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How to Become a Program Manager

All projects require planning and organization. Managing a program can be a complex and lucrative endeavor. If you want to learn about this profession, you are in the right place. Discover how to become a program manager, the skills needed to get a job, the frequent tasks in this field, and more key info to get you started on the career path.

In the paragraphs below, you will learn about which interpersonal skills can help make your career successful. In addition, you will see the average salaries of a product manager in the United States, as well as statistics on job outlook.

What Is a Program Manager?

A program manager is in charge of organizing, planning, and coordinating projects for a company or institution. This concept encompasses many types of programs. Therefore, professionals in this area have extensive options when they choose what field to work in.

Usually, a program manager is the link between the company and its clients. Program managers create and supervise almost all activities that involve user and company transactions. The profile of this employee includes soft skills such as the ability to communicate clearly and confidently about finance, IT systems, data science, and related subjects.

Program Manager Job Description

The main activities of a program manager consist of planning projects that achieve specific objectives for a company or institution. One of the essential objectives of a program manager is to supervise the work of the personnel assigned to concurrent projects.

Program managers have exceptional leadership and communication skills. They also must study the concepts and values ​​of the company to understand its general needs. This allows these managers to better help companies reach the outcomes they are looking for.

Program Manager Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), project management specialists earn an annual wage of $84,290. BLS projects that management occupations will grow five percent between 2019 and 2029. If you want to start a career in project management, you will have a promising future with plenty of job opportunities no matter what industry you choose.

Top Reasons to Become a Program Manager in 2021

The project management career path can be a strong option for your professional growth. One of the advantages of this field is that it opens opportunities in a wide variety of industries. Read below to discover five reasons why you should become a project management professional.

  • Good wages. A successful project manager has many benefits, including higher than average salaries. The average salary for his profession is higher than $80,000 a year, and a percentage of these experts earn more than $100,000 depending on their industry, experience, and other factors.
  • Leadership. If you like being a leader, then this career is good for you. A program manager's job requires leadership and communication to create and direct projects.
  • Experience for your resume. Program management roles increase your professional reputation. Experience in this field will help you access better jobs and salaries in the future.
  • Room for career growth. If you complete your projects successfully you can earn additional bonuses and even be promoted.
  • Job fulfillment. Another advantage of this job is that it allows you to lead complex projects for a company. In addition, as a program manager, you will participate in conferences, business trips, training programs, and many other events.

Program Manager Job Requirements

While applying for a program manager job vacancy, you must take into account that these are very competitive positions. Project management requires experience, certification, interpersonal skills, and often a four-year degree or even a Master of Business Administration (MBA). If you want to apply for a vacancy for this position, pay attention to the most frequent job requirements.

  • Bachelor's Degree in Business. Higher education is crucial to your job search. You can acquire experience in project management after gaining a Bachelor's Degree in Business.
  • MBA. Many companies require an MBA when they are looking to fill program management openings. An MBA or any similar project management degree can be essential to get a job.
  • Communication skills. For the position, you must speak and write clearly in whichever language is used in the company.
  • Project management certification. Many companies place a great deal of importance on whether candidates have professional certification or certificates when hiring for this position.
  • Project management tools. You most likely need previous experience with project management software. The most popular platforms and tools are ClickUp, Trello, Wrike, and Zoho Projects.

Types of Program Manager Careers

Tech companies require professionals in many areas to guarantee a successful project. Below you will find alternative career paths that you could take as a program manager. The skills and experience you would have acquired during your project management career will give you a solid foundation to transition to any of the jobs below.

Project Manager

Program and project managers have similar roles and skills. The project manager job involves planning, budgeting, and organizing individual projects to achieve a specific objective. In other words, they oversee all elements of the project, including the operation of the systems and the work of each employee. Becoming a project manager requires critical thinking and strong technical and interpersonal skills.

IT Manager

These professionals are in charge of the IT department of an organization. Their role is to ensure that all the systems in a company are running smoothly and that everyone has access to the equipment and tools they need. To become an IT manager, you need strong skills in coding, networking, and database management.

