I'm based in the UK and have worked in project management for various IT companies, specializing in software, web, and hosting.
Moving Into a Project Management Career
If you've considered a career as a project manager, but don't have the skills and experience to apply for positions, this article is for you. Here are thirty alternative entry-level jobs that can provide a stepping stone towards your long term career aim.
1. Project Coordinator
A project coordinator assists the project manager on a larger project. This is an excellent opportunity to get into project management, as you will work closely alongside the project manager and you will also get to experience the complexities and challenges of a larger-scale project.
2. Project Assistant
A project assistant is a more general role than a project coordinator and may involve some general assistant work for the project manager or other members of a project team. There is likely to be a high amount of administration work, and you will get the opportunity to see a lot of the data, documentation and detail that make up a typical project.
3. Configuration Librarian
A configuration librarian is a very specialist role on a larger scale project. The term is often associated with PRINCE2 methodology, so this role can be a good way of getting experience in a PRINCE2 project. A configuration librarian is responsible for all the formal documentation on a project: ensuring it is correctly named, version-controlled and stored in a secure manner.
4. Personal Assistant
A personal assistant role requires fantastic organizational skills. So it offers a good opportunity for gaining experience in an area that allows you to demonstrate that you can plan, make arrangements, organize diaries, and keep charge of documentation. These are all transferable skills and highly sought after in a project management role.
A project manager will often have a close relationship with a tester on a project, because testing is such a critical aspect to almost every type of project that can be undertaken. So taking on a role as a tester can be a good opportunity to gain exposure to a project. It also demonstrates that you are someone who can pay attention to detail and focus on high quality. These are essential skills for a project manager.
6. Junior Business Analyst
A business analyst works within an organization to gather the requirements that eventually make up the start of a project. So you will often find a business analyst working closely with the project manager to define the project from the outset. This is a good opportunity to gain experience in the early stages of a project. It also demonstrates that you are someone who has good attention to detail, has the ability to analyse key facts from large amounts of data, and has the ability to work closely with other parts of the organization.
7. Product Designer / Web Designer
If you come from a creative background, or you've gained a degree or other qualification in a creative subject, then one option available to you is to work in a junior design role. This might be product design, web design, print design, or any other type of similar role. A project will often involve launching a new product, so as a designer you are likely to be part of a project team at least some of the time, so it is an opportunity to gain experience in this area.
8. Product Architect / Technical Architect / Technical Analyst
If your educational background is technical, and you enjoy working with customers, then a product or technical architect role is a good entry point into project management. You will be working on creating specifications and detailed designs/layouts for the project, working closely with the business analyst and with the project manager. You need an eye for detail and a commitment to quality.
9. Event Organizer
An event organizer has much in common with a project manager, so if you can find an entry-level position as an even organizer, this can be a good route into project management. Arranging an event requires a lot of planning and excellent organizational skills. It often means you need to liaise with numerous third parties, and timing is critical. All these aspects will allow you to demonstrate excellent examples of project management skills when applying for a job.
10. Office Manager
An office manager is one of the most important and central roles to many organizations. As an office manager, your role can be extremely varied, allowing you to develop many useful skill sets. You are also like to come into regular contact with senior members of staff, so your ability to communicate well to every level of the organization will be crucial. This, of course, is also an excellent quality in a project manager.
11. Office Administrator
An office administrator can also be a very varied role, and it requires a lot of organizational skills. You may be required to assist with managing, filing and editing project documentation and this can be a useful experience. An office administrator is a good opportunity to demonstrate that you are reliable, helpful and exceptionally useful to an organization. If people take notice of your qualities, then it is a great way to move into a more specific project role.
12. Sales Assistant
If you pride yourself in having fantastic communication and persuasion skills, then there is no better way to demonstrate that than with a sales role. You will come into direct contact with customers, and demonstrating an ability to communicate with customers, build a relationship with them, and win them over to your way of thinking are all excellent strengths to show when applying for a project management role.
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There are many different types of researcher roles, so it is a great way for you to get involved in the industry of your choice. A researcher role may involve speaking to the public, and it will definitely involve reviewing large amounts of data. Communication skills are important, as is the ability to work with detail. Both these skills will provide you with useful experience to demonstrate when applying for a project management role.
14. Accounts Assistant / Finance Assistant
If you have an accounting degree then moving into a finance-related role can be a good stepping stone into project management. Every project needs to have a detailed budget and a financial business case, and you may have the opportunity to become involved in producing these for large projects. This is good exposure to a project management environment.
15. Junior Engineer / Technician / Developer
Many project managers move into the role from more technical fields of work, and in fact, some project management roles specifically ask for technical experience. So if you have a technical background, taking on an engineering, technician of development role will bring you into direct contact with a project. From here, you can develop your experience and move into a more senior-level project management role.
16. Junior Buyer
One way of getting exposure to projects is to actually become involved as a buyer. If you are managing a supplier who is tasked with delivering a project, then you will get a fantastic insight into what it is like to be a customer and what a customer needs from a project management team. This knowledge and experience will give you a great advantage when going for project management roles in the future.
17. Customer Service Assistant
Having daily contact with any type of customer is the best way to gain experience in the type of supplier-customer relationship that many project managers have to handle. A customer service role can teach you how to communicate well with customers, how to handle complaints and problems, and how to build a rapport. Having great skills when dealing with customers is an excellent quality to demonstrate to any potential employer.
