What Opportunities are in Project Management?

Manager taking notes

There appears to be a lot of doom and gloom in the job market these days, but to me, there are just as many fantastic opportunities for those willing to take the plunge and change careers or for those savvy enough to see the writing on the wall and update their skills and knowledge.

Let’s take the case of project management and look closely at the career track. With regard to career growth, project management has certainly been front and centre for the last few years, and I get the feeling that it has lost some of its appeal. Sure the mining and manufacturing sectors are getting bad press with significant job losses, but this has no affect on the intelligent project manager (PM).
Despite what we hear in the press, so many job opportunities make project management a hot career to be in!

The demand seems to be shifting from those PM’s who can follow a system, to an urgent and growing need for PM’s who can understand the strategic vision of the organisation and align these with the project goals. They need to be able to understand how a project fits into the big picture.

Tim Wasserman, program director of the Stanford University Advanced Project Management program in Stanford, California, USA, says,

“The ability to convert strategy into action is the emerging skill of our time. The ability to persuade and influence others, understand stakeholder values and negotiate for scarce resources is critical.”

PM processes - Gantt Chart

The demand for ‘skilled’ project managers is also getting more specific for each sector. Project managers need a solid foundation on which to build more advanced skill sets. Whichever way you look at it, this points towards the Diploma of Project Management. This qualification has been the benchmark qualification across all industry sectors for some time now and nothing has changed. Once you have the basics in place then you need to focus on project leadership and building value through leadership and/or specialising in one or two aspects of project management. You could potentially advance your skills in procurement and/or contract management or project HR management. You could even further develop your project management skills to manage programs, portfolios or even the Project Management Office (PMO). The exciting thing about project management is that there are just so many areas you can specialise in, and then the world is truly your oyster!

According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) here in Australia, employment is set to grow by 820,100 jobs, or 7.1%, through November 2017 across most industries and occupations in Australia.

It’s a broad field, but DEEWR predicts the range of project management jobs to increase overall to a massive 16.4% to 2017 and, according to a survey conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the number one country for project practitioner salaries is Australia, with an average salary of $134,659.

There is no doubt the fact that project management is a growth industry both in Australia and globally. In fact our close neighbours throughout Asia are just starting to recognise the need for qualified project managers. This demand will grow as their industry becomes more competitive. Regulations will begin to push for more integrated governance, compliance and strong management approaches in all sectors from construction to health. In fact the discipline of project management can be the important ‘force multiplier’ that improves performance across all sectors.

private meeting

Speaking of health, there is a global prerogative to do more with less so as to improve care, reduce costs, boost efficiencies and improve the customer experience. This is just the right sort of environment for skilled project managers in the health sector, both here in Australia and globally.

Similarly the construction sector will continue to grow but, overtime will shift from developed economies to emerging markets. A 2013 report on this topic says that, by 2025, growth in the construction industry is expected to increase by more than 70% to US$15 trillion, and it will be concentrated in three countries: China, India, and the United States.

In fact, the PMI list of ‘project hotspots’ around the world that will offer a wealth of opportunities and, these include (as well as the US and Australia) places like Canada, who will need in excess of half a million new PM roles by 2020. The report estimates India alone will require nearly 9 million new PM roles, while China’s rail projects alone are estimated to require nearly 25 million project management roles by 2020!

These figures indicate the huge demand still to come for project managers. With estimates like these to look forward to, anyone who says PMs are dead and dusted really must have rocks in their heads!

Agile process

Organisations here in Australia and throughout the world will be searching for professional PMs who have a strong set of technical, business and leadership skills, as well as the basic and underpinning skills of PM. This means that if you’re planning a career in project management you must be prepared to commit to ongoing professional development.

First off you need the basic skills of project management that you get in an accredited Certificate or Diploma qualification and then you need to understand and utilise specific methodologies such as PRINCE2, Agile etc. By then of course, you need to practice, apply and polish your skills, focusing on either project leadership so that you can lead people, projects and portfolios or, on the more complex technical skills so that you can add depth and expertise to a specific sector or project application. Either way you must focus your development so that you are positioned to add true value to your organisation’s bottom line.

I know I keep saying this in the blogs I write but, there is no doubt that lifelong learning is no longer just a catchphrase. It is the new reality.

The world of work is changing so quickly that new skills and knowledge are always needed. The person who recognises this and keeps their skills and knowledge not just up to date but also one step ahead is the person who is always in demand for high paid, challenging and satisfying work assignments. These are the people then who are in challenging and exciting PM employment, and who will continue to do so as they move from one assignment to the next.

Why not let it be you?