“Operations keeps the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” ~ Joy Gumz, Director of Project Auditors
Joy’s words hold true for aspiring assistant project managers. Becoming an A+ assistant project manager requires dedication, hard work, and a well-honed skill set. You need an understanding of the day-to-day tasks, project management best practices, and strategies to ensure successful outcomes.
When everything is in sync — cost, time, and quality — there’s a great sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with being part of a successful project.
Below, we’ll explore what goes into being a top-tier assistant PM and the steps you need to take to become one.
What is an assistant project manager?
An assistant PM typically works alongside a senior project manager and helps with the planning, execution, monitoring, and closure of projects. They assist the senior project manager in all aspects of project management, from the initial planning stages to final delivery, including setting timelines, delegating tasks, managing budgets, providing status reports, and communicating with team members.
Think of them as the project manager’s right-hand person.
Without the assistant project manager’s help, the project manager would be hard-pressed to keep project schedules and deliverables on track. Budget overruns, missed deadlines, and communication breakdowns can quickly derail any project.
A great assistant PM excels in all of these duties and has a strong understanding of project management principles, techniques, and best practices. They are organized, efficient, have excellent problem-solving skills, and know how to effectively communicate with team members and stakeholders.
Project manager vs. assistant project manager
Due to their close relationship, it’s easy to lump a project manager and an assistant PM into the same category. However, there is a difference between the two.
A project manager is the main point of contact in the project and is responsible for the overall budgeting, scheduling, staffing, reporting, risk management, and resource allocation.
They’re experts in their respective fields, having years of experience and deep knowledge of how projects should run: tracking progress, overseeing costs, and making decisions to ensure the successful completion of the project.
Someone who holds an Assistant PM job title may have many of the same skills and responsibilities as project managers — but they typically don’t have the same level of autonomy.
The assistant PM works under the direction of the project manager and isn’t responsible for making high-level decisions. Instead, they focus on carrying out the tasks assigned by the PM and helping the team execute the project successfully. They coordinate and complete daily administrative tasks, track and report project progress, and handle communications with team members and other stakeholders.
What does an assistant project manager do?
Now to the million-dollar question — what does an assistant project manager do?
An assistant PM job description is varied: providing administrative and technical support, coordinating and delegating tasks, managing project schedules and budgets, and helping maintain quality control.
These duties can differ between agencies and in-house roles, but we’ll break down some of the most common job responsibilities below.
Duties and responsibilities
Assisting the project manager with project planning and coordination from inception to completion
Scheduling meetings and managing calendars
Helping create, review, and maintain the project budget
Communicating with team members and stakeholders
Tracking and preparing reports and presentations for project review
Coordinating and executing daily administrative tasks such as project documentation, resource management and allocation, and quality control
Scheduling and confirming deliverables on assigned projects
Consulting with project managers, department heads, and other stakeholders to identify potential risks and solutions
Identifying areas of improvement in project processes and recommending solutions
Maintaining client relationships by providing project updates, responding to inquiries, and addressing concerns
How do you become an assistant project manager?
Securing a job as an assistant project manager is a great way to advance your career and gain experience in the field. It opens up opportunities for career growth and allows you to develop your skills in a hands-on environment.
However, you need the right education, hard skills, and practical experience under your belt.
The path to being an assistant PM will vary somewhat between industries — for example, you’ll probably need vastly different skills to be an assistant construction project manager than you would to become an assistant marketing project manager. But the roadmap below is an excellent place to start!
Certifications in project management demonstrate your knowledge and skills and give you a competitive edge.
Employers want to see that you thoroughly understand the principles, techniques, and best practices related to project management. As a result, some job descriptions will list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement — whether it’s in project management, business administration, or a related field.
Beyond formal education, professional certifications such as Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or PRINCE2 Foundation enhance your credibility and demonstrate your understanding of project management principles and practices.
Learn project management software
Project management software helps teams to plan, coordinate, and manage projects. It eliminates manual processes, making project management easier and more efficient. You can assign tasks, track progress, manage budgets, and generate reports with just a few clicks, freeing up time to focus on other core activities.
Familiarity with project management tools and software is a must for detail-oriented assistant project managers. Learn how to use them, their features and capabilities, and troubleshooting techniques. This gives you an edge when applying for these roles.
Develop strong communication skills
What good is technical knowledge if you can’t communicate clearly and effectively?
Strong communication skills are key to building strong relationships with on-site team members, stakeholders, and clients. You need to communicate the projects’ progress, explain tasks to teams, and give feedback in a simple, concise manner.
However, you also need to understand and empathize with stakeholders and project team members’ concerns to create an open and productive working environment.
Practice active listening, ask relevant questions to understand the other party’s point of view, and take notes to ensure you have clear and accurate information.
Seek professional development opportunities
Continuing education and professional development opportunities allow you to expand your knowledge base, learn new skills, and stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends.
Seek opportunities to work on projects, even in supporting roles, to gain hands-on experience and understand project management processes. Consider taking additional courses in specialized areas such as financial management, cost control, and project scheduling to boost your knowledge and skills for your resume.
Depending on the stage of your career, you may also want to consider internships, entry-level positions, or volunteer projects, which will allow you to work alongside experienced project managers and learn the ropes.
Participate in professional workshops, seminars, and training sessions to build your skills and stay current on industry trends. Ask questions, get advice from successful project managers, and network with peers to gain insight into the field.
Elevate your project management capabilities with Teamwork.com
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