A career in project management: Skills, training and opportunities

26 September 2022 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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Serkan Ceylan, Head of the School of Project Management at Arden University, walks through the ins and outs of a career in project management, and why training is key for any professional looking to ensure long-term success in project management.

Employers often find themselves in a position where they have a significant gap in knowledge and experience due to retirement. They need young employees who are hungry to learn, eager to develop their industry knowledge, and keen to get the formal skills in place that will enable them to hit the ground running.

There is no shortcut to industry experience in a field as complex as project management, but getting an industry-recognised qualification should be a first port of call. This gives them the theory and practical skills required to make a positive start in the industry, and a solid base upon which to build their career.

Serkan Ceylan, Head of the School of Project Management, Arden University

High demand

Project management is a highly rewarding profession, which enables even newcomers to the sector to make a difference within an organisation. And because the skills that are required by project managers are so in demand by employers, positions often come with good pay and progression opportunities.

According to a recent report by the Project Management Institute, 25 million new project managers will be needed by 2030 in order to meet demand, making project management a secure, rewarding long-term career choice.

Importantly, for students who want to have an impact throughout their career, 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 - 2030 it is estimated that a lack of project management skills will cost the economy in Europe $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 globally, after China – and the only way we can bridge it is by training more, high-quality, project management graduates who are capable of entering an industry which employs more than 2 million workers in the United Kingdom.

The right skills

There are a whole range of qualifications out there for young people looking to enter the project management profession, from short courses to full degree programmes.

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

In addition to formal qualifications, prospective project managers should consider how they can engage with relevant professional bodies to ensure they get industry insight relevant to the sector and are able to undertake continuous professional development in order to ensure they stay at the cutting edge of an ever-evolving project management industry.

Tracing a study path

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

Power skills, or soft skills, are an incredibly important part of any job in any sector, but in project management they can act as a superpower when allied to formal training. Being able to communicate effectively and influence at the top level are essential skills in being able to deliver projects on time and budget.

But we cannot overestimate their impact. Failures in project management can occur when professionals hide behind these soft skills, without having the training and experience to back it up. This can result in projects failing to meet their desired outcomes and can come at a substantial cost to businesses and the economy.

According to the Standish Group, 65% of projects undertaken worldwide are not successful and are not adding the potential value for organisations and the society at large.

About the author: An experienced academic, Serkan Ceylan has lectured in universities across Europe and is a non-executive director for the International Project Management Consortium. He also acted as an APM board member for the Wessex region and is author of the book ‘AgileFrame: Understanding multifaceted project approaches for successful project management’.