Project Manager CVs: What Employers Look For

Two recent reports provide insights into what employers are looking for when they are recruiting project managers.

A survey in the US indicated that half of PM jobs call for a bachelor’s degree – and show the aerospace sector to call for the highest education and experience levels.

A UK survey revealed some telling differences between recruiters and project professionals in terms of the value of professional certifications.

UK Survey

The UK analysis is based on a survey of over 2000  project professionals undertaken by Arras People in December 2013 and January 2014. They asked project manager recruiters what they regard as most important when reviewing the CVs of job applicants. Interestingly they asked the same question of project professional who completed the survey.

Both groups emphasise project experience at general and domain level. They differ when it comes to the importance of professional accreditations and membership of professional bodies. 48% of recruiters deemed PRINCE2 certification important (against only 26% of project professionals). 41% of recruiters say membership of an association such as APM or PMI is important (against only 29% of project professionals).


US Survey

Software Advice, a company that reviews and researches project management technology and solutions, undertook an analysis of 300 US job openings for project managers posted in March and April 2014. The study concentrated on the qualifications and experience required – segmenting into a number of industry sectors.

Key findings:

Aerospace Has Highest Minimum Education Requirements

Of the 300 total job listings analysed, 49 percent required a bachelor’s degree (BA/BS). Listings with a preference or desire for a BA/BS often included a caveat about accepting a combination of work and education. Across all sectors, 36 percent of jobs said they would prefer a BA/BS, but would accept equivalent experience.

Companies calculated equivalent work experience differently, but to provide one example, a listing for a mid-level IT project manager stated that 3-5 years of experience would be considered equivalent to a BA/BS.

Degree Requirements for Project Manager Positions: software_advice_1

Breaking it down among individual sectors, aerospace set the highest bar for candidates, with 60 percent of project manager positions requiring a BA/BS. It’s important to note that aerospace positions didn’t require just any BA/BS—46 percent of listings in this sector specifically required a BS in engineering or computer science from an accredited university.

On the other end of the spectrum, 38 percent of IT listings accepted experience in lieu of a BA/BS, while 62 percent of IT job listings either did not list a requirement or accepted equivalent experience.


Half of Jobs Require or Prefer Some Type of PM Certification

After a college education, project management-specific certifications were the next most valued education requirement. Fourteen percent of job listings across all sectors required some type of project manager certification, while 52 percent either required or preferred certification.

General PM Certification Requirements (All Sectors):


When broken down by sector,  certification is most often required for project manager positions in IT (19 percent) and healthcare (14 percent). While aerospace jobs required certification somewhat less often (7 percent of the time), 46 percent of aerospace project manager jobs required or preferred certification, so certified candidates are likely to be at an advantage in this sector as well.

Listings Preferring or Requiring Some Type of PM Certification:


Drilling down into specific certifications listed, the PMP was by far the most popular. Across all sectors, 79 percent of listings that stated a single preferred or required certification listed the PMP. This is very different from the UK where PRINCE2 and APMP feature far more prominently.


Advanced Degrees Are Seldom Required or Preferred

Somewhat surprisingly, advanced degrees—either a master’s degree (MA) or Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)—were seldom listed as a necessary qualification for PM jobs. Across all three sectors, only 0.7 percent of listings, or two out of 300, required such a degree; both came from the IT sector.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of listings indicated a preference for a candidate with an MA or MBA. Once again, aerospace set the bar highest, with 24 percent of listings indicating at least a preference for an MA.


Healthcare Positions Require the Least Minimum Experience

The experience level required for project manager positions varied across all three industries. Aerospace had the toughest minimum experience requirement—only 16 percent of listings in this sector listed a minimum of 0-3 years of experience as an acceptable qualification.

Healthcare project management jobs, on the other hand, had the lowest barrier to entry, with nearly 40 percent of listings requiring just 0-3 years of experience. Meanwhile, IT’s barrier to entry fell in the middle, with 31 percent of jobs requiring 0-3 years experience.

Years of Project Management Experience Required:


Companies often listed two different sets of requirements for project managers: experience as a project lead and total industry experience. Across all industries, companies required an average of four to five years of project manager experience, and an average of five to six years of total industry experience.

Years of Experience Required: Team Lead v Overall: