A $100,000 a year project manager salary is not a far-fetched dream. It is totally achievable given the right factors, opportunities and preparation. Of course, it would take years to get to that income level and lots of hard work to prove you are worthy of such compensation. By US standards, 100K a year does not make you super rich. You’d need to make $450,000 in adjusted gross income to be considered “rich” and the average wealth per adult for those considered wealthy in US terms is $344,692. To be ranked among the 1% of the population deemed wealthiest; you’d need to have more than $7 million in net assets.
But with the wide disparity of income in the world and the purchasing power of the US dollar, median wealth (which represents what most people have) is much higher for those earning in the US ($49,460 for the average adult) than in other parts of the world (in Europe its $11,319, and in India its just $608). In the US, an office manager has a median salary of $45,001; an accountant, $49,960; and a marketing manager, $62,855. Let’s put this in another perspective, if you earn $25,000 or more annually you belong to the top 10% of the world’s income earners. Those US median salary figures translate to living comfortably compared to most other parts of the world.
For 100K project manager salary, you are above comfortable and it’s your starting point to climb the ranks into the US wealthy club if you so aspire. Even if salary is not your foremost consideration for taking on a project management career, there is no denying that money matters. Part of your career fulfillment is getting paid well for a job well done. And getting to those high income levels matter as much as the prestige and reputation that go with it. Before we go any further, reflect on the words of renowned motivational speaker Brain Tracy who has written over 70 self-development books including Earn What You’re Really Worth and The Psychology of Achievement.
So how do you get to your first 100K? In this article, we’ve detailed the steps, skills, and other requisites to guide you up the ladder of project manager position and pay scale. Consider the project manager job information here as career hacks to boost your chances of success. But certainly, the ultimate outcome rests on your shoulders.
“If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?” ~ Basil S. Walsh
A career goal explains in specific terms what profession you want to pursue throughout your working life. It is important that you are clear on what direction you are heading because that’s where you will base you action plan. Career goals are for the long-term, but to get there you need to develop short-term-activities. You need to know how to get from point A to point B.
So if you want to be a project manager, you need to plan out how to achieve that by learning more, developing skills, getting the right education and training, and gaining the necessary experience. Once you’ve set your career goal and laid out the steps to realize it, you have to follow through your goal and plan.
You are setting expectations for yourself and it is your obligation not to abandon those expectations if you hope to get somewhere someday. Unless fate and fortune intervenes in your favor, there are no shortcuts to reaching long term goals and the steps you have to go through. This is why goals and pursuant activities must be S-M-A-R-T. Although this is mostly used for business goals, it can also apply to professional or career goals.
The thing is that your career goal should be clear, precise and doable within a reasonable time frame you set. For example, if you’re a fresh college graduate consider taking post-graduate studies since you know that climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder would be facilitated with an MBA degree. Have no work experience? Set some 5 years or more in your first job and build yourself up to a managerial position. All these activities you factor in to your timelines in your long-term career goal. It’s one-step at a time with a sure and steady foothold.
Now you may experience roadblocks along the way. That is normal and expected. But don’t let those pull you down. Many highly successful people have encountered almost insurmountable odds, but they did not stop and found other ways. It’s a given – many plans don’t work out according to plan. We take a cue from Confucius: “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” You can review, modify and update steps in your action plan. You can change activities that don’t seem to work for you. You can take on another path if the one on your plan doesn’t lead to achieving your goal.
The scenario above will develop in you some useful traits in a project management position – adaptability, resilience and quick decision making. Projects in the real world – from conceptualization to completion – undergo changes, sometimes swiftly, and you must be able to handle, decide and act on them in the soonest possible time.
Like many things in life, charting a career goal is no walk in the park. It will require an investment in time, money and effort. However, you have an objective to look forward to and motivate you (including the 100K pay mark), and an action plan to guide you. But there are more steps to take.
