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Are you an aspiring project manager but unsure how you can get there without experience? The field is awash with many experienced, certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs), but it is possible to enter this coveted field without any years of experience at all. 

Transitioning to an entry-level or fully qualified project manager and taking your career to the next level will require more varied experience and capabilities. Training and certification also helps. 

The DPM offers a certification through our DPM School training program, Mastering Digital Project Management. The course takes you through the entire project life cycle from start to finish and covers key skills like project planning, monitoring and controlling, and budgeting.

What Is An Entry-Level Project Manager?

There are many entry-level positions and career levels in project management. Some beginner titles include:

  • Assistant project manager
  • Project management coordinator
  • Junior project manager

If you're sure project management is the right career for you and you have no prior experience, this is where you'll start.

In these or similar roles, even with less than one year of experience, you can still make a junior project manager base salary of $60,000+ annually (find more project manager salary info). Let’s take a quick look into what you need to do to make this attractive income if you have limited or no experience. 

What Does An Entry-Level Project Manager Do?

Entry-level project roles, regardless of your title, typically assist more experienced project managers in handling all aspects of project responsibilities, including: 

  • Gathering project information throughout the project life cycle 
  • Running reports
  • Analyzing data
  • Documenting project details
  • Attending meetings, taking notes, and following up on tasks later
  • Sending out communications
  • Tracking and reporting back on the status of tasks and schedules
  • Updating various documents as warranted
  • Problem-solving

Many of these tasks will help prepare you for advancing to the next level as a full-fledged project manager, all while you gain more experience and increase your level of responsibility. But how do you go about landing one of these entry-level roles if you’re new to project management? These steps can help you get there. 

How To Become A Project Manager As A Beginner

Follow these steps to get your foot in the door toward becoming a project manager if you have no prior experience. 

Galen Low recently interviewed Jean Kang on the podcast about landing a PM job with no experience—have a listen to her advice!

Sign up for the DPM newsletter to get expert insights, tips, and other helpful content that will help you get projects across the finish line on time and under budget.

Sign up for the DPM newsletter to get expert insights, tips, and other helpful content that will help you get projects across the finish line on time and under budget.

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1. Get Familiar With The Required Skills And Qualifications 

Project management can be challenging at times, but if you have strong organizational skills along with these other technical project management skills, soft skills, and qualifications, you’ll be leading projects like a pro in no time.

Skills

Hard SkillsSoft Skills
Budgeting
Scheduling
Communication
Agile project management and other Methodologies
Project scope management
Stakeholder management
Strategic project management
Conflict management
Critical thinking
Diplomacy
Organization
Leadership
Prioritization
Teamwork

Find our full list of project management skills here.

Qualifications

When it comes to project management qualifications, companies expect project managers, even new ones, to understand the five phases of the project management life cycle and the ten knowledge areas.

Project PhasesKnowledge Areas
1. Project Initiation
2. Project Planning
3. Project Execution
4. Project Monitoring & Controlling
5. Project Closure
1. Project integration management
2. Project scope management
3. Project time management
4. Project cost management
5. Project quality management
6. Project resource management
7. Project communications management
8. Project risk management
9. Project procurement management
10. Project stakeholder management

What if you’re completely new and just don’t have this knowledge or work experience yet? 

2. Find A Project Manager To Mentor You

No matter what industry you work in, odds are there is a project management office (PMO) or project team with a seasoned project manager you can shadow. You may even know someone there who is willing to help you get up to speed on what's required to be a project manager. 

Contact them and ask if they would be willing to be your mentor. You'd be surprised how many project managers might be willing to help guide you because they understand the complexities of project management and have been mentored by others as well. 

Project management is a complex area, with many moving parts, and often riddled with ambiguity. If you're fortunate enough to have a mentor, you’ll no doubt witness the hectic nature of their schedule and numerous responsibilities. Be respectful and take the time to listen carefully, ask many questions, and make sure to document everything.

3. Volunteer In An Entry-Level Role

What if you can't find a mentor? Approach your supervisor to become a volunteer entry-level project assistant or take on an internship. With 25 million new project management-oriented employees needed to meet global talent demands by 2030, I’m sure many employers need more project talent and would be interested in having you volunteer in an entry-level capacity. 

This is a win-win for you and your employer. Your employer gets the extra project help they need, and you can bolster your project management resume with your new project management experience.

4. Ask To Sit In On Project Meetings

If experience with specific projects or types of projects is what you’re looking for, take a look at some of the projects happening around your company.

Then, talk to your direct supervisor about your career aspirations. Request their approval to approach other functional managers about sitting in and learning about their projects and how each is managed. 

