Program Manager Vs Project Manager | (2023)

Many professionals fail to differentiate the roles of project manager and program manager and use them interchangeably.

Both roles are essential for anorganizationdealing with similar projects and are different but complement each other. Therefore, it is vital to understand the differences between the two positions, i.e., program manager vs project manager.

In this blog post, we will explore the role of a project manager and a program manager and how they differ.

However, before discussing the roles of these two titles, let’s understandprojectsandprograms.

According to the PMBOK Guide, a project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service, or result.

A program manages more than one similar project under a single umbrella for better management and more efficient resource utilization.

(Video) Program Manager vs Project Manager: Key Differences

Projects and programs are key to organizational success and serve different objectives.

The difference between projects and programs are as follows:

  1. Projects are temporary and have a defined beginning and end, while programs have a longer duration.
  2. Projects involve a team of people who work together to complete the project. On the other hand, programs have project managers and some supporting staff.
  3. Projects require more resources than programs.
  4. Projects are more complex than programs.
  5. Projects generally have a higher risk than programs. Programs are typically less risky than projects.
  6. Organizations initiate projects in response to a specific problem or opportunity. They initiate programs for strategic purposes.

Now we will discuss the difference between the program manager and the project manager.

Program Manager

A program manager coordinates multiple similar projects and oversees various aspects of a program.

They are responsible for developing the program plan, coordinating resources, and ensuring the program meets its objectives.

Program managers require a diverse skill set because of their wide range of responsibilities. They must possess strong communication, problem-solving, and organizational skills and the ability to manage people and resources. In addition, program managers deal with multiple tasks among different projects simultaneously.

(Video) The Difference Between a Program Manager and a Project Manager

Project Manager

A project manager is responsible for managing projects. This includes developing a project management plan, executing it, monitoring and controlling it, and closing it.

Project managers usually have a background in engineering or business administration.

Project managers must possess strong leadership skills to motivate team members to meet deadlines. They must handle conflicts and make decisions in the project’s best interest. In addition, they should communicate with project team members and management effectively.

Project management is a challenging but rewarding career. It can be a fulfilling profession if an individual possesses the necessary skills.

Roles and Responsibilities for Program and Project Manager

The roles of a program manager include:

  • Defining the program and its objectives.
  • Developing a plan to achieve those objectives.
  • Managing the resources among the project under the program.
  • Ensuring that the program meets its targets.
  • Coordinating the activities of all participants in the program.
  • Reporting on progress and ensuring that they captured lessons learned.

The roles of a project manager include:

(Video) What is Program Manager? Program Manager vs Project Manager – 7 Major Differences | AIMS UK

  • Developing a project plan.
  • Hiring team members.
  • Assigning tasks to team members.
  • Creating schedules.
  • Monitoring the progress of the project.
  • Make changes to the project plan as needed.
  • Ensuring that the project is completed on time and within budget.
  • Reporting to the program manager.

Differences Between Program Managers and Project Managers

  • Program managers are responsible for managing a program consisting of multiple similar projects. In contrast, project managers are responsible for managing individual projects.
  • Program managers have a more strategic focus, while project managers have a more tactical focus. Program managers have a big-picture focus, while project managers focus on the details.
  • Program managers are responsible for developing the program plan and coordinating resources among different projects. Project managers are responsible for planning, executing, and monitoring the project.
  • Program managers manage projects and resources among projects. Project managers manage projects and influence factors causing changes.
  • Program managers are often in managerial roles, while project managers are in technical roles and work under program managers.
  • Program managers have more authority than project managers.
  • Program managers work with projects for a longer timeline, while project managers typically work with shorter ones.

Examples of Job Positions for Project Manager Vs Program Manager

Project Manager Positions

Examples of project management positions and their responsibilities are below.

Project Manager for Software Development

Project managers for software and web development coordinate and manage software and web development projects.

Here are some of their responsibilities:

  1. Defining software characteristics with developers and clients.
  2. Budgeting and allocating funds for software development initiatives.
  3. Handling software testing, troubleshooting, and evaluation throughout the development phase.
Technical Project Managers

These project managers oversee the implementation of IT or technology projects.

Their responsibilities include the following:

  1. Come up with solutions to technical challenges and assess hazards.
  2. Managing the purchase of project materials and negotiating rates with suppliers.
  3. Leveraging their technical skills to create project plans that align with the company’s objectives.

Program Manager Positions

Examples of program management positions and their responsibilities are below.