“First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” ~ Aristotle
The words of the ancient Greek philosopher still resonate and remain relevant in modern times. In the first step we defined and set you career goal and plan; this time we tackle the means to attain them. Similar to other professions or careers, there are four general areas that you have to build on to prepare and equip yourself for the project manager role.
In college, maybe you did not set out initially to pursue a project management career. You may not even have realized then that there were project management courses. There are, with four basic types of degrees on project management that can be earned from a college, university, or business school. They include the following:
Keep in mind that a degree is not an absolute requirement for entry-level project management positions. But having a degree not only enhances your resume but also steps up your chances of getting shortlisted, employed, and promoted to higher positions. Furthermore, data from the Project Management Institute (PMI) and U.S. Census Bureau showed that project managers with formal education such as university degrees receive higher annual income on average compared to other jobs in the general U.S. population. This confirms that education is a crucial factor for attaining high-paying project management positions. Taking project management courses and earning a PM degree are your first stepping stones in your career goal.
In the chart above, you can see that income rises exponentially with education; the higher the education, the higher the income. If you aspire to reach the project manager salary mark of 100K, education is a priority step in your action plan.
It is worth noting that project management encompasses many industries. Put simply, all corporations and businesses regardless of niche and industry undertake projects in one form or another and will require project managers. A project management degree will certainly be a plus but a degree in IT, banking and finance, business management and administration, engineering and other technical courses, are all good educational backgrounds and certainly appropriate especially if the project involves any of the aforementioned fields.
This is something you don’t have the luxury of if you are fresh out of college. It’s something you have to work on based on the steps in your career goal. As mentioned earlier, you would need a certain time frame to build on this. With the right education and degree, as well as good performance on your first job, you can target and qualify for managerial position levels. You can set out doing this in 5 years time if you’re exceptional. However, this time frame doesn’t guarantee you the prized 100K project manager salary. As shown in the chart below from PMI data, it may take 10 years or more of work experience to realize that salary level.
Work experience is fundamental in project management. While the right education and relevant training and certifications do matter and provide you the basic tools to take on a project management role, work experience gives you the skills and expertise that you can only get outside the confines of a classroom – real, on the job, hands on work. As they say, experience is the best teacher. Leadership, organizational management, communication and negotiation, decision making, networking, and decisiveness are but some qualities and soft skills that you’ll learn primarily from experience.
Based on a list of frequently asked interview questions for project manager positions, majority dealt on how you managed a project in the past. Consider these examples:
Only someone who has gone through the situations above first-hand can sufficiently and confidently answer those questions. Education will most assuredly provide you the required knowledge, but experience can give you the needed competencies.
PMI is the governing body that offers exams for Project Management Professional (PMP), an internationally-recognized professional designation. At present there are over 770,000 active PMP certified individuals and 286 chartered chapters in 210 countries and territories worldwide. There are certain requirements before you can take the exams.
How important is it to be PMP certified? Many commercial, government and other organizations hire PMP certified project managers to improve the success rate of projects in all areas of knowledge, implementing a standardized set of project management principles issued by PMI and contained in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).
Likewise, PMP credential is among the top 10 certifications as ranked by industry experts and institutions. Certainly, being PMP certified amps up your credentials and should be on your action plan. PMP is the gold standard, but there are other types of certifications offered by other organizations aside from PMI such as The Scrum Alliance, ILX Group, and CompTIA. These certifications include:
Remember though that being certified, just like having a degree, is not a strict requirement for entry-level project management positions. But having a certification nevertheless ranks you as a professional and a preferred choice. It will likely open more opportunities for you in the future. Moreover, one of the frequently asked interview questions for PM positions is – “Do you have any certifications?” A positive answer is definitely a plus point.
Still on those most asked interview questions, this one crops up: “Which project management software and tools do you prefer using? Why?”
