For some time now I have had a view that being a project manager is a second career. I was trained as a mechanical engineer and I spent 17 years in industrial situations within an automotive environment. Then I became a professional project manager. My first positions did have titles of “Project Engineer” or “Project Manager”, but I didn’t seek to recognise my project management skills via professional project management groups at that time. I was a mechanical or automotive engineer first and foremost.


Project Manager? Engineer? Academic?

Project Manager? Engineer? Academic?

After teaching at a university for 13 years, I firmly call my self a Project Manager first. A lecturer/trainer second, and an academic third.  (With mechanical engineering a distant and fading skill!).

Whilst I have been teaching project management at University, I have held views on Project Management taught as a first degree. I am certain that all engineering graduates need some knowledge concerning project management regardless of their discipline. It is disappointing that this isn’t always the case. I am convinced that project management masters level courses are entirely suitable for part-time and mature students. But I am not convinced of the merits of full-time undergraduate project management degrees for 18-21 year old students. These students have no technical, business, or commercial experience.

Project Management as a Second Career

A person who moves into a project management role as a second career is likely to possess business/industrial experiences and also an attitude and knowledge of business behaviour. These people will find it easier to learn project management as they can relate lessons to their own real-life experiences. They will also have some experiences of dealing with people – often the most difficult part of any project. On the downside, there may be a tendency to rely on their first career technical knowledge, and interfere in this technical area rather than concentrate on the wider business and management issues that project management requires.

Project Management Apprenticeships

There now exists QCF Level 4 (HNC Level) apprenticeships for project management, potentially giving “Project Management” status after 2 years (age of 20). However, as these are “workplace based” I am entirely comfortable that these apprenticeships provide the core knowledge regarding project management in an experiential situation.

Project Management Recognition

Project Management recognition comes not from passing qualifications but by satisfying the FIVE dimensions of Professionalism.

5 Dimensions of Professionalism

5 Dimensions of Professionalism

The APM recognises that the most senior project managers should display the 5 dimensions of professionalism of;

  1. Breadth
  2. Depth
  3. Achievement
  4. Commitment and
  5. Accountability.

I think that it is clear that gaining all of these takes time, and it is unlikely that a person can satisfy all of these dimensions after an undergraduate degree, or perhaps even before the age of 30. Indeed, the highest recognition of project management, that of Registered Project Professional (RPP) status is unlikely to be gained before the age of 30, and requires demonstration of managing others through a complex project.

RPP logo

RPP logo

Project Management is often a second career for many people after “cutting their teeth” in a first technical or business career as part of the project team. Formally recognising your project management skills at this point in your career – via exams, standards, and meeting the 5 dimensions – is as important as gaining your first technical qualifications.

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Posted On: 27th September 2016

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