Project Manager - How to enter the job
Project managers manage projects for one or more organisations, usually setting up or improving an aspect of business. They manage the strategic, financial, operational and technological aspects of projects.
Project managers usually earn
$55K-$135K per year
Source: AbsoluteIT and Trade Me.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay for project managers depends on the industry they work in.
- Project managers in the information communication and technology industry earn an average of $94,000 a year. The lowest-paid 25% earn an average of $75,000 a year. The highest-paid 25% earn an average of $120,000.
- Project managers in the construction industry earn $55,000 to $135,000 a year.
- Project managers in the engineering industry earn $65,000 to $125,000.
Sources: AbsoluteIT, 'IT Salary Survey', 2012, Trade Me, 'Salary Guide', July - November 2012.
What you will do
Project managers may do some or all of the following:
- meet project goals on time and to the required standard
- manage the project team to ensure group and individual performance criteria are met
- maintain an accurate and up-to-date project plan
- manage the project budget and resources
- communicate with stakeholders and ensure project team members develop a relationship with stakeholders
- ensure suppliers deliver the products and/or services requested
- ensure that all project documentation is kept up to date
- hire staff to work on projects.
Skills and knowledge
Project managers need to have:
- knowledge of project management methodology
- skill in developing, piloting and implementing new business processes
- an understanding of the strategic direction, structure and issues affecting the organisation they work for
- the ability to identify risks and issues that could affect the project, and put in place effective solutions.
- usually work regular business hours, but may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines
- usually work in offices, and sometimes on-site depending on the industry they are working in, such as on a commercial building site
- may travel around the country and overseas to clients' worksites.
What's the job really like?
Kaushiki Roy - Project Manager
Kaushiki Roy loves the energy that comes with projects and she's upfront about what brings that energy – it's the unexpected and the challenges.
"You have to be on your toes all the time – the project manager has to be aware of the project's risks, and be prepared for surprises at every juncture. Some are very common – such as someone leaving the project suddenly – it happens all the time.
"And you have to be 'firm but nice' – conflict management becomes a challenge and you have to take tough decisions.
"Over 90% of a project manager's role should be communication. You communicate with lots of different sorts of people – that's challenging but it brings energy.
"To be a good project manager you have learn the art of letting go. That means having complete responsibility for the project, but not being attached to the outcomes. You need to be able to keep an open mind. Above all, you have to be a good leader.
"And it's a way of managing stress too – to say 'This is the best I can do', raise risks and issues early on – being open about it. Having a sense of humour is very important.
"It's quite a rewarding profession. There's a huge skills shortage, and it's pretty well paid. It hones many skills – thinking, communication, planning, time management. A good project manager has to be a well-rounded generalist."
- Energy of the profession
- Lots of interaction with people of different personalities
- Leadership opportunities
- Handling the politics necessary to getting the job done
- Can be tiring
- Stressful at times
There are no specific entry requirements to become a project manager. However, some employers prefer you to have a diploma or degree in project management, or in an area you might specialise in, such as engineering or information and communication technology (ICT). A degree in business and/or management may also be useful.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter tertiary study. Useful subjects include English, maths and computer studies.
Project managers need to be:
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to lead others
- excellent at communicating and negotiating
- skilled in writing and presentation
- innovative, but also able to make practical decisions
- able to relate well to a wide range of people
- able to work well under pressure.
A project manager has to be a good leader, and also someone who wants to learn, because the nature of projects is becoming more complex.
Kaushiki Roy, Project Manager
Useful experience for project managers includes:
- work in a project team
- work in an area of specialisation, such as ICT
- business and management experience.
Find out more about training
- Project Management Institute
- (04) 970 2005 - PMINZ@pmi.org.nz - www.pmi.org.nz/
What are the chances of getting a job?
High demand for project managers in construction
Demand for project managers in construction is high due to:
- work generated by the rebuild of Christchurch following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes
- a slowly improving commercial building sector.
Good opportunities for project managers in ICT
Reasons for the demand for project managers in ICT include:
- an increase in private firms developing ICT solutions for clients to get business
- more government ICT projects being contracted out, because of cuts in government spending.
Construction project manager and ICT project manager both appear on Immigration New Zealand's long-term and/or immediate skill shortage lists, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled construction and ICT project managers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Fewer job opportunities for project managers in other areas
The ongoing effects of the recession continue to impact on businesses in industries that traditionally hire project managers, such as forestry, engineering, architecture and property development, so there are fewer jobs for project managers in these areas.
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of project managers increased by about 4% from 2010 to 2012.
Types of employers varied
Main industries that employ project managers include:
- information and communications technology
- engineering, construction and property
- Birchfield, R, 'Forget the Crisis, Focus on Fundamentals', New Zealand Management Magazine, April 2009, (www.management.co.nz).
- Half, R, 'Contractors in Demand During Downturn' (media release), 9 June 2009.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Essential Skills in Demand List', accessed March 2013, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Kloeten, N, 'Change Management Back in Vogue', National Business Review, 13 March 2009, (www.nbr.co.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Information prepared for the Prime Minister's Summit on Employment', February 2009, (www.beehive.govt.nz).
- Project Management Institute New Zealand website, accessed November 2009, (www.pmi.org.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Project managers working for large organisations may progress to senior project management roles. They may also work as self-employed contractors.
Project managers can specialise in:
- information and communication technology
Last updated 1 September 2015