
- Ensure continuous delivery. If release management is to release the project on time, continuous delivery is automating processes within the project for seamless operations. This approach is mostly used in agile project management, an initiative that a senior PM usually leads.
Junior vs Senior Project Manager Salaries
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a project manager earns an average salary of $84,290 per year. However, there are several levels of job title between a junior and senior project manager. Juniors need time to learn and improve their skills and to climb the ladder. Because of the needed skills and experience, junior roles have a different average salary range than seniors, as seen below.
Junior Project Manager Salary
The salary for juniors ranges between $45,000 per year for low earners and $92,000 per year for top earners. According to ZipRecruiter, junior-level project managers make a $62,061 average salary in the US. This average salary and salary range consider that junior PMs have less hands-on experience and scope of responsibilities than senior project managers.
Senior Project Manager Salary
According to ZipRecruiter, senior-level project managers earn $116,873 per year. Top earners can earn $160,000 annually, while low earners get $92,500 annually. Senior PMs have exceptional business knowledge, excellent communication, leadership, and mentoring skills on top of their project management skills. Because they know how to handle clients, they are highly paid.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Junior Project Manager?
Someone with zero to four years of experience is considered a junior project manager. If we look at PayScale, it divides the junior position in project management into two categories: entry-level and early career. An entry-level would be a person who has less than one year of experience, while an early career project manager would be someone with one to four years of experience.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Senior Project Manager?
You need 10 years of project management experience to become a senior PM. PayScale splits the senior role into an experienced and late-career project manager. An experienced PM is considered someone that has worked 10-19 years in project management, while a late-career PM is someone who worked in project management for over 20 years.
Career Path and Progression from Junior to Senior Project Manager
1. Have in Mind the Greater Picture and the Long-Term Goal
Goal-setting and execution of a project differ between an entry-level project manager job and a senior PM position. Junior PMs are more concerned with completing a project on time and within budget. Senior PMs are more concerned with keeping the project aligned with the vision and goals in a timeline of six to 12 months. So, to advance from junior to senior, you need to practice thinking from a long-term perspective.
2. Improve Communication Skills
There are many project manager roles to climb through. To ascend through them and become a senior, you need to have good communication skills, on top of solid technical knowledge. Soft skills like communication are essential because senior PMs are always in touch with stakeholders, team members, and upper management.
3. Develop Management and Organizational Skills
PMs oversee the whole project, from setting the time, budget, and scope to planning and execution. To do all of these things, you need highly developed management skills. You need a strong ability to manage people and know how to organize the whole process. Simply put, to become a senior PM, you need to know how to put all the pieces together.
4. Develop Leadership Skills
To be competent at mentoring junior PMs, senior PMs need leadership skills. This isn’t solely about transferring knowledge, as good PM leaders don’t just give good advice. They also know how to inspire and motivate junior PMs to do better. So, if you’re an assistant project manager with aspirations to become a senior PM, you need to develop good leadership skills.
5. Become Highly Adaptable
If you aim to be a senior PM, you need to learn how to adapt to any situation. Senior project managers deal with complex projects because they have more experience and knowledge in handling complexities. Managing multiple projects, researching new competitor products, switching teams or projects with short notice are all part of a senior PM job, so you need to be flexible.
Should You Become a Senior Project Manager?
Yes, you should become a senior project manager if you have the management and leadership potential that’s required in this role. You’ll need to acquire many years of experience in project management to have senior PMs’ extraordinary skills like communication and leadership. Some of them work on more than one project to become portfolio managers.
You’ll also need extensive knowledge of project management tools and methods to jump from junior to senior PM. One of the ways to upskill is to attend a bootcamp and earn a certification for project managers. So, if you’re already working in a project management position, it’s best to invest in your professional development and develop the skills needed to become a senior manager.
Junior vs Senior Project Manager Salaries FAQ
Yes, you can make $100,000 as a PM. As mentioned earlier, a PM earns an average salary of $84,290 per year, but the best 10 percent in this job earn $135,220. So, if you’re skilled and have enough years of experience, you can definitely have a good income. A professional project manager able to take on larger projects will enjoy a higher salary.
According to the University of Maryland’s exploratory study, PMs show average happiness at work. However, if you ask some PMs directly, they would tell you that project management is a stressful job. On one hand, it’s a well-paid job, but on the other hand, it involves a lot of responsibilities.
Yes, there’s a constant demand for this occupation, and many top companies are hiring project managers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics currently estimates around 1.4 million jobs for project management specialists and business operations specialists.
The hard part of being a PM can be developing soft skills, coping with stress, and navigating relationships with stakeholders and employees. Most of the responsibilities revolve around the schedule, scope of the project, budget, risk assessment, and quality control. However, you can practice these things so they become easier over time.
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