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What Is a Program Manager and How to Become One

Program Manager

What Is the Job of a Program Manager?

The job of a program manager is to plan, organize, and coordinate management programs or external programs for a business or institution. As a program manager, your duties vary depending on the type of organization for which you work, but many of the responsibilities for this role are similar or overlap. You typically supervise numerous associates and analysts who help prepare data and assessments about current programming and how it can be improved. You help to implement new programs for employees or customers and promote them through HR or outreach coordinators and marketing professionals. You also assess individual projects and how they interact with one another.

How Can I Become a Program Manager?

To become a program manager, you must have a bachelor’s degree. If you intend to work at larger companies, a master’s degree in a subject such as finance, business administration, or a technical subject if you work in a field such as engineering or software design, is preferred and sometimes required. In addition to educational qualifications, you need to have several years of experience in program management, human resources, or a similar department. Strong leadership qualities, communication skills, and the ability to multitask are all essential for succeeding in this role.

What Is the Difference Between a Program Manager and a Project Manager?

The difference between a program manager and a project manager is that a project manager oversees a particular project that is part of a larger program whereas program managers rarely manage an individual project. They may report to the program manager and help them assess whether or not different projects focus on the same end goals. On the other hand, a program manager’s role is to harmonize multiple projects and set a long-term strategy for organizational programs. Often, having experience as a project manager is a prerequisite for becoming a program manager.

Program Manager Job Description Sample

With this Program Manager job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a Program Manager role.

Job Summary

We are seeking a highly organized, goal-oriented program manager to join our growing organization. In this position, you will lead and supervise a program through completion, overseeing successful output. You will outline the program's goals and objectives while acting as a liaison between program staff and upper management and executives.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Strategize and outline the goals and objectives of the program
  • Assign project managers and team members to projects
  • Estimate and implement program budgets
  • Set program controls, governance, and standards
  • Monitor multiple projects through the entire program cycle
  • Manage the day-to-day detailed aspects of multiple projects
  • Set timelines and due dates
  • Coordinate and utilize resources for multiple projects in the program
  • Manage and submit program documentation
  • Communicate with project managers to address potential risks
  • Solve problems and issues
  • Track program progress
  • Communicate program objectives, goals, and progress to program directors, executives, upper management, and stakeholders
  • Evaluate and supervise multiple projects
  • Lead and mentor project staff and team members
  • Set objectives to maximize ROI
  • Prepare and present progress and budget reports to program directors
  • Assist team members and project managers when needed to accomplish team goals

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Bachelor's degree in management, business, or related field; Master’s degree (MA or MSc) in business or related field preferred
  • 5+ years' previous experience in program management, project management, administration, or related field
  • Proficient computer skills, experience with Microsoft Office Suite; working knowledge of program/project management software (Basecamp, MS Project)
  • Knowledgeable in program management methodology and techniques; performance evaluation and changemanagement principles
  • Experience with compiling and following strict budgets
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Able to multi-task, prioritize, and manage time effectively