(Video) The difference between Product, Program and Project Management

Manager of Human Resources

A human resource (HR) program manager’s responsibilities include:

  1. Creating job classification specifications.
  2. HR training program design.
  3. Analyzing HR trends to create and adjust program objectives.
  4. Creating and modifying human resources policies and procedures.
IT Program Manager

The information technology (IT) program manager job entails collaborating across departments to resolve IT difficulties.

The following are some of their responsibilities:

  1. Guiding IT management policies and practices.
  2. Examining IT operations to evaluate the needs of the information system.
  3. Advising top management on strategies for integrating applications within the organization.

Skills for Program Manager Vs Project Manager

The skills required for a program or project management career are almost similar. Below are the key skills needed for the program manager and project manager roles.

Skills for Program Manager

  1. Strategic Thinking:A program manager sees the big picture and understands how the various parts of the program fit together. They need to think ahead and develop plans to achieve the desired results.
  2. Strong Communication Skills:A program manager needs to communicate effectively with all stakeholders, including executives, project managers, and top management. They need to articulate complex ideas clearly and concisely.
  3. Organizational Skills:A program manager manages multiple projects and tasks. They need to have excellent time management skills and stay controlled under pressure.
  4. Resource Management:A program manager needs to manage resources and time effectively.
  5. Analytical Skills:A program manager needs to analyze data and make informed decisions. They need to understand the implications of their decisions and how they will impact the program.

Skills for Project Manager

  1. Technical Expertise:A project manager must understand the technical aspects of the project. They must troubleshoot problems and make decisions to keep the project on track.
  2. Leadership:The project manager must motivate and inspire team members to perform well. They need to build consensus and make tough decisions.
  3. Change Management:A project manager must influence the factors causing changes in the project.
  4. Communication Skills:A project manager needs to communicate effectively with allstakeholders, including executives, management, and suppliers. They should keep everyone up-to-date on the latest developments.
  5. Project Management Skills:A project manager must understand project management principles. They must plan, execute, and monitor projects.

Certifications for Program Manager and Project Manager

There are a few different certifications that program and project managers can pursue, depending on their interests and goals.

Certifications for Program Manager

  • Program Management Professional (PgMP)
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

Certifications for Project Manager

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB)

The details of the above certifications are as follows:

(Video) PROJECT VS PROGRAM Managers // Roles, Differences, Salary, Certifications, PMP, PgMP -Which is best?

  1. CAPM:Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is for individuals who want to work in project management as an entry-level position. The Project Management Institute (PMI), USA, issues this certification.
  2. PMP:The Project Management Professional (PMP) is the most widely held project management qualification worldwide. The Project Management Institute oversees administering the PMP.
  3. PgMP:The Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification is for program management professionals. This advanced certification demonstrates mastery of the skills needed for a successful career in program management. The PMI issues this certification.
  4. Scrum Master Certificates:The most common scrum master certifications are Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Professional Scrum Master (PSM I).
  5. Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB):The LSSGB is a certification for project managers who want to apply Lean and Six Sigma techniques to their projects.
  6. Google Project Management Professional Certificate:This six-month (or shorter) certificate program accessible on Coursera helps individuals prepare for entry-level project management roles.


Program manager and project manager roles have many similarities, but the key distinctions are their focus and responsibilities. For example, a program manager has a broader view of an organization’s goals and objectives. In contrast, a project manager focuses on delivering specific projects that support those goals.

Project managers are responsible for ensuring that individual projects meet specific deadlines and requirements, whereas program managers are responsible for meeting the collective goals of all projects under a program.

This is where this post on program manager vs project manager ends.


Is a program manager more senior than a project manager? ›

Project manager and program manager are both high-level positions that offer personal and financial rewards. However, a program manager is typically a more senior role than a project manager.

Can a program manager be a project manager? ›

Program managers should be strong leaders who can focus on strategy. They should have experience with budget planning, program strategy and communication across departments. In some cases, program managers start their careers as project managers. Additional job training programs are available to enhance their skills.

How is a program manager different from a project manager? ›

Program managers supervise groups of projects; project managers oversee individual projects. Program managers focus on long-term business objectives; project managers have short-term, concrete deliverables. Program managers are strategic; project managers are tactical.

Is PMO lead higher than project manager? ›

Not every project needs a PMO, but it will need a Project Manager. Therefore, it's important to understand what your organisation needs. The PMO is a branch of project management and works under the project manager but is still considered a senior role.

