What Is a Program Manager? (Job Description Included)


In project management, a program is a set of related projects that are executed simultaneously by organizations to make the most out of their resources and maximize their return on investment (ROI). Program management requires company-wide collaboration and lots of planning. A program manager oversees this process.

What Is a Program Manager?

A program manager is a leader who oversees the planning, executing and tracking of programs. Program managers do so from a high-level view that allows them to understand how projects fit into their organization, and more importantly how they can be best executed simultaneously.

Program managers usually have project management or business administration background that allows them to align projects with their companies’ strategic goals.

Program managers must also be capable of using project and portfolio management software. ProjectManager is online project management software that offers Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and many other program management tools so program managers and their teams can plan, schedule and track work in real time.

Screenshot of the portfolio summary and portfolio breakdown in ProjectManager
Program managers can use live data to make better decisions. Learn more

What Does a Program Manager Do?

Program managers must excel at risk management, resource management and project planning, among other things. Another important aspect is that, as it is a leadership role, it involves coordinating multiple teams, project managers and key stakeholders. Here are some of the core responsibilities of a program manager.

Program Manager Responsibilities

  • They’re responsible for daily management through the life cycle of the program.
  • Ensure projects and programs are aligned with the strategic plan of the organization
  • They define the program controls, or the processes, procedures, reporting, etc., to manage the program.
  • They plan the overall program and monitor progress to ensure that milestones are being met across various projects and programs.
  • They manage the program budget.
  • They manage the risks and issues that might arise over the course of the program life cycle and take measures to correct them when they occur.
  • They coordinate the projects and their interdependencies between the various projects and programs in the program.
  • They manage and use resources across the various projects and programs in the program.
  • They manage stakeholders who are involved in the projects and programs in the program.
  • They make sure deliverables are aligned across the projects and programs in the program.

Program Manager Skills

  • They need to have strong project management experience with large and complex projects.
  • They need to have a broad knowledge of project and program management methodologies.
  • They need to understand the wider objectives of the program, such as business and strategic goals.
  • They require the ability to work with a wide range of individuals.
  • They need strong leadership and managerial skills with appropriate experience.
  • They need a strong knowledge of budgeting and resource allocation procedures.

How to Become a Program Manager

One of the most important responsibilities of a program manager is to make sure that all the projects and programs that an organization executes are aligned with the goals and objectives that are defined in its strategic plan, which requires a solid understanding of business strategy. This is why most program manager job descriptions require project management experience, a bachelor’s degree in business administration or related fields and a program management certification specific to your industry. In many cases, a master’s in business administration (MBA) is considered a preferred qualification.

As with any profession, it’s also advisable for you to participate in professional events such as conferences and seminars to stay on top of the program management best practices.

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Strategic Roadmap Template

Use this free Strategic Roadmap Template for Excel to manage your projects better.


Program Manager Certifications

There’s a variety of program management certifications that can help you become a program manager and stand out when it comes to hiring and building your career.

It’s up to you to decide what’s the best program management certification for you, which is a decision that greatly depends on the industry and organization for which you’d like to work.

Here are the two most common program manager certifications, a great starting point for anyone who wants to become a program manager.

Program Management Professional (PgMP)

This certification program by the project management institute (PMI) validates your knowledge and experience as a program manager. It requires you to demonstrate program management experience or a project management professional (PMP) certification.

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)

Provided by Axelos, this certification program also validates your knowledge and experience in program management. It’s divided into two levels, MSP foundation, which starts with the fundamentals of program management and MSP Practitioner, a more in-depth training program that builds on the MSP foundation.

Program Manager Responsibilities Training Video

Watch this short video, hosted by Jennifer Bridges, PMP, to learn more about the diverse responsibilities of being a program manager.

ProjectManager Is the Ideal Tool for Program Managers

Certification is important to prove your skills, but in order to manage a program you need program management tools. ProjectManager is online software that helps you manage programs in real time to make more insightful decisions about resource allocation. Our tool has the features you need to keep track of your program.

See All Projects in Your Program in One View

You don’t want to have to keep jumping from one project in your program to another to manage resources, costs and scheduling. Our roadmap is a Gantt chart that shows the timelines for every project in your program in one place. Now you can make educated decisions on how to allocate resources to maximize productivity across your entire program.

Gantt chart in ProjectManager for overseeing programs

Get a Real-Time Overview of Your Program

A high-level view of your program gives you valuable insights at a glance. See how many work teams have come up and get fast access to important program data on our portfolio summary. You’ll see what’s in the pipeline, budget data, a breakdown of the projects in your program and even a snapshot of your teams’ utilization to help you manage resources and scheduling.

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As you can see, it can get complex. If you need a tool to help you manage your program, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.

ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps program managers plan, schedule and track project costs, duration and more. We have unlimited file storage that allows program managers to also use our tool as a centralized hub for all project documentation. Task management features keep you on track and timesheets help you track the time your team spends on tasks. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.