What Is a Program Manager? (With Duties, Salary and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 August 2022

Published 23 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies hire program managers to help them achieve their strategic goals, improve management practices and manage resources more effectively. Working as a program manager can be a challenging and rewarding career with high earning potential. If you enjoy supervising large projects and possess strong leadership skills, then you may excel as a program manager. In this article, we answer the question "what is a program manager?", explore their job duties and list the steps you can take to become one.

What Is A Program Manager?

A program manager is a professional who oversees strategic initiatives and projects within an organisation. They are typically responsible for managing multiple projects within the same department or a group of projects related to the same business objective. For example, they may be in charge of several projects that support a new product launch, such as developing a marketing campaign, implementing a new sales process and opening new stores. Their goal is to add value to the business. Program managers may also supervise other project managers in their team.

Related: A Quick Guide to Operations Management Responsibilities

Program Manager vs. Project Manager

While project managers oversee individual projects, program managers coordinate multiple related projects within a program. Program managers provide guidance to project managers and also ensure that each project goal aligns with the program. Some of the main differences between program managers and project managers include:

  • Program managers supervise large groups of projects, whereas project managers oversee individual projects.

  • Program managers focus on the overall strategy behind a series of projects, whereas project managers focus on completing the day-to-day tasks.

  • Program managers are responsible for meeting long-term business objectives that provide value to the entire organisation, whereas project managers are responsible for short-term deliverables.

What Does A Program Manager Do?

A program manager's daily job duties may vary based on the types of projects they oversee and their industry. Some common responsibilities of a program manager include:

  • Defining program controls, such as procedures and reporting

  • Developing progress reports for the program

  • Supervising a team of project managers

  • Managing the budget of a program, writing funding proposals and allocating company resources

  • Managing the risks and contingency plans of a program

  • Communicating with key stakeholders

  • Managing the interdependencies between projects

  • Ensuring deliverables align with the program's outcome

  • Monitoring all projects to ensure that project managers meet milestones

  • Assessing the overall needs of the organisation and creating long-term goals to improve

  • Implementing CRM protocols for each program

  • Assisting with the selection and appointment of new program team members

Read more: What Is the Role of a Manager?

Average Salary For A Program Manager

The average base salary for a program manager is ₹37,484 per month. The amount you earn as a program manager may vary based on your education level, work experience and skill set. Where your job is located and the cost of living in your area may also impact your salary.

Program Manager Requirements

There are various paths you can take to become a program manager. Below is a list of qualifications, training opportunities and skills they typically have:

Education

To become a program manager, start by earning a bachelor's degree in project management, business management or a related field. Some courses you may take during your undergraduate program include:

  • Leadership principles

  • Operations management

  • Project management tools

  • Project procurement and contract management

  • Assessing and managing risk

  • Effective project scheduling procedures

  • Project quality management

You may also pursue a degree in the field in which you want to work. For instance, those who plan to work in information technology may choose degrees in information systems or computer science. If you choose to earn a degree other than project or business management, consider taking leadership courses outside of your undergraduate studies to prepare you for a role as a program manager.

Related: Vocational Training: Definition, Types and Examples

Training

Many program managers start their careers as project managers, as it is a natural progression to evolve from managing individual projects to overseeing multiple projects in a program. Program managers can also enrol in training courses to develop their knowledge in the field. You can choose from many instructor-led and online courses. Some of the most popular courses include:

Learning Tree International

This program offers a comprehensive instructor-led program management course that runs over four days. The course covers various topics that include how to develop a business case, program management best practices, management of stakeholders and executing a program roadmap. Learning Tree International uses scenario-based training to help participants improve their critical thinking skills and apply their management experience to common organisational situations.

Project Management Institute (PMI)

Apart from various project manager training courses, PMI also offers the PMI Talent Triangle course. This online program focuses on equipping candidates with the additional skills they need to navigate the intricate space of program management. These include technical, strategic, leadership and digital skills.

Certifications

Program managers can also supplement their qualifications by earning a wide variety of certifications. While these certifications are optional, completing them can help you impress potential employers and stand out from other candidates with similar backgrounds. Here are some popular certifications you may consider pursuing:

  • Program Management Professional (PgMP): PMI offers this professional certification for program managers who have substantial experience in managing multiple projects. This certification shows that you are a seasoned professional proficient in supervising complex programs to help organisations reach their goals.

  • Associate in Project Management (APM): The Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM) provides this certification to program managers who have a strong understanding of how to allocate resources effectively, provide clear direction and adapt to change. Entry-level project managers and program managers typically pursue this credential.

  • Managing Successful Programmes Practitioner (MSP): This certificate from AXELOS helps professionals align the programs and projects they oversee with the organisation's strategic goals. It focuses on delivering beneficial results, mitigating risk and actively engaging with stakeholders.

Related: 19 Essential Project Management Skills to Master

Skills

Although some program managers have a background in team management, many companies prefer candidates who have extensive experience in project management. This is because project managers have experience overseeing individual projects, which can help them succeed in managing multiple concurrent projects. Other skills that program managers need include:

  • Strong leadership: A program manager needs to be an effective leader to manage and motivate multiple project managers and teams.

  • Knowledge of finance: One of the most important aspects of program management is managing the program budget and allocating resources effectively.

  • Excellent communication: Program managers work with people all the time, whether it is senior management, the accounting department, project managers or project team members. They need to communicate effectively with a wide range of different people to ensure everyone understands the organisation's goals and the tasks for which they are responsible.

  • Organisation: To successfully manage multiple projects and teams, a program manager needs excellent organisational and planning skills. They may also rely on different software programs to help them track their team's progress, create to-do lists and maintain an accurate schedule.

  • Strategic skills: A program manager needs to align a program's goals with the organisation's goals and strategies at all times. They also need to constantly formulate plans to keep programs within scope, budget and limited timeframes, which also requires strategic thinking.

Read more: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Program Manager Work Environment

Program managers can work in a wide variety of industries, including technology, manufacturing, non-profits and marketing. They usually work full-time hours during the week, but emergency situations and busy periods may require them to work overtime in the evenings or on weekends. These managers often work in an office environment where they develop program strategies, policies and budgets.

Depending on the industry they work in, program managers may also travel to job sites to oversee specific project teams, assess processes and track productivity. They frequently meet with other leaders in the company and key stakeholders to gather information and provide updates on the status of the projects in their program.

Program Manager Job Description Example

Here is an example of a typical program manager job description::

Our company is looking for an experienced program manager to lead and coordinate programs. Part of your duties may include providing strategic guidance to project managers and teams to ensure that project and program goals align with the company's core objectives.

To be considered for this role, you will need at least a bachelor's qualification and three years of experience in program management. Qualified candidates should have proven expertise in I&D and the ability to oversee multidiscipline teams. Experience working in the creative industry or with an expanding global business is a plus.

Please note that none of the organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.


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