Scrum Master

A scrum master guides team members toward the objective. Acting as a collaborator rather than a manager, scrum masters aim to streamline the process to maximize efficiency and ensure that the project is successful. They also work to promote a good environment within the team.

Program Manager Meaning: What Does a Program Manager Do?

Your responsibilities in this position can vary considerably depending on your experience and company. Below, you will learn more about three of the most frequent tasks you’ll carry out during your project management career.

Propose Goals

One of the primary functions of a program manager is to propose goals for the company or institution. To do this, these experts must analyze the company, its customers, competition, and employees. These goals will have to be approved by upper management, investors, and other key stakeholders.

Create a Work Schedule

After you put together a team that shares the same objectives, you need to create a project plan and work schedule that they can follow. Creating these documents requires analysis and critical thinking, and you will need to use management and organization software.

Team Management

To obtain results, all people involved in a project must follow a set of protocols and have clear objectives. As a program manager, it is your job to come up with these protocols and to ensure everyone knows their role within the team. You will quickly address any roadblocks and ensure that everyone is getting along to maximize efficiency.

Essential Program Manager Skills

There are a few skills that a successful program manager should have. Program managers must have a command of project management tools, knowledge in marketing and sales, and strong interpersonal skills. Read below to learn more about the most crucial skills in the industry today.

Project Management Tools

As a program manager, you will have to work with project management software on a daily basis. Some of the most famous tools you might want to familiarize yourself with are ClickUp, Trello, Planio, Asana.

Marketing and Sales

In the program management role, you must apply marketing and sales knowledge to achieve your objectives with customers. An MBA can be very useful in learning all the techniques in this field. The more you know about sales planning, events, trading strategies, and customer acquisition, the better.

Communication and Leadership Skills

Having positive dynamics within your project teams is extremely important. It is the job of program managers to ensure everyone is getting along and stays motivated. You must use your interpersonal skills to promote a good environment and keep people’s spirits high. Effective communication skills also help solve problems faster.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Program Manager?

If you want to take the traditional path, a four-year degree in economics and finance will help you master the basic functions of this job. After finishing your bachelor's degree, you can take a Master of Business Administration (MBA) to increase your chances of getting a job.

Depending on the industry you are targeting, you may want to pursue degrees in other areas. For example, if you seek a program management position for a tech company, it could be a good idea to study computer science or IT.

There are also non-traditional routes to becoming a program manager. These days, more and more people are choosing to enroll in a coding bootcamp to gain the skills they need to enter the job market faster. If you choose the coding bootcamp route, becoming a program manager could be a matter of months.

Finally, it is worth noting that many program managers start in lower jobs and get to that position after climbing the corporate ladder. This process can take multiple years depending on your field.

Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Program Manager?

You can learn project management skills at various coding bootcamps. These schools help many people enter the tech industry each year with programs that last just a few months. Coding bootcamps providers like Kenzie Academy, Thinkful, and Springboard have solid programs on project management to learn the skills you need to land a job in the industry.

Can I Become a Program Manager from Home?

Yes, you can. Nowadays, many universities offer bachelor's degrees and MBAs online. There are also many coding bootcamps with programs on project management that can be taken remotely. In addition, you can take project management courses on online learning platforms like edX, Coursera, or Udacity.

How to Become a Program Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

There is no specific path everyone takes to become a program manager. Your route will depend on the decisions you make on your professional path and your career goals. However, we have compiled some steps that may be useful to help you get started.

Step 1: Choose a Field

Project management is in all kinds of industries, and you will want to pick the one that interests you most and direct your attention toward that specific path. If you want to get this position in a technology company, you will want to pay more attention to the technical skills that may be required.

Step 2: Start Studying

Having formal education is important to get a job in this role. You can choose to earn a bachelor's degree or associate degree to increase your chances of landing a high-paying job. After graduating, it will be advisable to take specialized programs, master's degrees, certifications, and any other academic credential that enhances your knowledge.

