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Looking beyond project management: Other career opportunities in the project profession

The world of projects is often associated exclusively with project managers. However, the profession encompasses a diverse range of roles beyond the traditional project manager. These roles are critical in ensuring the successful planning, execution, and completion of projects across various industries.

A study by the Project Management Institute has found that 13 million project managers are expected to be required by 2030. However, 25 million project professionals are needed to close the talent gap by 2030. This shows the many vital and valuable roles across the industry that sit outside the title of project manager.

If you’re interested in working in the project profession but want to explore options beyond project management, here are some of the most in-demand project roles.

Career opportunities in the project profession

Project Support Officer (PSO)

Project Support Officers provide administrative and operational support to project teams. This role is vital for ensuring that project documentation, communication, and reporting are efficiently managed.

The role includes assisting with project planning and scheduling as well as offering administrative support such as maintaining documentation and records, coordinating meetings and managing communication.

Required skills for project support officers:

  • Strong organisational and multitasking skills
  • Proficiency in project management software and tools
  • Good communication and teamwork abilities
  • Experience in administrative or support roles within project environments

Business Analyst

Business analysts work closely with stakeholders to understand their needs and translate them into detailed requirements for project teams. They play a crucial role in ensuring project outcomes align with business objectives.

Individuals in this role work to analyse business requirements and, from this, develop project specifications, scopes and documentation. A business analyst may also facilitate communication across project teams and stakeholders, as well as covering the testing, rollout and implementation of solutions.

Required skills for business analysts:

  • Highly analytical and sharp critical thinking skills
  • Experience with business analysis tools and techniques
  • Excellent communication and facilitation skills

Risk Manager

Risk managers identify, assess, and mitigate risks that could impact a project’s successful completion. They play a crucial role in ensuring that potential delays are managed proactively to avoid project derailment.

Individuals in this role will conduct assessments to identify project risks, create mitigation strategies, and continue monitoring and reporting on risk status. Finally, the role covers ensuring compliance with regulatory and organisational risk management standards.

Required skills for risk managers:

  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Experience with risk management frameworks and tools
  • Good communication and negotiation skills

Programme Manager

Programme managers oversee a collection of related projects, ensuring they align with the organisation’s strategic goals. Unlike project managers who focus on specific, individual projects, programme managers manage a group of related projects, collectively known as a programme.

A programme manager will coordinate these projects, monitoring timelines and budgets closely, liaising with senior stakeholders, and ensuring they align with wider strategic and organisational objectives.

Required skills for programme managers:

  • Extensive experience in project management
  • Strong leadership and organisational skills
  • Excellent communication and stakeholder management abilities

Portfolio Manager

Portfolio managers are responsible for selecting, prioritising, and controlling an organisation’s projects and programmes in alignment with strategic objectives. Their role is critical in ensuring the right projects are actioned, and resources are optimally allocated.

A portfolio manager will evaluate proposals against strategic goals and monitor the portfolio’s performance against these objectives. Individuals in this role are instrumental in making decisions on whether to continue, modify, or terminate projects. A good portfolio manager will excel in prioritisation and assess project priorities based on value, risk, and resource availability.

Required skills for portfolio managers:

  • Effective prioritisation, analytical and decision-making skills
  • Experience in strategic planning and resource management
  • Knowledge of portfolio management frameworks
  • Excellent communication and leadership skills

Project Controller

Project controllers focus on the technical and analytical aspects of project management, including planning, scheduling, cost management, and performance measurement. They provide the necessary tools and techniques to keep projects on track.

A project controller will develop project plans and schedules and manage budgets, costs, and resources. The project controls team may also implement risk management protocols or other strategies to better manage the project while monitoring its performance against the plan.

Required skills for project controllers:

  • Proficiency in project management software
  • Strong analytical and mathematical skills
  • Understanding of cost management and financial principles
  • Attention to detail and problem-solving abilities

Change Manager

Change managers focus on managing the people side of change to achieve the required business outcomes. They ensure that changes are smoothly and successfully implemented to achieve lasting benefits.

Change managers are responsible for adopting change management strategies and communicating these plans with stakeholders. They focus on supporting and training those affected by change, analysing the impact of change, and creating readiness assessments.

Required skills for change managers:

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Experience in organisational development and change management
  • Understanding of change management methodologies

Quality Manager

Quality managers ensure that the project deliverables meet the required standards and specifications. They implement quality assurance processes and conduct audits to ensure compliance with quality standards.

Quality managers play an integral role throughout a project's timeline, from initially developing plans to conducting audits to identify issues and defects. During the project, quality managers are responsible for ensuring compliance with relevant quality standards and regulations.

Required skills for quality managers:

  • Attention to detail and analytical skills
  • Experience in quality management and control
  • Knowledge of quality management frameworks, such as ISO 9001

Agile Coach

Agile coaches help organisations adopt and implement agile methodologies. They often work with project teams to improve their agile practices and ensure that they deliver high-quality, iterative results.

An agile coach will offer mentoring, training, and support in these methodologies and may also facilitate the use of agile practices. The goal of an agile coach is to promote adoption of this approach and the culture of continuous improvement, so the coach will also be focused on identifying and removing roadblocks to adoption across projects and teams.

Required skills for agile coaches:

  • Deep understanding of agile frameworks, such as Scrum or Kanban
  • Experience in agile project environments
  • Strong coaching and facilitation skills

Finding your project career path

The project profession offers a wide range of career opportunities beyond traditional project management. From programme and portfolio management to agile coaching, there are numerous paths for professionals to explore and grow within this dynamic field.

Regardless of where your project career takes you, ensure you have the project foundations set in place with a solid understanding of project methodologies such as PRINCE2®. Explore our  PRINCE2 training options.

By understanding the diverse roles available, individuals can better align their career aspirations with the opportunities that best suit their skills and interests. Whether you are just starting your career or looking to pivot to a new role, the project profession has something to offer for everyone.

To support your career beyond project management, we have a range of courses available on our main ILX Group website. From MSP® programme management to APMG-International Change Management™ training, we offer a variety of options to support your career as a project professional.