Now more than ever before, organisations are taking greater care of where and how they spend their money and they want a “safe pair of hands” to deliver their projects.

That’s where the project manager comes in, ensuring that projects are delivered to a high standard, to budget and on time.

Becoming a highly sought-after project professional doesn’t happen overnight, as it takes training, on the job experience and continual upskilling.

In this in-depth guide we will take you through the must have project management skills, to help you navigate your career as a project manager with confidence.

“As a recruiter, who specialises in helping project managers progress in their career and find the right roles, I work with a wide range of project professionals. This includes those at the very beginning of their career journey through to highly experienced individuals that have a wealth of experience and are looking to give back. While their experience may differ greatly, the importance and need to continuously develop and remain relevant is equally important for both sides of the experience spectrum.”

Nik Ruparel, Director, ProNEXUS Careers


9 must have project management skills

To become a highly sought-after project manager today, you will need a combination of technical and behavioural skills:

  1. Planning: As the project manager you’re in charge of creating the roadmap that will see the project delivered successfully and to a high quality. As part of your project plan you will set the project goals and the scope of the project. An essential part of project planning is the creation of a good business plan that outlines the benefits of the project, which can then be used to assess its efficiency and effectiveness. The business case will even go as far as identifying whether the project is worth pursuing in the first place.
  2. Scheduling: Another technical skill in the initial stages of the project is scheduling, which outlines the tasks to be completed and designates responsibility for the varying deliverables to the project. A Gantt Chart is a popular tool for outlining the project schedule, however there are also plenty of project management software available, which helps streamline the process of project scheduling and will keep you on track with your project deliverables.
  3. Budgeting: When you’re creating a budget for your project, be realistic about the timeline that the project can be completed and about how much each deliverable will cost. Overpromising or an incorrect project budget will result in greater stress as you near the finish line of the project and will almost always end up seeing you run over the initial budget.
  4. Risk management: Another key project management skill is being able to identify risk before a project commences and mitigate those risks to the best of your ability. Conducting a risk assessment will highlight any risk events that could potentially occur, allow you to calculate the risk of that event taking place and its impact and provide you with the opportunity to plan out how you can treat it if it does occur.
  5. Contract management: Depending on the organisation you are working for, contract management may fall into your remit as a project manager or it may be the task of someone reporting to you. Even if you’re not the individual drawing up the contract in your organisation, ensure you’re aware of what the contract covers. As a project manager you should have a thorough understanding of the terminology specific to the industry you’re working in and have an understanding of legislation and common law.
  6. Communication: You’ve probably heard this before – honing your behavioural skills is just as important as having great technical skills. While there have been discussions of the digitalisation of the project management process due to artificial intelligence, the behavioural skillset is impossible to program or replicate by machines and is continuously growing in demand in the marketplace. As the project manager, good communication skills will see you keep all parties to a project informed and up to date with the progress of the job.
  7. Leadership: What happens when something goes wrong on a project? Whether it’s the client, contractors or senior members of the organisation, the project manager is the key person that people turned to for a solution. This is where having effective leadership skills comes into play. As a leader being consistent and reliable will win the trust of your team. If leadership isn’t your strong suit, take the time to develop your emotional intelligence by undertaking a leadership course. “Leadership is about setting the benchmark high, holding yourself accountable to that, and giving people every support so you can help people meet that benchmark,” Lisa Harrison, Capability Consultant.
  8. Motivation: Another behavioural skill that should be part of a project manager’s skillset is the ability to motivate your team. Staff retention is a key factor for managers, so having a project manager who is able to establish a climate and culture of trust and collaboration is very important to decision-makers. The project manager with a heightened sense of awareness to what motivates their team, how best to utilise strengths and weaknesses, as well as the best ways to reward teams are invaluable assets to any organisation.
  9. Networking: You’ve probably heard the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know”. A highly sought after project manager will be engaged with both their industry and their profession through networking. By attending project management events and connecting with other project managers it could result in your next client or contract and is the perfect way to keep you up to date on what is happening in your industry and profession.


Assess your project management skills with this free tool.

The current state of the workplace for project managers

If we rewind a few decades, what we are likely to find is many professionals working in the one job for life. However, today there is a much greater mix of roles available, from full time, fixed length contracts to self-employment.

For the role of the project manager, contract roles are growing in popularity as organisations seek the flexibility to scale up and down on a project basis. Contracts also offer benefits to project managers in the form of continual career development and generally higher salary. At the same time there are still many roles available in the market that provide the stability of working for an organisation in house, full time.

