What Is an IT Project Manager? And How to Become One

Today, companies in all major industries have made information technology a critical part of their organizational structures. This has led to an increase in the demand for IT management professionals. Among the most important of these sought-after positions is the role of IT project manager.

IT project managers, often called computer information and systems managers or simply IT managers, are professionals tasked with planning and overseeing the processes that support an organization’s information technology pursuits and goals.

Working as an IT project manager can be highly rewarding, but will require you to fulfill a range of responsibilities and utilize a variety of skills. There are several important things to know about the IT project management career path.

What Does an IT Project Manager Do?

IT project managers have the critical job of planning and coordinating an organization’s computer-related activities. They help organizations determine their information technology goals, and implement computer systems designed to support those goals. Their day-to-day responsibilities typically include the following:

  • Evaluating an organization’s computer needs and recommending possible solutions to top executives.
  • Overseeing the installation and maintenance of computer hardware and software.
  • Monitoring the security of their organization’s computer network.
  • Assessing the costs and benefits of projects and making recommendations to executives based on their findings.
  • Researching new ways to upgrade their organization’s computer systems.
  • Determining the staffing needs for the organization’s IT department.
  • Overseeing the work of other IT professionals, including computer systems analysts, software developers, information security analysts, and computer support specialists.
  • Negotiating with technology vendors to ensure their organization gets the highest level of service.

In most cases, IT project managers will not be responsible for all of these tasks. Their exact day-to-day duties will vary depending on the size and structure of their organization. At larger firms, these responsibilities may be divided among a greater number of IT professionals.

Valuable Skills for IT Project Management

Project management, as a category of job responsibilities, can differ depending on the industry and company in which a person is working. Consequently, the skills you’ll need as an IT project manager can vary as well. However, there are certain skills and proficiencies that are valuable for all types of IT managers:

Technology Development

One of the characteristics of technology today is its rapid development. There are seemingly constant advances in technology, each of which can have an impact on projects that are already underway.

Significant risks of any IT-related project may include changes in available technology or updates to infrastructure that change security needs. Because of this, any person leading an IT project needs to be focused on keeping up with relevant developments that could impact the progress or success of the initiative.

Knowledge of Technical Methodologies

IT managers must understand how software and applications are designed, developed, and implemented. In many cases, there’s a strict and defined method of working that all team members know, understand, and are expected to follow.

Among the most commonly used project management methodologies are Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, Lean, and Six Sigma. It’s important to note that organizations may have slightly different interpretations of Agile methodology, so IT project managers must be adaptive and flexible as well as knowledgeable.

Risk Assessment

IT managers must understand how software and applications are designed, developed, and implemented. In many cases, there’s a strict and defined method of working that all team members know, understand, and are expected to follow.

Most business decisions carry with them some amount of risk. Whether choosing an office location, a business name, or developing a new product, there’s a chance that the decision won’t work out, and the time, resources, and money that went toward the effort will be wasted, or they could have gone to something more effective.

Risk assessment goes beyond understanding the potential impact of an action; it also includes determining how to best minimize risk of failure for projects that aren’t getting much attention due to focus on a larger or more pressing initiative.

One aspect of reducing risk of failure is ensuring team members have the knowledge and tools needed to accomplish necessary tasks. Getting that knowledge and tools to the team may include requesting additional funding for the department or arranging training sessions.

Language Knowledge

Many of the employees that IT project managers oversee, such as software developers, must be well-versed in certain programming languages. To effectively supervise and guide these employees, IT project managers must have a comprehensive understanding of these languages as well.

The exact programming languages you’ll encounter as an IT manager may vary depending on the type of organization where you work. Among the most important coding languages for IT leaders to know are Javascript, SQL, Kotlin, and Google Go. However, the world of programming is constantly changing, so IT project managers need to stay aware of the trends in their industry.

What Are The Educational Requirements for IT Project Managers?

Many of the foundational skills needed to be an IT project manager can be acquired through education. Typically, IT project managers are expected to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in an area such as information technology or computer science.

The coursework for these degrees covers topics such as information security, data management, and the fundamentals of programming. To demonstrate leadership skills, candidates may also need to complete a certificate program in an area related to project management.

However, completing a Master of Science degree in Management Information Systems will allow you to learn a combination of management and tech skills specifically suited for IT leadership, all in one program. These include business intelligence, IT governance and maintenance, information security, and incident response, and business continuity.

Completing an MS MIS degree program can help prepare you for the unique aspects of IT project management, and demonstrate to employers that you’re well-versed in both leadership and IT.

Additionally, many MS MIS programs include project management courses that can help you earn valuable credentials like the PMI Project Management Professional (PMP) certification as you complete your degree, enabling you to stand out even further from other candidates.

How Much Work Experience Is Needed to Be an IT Project Manager?

In most cases, you won’t be able to find work as an IT project manager straight out of school. Generally, you’ll need prior experience in both tech and management roles. You can gain this experience by completing a relevant certification program or building experience in a lower-level IT role, such as a software developer or data analyst.

Taking on a project support role for an IT team, such as a project coordinator or program associate, is a great way to break into project management. A history of success in one of these roles will show employers that you understand IT projects and how they relate to organizational goals.

IT Project Manager Salary and Job Outlook

As information systems have become critical to more organizations in the digital age, the demand for IT project managers has increased. This trend is expected to hold steady, offering a high level of job security to individuals in these positions.

In fact, the BLS projects that the demand for computer and information systems managers will increase by 16% from 2021 to 2031, a much faster rate than the average for all occupations. This demand, combined with the need to replace departing workers, is expected to create about 48,500 new job openings each year.

In addition to providing job security, a career as an IT project manager can be highly lucrative. According to the BLS, the median annual pay for computer and information systems managers in 2021 was $159,010, though this may vary depending on the size of the organization and the candidate’s credentials.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Computer and Information Systems Manager Career Outlook”