Should I be a program manager or project manager? ›

Project managers have a narrow focus, ensuring the delivery of limited deliverables. Program managers, on the other hand, also serve as architects who envision and oversee the larger production of several projects, ensuring that they come together to achieve company growth.

Is a program manager above a project manager? ›

Program managers tend to have more managerial duties than project managers, as they can oversee multiple projects. This can lead to more responsibilities and higher salaries for program managers.

How high up is a program manager? ›

The program manager is typically one of the senior managers in an organization, and the role requires considerable experience in managing complex projects. There's a high demand for skilled program managers, as our search shows.

What level of management is a program manager? ›

A program manager is essentially a senior-level leader. In that capacity, they are responsible for a number of leadership tasks such as: Leading planning meetings. Guiding project managers.

Can program managers get PMP? ›

You can take the PMP exam even if your title is not project manager. To take the exam you need to have the appropriate authority and responsibility rather than the designation: The PMP certification is a credential for those who lead and direct project teams.

What is another title for program manager? ›

What are job titles that related to a Program Manager? Jobs that are very similar to a Program Manager include a Manager Program Management, Program Specialist, Technical Program Manager, Director Program Management and Program Coordinator.

What are the 3 concepts of a program manager? ›

The job of program manager requires a special kind of person.
In particular, the program manager will need the following three qualities to be successful.
  • Leadership. ...
  • Organization. ...
  • Communication.
18 May 2022

Does a program manager have direct reports? ›

Some Project and Program Managers may have line management responsibilities for project management staff but their direct reports may not necessarily work on the same program as they do. agree that program managers seldom have direct reports in the meaning of employee assignment to a manager.

What is next level of project manager? ›

An aspiring project manager might build experience in an industry before stepping into this role, then go on to become a senior project manager, director, or even vice president or other executive.

What title is above a project manager? ›

Senior Level Positions

Program/Project Director: A senior position, a project director manages a project portfolio, and often is the head of the department.

Who earns more project manager or product manager? ›

According to Indeed, the average salary for a product manager in 2022 is $89,861 per year, while the average salary for a project manager is $77,162 per year. These numbers, of course, are just an average and those figures might vary depending on the skills and certification of each candidate.

What position is higher than a project manager? ›

The director of project management is often the highest-ranking employee in a company's project management operation. The director of program management oversees the company's big-picture planning, including all projects executed by the company.

Is project manager the most stressful job? ›

It is confirmed scientifically that project management is the most stressful job out there. The success of the project depends on the stress levels of the manager. If we look at the Yerkes-Dodson curve we can notice the following. Little levels of stress are expected for optimal performance.

How much experience do you need to be a program manager? ›

To be considered for this role, you will need at least a bachelor's qualification and three years of experience in program management.

What is next after program manager? ›

Program Managers who move to another field often do so in such positions as a high-ranking business analyst, the program director who assigns tasks to the Program Managers, or they may head a particular department, such as accounting, marketing or human resources.

What is the average age of a program manager? ›

The average age of an employed program manager is 46 years old.

What is the biggest challenge for a program manager? ›

Program Management Challenges
  • Underestimating program complexity.
  • Lack of firm leadership, commitment and sponsorship.
  • Poor cross-functional communication.
  • Lack of integrated planning.
  • No defined success metrics.
  • Poor requirements management.
  • Lack of broad change management.
  • Misaligned stakeholder expectations.

Are program managers paid well? ›

Yes, program managers get paid well.

Program managers tend to make salaries between $80,000 and $125,000 per year. As with any role, a program manager's salary is dependent on factors such as location, company, experience, and education. Program managers have complex jobs, which is why their salary is often quite high.

Are program managers leaders? ›

Although there is an expectation for project managers to be leaders, project management and leadership are two different things. Being a successful project manager, delivering successful projects consistently, does not mean that one is a successful leader.

Is program manager a good position? ›

Is program management a good career? Program management job satisfaction is high, particularly for those who have strong leadership skills. Many program managers start as project managers where they work on one project at a time and move up to become program managers where they oversee several projects.

Is PgMP harder than PMP? ›

The PgMP certification is the next step after the PMP certification, so the requirements for the certification are a bit more stringent.

Is PgMP worth doing? ›

In a nutshell, it will be quite worth it if you do Program Management or become PgMP certified, even after years of PMP®.

Do you need an MBA to be a program manager? ›

Depending on what industry you prefer and the size of the company you intend to work for, you may need to get an advanced degree such as a master's in management and leadership or a master's in business administration. Having an MBA or other high-level management degree makes you a more desirable candidate.

