The education and moves for Australians to start a project management career.
What does it take to qualify and compete for project management jobs in Australia? Success relies on a combination of choosing the right industry, gaining experience and credibility, and demonstrating your managerial capabilities. Education plays a key role, but career progress ultimately depends on your personal drive and adaptability.
Project managers are tasked with guiding projects to successful completion. They need administration and planning skills, backed by experience in the relevant industry.
To become a project manager, you need to progress towards that level of responsibility by working on projects in a support role or as a project team member. Specialised project management qualifications can also help you start your career.
What Is a Project Manager?
A project manager is a business professional who plans, organises, and leads work projects, striving to ensure timely and successful completion. They identify and manage risks, budget for each stage, and communicate effectively with stakeholders to achieve goals.
The nature of the work depends on the industry. Jobs tend to be concentrated in construction, information technology, healthcare, and engineering. Respective examples of projects are to construct a commercial building, develop a new software application, implement a hospital information system, and redesign an electronic device.
Many project managers find this career path after initially working in a different professional capacity. They expand their responsibilities in projects where they are employed as doers rather than managers, gradually transitioning towards managerial roles.
If you're already contributing to projects, you're on the right track. If not, look for roles that will help you build foundational skills, such as a junior developer with an IT degree or a site supervisor with a background in construction management.
2. Build project management skills
Evaluate your current project management abilities and pinpoint what needs improvement. Bridge these gaps with self-study, formal courses, and on-the-job experience.
For degree holders, enhance your credentials with postgraduate project management studies like a graduate certificate, diploma, or master's. If you're starting without a degree, consider a Certificate IV or Diploma in Project Management.
Refresh your CV, highlighting project work and any coordination roles. Practice talking about your project experiences and select referees who can attest to your project management potential.
5. Seek project manager roles
Armed with the right qualifications and experience, go for project manager openings. Don't shy away from smaller roles; use them to showcase your prowess. In interviews, be ready to detail your journey, including lessons from setbacks and achievements.
6. Consider professional certifications (optional)
Once you've accumulated experience, think about obtaining certifications like RegPM. This can elevate your profile and enhance your appeal to employers.
Industry experience is essential, as employers prefer project managers with a track record of managing similar projects. This can make entering the field challenging. To build experience, it's often necessary to start in hands-on or support roles.
If you're currently lacking the industry experience needed for a project management career, there are steps you can take to gain it. Below are some of the biggest industries in Australia for employing project managers, along with common entry-level jobs and the required qualifications.
Australian Industry Pathways to Project Management
Construction & Infrastructure
Junior/assistant project manager, site engineer, estimator, construction engineer, quality control engineer, contract administrator
Construction management, civil engineering, construction science, construction engineering
Information Technology & Telecommunications
Junior developer, systems analyst, IT support specialist, network engineer, business analyst, database administrator
Computer science, information technology, information systems
Healthcare administrator, clinical research assistant, registered nurse/allied health professional, medical office manager, health information technician
Health administration, nursing, health information management, medical technology, biology
Policy analyst, administrative officer, public affairs coordinator, urban planner, community development officer, government program manager
Public administration, political science, urban planning, public policy, business administration
If you're starting from the beginning, you can select an industry, identify a specific area of work, and even choose a bachelor's degree that will qualify you for your first job. Once you've gained a foothold, you can volunteer and apply for duties that lead you towards coordination, management, and leadership roles.
To become a successful project manager, you need a well-rounded skillset. Core job duties are to plan, execute, and oversee projects from initiation to completion, ensuring they are completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.
As you position yourself for project management roles, assess whether you have the following skills and are demonstrating them to those around you. Your career will depend on being strong in these areas and gaining the confidence of others.
Clear and effective communication ensures that project goals, updates, and expectations are well-understood by all involved parties, including team members, stakeholders, and clients. This encompasses not only articulating ideas but also actively listening and having open, constructive discussions. Effective communication minimises misunderstandings and promotes collaboration.
Organisational ability means that you efficiently manage tasks, resources, and information. This skill is essential in to keep track of progress, adhere to deadlines, and maintain clarity on the project’s scope. You should keep detailed and complete records, schedule effectively, and align project elements for smooth progress.
Handling multiple tasks and meeting deadlines efficiently hinges on good time management. Set priorities, establish realistic timelines, and don't procrastinate. Such practices enhance productivity and help maintain a balanced approach to workload, ensuring milestones are met with reduced stress.
Facing unexpected challenges and issues is a common aspect of managing projects. Develop problem-solving skills by quickly identifying problems, analysing potential solutions, and executing effective strategies to navigate these hurdles. This ability helps mitigate risk, manage change, and keep projects on track.
What Qualification Do You Need?
Is a specific qualification required to become a project manager in Australia? The answer is no. If an employer believes in your capability, you can manage a project regardless of your qualifications.
However, it's common for project managers to have degrees in areas related to their industry. This background is often how they gained vital knowledge, experience, and connections. While a bachelor degree is typical, it's not essential.
To develop and demonstrate their skills, many aspiring project managers study for postgraduate qualifications in project management specifically. These build on their industry-specific qualifications and experience.