So You Want to be a Learning and Development Project Manager?
There are a few things you need to know before you start looking for a job as a learning and development project manager.
Before you start looking for a job as a learning and development project manager, there are a few things you should know. This role isn’t just any project management position. Employers will prioritize candidates who have specific skills and knowledge.
First, as you may expect, you must have knowledge and experience in fundamental project management methodologies and practices. You’ll also need strong communication skills and a growing list of technical and analytical abilities. Finally, you’ll want to have a perspective on learning and development production to facilitate project success.
What Does A Learning And Development Project Manager Do?
Project Managers in the learning industry have rewarding, flexible roles that often include significant responsibilities. They may manage the design, development, and delivery of a single project, training, or course. Some are responsible for the lifecycle of entire programs or portfolios of L&D solutions.
L&D project manager responsibilities may include:
• tracking budgets
• hiring contractors
• planning and facilitating important meetings
• negotiating contracts
• setting up PM and communication software
• establishing and optimizing processes
• creating progress and performance dashboards
Professionals in this role go by many titles. You might see job postings for Program Manager, a Director of Project, Dev Ops Coordinator, and more.
Ultimately, The role of the project manager or PM is to oversee projects. It is their responsibility to make sure training, program, courses, and other projects are completed on time and on budget.
What 3 Skills Do You Need To Be A Great PM?
There are three main skills needed to be a learning industry Project Manager: strategic communication, tracking and process optimization, and industry and business acumen. Over the course of your career, you’ll rely on experience, professional development and upskilling to continuously improve all three. You’ll want to conduct regular check-ins on your strengths, gaps, and areas for growth.
1. Strategic Communication
This is the core of everything a PM does. You will be expected to interact with team members and stakeholders at all levels and across organizations. Strategic communication includes identifying the purpose or goal, then connecting it to organizational or business outcomes.
You’ll have to ask targeted questions, synthesize information and inputs from various stakeholders, and communicate updates. Stakeholders will rely on you to frame information and facilitate conversations to drive decisions.
Strategic communication is part emotional intelligence, part business acumen, and part written and speaking communication ability. We often see professionals with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Journalism, or Business Administration as top candidates.
2. Tracking and process optimization are an essential skill in an L&D PM toolkit.
You’ll be responsible for establishing project plans, creating project schedules and milestones, and tracking budgets. Team members will expect you to help them reach their goals by removing barriers, keeping stakeholders updated, and always controlling for cost, time, and quality.
In addition to this lengthy list of responsibilities, you may also need to set up PM and communication tools, channels and dashboards. Your task is not just to establish processes, but to optimize them. To make all this possible, you need experience with or a willingness to learn project management software like Monday.com, Smartsheets, or Microsoft Project.
3. Hiring managers strongly prefer candidates with learning industry experience.
This enables PM’s to anticipate challenges and team needs, acting proactively rather than responsively.
When you know the learning industry, you know that an agile or waterfall method alone does not work throughout the whole design and development process. You understand where to cushion the budget or timeline, and where collaboration and hand-offs can break down.
Many professionals attain this insight while working in adjacent roles. They may transition from an instructional designer role into a PM role. Others start out as a project coordinator, or on other related paths.
General business knowledge is also a strong differentiator. We see many exceptional project managers with a background in business administration and or a PMP certification. Both of these avenues provide essential knowledge, methodologies and skills to serve a team and organization strategically. PM’s with business acumen are able to strategically control for organizational goals within budget and time.
If you have learning industry experience, but need to strengthen your business knowledge, you might want to consider earning an MBA.
Who Hires Learning And Development Project Managers?
PMs are in highest demand in product as a service organizations, such as education content companies and training and development service providers. Companies in the business of developing courses or learning materials may have a team of PMs working at various levels.
You could also work for a corporation, college, university, or school district. An individual high school or elementary school is unlikely to reach a volume that needs PMs.
PM jobs in corporate learning and development are harder to find. These organizations probably have just one PM responsible for L&D, if they have any at all.
Find Your Level
Complex and service organizations need more people to oversee projects. These organizations might have PMs at multiple levels with varying areas of responsibility.
Associate Project Manager
An associate PM supports the work of the PM or Senior PM. You may be entrusted with one part of the PM responsibilities. For example, it may be your job to assign work or to manage the budget. If you’ve never worked as a PM or your experience comes from another industry, you may start as an associate.
A PM oversees a project or projects. They may direct the work of associates or team members, but ultimate responsibility for project success falls on them. To land this role, you need to demonstrate functional experience and sound methodology in leading digital learning projects. A PMP or other certification is very helpful.
Senior Project Manager or Director of Project Management
These executive level roles may require more business development, finance management, and relationship management expertise. If you’re looking for a senior or director level position, you’re already a proven PM. You should also have experience in finance and dashboard creation.
Would You Be A Good Digital Learning Project Manager?
PM roles are perfect for people who are organized and like to communicate. As a digital learning project manager, you can make an impact in the lives of others.
You don’t have to be an expert in software development, content creation or instructional design and technology. You do need the skills to do the job and a passion for supporting learning. You’ll excel if you can think deeply about relationship building and operations.
In senior level positions, knowledge of finance is essential. Managing costs and margins will be a large part of your job.
Education Level Requirements
You’ll almost certainly need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a digital learning project manager. A degree in communication, instructional design or business administration will be most attractive to employers. Some employers will look for master’s degrees. Others will expect you to be certified in project management.
Prepare For Your Job Search
To land a digital learning PM role, you need to highlight both your management experience and knowledge of the learning and development production process..
Check whether you can honestly add these skills to your resume:
• Process Engineering
• Data Analysis
• Program Management
• Change Management
• Needs Analysis
• Resource Management
• Budget and Financial management
Make sure to include any PM related certifications and leadership roles. Under each job you’ve held, include bullet points that prove you can communicate, manage, build relationships, and deliver results. Show employers that you understand the product life cycle in digital learning.