The program manager job description shares some similarities with that of a project manager. While both fields involve allocation and direction of workers and resources, the jobs differ by scope. A project manager oversees a particular set of activities with often a short-term objective such as the development of a single product. Within the program manager’s sphere of responsibility lie various projects designed to reach broader, more general goals. ()
Program Manager Job Overview: What Does a Program Manager Professional Do?
The program manager oversees and is responsible for the work and results of multiple teams. Although some of the duties have some similarity to those of a project manager, the program manager performs them against a wider landscape of goals, being responsible and accountable to upper-level stakeholders in the organization.
Program Manager Job Duties
- Establish overall performance standards for projects, project managers and their teams.
- Assign project managers, team members or other staff to various tasks or phases of work in the life cycle of multiple projects or products.
- Supervise project managers and the training and work of production, design and also development staff.
- Track performance of members of various project teams or groups to assess compliance with budgetary, time and other requirements.
- Purchase or request or work with project managers to purchase or request needed supplies, equipment or services within budgets or limits set by upper-level management or the organization.
- Review work product of teams for compliance with organizational objectives and goals.
- Report progress of work, goals, problems and other issues to supervisors, upper-level management or boards of directors or committees responsible for oversight.
- Review news, regulations and updates related to the organization’s products, services or programs.
- Formulate and implement plans for recovery, alteration of work or otherwise handling emergencies, disruptions of programs, production or project schedules and unanticipated events.
Program Manager Essential Job Skills
Communication. Program managers need the ability to clearly instruct project managers and their team members and relay updates and progress information to committees, directors and other management. Communication skills also include listening to professionals in sales, marketing and human resources to ensure production or the program is executed according to standards. Senior management or boards may offer feedback to program managers to ensure projects follow the goals of the organization.
Discernment. A program manager should understand details and technical aspects of specific projects. However, the program manager job description requires the professional to distinguish between those important details that affect the program and those that do not. These discernment skills allow the program manager to concentrate on addressing mainly those issues that might derail the organization’s programs and goals.
Strategic. The program manager ensures the work and projects performed align with the program or goals of the organization. In fact, strategy skills include the ability to formulate plans to stay within budgets and timelines and handle unexpected events.
Problem-Solving. The program manager job description involves the ability to respond to unforeseen events or problems. Program managers face issues such as staff or supply shortages, power outages, damage to equipment or security risks. These challenges may hinder, not just a project, but the set of projects that comprise the program. Problem-solving skills include consulting with professionals who may have expertise or authority. For example, advice from engineers may help address production problems.
Becoming a Program Manager
As with other aspects of the program manager job description, the education and experience needed depend on the industry. In fact, program managers in most fields generally need knowledge or a background in leading teams or working on programs or projects.
Qualifications and Training
Normally, program managers hold a bachelor’s degree. Business classes also help build a knowledge base in organizational behavior, management and essential accounting and budgeting skills.
The industry in which the program manager works will guide the suggested curriculum or major. For example, a program manager in manufacturing may need to take engineering classes or major in it to have exposure to production processes and life cycles. In the computer or technology field, course work or majors might include computer science, information technology, software design and web development. An aspiring program manager in the pharmaceutical industry may pursue degrees or courses in chemical engineering, biology and chemistry.
Depending on the employer, a candidate for a program manager position should have prior experience in a supervisory or managerial role. Moreover, certain employers may prefer candidates with a prior history of project or program management. The length varies by employer, the industry and the complexity of projects and activities of the organization. Aspiring program managers can present a history of managing programs or projects. Those without prior program management experience should show a record of work as a project manager.
Previous work in a particular industry can also help program managers land jobs. For example, a computer software project manager may have worked as a software developer or designer or in a technology department or firm. Prior experience in manufacturing, product development or engineering may help those seeking to be product managers in manufacturing.
Program managers normally work full-time. On occasions, the work week may exceed 40 hours. However, the typical program manager holds regular day-time and Monday through Friday office hours. On occasions, evening and weekend work may be required. Such irregular shifts may be necessitated by emergencies, the absence of necessary staff, equipment malfunctions or other unforeseen events that require quick response or action by the program manager.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
The prospects for seekers of program manager jobs are influenced by demand for an industry’s services. For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of architectural and engineering managers in engineering services should grow by 12 percent by 2024. Demand for upgrading or building new infrastructure will spur this increase. However, within the manufacturing sector, employment is projected to drop by 7 percent.
Hiring of computer and information systems managers should rise by 15 percent by 2024, due in significant measure to the use of computers and the need to protect them against cyber attacks. A program manager job can become the foundation for more senior roles, such as a department head, director or executive.
Program managers oversee staff and project managers, set standards and budgets and manage projects to ensure that overall goals are satisfied. In the program manager job description, duties focus less on minute technical details and more on general plans and principles. Usually, program managers have prior work experience as a project manager or supervisory role.
To conclude, prospects for employment appear especially strong in the computer, information technology and engineering services field. Those who find program manager jobs can advance with experience to upper-level or executive-level management roles.