The job of a program manager is similar to the project manager position.
However, the scope of work is different, even though both positions involve direction and allocation of employees and resources.
While the project manager deals with a set of activities with a short-term objective (e.g., the development of a single project), the program manager oversees multiple projects aimed at more general and broader goals.
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What Does a Program Manager Do
The program manager is responsible for and monitors the work of several teams.
Even though some of their duties can overlap with the tasks of a project manager, the program manager works for a wider range of goals.
Also, they are accountable for upper-level stakeholders in the company.
- Develop overall performance goals for projects and project managers with their teams.
- Delegate various tasks to project managers, team members or other staff in the lifespan of multiple projects.
- Supervise the work of project managers as well as the training of production, development, and design staff.
- Track the performance of teams and team members to evaluate the compliance with time, budgetary, and other requirements.
- Purchase or have project managers to purchase the necessary supplies, services, or equipment within the budget set by the upper-level management.
- Review the work of the teams for meeting the goals and objectives of the organization.
- Report the progress, issues, goals, and other aspects to supervisors, upper-level management, or board of directors overseeing the projects.
- Review updates, news, and regulations related to the product, programs, or services of the organization.
- Develop and execute plans for emergencies, such as recovery, alteration of work, disruption of programs or project schedules, etc.
Program managers need to provide clear instructions to project managers and their teams as well as updates to directors, or other management.
Using their communication skills, program managers also have to listen to employees in marketing, sales, human resources, to ensure the projects are going on according to standards.
They may also collect feedback from senior management to ensure the projects meet the goals of the organization.
Program managers should be knowledgeable about the details and technical aspects of particular projects.
They need to be able to distinguish between the details that affect the program and those that don’t.
With discernment skills, program managers can focus on the details that may interfere with the goals and programs of the organization.
Program managers have to ensure that the projects align with the goals and program of the organization.
They also should develop plans to meet the budgets and deadlines as well as handle emergencies.
Program managers should address unexpected problems or events.
They can face and should resolve such issues as supply or staff shortage, damage to equipment, power outage, security risks, etc.
Such challenges may disrupt one or multiple projects in the program.
Program managers can also consult with professionals who have authority or expertise in such issues.
For example, get advice from engineers to deal with production problems.
How to Become a Product Manager
Similar to other details about the job, the experience and education of program managers depend on the industry.
Mostly, they need knowledge or background in working on projects or programs and leading teams.
Training and Qualifications
Generally, program managers need a bachelor’s degree.
They may take business classes that will help accumulate knowledge in organizational behavior and management as well as budgeting and accounting skills.
The curriculum or major of an aspiring program manager will depend on the industry they plan to work in.
For instance, program managers in manufacturing need engineering classes or majors to learn the life cycles and production processes.
In IT or computer science, the major or course work may be in information technology, computer science, web development, or software design.
Program managers in the pharmaceutical may need to study biology, chemistry, or chemical engineering.
Usually, employers require their program managers to have experience in a managerial or supervisory position.
Additionally, some employers require managers to have experience in project or program management.
The exact number of years required will depend on the employer, industry, and the complexity of projects.
Aspiring program managers may demonstrate experience in managing projects or programs.
If you don’t have program management experience, you should demonstrate the work record as a project manager.
Experience in a specific industry can also be useful for program managers.
For instance, the program manager in the computer software area may have experience as a software developer or designer in a technology firm or department.
Those who wish to become program managers in manufacturing may have experience in product development or engineering.
The position of a program manager is full-time.
Sometimes, the workweek may last longer than 40 hours.
However, the typical schedule includes regular working hours Monday through Friday.
Sometimes, program managers may have to work on the weekends or in the evenings.
Irregular hours may occur in the time of emergencies, staff shortage, equipment malfunctions, or other unexpected events, which the program manager should address quickly.
The prospects for the position depending on the demand for the services of the industry.
According to the BLS, the employment rate of, for example, managers in architecture or engineering should increase by 12% by 2024.
The demand is driven by the necessity to upgrade or build the infrastructure.
In the manufacturing sector, on the other hand, the employment rate will drop by 7%.
The rate for the computer and information systems program managers should increase by 15% because of the advancing technology and the need to protect the computers from cyber attacks.
From the position of a program manager, one can advance to the head of a department, director, or executive.
Program managers monitor project managers and teams, develop standards and budgets and manage projects to meet the goals.
Program managers focus more on general principles and plans rather than on technical details.
They may have work experience as project managers or supervisors.
The best employment opportunities exist in the IT and engineering services areas.
Program managers can advance to the upper-management or executive management roles.