Tackling Project Management Job Titles

We all recognise that project management can be so different and diverse across organisations and industries, and that includes the names or job titles often given to the role you perform. In fact, organisations have some weird and wonderful titles that obviously mean something within their own businesses but in the marketplace – or when it comes to finding a new job – these titles can leave you scratching your head.

Here are just a few from Arras People’s recruitment database to highlight what I mean:

  • Implementation Manager
  • Stage Manager
  • Associate Project Manager
  • Project Management Assistant
  • Project Communications Officer
  • Team Assistant

When someone is looking for a new position, these titles can often make it difficult to really convey what they actually do and my recommendation has always been to add an industry recognised job title alongside the actual job title you had. That way when it comes to reference checking later in the process, the real job title is still there, it’s just that you’ve added something alongside it which is more meaningful to the wider marketplace.

Here’s an example:

  • Project Support Specialist (Project Co-ordinator)
  • Delivery Manager (Project Manager)
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Industry Recognised Job Titles

So what are the most recognised titles to use?

Let’s start with the supporting roles in project management:

  • Project Administrator – supports a single project, is considered to be entry-level
  • Project Co-ordinator – can support single or multiple projects, is not working in a PMO
  • Project Support Officer – like a Project Co-ordinator but works in the public sector
  • Project Office Co-ordinator – works in a Project Office supporting projects
  • Programme Office Co-ordinator – works in a Programme Office supporting programme/s
  • PMO Analyst – works within any kind of PMO supporting projects or programmes
  • PMO Specialist – they will have a specialism in a certain area like risk, communications, finance etc
  • Portfolio Office Analyst – works within a Portfolio Office
  • PMO Manager – can be managing a Project, Programme or Portfolio Office
  • Project Planner – can support one project or work within a PMO on multiple projects
  • Programme Planner – can support one programme or work within a PMO
  • Project Controller – like a combo Project Co-ordinator and Project Planner. Mainly found in heavily industries like engineering, construction etc
  • Document Controller – purely focused on documentation on programmes and projects.

If you’re currently working within a support role in project management, one of these titles will be closely aligned to what you do. If you do have a different title, try using one of these alongside it so readers of your CV will pick it up in their keyword searches.

If you’re interested in PMO, check out PMO Learning.

So what about the delivery roles? Here are the industry recognised ones:

  • Assistant Project Manager – used to be Junior PM until age legalisation law changes. It can mean delivering small uncomplicated, low risk projects or working alongside a Project Manager on a larger project. It’s an entry-level project delivery role.
  • Project Manager – can be used regardless of how experienced you are. It means you deliver a single project or multiple projects at the same time. It’s obviously the most recognised name within project management.
  • Senior Project Manager – used when a PM has a lot of experience or is working on large projects with high values and high risk.
  • Programme Manager – managing a programme of work. The programme should include multiple projects, with the Project Managers reporting to the Programme Manager.
  • Programme / Project Director – denotes a senior role and can mean either managing a huge programme or project OR heading up the department, sometimes seen as:
  • Head of Programmes/Projects – managing the whole delivery organisation, is a senior executive and “C”level executive.

What to do when you have a hybrid role?

Sometimes people have a dual role within project management. We see this a lot, it might be a Programme Manager who also performs the role of Programme Office Manager too – they run the programme as well as setting up the Programme Office structure, then manage the Programme Office team. A recent one I saw was IT Project Director, which was essentially a programme manager who also created and manage the whole project department. As you can see that title could cause a lot of confusion!

If you have a similar type of position my advice is to go with an industry recognised job title in brackets afterwards which is closely aligned to the dominant role you perform AND the new position you are pursuing. So in case of the Programme Manager example above, this person was actually spending the majority of time actually managing a programme of work now and not the PMO set up. On the CV it would therefore be:

  • IT Project Director (Programme Manager)

The next stage of course in any CV is to concentrate on creating a good overview of what you did. If you’re looking for advice on how to do that, you can check out the three webinars on how to create a great project management CV (which has already been accessed by thousands of project managers)



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  1. Lindsay, unfortunately you have only covered the tip of the iceberg here….

    What about those existing professions as well as the trades where the processes of project management are already embedded into their jobs?

