Project management is a unique field. What was once thought of as a hermetic profession is now spreading to every corner of industry. Project management exists in so many industries because the operative word project really applies to almost anything that achieves a goal or produces a deliverable.
This can include anything from software development to publishing a blog, or from submitting your child’s college applications to managing a marketing campaign. They’re all projects of varying lengths and complexities.
And, as the profession grows, so does the demand for project managers. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), there will be a demand for 87.7 million project managers by 2027. That’s a lot of project managers.
But project managers are not a monolithic group. They have a wide variety of skills, which include technical know-how, business acumen and leadership skills. Additionally, within the field of project management there is a range of project manager titles and roles, which we will explain further.
Different Types of Project Managers
Across industries, if there’s a venture with a beginning, middle and end that results in a good or service, there’s a project manager who is overseeing its progress and making sure that it meets a set of budgetary and scheduling goals. There are roles of a project manager that are more structured, and others that are not. These are some of the more common industries that have established project manager titles.
- Construction Project Manager: Requires management knowledge paired with an understanding of design and construction process. Construction project managers also plan construction timelines, manage contractors and track materials.
- Architectural Project Manager: Like a construction project manager (and they often work closely with construction project managers) this PM coordinates with the design team, communicates with clients and ensures quality control.
- Insurance Claim Project Manager: Manages and oversees restoration of a client’s property or belongings after an event, including demolition and construction if necessary. This role requires a lot of document management and adherence to protocol.
- Engineering Project Manager: Sees a product or device through its stages of research, development, design and manufacturing, from concept to finished product. Engineering project managers also coordinate with various parties to ensure satisfaction upon project completion, from stakeholders to suppliers to contractors.
- Software/IT Project Manager: Beyond the normal skills common to project managers, these managers typically have a background in software development, computer science, information technology, management of information systems and other related fields. Common IT project management responsibilities include managing sprints, tracking bugs, and planning hardware rollouts.
5 Tiers of Project Managers
There are many different project manager titles that can exist in any industry. It can get a bit daunting. However, there is a hierarchy as people work their way up the professional ladder, which can be separated into five major categories.
- Project Coordinator: This entry-level position is administrative. Project coordinators generate and distribute reports to the project team, stakeholders and others, as well as function as a general assistant to the management team.
- Project Scheduler: This position is usually employed for larger projects. Schedulers use project management software and other tools to input data and update files. It’s a technical job that requires a great deal of familiarity with computers, but little actual management.
- Assistant Project Manager: The title can be somewhat misleading in that the assistant project manager doesn’t always directly assist the project manager. However, they are assigned specific tasks to manage and meet regularly with the project manager to report on progress and issues.
- Project Manager: A project manager runs the project by themselves or leads a management team. They often delegate tasks to assistants, report to stakeholder, oversee budgets and schedules, and are responsible for bringing projects to successful conclusions.
- Senior Project Manager: In larger organizations, this position is like that of a program manager, in that they are responsible for running multiple projects at the same time and determining which should take priority.
When Recruiting Project Managers
Of course, there are many more job titles than those listed above, which can make posting a job listing and filling a position difficult. What does the title really mean? Let’s look at some of the titles that are commonly used when searching for someone to join the project management team and discern what they mean.
- Project Administrator: Entry-level position, working as support for a single project.
- Project Support Officer: Assists project manager, from administrative to more managerial tasks.
- Project Planner: Supports a project or multiple projects.
- Project Controller: Mostly regulated to industries such as construction and engineering, helps with administration and other support duties.
- Document Controller: Responsible for controlling the numbering, filing, sorting and retrieval of electronic or hard copy produced by project teams.
These positions are not so different than other supporting roles in project management, and resumes or job listings can align closely to them.
Then there are more managerial positions. Some of them have been already listed in the section on the tiers of project managers. Here are a few that didn’t fall into that category.
Senior Level Positions
- Project Leader: Just a different title for the project manager, with the same duties and responsibilities.
- Program Manager: Manages a program of projects or even several programs that are usually related.
- Program/Project Director: A senior position, which manages a project or program, and often is the head of the department.
- Head of Program/Project: Manages entirety of project organization, a senior, C-level executive.
- Manager of Project Managers: A senior position, in larger organizations they might be referred to as VP of project management, responsible for overall direction and management of projects.
- Chief Project Officer: Leads group and provides organization, prioritization, resource supply, support and internal consulting.
- Project Portfolio Manager: Like a program manager, but oversees a larger collection of projects, programs, sub-portfolios and operations to achieve strategic objectives.
- Project Portfolio Office Executive: Develops and leads a strategically oriented project portfolio management office.
- Program Management Office (PMO) Executive: Leads the program management office, with the objective of greater value from the program.
Project manager positions aren’t always so clear-cut. The lines between them are often fuzzy and many of the positions that organizations are looking to fill are more like a hybrid of two or more of the formal distinctions.
For example, there might be an IT director, who is also responsible for managing a program and runs the entire department. The title should correspond with the major responsibilities the person is tasked with, so a subset of the IT director’s duties is the program management.
Besides hybrid positions, there are many roles that support the project manager that are unique to industries, organizations or even specific projects. These can dive down into the minutia of the management of a project. For example, a position might be established as a stakeholder representative, a user representative or a customer representative.
The needs of your company and your clients will dictate how you parse the duties of project management and spread them over a team and organization. This overview of project manager titles should help you prioritize which project management positions you need to fill at your company.
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