Becoming A Project Manager – Explained. (MACE 60050)


Becoming A Project Manager – Explained. (MACE 60050)

Written for the course – Project Management Research Methods – MACE 60050 (The University of Manchester UK)

Title, aim and objectives

Title: Why become a project manager?

The field of project management has seen an improvement in industrial relevance over the years (Davis, 2011). This is in comparison to the perspectives held by organisation in the past regarding project management and its role in an organisation. Essentially, the contemporary business realms accept project management as a full-fledged approach of management and even, as Ilies, Crisan and Muresan  (2010) views it, an enabler of strategic change. Similar sentiments are aired out by Longman and Mullins (2004) who emphasize the need growing need for project management experts for successful project initiatives. As such, this study seeks to analyse the career of a project manager. A major reason behind the study is to add to the already existent pool of resources perspectives on following a career in project management. This means that the study will be beneficial to persons intending to pursue careers in the line of project management. The main aim and objectives of the study are:


The main aim of the study is to analyse the career of a project management so as to provide effective ways for organisational employees who want to become project managers in the future.


To analyse the motivations for project management positions

To analyse the skills and competencies required of a project manager

To analyse the sources of frustration for project managers

To offer recommendations on entry and progression in a project management career

In order to attain the above objectives, the study will focus on an in-depth analysis of secondary data which will include extant literature on project management careers, motivation and de-motivators. The research shall then offer recommendations from the analysis of the findings for organisational members who want to become project managers or involve any project management activities in the future. The study will be organised into four chapters namely: introduction, literature review, methodology, findings and analysis and lastly conclusions and recommendations.

Search strategy

The researcher applied the following approaches to the search of information about the study, that is, the four core journal sources and additional sources.

Time limit

The search for core articles was restricted to only articles dated later than year 2010 in order to get a contemporary perspective of project management careers. As for the additional sources, the researcher opened up the time limit as attributing to the fact that these sources were to support sentiments obtained from the core sources. However, preference was given to latest sources.


The search for the core journal articles was restricted to peer-reviewed articles as per the requirements of the study. This was done though filtering results in the databases used or manually checking for peer-reviewed articles.


The search began with a broad perspective and narrowed down to specific databases. The broad search was done on Narrowed searches were done on,,,, among others. The rationale for the choice of databases is as narrowed down from Google scholar results except for ebscohost which was chosen for having a large number of articles on management and social sciences.

Search strings/Key words

The researcher used the following words in phrases to get the relevant articles: Project management, project manager, careers, motivation, stress, project management skills and competencies.

The search was also limited to English articles. And the following steps were observed in filtering for relevant core articles

  1. Manual identification of relevant studies

The core articles’ relevance was selected based on their ability to address the objectives of the study directly. This is besides the articles being peer reviewed. Among the objectives of the study is to analyse motivation behind being a project manager, the skills and motivation required and the challenges. The core articles selected are directly linked to these.

The relevance of additional articles was based on their ability to complement, contrast and offer differing approaches to the ideas presented in the core articles.

  • Exclusion of irrelevant texts

Any articles that were not peer reviewed were immediately excluded. Additionally those that did not address the objectives were eliminated until the four relevant ones remained. The additional sources which were not credible were the ones eliminated first and the remaining ones which could support or contrast with ideas presented in the core articles.

Literature review

In this section, as a way of addressing the aim and objectives of the research, the study critically evaluates literature on firstly the growing need for project management and career path into it. This is followed by analysis of motivations and frustrations and lastly recommends a course of action.

Development in the need for project managers

Marion et al. (2014) begins his research by noting the important nature of project managers in the successful accomplishment of projects. However, this is followed by an analysis of the increasing failure rate of projects despite project managers being informed by numerous bodies of knowledge and being guided by many industry standards. Richardson et al. (2015) on the other hand overlooks such failures in project management implementation and rather elaborates on the rising demand for project management especially in the aerospace and Information Technology industries. Additional industries showing growth in application of project management include the energy sector, health care, construction and the finance sectors. Richardson et al. (2015) also note that future projections of project management show that 15.7 million roles will be created globally especially in the seven major project management intensive industries. The seven industries are manufacturing, finance, oil and gas, information services, business services, construction and utilities. Williams van Rooij (2012) also infers to the need of project managers in the professional service sector – a sector that relies heavily on human capital.

