How to Become a Principal Project Manager?

Are you thinking of becoming a Principal Project Manager or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Principal Project Manager, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Principal Project Manager job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
"Project Manager" was the nearest match for you query "Principal Project Manager".

Steps to Become a Project Manager

Project managers plan and oversee projects to ensure they are completed within budget and in a timely fashion. They plan and designate resources for projects, prepare budgets, monitor progress, and maintain consistent communication with stakeholders. Project managers work with a wide array of project types including marketing, HR, IT, and construction.

Get your Bachelor's degree in business management or business administration.

There are specific minimum educational requirements that must be met to become a project manager. You must at least have a high school diploma or equivalent to begin a career. Many project managers hold bachelor's degrees in fields such as business management or business administration. If you wish to specialize in a particular field, such as the IT field, for example, you may be able to enter the field with a computer science degree.

What skills do you need to be a Project Manager?

  • Bachelors of Arts
  • Lean Six Sigma
  • Problem Solving
  • Methodology
  • Written Communication
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Optimization
  • Decision Making
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Project Manager in the United States.

Get work experience to gain skills like communication and organization.

Having relevant work experience is essential to becoming a successful project manager. You must have skills that will motivate you to direct your team efficiently, communicate with clients promptly, and keep them updated on any changes in the project. The following skills will be used daily as a project manager:

  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Risk management
  • Critical thinking

The best way to learn these skills is to work as an intern or entry-level project manager. Related field experience is practical as well.


Obtain certifications such as Certified Associate in Project Management.

While not always necessary, there are certifications that project managers may acquire that will help them access better work opportunities. There are a few well-known certifications from the Project Management Institute, a highly recognized organization. These include:

  • Project Management Professional. This certification is internationally recognized and will allow you to work in a variety of fields. To become a Certified Project Management Professional, you'll need a high school diploma, 35 hours of project management-specific education, and 7,500 hours leading in projects. You can also have 4,500 hours leading projects, 35 hours of project management education, and a bachelor's degree. Certifications are offered in areas such as scheduling, business analysis, and risk management. Every three years, CPMPs must complete 60 professional development credits.
  • Certified Associate in Project Management. To become a Certified Associate in Project Management, you must have at least a high school diploma or associate's degree and 23 hours of education in project management. This option is available for those who don't have the prerequisites for the CPMP certification test. This will help you gain the experience needed in your chosen field of work.

Get a project management job.

Once you've gotten the education, certification, and experience, you're ready to begin work as a project manager. Tailor your cover letter to be position-specific when applying for project manager jobs, and be sure your resume is updated with certifications, education, and relevant skills and experience.


Further your project management education.

If you start your career as a project manager without having a bachelor's degree, it's possible to earn one while gaining real-life work experience. Bachelor's degree programs are designed to work around your schedule and provide you with the skills you need to further your career. There are also degree programs project managers pursue at the masters and doctorate levels.

Principal Project Manager Career Path

Principal Project Manager

8+Years of Experience
$133K - $231K /yrMost Likely Range
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Senior Principal Project Manager

8+Years of Experience
$144K - $246K /yrMost Likely Range
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Director of Construction Project Management

8+Years of Experience
$107K - $180K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Principal Project Manager Career Path

Associate Manager of Project Management
Project Manager Manager
Mid-Level Project Manager
Senior Manager of Project Management
Team Lead Project Manager
Principal Project Manager
Assistant Director of Project Management
Senior Principal Project Manager
Associate Director of Project Management
Director of Construction Project Management
Senior Director of Project Management
Vice President of Project Management
Executive Project Manager
Chief Project Manager

Related Careers in the Product & Project Management Industry

Interested in other Product & Project Management careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Principal Project Manager skills. Discover some of the most common Principal Project Manager career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Project Coordinator
25% skills overlap
1% transitioned to Project Coordinator