Among the steps in your action plan checklist should be learning how to use and apply the latest project management software. These are the tools of your job. Project management deals with business processes that may require different tools. In fact, one study reported 95% of project managers regularly use more than one tool, and 5% utilize more than 10 tools. The features of project management software cited in the study, ranked by importance top to bottom, include:
Many popular project management software are equipped with the above features and other relevant functions so you may not have to undergo a crash course on several software. A working knowledge on PM apps and a few other business and productivity platforms such as spreadsheet, scheduling, quality management, inventory management and the like would serve you well.
During your education, training and job search, you may already have followed developments in the project management landscape. Well, that landscape is changing because of the increased focus in productivity and efficiency, analysis and reporting, and the information technology front. All these areas converge to ensure that projects undertaken by businesses, corporations and organizations are completed on time, on budget, at the highest quality possible. A project manager or director is responsible for that. And because of today’s requirements and technology tools, the project manager years ago is quite different from the project manager today.
Here are interesting facts and figures in the world of project management gathered from various sources:
Some things stand out from the above sampling of studies and reports – there is a need for more new project managers, lots of industries undertake intensive projects, and the success rate of projects is generally not that good.
It takes an average of 7 years in the profession to go from entry-level to managing large, complex projects. These are the kinds of projects that pay higher salary. There is also a correlation between project size and complexity – obviously, the bigger and more complex a project, the bigger also is its budget, and the higher it can pay its project manager.
To give you a clearer picture, below is the average project budget vis-à-vis the annual salary of project managers.
Likewise, there are certain industries and sectors that pay top dollar for top project managers.
Take note that project managers without PMP certification make an average salary of $91,000 per year while those that are PMP certified receive an average of $111,000 or 20% higher. Meanwhile, senior project managers are the leading dollar earners with salaries ranging from $100,000 to over $150,000.
Now you know the tools, requirements, and factors that can lead to a high-paying position with all the project manager job information that we’ve tackled. The next three steps are meant to further help you along, add value to your worth, and solidify your knowledge and understanding of what it takes to be a project manager nowadays with the caliber and capability to deliver.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” ~Michael Jordan
No project is ever done alone. You need helping hands and input from others. Today’s projects are done by teams and your role as project manager is to mobilize and manage your team for the common purpose of completing the project within the parameters set – on time, on budget, and in line with the objective.
When it comes to project management, team communication is extremely important because 90% of a project manager’s role involves communicating what is to be done. You need to have your team on the same page and the best communicators are the ones who have better chances of completing projects. Why is this so?
Consider this – 57% of projects fail due to breakdown in communications, and one of the top 10 causes of project failure is little communication at every level of management whether it’s between upper management, middle or with the team. Without effective communication, especially with the team you’re working with to deliver results, the outcome is disastrous.
Today’s technology affords you many tools to keep everyone – management that you report to, and the team that you handle – to be on the loop, coordinated and informed. There are applications for sharing, collaboration, calendar and scheduling, video/voice conferencing, chat, instant messaging, SMS, and email. Some software packages carry all the aforementioned features as part of a complete communication, project management, or business process management suite.
It cannot be emphasized enough the vital role that effective communication plays in the success of a project. Communication is what links all the people involved and there is no lack of tools and solutions nowadays to make communication as clear, instant and reliable. The ubiquitous smartphone that everyone carries allows for communication anytime from anywhere. You can access, retrieve and share files and documents all the time. It’s your mini workstation on the go. There’s no reason why collaboration and teamwork cannot be enhanced with the communication technology currently available.
As project manager you are team leader. This wasn’t entrusted to you without your knowing. Even during your early education and training, you were already well aware that when you eventually take on a project as manager or director, you’ll be overseeing not only all the phases of a project but also be leading a group of people to get the project done.
There are those that say some persons are born leaders. Maybe what they’re saying is that some are gifted with natural leadership traits like enthusiasm or positive attitude. But many leadership skills are honed and developed. Leaders are molded into what they are by experience, going through the “battle” of life, work, or circumstance.
