Technical Project Manager Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a technical project manager? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a technical project manager is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Technical Project Manager

Technical project managers oversee both the technical requirements and the business management components of their companies' IT projects. This career can come with ups and downs, which is why it's good to take a look at the pros and cons before deciding it's right for you.

Pros of a Technical Management Career
Favorable job prospects for the career (15% job growth expected in the decade from 2012-2022)*
High salary (median annual wage for computer and information systems managers in 2014 was approximately $128,000)*
Management benefits like bonuses and expense accounts common*
Opportunity to work on technical projects in a variety of industries *

Cons of a Technical Management Career
Most jobs require 5-10 years of IT experience*
Overtime work possible (24% worked more than 50 hours a week as of 2010)*
Some projects have tight budgets and deadlines*
Possible physical problems due to long hours working on a computer*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Many technical project managers work as full-time employees for computer systems design firms. Others work for financial or manufacturing firms or local governments. Technical project managers generally work to plan and coordinate projects such as implementing a software development program or upgrading an organization's computer systems. Their work involves estimating and keeping track of budgets, managing employees, making schedules and collaborating with other professionals to get a project completed.

Because technical project managers work within a time frame and often face deadlines, their work hours commonly include nights and weekends. They also have to adapt to various challenges as they arise in order to resolve managerial or project issues. Much of their work day is spent in an office on a computer.

Salary Info and Job Prospects

Emerging technologies in the workplace are contributing to increased demand for technical project managers who have the know-how to initiate and support complex technological projects. Because of this, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average employment growth for computer and information systems managers from 2012-2022. This data also shows that the bottom 10% of these managers earned a salary of approximately $78,000 or less, while the top 10% earned roughly $187,000 or more.

Education and Training Requirements

According to the BLS, a bachelor's degree is generally the minimum requirement to enter management positions, and many employers prefer to hire MBA degree holders with specializations in technology fields. Though a specific major isn't required to enter the position, many technical project managers begin to acquire proficiencies in a bachelor's degree program in a technical area like computer science. Many begin their careers in an information technology or computer-related position, where they gain technical expertise and knowledge about industry software and practices. Job postings on Monster.com show that some of the skills expected of technical project managers include:

  • The ability to delegate tasks and communicate expectations to workers
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Multi-tasking abilities
  • Computer proficiency

Ways to Gain Technical Expertise

According to the BLS, securing a position in management can be challenging, particularly given the many expectations of a technical project manager. You'll need to be competent in software development and methodology, and you'll also be expected to have advanced knowledge in computer applications, technical terminology and programming procedures. Because of this, taking college courses in computer sciences, statistics, database management and computer programming can help you acquire the technical competencies that employers look for in candidates. These courses can additionally help build your knowledge of the newest technologies and give you an advantage over competitors who aren't experienced in emerging technologies.

What Are Employers Looking for?

Employers searching for technical project managers on job boards tend to require a combination of project management and professional business experience, along with a bachelor's degree. Many employers expect their technical project managers to travel to meet with clients and visit offices. Typically, you'll also be expected to have strong communication skills so you can explain technical components and make presentations to a variety of people. Below are some examples of what real employers are looking for based on job postings listed on Monster.com in April 2012:

  • A company in New York that specializes in delivering IT outsourcing to businesses looked for a technical project manager to provide support to high-profile clients. The company desired a candidate with strong team-building skills who could interact with business executives and stakeholders. Special preference was given to bachelor's degree holders with dual technical and business majors.
  • An environmental health-related Chicago company searched for a technical project manager with a bachelor's degree or higher in an IT-related field who was capable of managing multiple software implementation projects. The company preferred someone with proven experience managing projects, clients and teams from the start of a project to its completion.
  • A company in the finance industry in Georgia looked for a technical project manager to oversee the company's infrastructure in order to ensure that the objectives, budgets and schedule of each project were met. The company looked for a candidate with a bachelor's degree in engineering, computer science or a related field.

How to Stand out in the Field

Study IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Framework

Many employers with job postings on Monster.com gave special consideration to candidates with knowledge of ITIL, which is an approach used in IT management. ITIL framework provides detailed guides for delivering IT services to businesses, and it is recognized as being the most widely-used IT management approach. ITIL training courses are offered online by numerous organizations, and you can additionally gain numerous levels of ITIL qualifications by completing ITIL training modules.

Complete Six Sigma Training

Employers on Monster.com also listed Six Sigma training as a desirable asset for potential employees. Six Sigma is a business management strategy that focuses on helping businesses perform in the most efficient way possible, and acquiring training in its methodologies shows employers that you have expertise in the areas of management. Six Sigma training courses can be completed online, and candidates who complete training courses and pass certification exams are awarded various levels of certification.

Develop Related Skills

In addition to gaining work experience and building up your technical expertise, you can also attend seminars that are designed to refine your technical project management skills. Professional organizations, such as the American Management Association (AMA), offer technical project management seminars that teach you the methodology of project management and how to monitor and evaluate performance. According to the AMA, these seminars can help you stand apart from the competition by allowing you to study methods, skills and tools specific to technical project management.

Get Certified

As you build your work experience, you also might consider gaining certification. Numerous organizations, such as Microsoft, offer certifications that show employers you are competent and experienced in certain technologies. The Project Management Institute (PMI) states that earning a globally-recognized credential in project management can improve your success in getting a job, keep you updated on continually changing technologies and offer greater salary potential. Organizations, like PMI, grant certifications based on your experience and education, so you can gain higher-level PMI certification as your career develops and you qualify for more advanced certification.

Related Careers to Consider

Computer Software Developer

If you're interested in the field, but are unsure if you'd enjoy the demands of technical project management, there are related options. Computer software developers have similar educational requirements and job duties, with less managerial tasks. Computer software developers use their knowledge of computer science to develop software applications and operating systems for computers.

Computer software developers must evolve and adapt their software to meet industry trends and satisfy the needs of their employers. Employment prospects for this profession are expected to increase by 30% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. The median annual wage for software developers as of 2011 was around $92,000.

Computer Systems Analyst

Another related career option with favorable job prospects is working with information technology (IT) as a computer systems analyst. Like technical project managers, computer systems analysts adapt their IT training to meet the needs of their employers. They work alongside management to determine if a proposed technology would be a good fit for the company and oversee the implementation of the system when it is approved.

Analysts also train employees to use new technologies and work to maintain the computer systems of their companies. Unlike technical project managers, they generally aren't responsible for the business components of projects, like personnel management. The expansion of computer technologies and increased technological demand from companies should support a 22% increase in employment of computer systems analysts, according to BLS' 2010-2020 predictions. The median annual wage for this occupation was almost $79,000 as of 2011.

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Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • MBA: Project Management
  • BSBA in Management
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

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Colorado State University Global

  • Master of Project Management
  • BS - Project Management
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Project Management

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Johns Hopkins University

  • MA in Public Management
  • Master of Science in Government Analytics
  • Master of Science in Research Administration

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership
  • Master of Business Administration - General Management
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Management and Leadership

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Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration - Project Management Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Project Management Specialization
  • Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Project Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Herzing University

  • MBA
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business
  • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership

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