The career path into project management

The core articles that discuss career paths to project management seem to indicate that project management is rarely the intended career for any individual but rather an ‘accidental’ career that people fall into. According to Richardson et al. (2015), project management remains largely an accidental career that people “fall into”. The main distinction between “normal” careers and that of a project manager is that in project management the emphasis is rather on the technical skills though the job entails managerial and leadership skills too. The same aspect of project management is expressed by Marion et al. (2014) who point out that project managers are not hired directly into firms but are developed and nurtured on a need basis. They are taken up based on their technical and expertise skills on the project which often is not relevant to managing people. In an interview done on how project managers acquired their positions by Richardson et al. (2015), the findings indicate that the most of the managers were involved in technical duties in an organisation and later they encountered opportunities to develop managerial and leadership skills that warranted them fit for project manager positions. Marion et al. (2014) summarizes the concept of career paths in project management by  noting that there is no definite path that leads to being a project manager. It is a post gotten on an incremental basis. Additionally, the necessary skills include leadership skills, patience and self-improvement, technical skills, communication skills. Other areas of excellence for project managers are networking, personal responsibility and execution capacity. The following conceptual framework summarizes this

Figure 1: A conceptual framework for a career in project management (Marion et al. 2015)

Motivations in the career

Seiler et al. (2012) have conducted a research on factors behind the motivation of project managers. They begin by noting a dire need of motivation as a pre-requisite for project managers. To facilitate their study, they develop a motivational factor model ‘Motivational Factor Inventory’ that is used to coin the independent variables for the study. The model categorises 47 elements of motivation into six groups namely: interpersonal interaction, task, general working conditions, empowerment, personal development and compensation. Al these factors were found out to be related to motivation with compensation showing the least interrelationship with motivation. The recommendations were that working with a supportive and goal oriented team, interesting tasks, abundant financial and physical resources as well as ability to make decisions motivated managers most.

Expected challenges

Minavand et al. (2013) highlights the sources of stress among project managers.  After engaging ten project managers through administering close-ended and open-ended questionnaires the researcher was able to identify key factors of stress.  Initially, the researcher offers a conceptual model that hypothesizes the sources of stress as conflict, constraints of resources, time pressure, limited power and workload. After analysis of data, these factors appear as causal to stress with the addition of insecure careers and vague responsibilities. The study concludes by recommending that project managers should be given priority in the same way as other fuctional departments of the organisation. Specifically the author notes that hiring psychologists, team building, addressing family problems, paying managers well and offering equal appraisal opportunities are solutions to stress and frustrations.


The literature review demystifies some of the concepts that this research seeks to address. Firstly, it is imperative to note that the relevance of project management in modern day organisations in increasing. Although one of the examined authors seems complacent with the idea that project management has had a long trail of failure, all the author agree as to the heightened need for project management. As such, careers in project management are on the rise. However, as evidenced in the extant literature, they is no definite career path that can lead on to being a project manager. Additionally, project management has remained to be an accidental career for many. As many graduates are equipped with technical skills it is much necessary for them to acquire additional skills that are a necessity for project management. This is attributing to the fact that experienced project managers landed their jobs based on additional skills they possessed beyond technical skills. These are skills related to leadership and management. Further, the literature review evidences that project management has challenges as well as motivations. These range from role ambiguity to finances to teamwork among others. This study thusly gains an insight into the already existent sentiments on project management careers. This insight draws the author to carry out an in-depth analysis of more literature in order to make an comprehensive conclusion.


Core journals

Marion, J., Richardson, T. and Earnhardt, M. (2014) ‘Project manager insights: An analysis of career progression’, Organisational Project Management, 1(1), p.53.

Minavand, H., Baqutayan, S. and Tabrizi, M. (2013) ‘The Sources of Job Stress among Project Managers’, Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, 3(16), pp.94-100.

Richardson, T., Earnhardt, M. and Marion, J. (2015) ‘Is Project Management Still an Accidental Profession? A Qualitative Study of Career Trajectory’, SAGE Open, 5(1).

Williams van Rooij, S. (2012) ‘The career path to instructional design project management: an expert perspective from the US professional services sector’, International Journal of Training and Development, 17(1), pp.33-53.

Additional sources

Davis, S. (2011) ‘Investigating the impact of project managers’ emotional intelligence on their interpersonal competence’, Project Management Journal, 42(4), pp.37-57.

Ilies, L., Crisan, E. and Muresan, I. (2010) ‘Best Practices in Project Management’, Review of International Comparative Management, 11(1), pp.43-51.

Longman, A. and Mullins, J. (2004) ‘Project management: key tool for implementing strategy’, Journal of Business Strategy, 25(5), pp.54-60.

Seiler, S., Lent, B., Pinkowska, M. and Pinazza, M. (2012) ‘An integrated model of factors influencing project managers’ motivation; Findings from a Swiss Survey’, International Journal of Project Management, 30(1), pp.60-72.

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