So what makes an effective team leader? Here are the top 10 leadership qualities of a project manager as compiled and ranked by ESI International, a leading provider of skills training in project management:
If you are able to effectively lead your team, your project is halfway done. You and your team are ready to win championships.
“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.” ~Doris Lessing
When we’re starting our career, it is good to look up to persons who were there ahead of us and became successful. They serve as inspiration, and we try to follow their footsteps and approaches. It is fortunate if we can find a mentor who can guide us. Many successful entrepreneurs and business personalities will point to someone (or some people) who has mentored them. It is a relationship that can have a lasting and meaningful impact on your career. You may ask – is a mentor the same as a coach? They’re different in a way.
A mentor is someone who has been there, done it, and accumulated enough experience and expertise to give you the right and timely advice. That person is in a position to give you insights pertaining to your profession or career because he has been through it. He is the expert who knows the ins and outs, the tricks of the trade, and what he teaches you is backed up by experience. He is an alumna of the “University of Hard Knocks.” For sharing his knowledge and time, and taking an interest in your career growth, you are bound to take his words to heart.
On the other hand, a coach is there to assist you in unleashing your potential, helping you to find ways and means on your own. He may not even be as knowledgeable as you are in your profession or field; hence he is not there to advise you, he can only suggest. A coach is trained to empower you to search for solutions for yourself. Just like in sports, say in basketball, you may even be a better basketball player than your coach but he will be there to give you pointers and options. How you put the ball in the hoop will be entirely up to you, so long as you do it cleanly and you score. That’s what matters to a coach.
There have been many mentor relationships in business and the names are familiar – Mark Zuckerberg who asked Steve Jobs for direction during Facebook’s early years; Steve Jobs looking up to Mark Markkula, the angel investor when Apple was starting out and helped put the brand on track; Richard Branson who sought for guidance from British airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Lake when Virgin Atlantic struggled to get off the ground; and Bill Gates who owes part of his success to his mentor Warren Buffett. In 2017, Gates and Buffett were ranked 2nd and 4th, respectively, among the world’s richest individuals.
The cycle of imparting wisdom and empowering others will come to some point when you yourself become a mentor or coach. You pay it forward to a newcomer in the field struggling to learn the ropes. That enlightenment and personal satisfaction of sharing what you’ve learned through the years to someone who needs it will make you realize that you have “made” it. Becoming mentor material is one of the status symbols when you’re at the top of your game. When you’re already a sought after senior project manager, high salary is the least of your worry. It comes with your status.
Human wisdom has been handed down through generations via story-telling. The world of project management is no different, more so with today’s technology. Success stories can easily be captured, recorded and documented. The progress and processes of projects are normally documented for future reference and to be shared for the next set or generation of project managers. It is where lessons are learned for faster turnaround times from decision to implementation, where processes are fine-tuned to prevent delays, and where workflows are adjusted to produce optimal results.
You can access these stories and examples of how a project was done from start to finish. From the time the idea came to mind, to laying the first foundation, to erecting the first pillar, to the inauguration of the project. Success stories are there to tell you how it was done, how well it was done, the stages it went through, the requirements needed, and how everything was synchronized and consolidated to achieve completion.
Looking back, however, should not only involve projects that have made it but also those that did not. Retrospection gives you the opportunity to analyze the why, where and how a project did not take off or was not completed. There are crucial lessons that can be picked up from failures and mistakes so you can avoid the factors that led to them and introduce improvements. Take note that nearly half of organizations experienced recent project failure in a one-year period, and that only 40% of projects met budget, schedule and quality goals. Review successes, but also assess failures. This way you can be forewarned of potential risk areas and address them early on.
“Attitude is everything!” ~Francie Baltazar-Schwartz
The right attitude will have a deep influence on how you chart your career, follow through your action plans, and reach your goal. If you look at the ten leadership qualities of a project leader that we tackled earlier, most if not all of them are shaped and developed by the right attitude. You cannot be a leader without this defining quality. And without leadership qualities, you will be hard put to manage a team and produce desired results.
