What Exactly Are Project Managers and What Do They Do?

Have you ever considered a management position? It’s a question you are probably asked during every job interview, right after “Where do you see yourself in five years?” And, like all of us, you probably manage personal projects all the time and have an opinion on what a project manager does based on that. You may have also gathered information from previous jobs and interactions with your managers. 

However, a project management-oriented role involves many skills and responsibilities. So read along to fully understand what a project manager is, what it does and answer confidently the next time you are asked this question.

What Is a Project Manager?

A project manager is in charge of a project throughout all its phases. The project manager assists in the project’s development, from planning to execution, and supervises the personnel, resources, budget, stakeholder relations, deliverables, deadlines, and many more. They coordinate activities, track progress, and solve issues. A project manager's role is to make decisions, assign tasks, and ensure the project is successful.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

A project manager plans organizes, and supervises the entire project, following the four phases of project management: initiating, planning, executing, and closing. Each phase has challenges translating into specific tasks and responsibilities for the project manager (PM). Of course, the PM’s duties depend on the project’s industry, field of activity, and structure. However, the tasks and responsibilities listed below will help you better understand what a project manager does throughout the project’s lifecycle.

1. PMs' Role During The Initiating Phase

During the initiating phase, project managers are involved in defining the project’s goals and objectives, identifying stakeholders, and discussing vital aspects of the project. Their responsibilities may include attending project meetings, gathering information about necessary authorizations, analyzing marketing research, and meeting stakeholders.

Project managers are also involved in funding discussions, research regarding similar projects and competition, and all technical aspects of the project. They may be asked to develop a list of constraints, potential issues, and success criteria. Their technical expertise may also be a valuable insight into how complex the project will be and what parts are doable and potentially profitable.

At this stage, project managers have a counselor role and are not responsible for major decisions. Their responsibilities will increase when the project takes on.

2. PMs' Role During The Planning Phase

Once the initiating phase is over and the project is approved, it needs a plan. Here, project managers have a more active role. Alongside stakeholders and CEOs, project managers create the project plan: the roadmap that will lead the project to success.

Project managers ensure that the project plan is doable. Furthermore, they ensure the plan leaves enough room for potential issues and unexpected situations. Amongst their tasks, there are:

  • Defining the project’s timeline and making sure each task and activity receives enough time and resources
  • Estimating costs
  • Evaluating risks
  • Defining quality and productivity measures (KPIs)
  • Establishing communication methods
  • Listing required resources (human and material).

Project managers have a big responsibility at this stage because they need to balance the stakeholders’ requests (e.g., fast turnover, low costs, etc.) and the project team’s needs (e.g., enough time and resources to complete tasks, training, etc.). It’s up to them to negotiate a viable plan that makes everyone happy.

3.  PMs' Role During The Executing Phase

The executing phase is where project managers are at their best. Using the right project management tools and maintaining transparent communication with their teams, project managers ensure the work is done, the performance criteria are met, employees are motivated and happy, resources are available, and stakeholders are up to date.

In the executing phase, the project manager will do the following tasks:

  • Task tracking and monitoring
  • People management
  • Resource management
  • Budget management
  • Organizing meetings to inform the stakeholders about the project’s status
  • Adjusting project plan to meet new demands
  • Supervising team meetings and ensuring milestones and deadlines are met
  • Performance analysis.

During the executing phase, project managers are the only ones responsible for the project’s performance. They are in charge of everything related to the project, and although they can delegate some of their management tasks, they are directly involved in every decision.

4. PMs' Role During The Closing Phase

After completing all project activities, project managers can focus on results. During the closing phase, they will analyze project data and generate reports, meet with the stakeholders to present the results, organize events to disseminate the results, gather client feedback, and do the final touch-ups.

The project manager will release resources no longer needed (e.g., rented spaces and machinery, project-based employees, etc.), archive project data, send and pay the final bills, and complete the final project report that covers problems and solutions, observations, learned lessons, key takeaways, weak points, and future improvements.

What Skills Does a Project Manager Need?

A project manager can’t be successful without their project management skills. From leadership to communication, these skills help the pro responsible for the small and big initiatives to be handled promptly and successfully.