18. Junior / Trainee Consultant
As a junior consultant, you will be working with external or internal customers on a daily basis. The ability to communicate to the customer, and the ability to understand the needs of the customer, will be skills that you will develop within the role. You may also be working with a project team and a project manager, and will gain exposure to how projects are carried out. Consultancy provides an excellent stepping stone into a project management career.
19. Social Media Assistant
Here's a job that didn't even exist a few years ago, but the use of social media for marketing purposes has really increased the demand for those with knowledge in this field. If you have this sort of expertise, a social media job can be a good entry-level option. Working in an area marketing and promoting either a company or a product can give you exposure to project teams and may allow you to get experience in project management as you develop in the role.
20. Junior Copywriter
Another job which has become high in demand over the past few years is copywriting, thanks to the continued demand of fresh, well-written copy on the web. This is a good avenue to explore if you are looking to get into web project management, as it will give you experience in producing content ready for a new website launch. It will also keep you closely involved with the core project team.
21. Marketing Assistant
If your educational background is in marketing, you will find that working in an assistant role within a marketing department can be a useful way of getting involved in company projects. Many larger products need a marketing input, and so you can gain valuable experience in this area by showing an interest.
22. Content Coordinator
A content coordinator is someone who manages all the content throughput either for a specific project or for a company. It requires strong organizational skills and good time management skills, because content can be a critical element to many parts of a business, in particular web projects.
23. Planning Assistant
A planning assistant is delegated all the detailed planning aspects of a project, by the project manager. If you have excellent knowledge of planning tools such as MS Project, you can be a great asset to an organization but working as a specialist in a planning role. Of course, being this involved in planning a project allows you to gain very valuable experience, and a junior project manager role is an obvious next step for any planning assistant.
24. Data Entry Administrator
Data entry can be critical to a project. A fast, efficient approach, with a keen eye for detail, can make you really stand out if you are doing any data entry for a project. It gives you the opportunity of expanding the scope of your work and gaining broader experience, all of which can help you work towards your ultimate goal of becoming a project manager.
25. Procurement Administrator
On a very large project, an organization might have a dedicated procurement team involved in sourcing and appointing a supplier for the project. As a procurement assistant, you can see what suppliers have to offer, what their project set up looks like, and what their project approach is. It gives a unique insight into the world of project management and can be a useful experience.
26. Commercial Assistant
A commercial assistant is a broad role, and you may be involved in many commercial areas of the business. It gives you the flexibility to become familiar with those aspects of an organization that are valuable to your learning; project management will be one of them. Experience in strategic and commercial arrangements of an organization is extremely useful for a project manager, because it gives them a wider understanding of their project's goals.
27. Risk Analyst
Knowledge of risk management is fundamental to the smooth running of any project. So if you have any particular expertise in risk management and risk analysis, moving into an entry-level job will give you experience that will be a solid foundation for any project management career. You may also find yourself working as part of a project team on larger organizational projects.
28. IT Support Analyst
A support role is customer-facing. It is also typically set up once a project ends, so you will find that it gives you an understanding of some of the issues customers face after a project has finished. This in itself is very useful knowledge, because by seeing the customer's experience first-hand, you can apply what you have learned when in a project management role to improve that for the next customer.
29. PMO Assistant
Larger companies may have a dedicated PMO function, which stands for Project Management Office. This team is responsible for the underlying structure, processes and tools that support every project team within an organization. Getting an entry job in an assistant role within a PMO office will give you a good grounding into what a project team does, and what standards it must abide by. It is a common route into a more senior project management role.
30. Training Coordinator
Many projects have a training requirement—for example, the project may be tasked with training a team on a new software rollout. So having expertise in training by becoming a coordinator will put you in close, regular contact with a project team. A coordinator role will also allow you to develop your planning and organizational skills, which you will need to be able to demonstrate if you go for a project management job.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Louise Loder on July 24, 2020:
I have completed a Project manger course
Im currently looking for employment in this field
I would love to persue my career in this filed and to be given the opportunity
Thank you in advance .
Louise from Durban
Nithya chennai on May 16, 2020:
Hi Lauren, that's a good compilation of project management careers you've given us. My sister should find this very useful. She has been kind of mopping around saying she's come to a dead end in her search for the right career. I'll as her to take a look at this article. Do visit https://www.chinmayaias.com/ for more updates.
john sebola on November 21, 2017:
m currently doing project management i could like to learn more before i graduate
Wint War on November 11, 2017:
Thanks for your sharing. Before I read your article, I was confused to attend PM course or not because that course is expensive in our country.
alverez j.sog on October 29, 2017:
Im looking to train and have a job im trained for
I Meagabo Emily on September 18, 2017:
Am currently studying project management and will b graduates soon in Dec am looking for something pls help
Thnx in advance
Meagabo from Gauteng
Robyn Felice Evans on September 03, 2017:
I am happy to see you publishing articles about things we are supposed to ignore. We need as much news from a variety of sources to even begin understanding and assimilating information on any subject these days. The Fifth Estate is alive and kicking. The truth will set us free. We have to forgive and heal the shit things done by America that Americans would never agree be done in our name . I think our government doesn't even know us except by our "numbers ". There are a lot of interesting opportunities for those with a curious mind willing to learn new things.
Kierstin Gunsberg from Traverse City, Michigan on August 23, 2017:
Awesome article! I see project coordinator jobs ALL of the time and the best part is that most of them are remote, however, I don't have the education (yet!)
I've been doing some copy writing when I have time to take on a project and hope that that experience combined with my degree (when I'm finished with it) will pay off with a sustainable job like a project coordinator.