The Skinny on the Fat Job of Project Management

by Rhonda Scharf

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Project management is a popular buzzword these days—it seems that everyone is hiring project managers. In January, the online job board Indeed.com showed more than 25,000 listings for project manager jobs in New York State alone.

One of the elements of project management that gets me really excited is the fact that administrative professionals are natural project managers. Taking care of deadlines, deliverables, people, and reporting is what we do.

The definition of project management is “a process by which a leader and team plan for, implement, monitor, and evaluate a series of activities designed to produce a stated objective.”

Sound familiar? It should. Administrative professionals do those things all the time. At work, we manage events both big and small, we often help to create the budget for the department or the company; we are part of reorganizations, moves, and relocations. In our personal life, we have all probably been the general contractor on a house renovation or a move, planned a wedding, were the team manager of a child’s hockey team, or even organized a fantasy football pool. These are skills that come naturally to us.

If you’re getting excited about the possibilities, here is some more good news:

  • The average administrative professional in the United States earns between $24,089 – $48,444 (according to payscale.com, as of October 28, 2016; this figure is location-dependent).
  • The average project assistant earns between $29,323 – $55,013.

A quick calculation will tell you that the difference between an administrative assistant and a project assistant is about 22 percent in salary. Yet, the job is virtually identical. According to payscale.com, the average project manager earns $41,771 – $110,546 (location-dependent) as of October 28, 2016.

Your future just got brighter, didn’t it?

Fifteen million new project management jobs will be created this decade according to PMI.org.

And, you’re right, it might be a bit unrealistic to start right at the top in your first job, even if you studied project management in college. Instead, start working on clearly defined project teams. Offer to be a team lead. If you are looking to move a bit professionally, go online and look at the jobs for project assistant and see what types of skills and experience you need.

Have faith in your abilities.

In most jobs for project assistants, the skills stated are identical to those for administrative jobs. Only they pay about 25 percent more. They may ask for a little more specific industry experience, which you may or may not have. If you don’t have it, start getting it.

That may be the starting point for you to jump into project management. Take a look online at PMI.org (Project Management Institute). Check out Lynda.com for online training. Check out your local college for courses they may offer in the evening. Pick up a book at the local bookstore. A little knowledge will go a long way to removing your fears about it.


Want to learn more about project management? Come out to my session at IAAP Summit 2017 entitled Intro to Project Management for Admins. Register today and attend the best conference for office and administrative professionals.

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