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How to Become a Project Management Professional

If you’re considering a career change and have the traits of a leader, you might want to think about becoming a project management professional. These professionals keep jobs running smoothly and reduce the risks associated with poor decision making.

You can achieve your certification with either a high school diploma or college degree, and you can work as an independent contractor or directly with corporations. Before you make a decision though, you should explore all your options to determine whether this in-demand, goal-driven field might be right for you.

What Do Project Management Professionals (PMPs) Do?

Project managers lead and direct work teams, so those who choose this field should have assertive and confident personalities. They supervise all the aspects of an assigned project, coordinating with the workers involved to keep everything on track and within budget limits.

They create schedules with built-in milestones to keep the workflow moving steadily toward goals, and they manage all deadlines to ensure everyone completes their tasks on time. Due to all the moving parts of typical projects, these flexible professionals help prevent gold plating, or adding unnecessary extras onto projects in progress, and they handle change well, adapting and overcoming as new challenges arise.

What Are the Benefits of a Career in Project Management?

Flexibility remains one of the top benefits of project management careers. As a project manager, you can work in virtually any industry. For instance, manufacturing plants might need someone to lead a research and development team coming up with new product prototypes, while finance and insurance companies might need a professional to revamp reporting methods to bring them into compliance with new standards. Even the healthcare industry needs project managers due to changing regulations, giving you a chance to save patients money while improving their care.

Another benefit of a career in project management comes down to the demand. While many companies need project managers, the supply hasn’t kept up with the demand. This is in part due to an aging workforce. Other factors include changing technology and expansion into global markets. The lack of available professionals also means you have an excellent chance of advancing quickly once you prove your value.

Lastly, project management salaries offer a strong motivation to enter the field. Project managers in Canada had an average median income of $82,978 in 2018. And though this great salary doesn’t hurt, it’s a secondary consideration to many people who want to make an impact. By choosing a project management career, you can affect change by working with politicians or nonprofits who want to make a difference in the world.

How Do You Become a Project Management Professional?

The Project Management Institute offers certifications to those who successfully complete its requirements and pass its exam. Recognized worldwide, this certification shows that you have a proven track record of competency and experience. The steps for getting this certification include:

  1. If you have a high school diploma, you must have at least 7,500 hours of experience in leading projects.
  2. If you have completed a four-year university degree, you must have at least 4,500 hours of experience in leading projects.
  3. Complete at least 35 contact hours of formal project management education.
  4. Pass the PMP certification exam offered by the PMI. This four-hour exam contains 200 multiple-choice questions.
  5. Register for a PMI account.
  6. Submit your online application and fee.

Important Components to Project Management


Time is a huge limitation on most projects. Maybe the customer imposed a strict deadline, or maybe your time constraints came from other circumstances, such as a lease on a warehouse or lab space running out. Either way, it's crucial to manage your time if you want your project to succeed.

Several factors determine the time a project takes. One is the skill and experience of the people working on the project. A big reason why companies such as Google and Microsoft can make big technological leaps so quickly is because they have huge teams featuring the world’s brightest minds hard at work on innovative projects.

Effect of Time on Cost and Scope

You also have to balance time constraints with the other two common limiting factors: cost and scope. The three are interdependent on one another. Consider the implications of trying to complete a project originally scheduled to take six months in four months. This is difficult to accomplish without increasing the project’s cost by hiring more workers or reducing the project’s scope.

The best way to manage time is to set a timeline for completion up front and establish lots of milestones along the way. If the project has a three-month deadline, you probably want to set weekly goals for progress made. This way you can recognize early in the process if you’re getting behind, and you can take steps to get back on schedule.

Effect of Time on Quality

In addition, when establishing time goals, consider the effects time potentially has on the quality of your project. It’s always nice to roll out a project fast, but quality work often takes more time. If you’re completing a project for a customer, you want to be on the same page from the beginning. Remember the good, fast, and cheap dilemma. Pick the customer’s brain and determine which items from that list matter most.


Your projects are limited by the money you have to spend on them. Think about the Google and Microsoft examples. These companies regularly take on some of the most ambitious projects in the history of technology, but they have billions of dollars per year to invest in these projects. A smaller company might have the same vision as Google, but it probably won’t compete unless it finds a way to finance projects on the same level as Google.

Setting a Budget

You want to be realistic with your budget when you set the parameters of a project. Make a list of all the resources you expect to need. These include everything from manpower to equipment and working spaces. Figure out how much money is needed to complete the project based on its scope and timeframe. Higher-quality projects almost always require greater resources.

Effect of Cost on Time and Scope

The other two common constraints, time and scope, often work alongside budget to create challenges. A temporary time delay can mean you have to speed up the remainder of the project to meet its deadline. This can cause budget challenges. If the scope of the project increases midway through, chances are your budget must increase as well. It’s important to brainstorm potential budget-disrupting events ahead of time so you’ll be prepared for them.


A project’s scope describes its end result or outcome. When each year’s new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy rolls out with all its new features, these represent the scope of a yearlong project to update the company’s flagship smartphone. Scope is important to you, the project manager, because it defines exactly how a successful project should turn out.

Pretend one of the smartphone manufacturers wants to update the camera on its flagship phone, double the memory, and offer a newer operating system. When the phone goes to market the following year, it should feature all of those specifications for the undertaking to be a success.

Effect of Scope on Time and Cost

As you might expect, time and budget affect what kind of scope you can realistically assign to a project. A helpful way to manage scope is to first set your time and budget parameters, and then figure out how big of a project you can reasonably take on with those constraints in place.

Project management is difficult, and it’s made even harder by several constraints that feed off each other to create challenges. By identifying these limitations and learning how to manage them, you can work through projects with greater success.

If you want to make a career change to a rewarding, exciting field, project management might be right for you. This growing field offers flexibility and encourages creativity.

If you choose a project management career path as an independent contractor, consider using QuickBooks Self-Employed to manage your revenue and expenses. This app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage businesses on the go. Download the app today to see how it can help you.

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