    Several examples:

    Lawyer- Isn’t each case a “unique one time event, with a start and a stop” and isn’t each case “initiated, planned, executed, controlled and closed”? Meaning that a lawyer, even though he/she is not considered to be a “project manager” is in fact using project management as the basis for their law practice? And to make it even more interesting, assuming the lawyer handles more than one case for the same client, then doesn’t that make him/her a PROGRAM manager as well?

    Commercial Aircraft Pilot- Surely each flight between City A and City B is a “unique one time event” and being a pilot, I can assure you that filing a flight plan is essential and heaven help you if you don’t close out your flight plan at the completion of your flight or you will have FAA search planes out there looking for you.

    And what about a Teacher? Isn’t each class a program consisting of unique, one time events in the form of lessons? And isn’t each lesson initiated, planned, executed, controlled and closed?

    Lastly, how about a Cardiac Surgeon? Surely each procedure or operation is a unique one time event? And isn’t every operation “initiated, planned, executed, controlled and closed”?

    Same goes for accountants (each tax return is a project and doing more than one years tax returns for the same client is a program), commercial fishermen (each trip is a project and an entire season is a program). Why even your local mechanic implements the project management processes when running his garage. Isn’t each vehicle comes in somehow unique?

    Bottom line- most people just don’t realize how ubiquitous the processes of project management are and how much embedded they are in our every day lives, both work and play. (Isn’t raising children a program consisting of many unique projects- teaching them to walk, toilet training them, educating them etc)

    Hope this stimulates some interesting discussions…

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

      1. My point was and remains that there are many examples where operations or “business as usual” has been “projectized” and always has been, well before “project management” became popular.

        Thus there are many people out there who actually “manage projects” but have a job title totally unrelated… And in fact, many don’t even think about what they do as being ” project management”….. Why? Because the processes of project management are so embedded in and integrated with what they do, that they cannot or have no need to parse the processes of project management from whatever technical responsibilities they have- they are in fact, one and the same.

        I mean, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and swims in a pond….. Isn’t it highly likely that it is a duck?

        Which brings me back to my long standing argument that you CANNOT create a “profession” around a set of processes, especially when those processes while similar at the 10,000 meter level, (all projects are initiated, planned, executed, controlled and closed) are so distinctly different when you get down to the ground level where the work is actually done. (Initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing a flight from City A to City B is totally different than initiating planning, executing and closing the removal of an inflamed appendix)

        But a interesting and important discussion that is well worth having…..

        Dr. PDG, Jakarta

        1. Yes and my argument is that yes, everyone’s job has elements of PM whether they recognise that or not. The problem occurs when they suddenly want to drop the main part of their job, say lawyer or teacher, and suddenly think that the informal PM elements of their job is enough to move into a full time PM position. Organisations in the marketplace to hire a PM just don’t buy it – rightly or wrongly!

          1. Interesting……. In medicine, teaching and law, I am seeing evidence that these professions are recognizing that project management is core to their “business” or “professions” and are taking courses in project management to help them get “better” at managing their practices.

            In teaching, “Project Based Learning” (PBL) is hot right now and if you Google on “Legal Project Management” you will get millions of hits, including this one. http://www.legalprojectmanagement.info/blog/

            And I once sat in on a presentation made by Dr. David Goh, the Singaporean brain surgeon who separated the two Birjani Twins co-joined at the head and his presentation was laced with project management terms. (One of the members of his project team of 200+ people was Dr. Ben Carson, currently running for US President)

            Bottom line- In all seriousness, when you add together asset plus portfolio plus program plus project management together, haven’t we come full circle back to general management, just as Peter Drucker told us way back in 1973 and Henry Mintzberg reaffirmed in 2006?

            Great discussion!!

            PDG Jakarta

  2. Lindsay, what about all the made up roles that projects attract. I used to find this when auditing, especially around PRINCE2 projects in the public sector. Director of Change being one example of many. I call these clingons because that’s what they do – cling on to jobs that don’t (or shouldn’t) exist.

    The killer question was always: so here’s the the thing there’s a project exec, a senior user, a senior supplier, the project manager and there’s you. What exactly is it that you do again?

    Not exactly guaranteed to make you Mr Popular Auditor but nobody takes up a career in audit because they want to be loved. ?

    1. Yep the made up name is ultimately what this article is all about. The other thing that is irritating for people is “we can’t call you a Project Manager because “Manager” in the title suggests you’re two pay grades above where you actually are so we’ll call you Project Controller instead” Madness!

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