What Does It Take to Become an IT Project Manager?

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Oct 29, 2018

Oct 29, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

There are few careers in the United States hotter right now than those in the IT field. To that end, it's predicted that IT related jobs will grow by 22% by the year 2020.

Whether you're a few years away from joining the workforce or are looking for a high-paying career change, pursuing the end goal of becoming an IT project manager can mean a serious boost in your job market prospects and an upgrade to your current lifestyle.

But what does it take to become an IT project manager?

The steps to becoming a manager in IT are relatively conventional. Below, we outline what a typical path to success might look like for somebody starting from scratch.

Understanding What IT Managers Do

The first and most obvious step to becoming a manager in IT is to ensure you have a good grasp on what the job entails. After all, the last thing you want to do is pour money and time into a career path that ultimately ends up lacking fulfillment.

In short, IT project managers are responsible for projects relating to the implementation and maintenance of an organization's computer hardware and software integrations. Whether we're talking upgrading the intranet infrastructure of a Fortune 500 company or seeing to it that a mid-sized business successfully transitions to a new OS, an IT project manager would likely be involved in the process.

If you love technology and have the ability to lead, this profession could be a great fit for you.

Assess Your Skill

There are a few core skills that most successful managers in IT possess. They are:

  • Management aptitude
  • Time management skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Strong communication abilities
  • Database software management experience
  • Ability to conduct system analysis
  • Inductive reasoning skills
  • Information ordering skills

That criteria only scratches the surface of all the hard and soft skills that can pave your way to success in IT. If you think you fall short on the skills mentioned, take note of them and make it a point to pick them up as you pursue your degree.

Get a Bachelor's Degree

IT professionals that are hoping to reach the managerial rank will need a bachelor's degree in computer science, IT, or IT management.

Courses that you can expect to take during your degree pursuit include digital security, database management, programming basics, and various project management related classes.

During your degree, you'll also learn how to engage third-party vendors in order to effectively outsource tasks. Learn more about what third-party vendors in IT might look like and what they offer IT managers.

Complete an Internship (Optional)

We always recommend that during your bachelor's degree process, you seek out an internship.

Many computer science degree programs will require you to get an internship as part of your graduation requirements.

Internships can give you intimidate connections in the field you're getting into. It can also give you a first-hand look at what your day-to-day schedule is like in an IT position.

If you're having trouble securing an internship, talk to your academic advisor. They'll more than likely have connections you can leverage.

Gain Experience

You have your bachelor's degree in hand and now it's time to get out into the workforce. Given the high demand for IT professionals, taking your studies seriously should get you an entry-level IT position.

Expect to work as an IT coordinator, or something similar, for three to five years first. This allows you to amass the skills and goodwill you need to become a project manager. During that time, you'll want to work hard, learn everything you can, and make valuable connections.

Apply for a Project Manager Position

It's not every day that a project manager position comes up. When it does, if you're ready, grab it.

Let your supervisor know that you're interested in the position as soon as it's posted. Let them know that you plan on applying for it. Ask them for advice on how you might improve your chances of applying successfully.

The more apparent you are with your senior team members about what your ambitions are, the more obligated they'll feel to consider your application.

Remember, there are a lot of politics that play into promotions. Many times senior staff will avoid promoting valuable coordinators to managerial positions because they don't want to lose their services on the coordinator level. While this is a short-sighted strategy, it happens all the time.

Don't get discouraged if you don't get the IT project manager position you applied for on your first try. The more you apply to opportunities, the higher your chances will be in later attempts.

Keep Looking Forward

An IT professional's career path doesn't end with being an IT project manager. Once you've secured that position, set a new goal like becoming a company's chief technology officer (CTO). Make sure you keep doing your best to move forward!

Wrapping Up "What Does It Take to Become an IT Project Manager?"

If you're wondering what it takes to become an IT project manager, the answer you're looking for is laid out above. It takes a commitment to learning, applying for opportunities, and growing in the IT industry until you land the position you've been looking for.

There are no shortcuts to success but with hard work and a love for what you do, you'll find that your time moving up the IT ladder will fly by!

Want more of the best career advice you can find online? If so, check out more of our expert created job-related content on the Washington Post's National Jobs Directory.