Career Tracks and Compensation for Project Managers
Very few people start in the field as full-fledged project managers. Most are offered an assistant position on a project management team and are assigned responsibility for one aspect of the work. As you gain experience, you may be assigned more and more tasks to manage, until you're ready to lead others in completing an entire project. Other newcomers start out with primarily technical jobs, creating, tracking, and updating the schedule using a software program; reviewing documents, and writing reports.
Project coordinator is an entry-level position that offers exposure to the work done by project managers. It's usually an administrative position involving a great deal of paperwork. You generate and distribute the reports that keep the project management team, owners, company staff, and others informed of a project's progress. You also schedule meetings and assist the management team in any way possible.
For larger projects, a project scheduler runs the software, inputting the information supplied by the management team and updating files as needed. This is a technical position that involves a great deal of computer work and little actual management.
Assistant Project Manager
Assistant PMs do not necessarily assist the project manager directly. Rather, they're usually assigned specific tasks to manage. They meet regularly with the PM to report progress and problems.
In this position, you may run a project yourself or lead a management team, delegating task management to assistants. PMs report to the "owner" of a project—whether that's a real estate developer, government agency, or your company's senior management. You oversee budget and schedule, and take responsibility for the project's proper completion.
Senior Project Manager
Many large organizations that tackle multiple projects at once (especially construction and engineering companies) employ a senior project manager. The senior project manager supervises a company's various project managers, coordinating the allocation of company resources, approving costs, and deciding which projects should take priority.
Compensation for project managers is always based at least partly on performance. You are encouraged to "buy in" to the success of your project, and there are almost always incentives to keep costs down. Project managers who can complete an assignment ahead of schedule or under budget usually get a nice bonus. In hard-bid construction, for example, PM bonuses are based on a company's profit from a project; a good PM on a multimillion-dollar construction job can make tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as a bonus.
- Project coordinator: $46,000 to $63,000
- Project scheduler: $37,000 to $56,000
- Assistant project manager: $40,000 to $60,000
- Project manager: $63,000 to $100,000, plus bonus
- Senior project manager: $70,000 to $150,000, plus bonus
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