Is a program manager a supervisor? ›

Program manager at the "A" level are typically first-line supervisors, and are characterized by their total responsibility for a program or management services to an administrative supervisor.

What is the main responsibility for a program manager? ›

The programme manager is responsible for: planning and designing the programme and proactively monitoring its progress, resolving issues and initiating appropriate corrective action. defining the programme's governance arrangements.

What does a program manager do all day? ›

A program manager handles complex projects that span long periods of time and align with larger company goals and also coordinates project teams and budgeting needs. The difference in duties between a program manager and a project manager comes down to who's focusing on the daily tasks vs. overarching project plans.

What are the hard skills of a program manager? ›

8 hard skills a project manager should have
  • Negotiation.
  • Relevant technical skills.
  • Writing.
  • Organization.
  • Prioritization and goal setting.
  • Project planning.
  • Delegating.
  • Budget management.
25 Jan 2021

What are the 4 phases of program management? ›

It provides project managers a structured way to create, execute, and finish a project. This project management process generally includes four phases: initiating, planning, executing, and closing. Some may also include a fifth “monitoring and controlling” phase between the executing and closing stages.

What should a program manager not do? ›

7 Things a Project Manager Should Never Do to Team-Members
  • Ordering around. ...
  • Fixing a deadline before confirming with the team members. ...
  • Imposing ideas on the team members. ...
  • Blaming the team members for failures. ...
  • All blabbering and no listening. ...
  • Wrong coaching methods. ...
  • An interaction that reeks of unavailability. ...
  • Conclusion.
14 Nov 2019

What authority does a program manager have? ›

In Program Management, the Program Manager (PM) is the designated individual with the responsibility for and authority to accomplish program objectives for the development, production, and sustainment to meet the user's operational needs.

Can anyone be 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.

Are project managers going away? ›

The role of project managers in the future

The future of project management is bright. There remains strong demand for people delivering change. I believe much of the mundane stuff of being a project manager will go away eventually, as our tools tap into the advances in technology that are already out there.

What is 90% of a project manager's job? ›

90% of project management is about communicating with the team members, project sponsors, clients, and everyone involved in the project. Throughout the course of any project, they need to stay on top of the project budget as well.

Will project managers be replaced? ›

AI won't eliminate the need for human project managers; it'll take over the boring, annoying work that occupies an average of eight hours every week. That reclaimed time can then be used for higher-value work, whether that be focused on enabling humans or software to better do their jobs.

Can I call myself a project manager? ›

A project manager manages projects. If the person's job is to manage projects, the company can title these persons Project Managers. You don't need a certification to manage a project.

Can project managers be rich? ›

Take note that project managers without PMP certification make an average salary of $91,000 per year while those that are PMP certified receive an average of $111,000 or 20% higher. Meanwhile, senior project managers are the leading dollar earners with salaries ranging from $100,000 to over $150,000.

Why do program managers get paid so much? ›

Usually, it is because Project Managers are more experienced and are managing all the multiple resources including many software engineers.

Can project managers become rich? ›

Yes, you can become rich as a project manager.

While this annual salary is quite high, it depends on a variety of factors. The country in which a project manager is working can impact one's salary. An individual's skills, experience, and specific knowledge of the project's focus also influence salary.

What is the next level after program manager? ›

Project managers might go on to become senior project managers, directors, or even vice presidents and other executives.

What is the next level of program manager? ›

The next role is Principal program manager which gives you the opportunity to look at a complete function and have reported of 5-10 program managers depending on organization size.

Who is the boss of a project manager? ›

Program/Project Director: A senior position, a project director manages a project portfolio, and often is the head of the department. Head of Program/Project: Manages entirety of project organization, a senior, C-level executive.

Is it hard to become program manager? ›

Experience. Program management is a complex profession that requires multiple skill sets, including leadership, management, customer focus, and technical expertise. A very common path to becoming a program manager is to work as a project manager and build up experience working within project management structures.

Is a program manager a stressful job? ›

It is confirmed scientifically that project management is the most stressful job out there. The success of the project depends on the stress levels of the manager. If we look at the Yerkes-Dodson curve we can notice the following. Little levels of stress are expected for optimal performance.

What do program managers get promoted to? ›

Established project managers, with 10 or more years of experience, can move up the corporate ladder to senior management positions or eventually become the chief operating officer (COO) of a company.


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