In today’s market there is plenty of competition for project manager roles, as employers seek more expertise and capability. What this means is for highly competent project managers with expert knowledge and a wide skillset there is opportunity to create a fulfilling career in the project management profession, where you choose where and who you work for.

Supporting your skills with education

Project management qualifications:

More organisations are seeking to employ individuals who can show they have the qualifications to back up their skills. Here are some of the options available for gaining qualifications in project management:

  • Higher education: Improving your knowledge of project management principles and methodologies, can be done by undertaking an undergraduate bachelor’s degree or postgraduate master’s degree in project management. A university degree is often seen as a valuable addition to your CV by hiring managers.
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET): There is also the alternative of completing a vocational training course, such as a diploma or advanced diploma in project management. This is often a suitable option, if you originally studied a degree in another area of expertise and moved across to project management as your career progressed and became an accidental project manager.
  • Short courses: While the above two education options will require some commitment on your part, there are plenty of short courses, which you can undertake over 2 to 4 days. These project management courses are more specialised in their course content and cover specific topics, such as leadership, change management and stakeholder engagement.

Find out more about the different courses available by visiting our project management Endorsed Course Directory.

Project management certification:

You can complement your education and increase your employability by obtaining professional certification in project management with AIPM’s national project management certification.

Certification assesses your competency as a project manager and shows potential employers that you have the skillset and experience of the level of certification you acquire.

“Defence’s current project managers are certified through AIPM. Their experience, skills and ongoing training contributes significantly to Defence’s capability and infrastructure development, its science and research endeavours, and the Government’s security and development initiatives at home and in our immediate region.”

Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, Minister For Defence


Project management methodologies, methods and tools

The understanding of multiple methodologies, methods and tools and the application of these is a crucial skill to have as you progress through your career.

Some commonly used project management approaches are:

  • Agile: Known for its flexibility, following the principles of Agile will provide you with the freedom to adapt your project as it progresses.
  • Scrum: Using Agile principles, Scrum is a framework that helps teams work together effectively to deliver products and services over short time periods.
  • Waterfall: More structured in its approach, the Waterfall approach entails fully defined requirements before the project begins.
  • PRINCE2: An abbreviation for Projects IN Controlled Environments, PRINCE2 has specific principles, themes and processes.
  • Critical Path Method: This method is typically used for modelling and scheduling project activities in industries like construction, software development, and engineering.
  • Earned Value Management: A systematic project management process, Earned Value Management focuses on measuring project performance.

If you would like to learn more, read our project management methodologies guide for a full overview.

Dylan Hvasanov’s career transition to project manager at GHD: A career case study

After graduating with a Bachelor of Advanced Science, First Class Honours at the University of New South Wales, Dylan Hvasanov started his career as a mud logging geologist in the oil and gas industry.

From geologist to project manager

After two years in the role, Dylan changed careers to engineering consulting in a graduate position at GHD. As part of the two-year Graduate Development Program, he had the opportunity to work in other parts of the business to explore and gain experience. One of his rotations saw Dylan work for the Department of Defence, overseeing the construction of shelters and hardstands for the storage of critical bridging equipment.

Through this project Dylan realised that he had a passion for the challenge and sense of satisfaction from seeing the whole lifecycle of an idea, from inception through to completion and decided to make the career transition to project manager.

Dylan is currently part of the Project Management team at GHD in Sydney, and a Design Team Delivery Lead and Clients Representative Assistant PMCA on various Department of Defence projects. He is generally the main point of contact between the client and the design team and, as such, he undertakes day-to-day coordination between the construction contractor and the design team.

Certifying his skills

As Dylan made the transition in his career he obtained Certified Practising Project Practitioner (CPPP) level of RegPM certification on 1 July 2019 through automatic recognition of his AIPM endorsed Diploma in Project Management.

Dylan’s success

Dylan attributes much of his success to networking and having great mentors to draw on for advice:

“People often undervalue the importance of having good mentors and support around you. My mentor played a significant role in my development as a project manager, providing advice on how to deal with situations, when they don’t necessarily go smoothly.”

“I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of the subject matter experts and consultants that I work with. I think it’s critical to draw on advice from people who are knowledgeable and have many years of experience. If you’re wanting to pursue a career in project management or make a career transition, my advice is to put yourself out there and talk to the right people.”


A life long learning attitude

To become a project manager that stands out from the crowd, embracing life-long or continuous learning is essential. The skills required of the project manager are constantly being updated. In a competitive landscape project management professionals can differentiate themselves through added qualifications and skills, which can help you stand out from the crowd.

By taking on the mantra of owning your career through continuous education you begin to take control, make better decisions and put yourself in a position, where you have the best possible opportunities to decide on the roles and organisations you want to work for.