The right kind of attitude is a positive one. It’s how you look at life and how you handle and hurdle the challenges that life puts in your way. A successful, high-paying project manager position is you long term career goal, and to get there you need to accomplish short-term steps like taking the right education. If in your college days, you already feel burdened and frustrated by exams and academic requirements, then you’ve already lost even before you’ve started. That attitude will not get you far.
Assuming you survived college and got your first entry-level job and immediately feels weighed down by office work and assignments, then you’ve already surrendered even before you’ve been sent to battle. You’ve only been to skirmishes; the major siege, and there will be many of them, still lies ahead. In your desperate and defeatist outlook, you’ll soon realize that any minor task that comes your way almost seems like a huge responsibility. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
Pat Riley, one of the top 10 coaches in NBA history said:
“If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.”
The good thing is that a positive attitude is a state of mind that you can hone and condition. Since it’s triggered in your thoughts, which affects your decisions and actions, then it can be countered by the power of positive thinking. You have to will it and find ways. You’ve been doing that all along but never knew it. It’s like the time you badly wanted to buy something but didn’t have enough money, so you sold your prized comic book collection or borrowed from your dad. Surely if there’s a will, there’s a way.
If you’re deadest on becoming a successful project manager, nothing can stop you really. Positive thinking makes your goal reachable and profoundly enhances your chances of success. Take a look at the “Attitude Chart” above and see how your thinking puts you nearer to your goal.
Mindset is a mentality, and since it’s a state mind, it’s also an attitude that is manifested in one’s behavior. In her book Mindset, Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck states that to attain success you are required to put in effort and learn to embrace failure along the way. This certainly can affect work and career trajectory.
In her research, Dweck observed primary school children and found an interesting link between levels of ability and motivation. Her findings hold significance to individuals of all ages, more so with adults that do not fulfill their potential in their career life. Using both hard and easy puzzles, she observed that some approached a difficult task eagerly, bent to experience a challenge. Others avoided the difficult puzzles not wanting to risk potential failure. Those who saw it as a challenge put in more effort and persisted. If they failed at the task they saw it as a learning experience. They had a Growth Mindset.
On the other hand, the group who quickly dismissed the difficult task had a Fixed Mindset, believing their abilities were fixed and would rather preserve their self esteem to be viewed by others as ‘smart’ for not attempting a task that may result in failure. See the distinctions in the graphics below.
Individuals with a fixed mindset believe their ability is set in stone, while those with growth mindset believe they start out in life with certain abilities which can be developed through learning and effort. For the latter, anything is possible. While the research involved children, they will grow into adults with mindsets and beliefs that can continue into their career life.
Those with fixed mindset can be successful. It’s just that they are more vulnerable and may find it more difficult to cope in today’s global work environment littered with challenges and competition. Their decision making abilities can be imperiled by the dictates of their ego, and they can be misguided all throughout their career lives with wrong or outdated thinking and beliefs.
But all is not lost. The brain, the most powerful computer that it is, can be reprogrammed with proper conditioning. The mind is like a sponge that can take in new knowledge. It has to be open to learning and development, transforming it from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset that welcomes mentoring, making mistakes, building realistic expectations, and taking calculated risks. Being able to adapt and respond to a highly dynamic work environment with a growth mindset brings about fulfilling your potential, ushering in an authentic and satisfying career life, and putting you within the realms of your ultimate career goal.
If your answer is yes, then that’s the right attitude that sets you off in the right direction. A 6-figure salary will not be given to you on a silver platter. You have to work for it real hard. You have to accomplish several short-term steps in your action plan to reach your long-term goal. You need to have the proper education and training, the needed credentials and certification, the knowledge of the business and industry, the required skill set, the growth mindset, the positive attitude, and the leadership qualities. Still willing to go through it? If it’s still a resounding YES, then 100K will eventually be yours for the taking.
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