It goes without saying that your manager would need to feel comfortable that this wouldn’t impact your existing workload or commitment to your current team members. 

To achieve this, it’s a good idea to quantify and document your current workload and identify the time you have available to take on opportunities to learn about project management. It’s even better if you can share with your manager how it benefits your team. 

5. Take Online Project Management Courses 

If work time is already overloaded, there may be other options, such as using some of your personal time to get up to speed through online project management courses and training. 

Make sure to do your due diligence and confirm if the courses are from a reputable trainer or institution. Also, confirm the courses are recognized by employers. 

PMI also has a list of authorized project management training partners

6. Pursue PMI’s CAPM Credentials

If you’re looking to pick up a recognized project management credential to boost your career, project management certification with the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a great option (as is The DPM's course, Mastering Digital Project Management, which I mentioned earlier). Initially, you can get an entry-level professional certification without a four-year degree. 

Getting PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification can help you pursue entry- and associate-level jobs, such as project coordinator and junior project manager career opportunities. 

The timeline for getting the CAPM is fairly short, and the credentials are recognized by many employers and hiring managers in the project management field. Following that, you’ll have more time to gain experience and get some leadership skills through hands-on project work to pursue a full-time project management career path.

When you earn your CAPM certification, you automatically meet the 35 hours of project management education and training required to write the PMP exam. Here are the requirements for the CAPM:

  • You must have a secondary degree, such as a high school diploma, GED (general educational development), or global equivalent.
  • You need at least 23 hours of project management education completed before the exam (PMI’s online Project Management Basics course can help fulfill this requirement).

There are currently 1.6 million PMI PMP Certification holders worldwide, including CAPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, and more.

Once you've completed the steps that work for your situation, you’re likely ready to update your resume to highlight your new project-based experience and training and pursue an entry-level role in project management.

As a project manager who also started out with limited experience before getting my CAPM and then PMP, I’ve included some tips that helped me advance my career. Hopefully, they’ll help you to get hired as a new project manager much faster. 

  1. Spend time transforming your old resume. Many resumes are more general in format and content. Really focus on sprucing it up. Find a project manager resume template and hone the content to make your project experience the focal point. With pretty much everything becoming digital, you definitely want to highlight any experience that establishes you as a progressive digital project manager
  2. Ask your mentor or someone in project management to scour your resume to ensure it looks professional and captures the essential skills and capabilities required for an entry-level project role. Employers will want to see that you pay attention to detail and can do the job, especially as a beginner. 
  3. Explore project management jobs at your current employer first. Unless you are unhappy with your current employer, it's the best place to start your new career. You’re on the inside track and have already established yourself.
  4. Put out the word with your network connections. Oftentimes people in your own network are looking for new project managers or know of others who are looking as well. While it doesn't remove risk completely, employers tend to feel more confident with new employee referrals. 
  5. Leverage social media connections, recruiting, or project management groups. It’s estimated that 79% of job seekers use social media platforms in their job searches. Just type in words like “entry-level jobs,” then filter on the tab “jobs” and select entry-level or associate under the tab “experience-level.” This narrows down the roles to make it easier to find jobs for new project managers. 
  6. Look for companies and recruiters that post they are hiring. Go beyond the job ads on LinkedIn. Follow companies, recruiters, or project management groups and check your newsfeed daily. Often, people will share posts when they need new employees. Enter the words “hiring,” “we’re hiring,” or similar phrases and click search. Then filter by company, location, industry, service categories, or other filters. 
  7. Search reputable project forums, online magazines, journals, and communities. People often frequent these resources for tips on improving their job search and prospects. Not only will you find sage advice on navigating project management and improving project outcomes, but you'll also find there are great job-seeking resources. Make sure to sign up for newsletters with any sources that post project management positions. The DPM community is also an excellent space to network, get career advice, or even find a mentor.
  8. Keep looking for opportunities to expand your skills and knowledge. Often what helps a new project manager become a successful project manager is their dedication to the profession. Highly experienced and reputable project managers are often easily able to advance their careers—but it takes a mindset of continuous improvement and education. DPM’s mini courses are a great and affordable way to expand your skill set.

Once you've landed a role, you'll need this 30 60 90 day plan for project managers to further your chances of success.

What's Next?

To get a leg up on networking and learning from peers, join DPM membership and get access to our Slack community, where you can connect with 100s of other digital project managers. You'll also get access to 100+ examples, samples, and templates for a variety of project documentation.

Moira Alexander
By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is a recognized thought leader and the founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, a digital content marketing agency where she helps companies create, market, and lead with engaging digital content. With over 25 years of business, information technology, and project management experience, she's been named one of the top global female thought leaders and influencers on project management, SaaS, and the future of work.