What Is Project Management Experience?
If you’ve ever applied for a project management position or looked into getting a project management certification, you’ve likely come across a requirement for “project management experience.” For example, consider that, for a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, PMI requires you to demonstrate at least 4,500 hours of experience leading and directing projects. For the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) degree, you need 1,500 hours of experience or 23 hours of related education. But while project management experience is a prerequisite for many job and educational opportunities, you may be wondering what qualifies as project management experience — and how you can go about getting it.
What qualifies as project management experience?
Experience in project management refers to time spent planning, leading, directing, and managing projects. For example, some typical responsibilities of a project manager include:
- Planning: Project managers create a blueprint that will guide the entire project from ideation to fruition, clarifying its scope, necessary resources, anticipated timeframe, communication strategy, and more.
- Leading: Project managers lead the project team through the process, meaning they have excellent communication and people skills.
- Execution: A project manager is likely to engage in the tangible activities required for moving the project forward.
- Time management: Project managers keep everyone on schedule and, when issues arise, are responsible for resolving them and communicating effectively with team members and other stakeholders.
- Budget: A key responsibility for project managers includes coming up with — and sticking to — a budget for the project. If unexpected financial issues arise, it’s up to the project manager to manage them and reallocate resources where necessary.
- Documentation: Project managers keep a record of each project’s progress with tools such as data collection and status reports.
- Maintenance: It’s crucial to come up with a plan for the ongoing success of the deliverable; this includes troubleshooting and maintenance.
Participating in any of these activities can qualify as experience in project management.
How to get project management experience
First things first: You don’t have to have “project manager” in your job title to get project management experience. As industry veteran Frank Ryle told Fast Company several years ago: “Lots of people have projects in their work, they just don’t know it. Software has automated a lot of things, but not goals, resources, and products. That’s something you can find in all kinds of work.”
On-the-job work doing any of the activities listed above counts as project management experience; review your past roles and responsibilities to see if you already have some related experience under your belt. If you find that you don’t already have a track record in those areas, you could consider volunteering to manage small projects for your company, shadowing a mentor, or completing an apprenticeship. This will introduce you to important project management practices and principles and help you form the networks you need to get your first project management job.
If your organization has a Project Management Office, get in touch and offer to pitch in however you can. If your company doesn’t have a PMO, consider speaking to your supervisor and human resources department about setting one up. The experience of doing it — as well as the initiative you’re showing — will go a long way.
Finally, you can always invest in some quality project management courses. Not only will these expose you to valuable industry knowledge and experience, but they may offer an opportunity for you to make connections with other like-minded professionals so you can land a project management job.
- What Is a PMO? (Infographic)
- 5 Project Management Groups to Join on LinkedIn
- Getting a Master's Degree in Project Management: To Do or Not to Do
- 23 Project Management Books for All Experience Levels