Step 3: Find a Job

If your education credentials are impressive enough, you may be able to land a role as a program manager right after your studies. However, that is not the case for most people. Often people start at lower positions and work their up to program management roles.

Best Schools and Education for a Program Manager Career

Education is the best ally in your journey to becoming a program manager. Fortunately, there are many educational paths you can take to reach this position, from bootcamps to university degrees. In the paragraphs below, we take a closer look at these schooling and training options and their benefits.

Program Manager Bootcamps

One of the smartest ways to learn about technology and project management is by enrolling in a coding bootcamp. Some of the best project management bootcamp programs out there include those offered by Kenzie Academy and Springboard. These programs turn students into management experts that are highly valued by tech companies.

Vocational School

Vocational schools tend to focus on skills-based training for trades. However, it may be the case that you find a suitable business program at one of these institutions. For example, you can earn a diploma in business from South Texas Vocational Technical Institute. Vocational schools are cheaper than other options on this list, so it might be worth it for you if you are looking for affordable education.

Community College

If you want the college experience but with lower tuition and a smaller time commitment, consider community colleges. At a community college, you can earn an Associate Degree in Business Administration. These programs use all the resources on the market to help you transform your knowledge into efficient practices.

Program Manager Degrees

Universities offer the most advanced programs on the market, first-rate professors, and strategic alliances to ensure the best educational experience. To land a program manager position, you can choose a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration. If you want to enhance your professional skills, start a Master in Business Administration (MBA) or a Master's Degree in Project Management.

The Most Important Program Manager Certificates

Many hiring managers pay close attention to certification. If you are interested in a program management position and want to strengthen your candidacy, we recommend that you consider one of the professional certifications or certificate programs below.

Program Management Professional

The Program Management Professional (PgMP) is awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI). This credential proves your ability to manage interrelated projects and to achieve the goals of your organization. The exam costs $800 for members and $1,000 for non-members.

Certificate in Program Management

This certificate program is offered by the University of Washington. In this four-month program,  you’ll learn how to determine and achieve program goals and how to manage multiple programs. You’ll also become familiar with every aspect of program governance as well as the different tools to engage key stakeholders. The course will set you back $4,100.

Google Project Management Certificate

This Google program, available on Coursera, will enhance your skills and knowledge in the field of project management. Apart from earning a certificate from the tech giant, which will look great on your resume, you’ll learn about traditional and agile methods to manage projects effectively.

How to Prepare for Your Program Manager Job Interview

The job interview is the perfect opportunity to show the potential employer why you are qualified for the role and have the knowledge to complete its required responsibilities. To help you prepare for your interview, we have put together a list of common questions that you might encounter.

Program Manager Job Interview Practice Questions

  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What other companies have you worked with in the past?
  • What is your favorite project management tool?
  • Why should we hire you for this position?

Should I Become a Program Manager in 2021?

Yes, you should become a program manager. Program management is a complex field with a great job outlook and high salaries that can increase based on your experience and results. In addition, as a program manager, you’ll learn important intrapersonal and technical skills that are applicable to a wide range of jobs. If you dream of taking on a leadership role to help companies reach their goals, then this career might be for you.


Can You Become a Program Manager Without a Degree?
Yes, you can. You can learn the skills you need for a program management position by attending a coding bootcamp or even by taking online courses in program management. These courses can be ideal for learning the basics of project management. However, your chances of landing a job with a good employer are much higher if you get a degree.
Is It Hard to Become a Program Manager?
Project management education can be a long and complicated road. The position often requires knowledge of mathematics, data analytics, marketing, and other fields. However, if you have a knack for finance, communication, and leadership, becoming a program manager can be easier than you think.
How Much Do Program Managers Charge per Hour?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), project management specialists charge $40.53 per hour. These professionals enjoy a median salary of $84,290.
How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration Cost?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average four-year institution costs $16,647 per year for tuition and fees. However, you can also consider two-year institutions, in which case the cost per year will drop to $3,621.
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