In the following lines, we expand on the top 3 qualities the best PMs possess. :

  • Communication skills are also required because a project manager is responsible for maintaining stakeholder relationships. They always work together and must find the best communication channel with everyone involved in the project, from investors and CEOs to suppliers to employees.
  • Leadership abilities are one of the most important skills you need as a project manager. A good leader can help their teams be efficient and productive, boost their morale, and increase their responsibility. At the same time, leadership skills allow them to communicate better, be more transparent, and encourage a trustworthy work environment.
  • Organizational skills are another quality of exquisite project managers. It would be impossible to plan and organize activities and tasks without them. Organizational skills help managers prioritize, work around dependencies, spot patterns, solve unexpected issues, and quickly adapt to whatever change is needed.

Alongside these core skills, a project manager requires analytical thinking, business knowledge, and risk management expertise. All these will help them make informed decisions and reach the project’s goals.

With this set of skills, one can be a project manager regardless of the project’s industry and field of activity. Many pros work as independent project managers without being full-time employees of a particular company. However, the practical side of being a project manager requires project-related knowledge and a good understanding of the industry, field of activity, and work environment. It’s always better when the project manager understands the employees’ lifestyles and struggles, technological problems, and overall economic situation.

How to Become a Project Manager?

Alongside the skills required by a project manager position, you will also need a certification. You can study project management during your education, like business or management bachelor’s degrees. Or you can choose to complete your education with an MBA or master’s degree in a field that covers project management, such as business, marketing, or economic studies.

Another way to become a project manager is to get certifications. Many training programs are specifically dedicated to project management and teach management tools, risk management, human resource administration, time management, quality control, and communication. At the end of the program, you will have a certificate attesting you have all the skills required to be a project manager.

For a project manager position, experience is highly valued. Even if you have the diplomas and certificates attesting to your education and skills, employers would like to see you have previously worked in a similar position and done well. Any leadership experience counts because it shows you managed a team, made decisions, and are familiar with a management position. Therefore, to become a project manager, you need to focus on smaller leadership positions, such as team leader, coordinator, and trainer.

What are the key project manager certifications?

A project management certification can give you a competitive edge and increase your earning potential. Here are some key options to consider: 

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) 
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) 
  • Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) - Program Management Professional (PgMP) 
  • Project Management Institute Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). 

Obtaining one of these certifications can equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel as a project manager and demonstrate your expertise to potential employers. It's a wise investment in your professional development and can help you achieve your career goals.

Tip: If you want to learn more about project management, we provide the 101 guide covering the essential methodologies, types, tools, tips and benefits you need to know in 2024.


Project managers work in any industry and field of activity. They manage small and exhaustive projects, lead traditional or remote teams, and work for small businesses or corporations. Every product and service you can think of has a project manager supervising its creation. If you love to see something starting as an idea and ending as a successful product or service everyone uses, and if you love working with people, project management is for you. Look at what skills you already have and what certifications you still need, and give it a go.


How much do project managers make?

The income of a project manager varies based on the project’s size, industry, and country. For example, in 2024, the average annual salary of a project manager working in Canada or the US was around $86,000 - $87,000. However, in the UK, it was slightly over £47,000 ($58,000). Usually, the project manager makes more money than the team’s members.

What are the key project manager certifications?

Key project manager certifications cover project management tools and methodology, risk management, and people management. They must be recognized in your country and have good feedback in your professional community.

What is the difference between Project Management vs. Portfolio Management vs. Program Management?

  • Project management refers to managing a single project for a single organization. It considers short-term results and focuses on reaching the project’s goals and objectives. 
  • Program management refers to managing a project involving multiple organizations with a broader scope. It must reach everyone’s expectations and ensure good communication and collaboration within the partnership.
  • Portfolio management refers to managing multiple projects simultaneously for multiple organizations, such as a corporation. It has long-term objectives and needs to consider an overall strategy and performance.


Project Management

Portfolio Management

Program Management






Single project and organization

Multiple projects and organizations

Single project and multiple organizations


Linear and sequential


Iterative and adaptive