Career Change: 8 Steps from Engineer to Project Manager

Editorial Team

Career Change from Engineer to Project Manager

Being in the same position or profession and doing the same thing every day for decades can be quite boring and frustrating. As humans, we desire new challenges that will expand our minds and improve our line of thinking. A time comes when we have to try something different.

Certain promotions also call for specific skills and knowledge. For example, if you have spent the best part of your career in construction sites as an engineer, being promoted to a managerial position will demand that you pursue a background in management, most probably project management.

Taking a management course in such instances will help you arrange your work to fit different plans and systems. This will also get you ready if you ever decide to change your profession. The transition from an engineer to a project manager does not have to be hard. As an engineer, you must have been involved in different projects, either as a project leader or a team member. You have therefore experienced how projects work.

To help you in your career change, this article looks at some of the steps you can undertake to move from engineering to project management smoothly. We hope that you will get the insight you desire.

1.    Enroll for a PMP Certification Course

The first thing to do before initiating your career change is to pursue a PMP Certification. You can do this way before you make the transition. A PMP course is often needed for all aspiring managers as it convinces the top management that you are indeed familiar with project supervision.

It also gives you a level of managerial education that will come in handy in your work as a project manager. Through this, you will learn formalized project management strategies and techniques needed to execute future projects successfully.

A PMP certification also helps you solidify your project management skills, making you a good manager once you succeed with your career change. If further brings project management closer to you, giving you a formalized view.

Some of the things that you will learn from the PMP course are conducting interviews and getting valuable information, resource planning and assignment in an efficient and cost-effective manner, detailed project planning and lastly, coming up with ways of arriving at optimal solutions.

This course does not last that long, and you will be good to go in six months.

2.      Build Your Emotional Intelligence

You are definitely brilliant, given that being an engineer is no easy task. In fact, it is a career often reserved for those with high Intelligent Quotients. However, if you want a smooth career change into management, you have to focus on another area of intelligence-emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is all about understanding, using and managing your emotions positively in a way that will reduce stress, foster effective communication, reduce conflicts and overcome challenges. It entails emotional regulation aimed towards effective management.

Project management is quite different from project membership. Project managers have a huge load on their backs, which calls for high levels of emotional intelligence. Therefore, you must learn to monitor, manage, and regulate your emotions in a healthy and balanced way.

You will notice that project management heavily relies on your Emotional Intelligence rather than your Intelligence Quotient. EI is normally defined by self-management, self-awareness, social awareness and relationship management. You must therefore focus on these four skills to improve your emotional intelligence. Always strive to practice mindfulness and meditation to learn how to regulate your emotions well.

3.      Work on Your Interpersonal and Dealing Skills

Your work as a project manager is not to sit behind a desk the entire day and write reports. No company wants a dull or inactive project manager. You have to link with the people at the ground level and witness things for yourself instead of waiting for reports from team managers.

How then do you relate to people? By building proper interpersonal skills. These are the skills we normally use to communicate and interact with others and include listening, speaking and questioning skills.

Therefore, in initiating your career change, ensure that you develop your interaction skills with your fellow employees to have an easy time once you are a project manager. This also ensures that you are capable of boosting your relationship with other people.

It would help if you also learned how to build and maintain a relationship with the senior management staff to who you will be reporting. This goes beyond the normal work relationship. What happens when you conduct project workshops and team activations? How will you converse with them? Therefore, work on your interpersonal skills so that once you decide to make a career change, everyone will be certain that you are the best fit for the job.

You also need to polish your dealing skills. Management is not all about backing orders and getting everyone to follow them. You will realize that it entails lots of negotiation. You will mostly be negotiating with people, be it the top management or project teams.

How then do you become a good negotiator? By working on your dealing skills. Keep in mind that dealing is done in both minor negotiations and large contracts. Unlike interpersonal skills, we advise that you identify a proper online course since negotiation may take longer to learn.

Every manager requires top-notch negotiation skills as these convince the top management that you are up to the task and can be trusted to handle things. You definitely want to be on the right side of things.

4.      Determination

You will be shocked to find out that project management is not an easy task, especially if you were running to it to escape the complexity of engineering. It is not an easy refuge where you get to relax and watch people work on projects while giving minimum input.

Project management will test your patience in intensities that you have never expected. What then is the best way of dealing with that? By building your determination. You, therefore, have to learn ways through which you can be focused on your project goals by building up your tolerance.

A project manager must have high levels of determination. You should always keep the bigger picture in mind when working on your projects. Remember, you will be in charge of people and the project variables, which makes losing focus pretty easy. Therefore, take your time and grow a thick skin if you need to come out of project management alive.

5.      Learn to Be a Leader, Not a Boss

There is a big difference between a leader and a boss. A boss barks orders and expects people to follow them, whereas a leader inspires. Therefore, a boss is a mere manager, whereas a leader inspires employees to be innovative, creative and seek perfection.

Even though teams and organizations have bosses, what people need are leaders. As a leader, you will help project team members and all the employees under you to achieve greatness. Even though you are not forced to choose as most organizations just want work done, we advise that you pick leadership over bossiness.

As a project manager, you need to learn how to motivate those who are under your instructions. Therefore, you should aim to lead from the front. Let them see you as an example they can emulate, and you will never have any trouble with your employees.

Also, even though your main priority will be meeting the project goals, your workforce may have different priorities, which should not be ignored or pushed away. Therefore, you need to have the right motivational skills to help you get them aligned to the project goals.

Negotiation skills also play an important part in this. The best way to get people highly invested in your goals is to deal. What will they get in return? Is it a commission on top of what they will be paid? Will they be entitled to a leave? Therefore, aside from motivating them, you still need to sharpen your dealing skills.

You do not need to take a course on leadership. You just need to emulate one of the managers whose styles appeal to you. However, also learn to be unique in your leadership.

6.      Be Willing to Learn and Grow as You Work

You are moving from one career to another that you have little to no experience in. Even though we advised that the first step is to get a PMP certification, it will not teach you everything that you need to know about the job.

The truth is that we get better with time. Apart from what we learn in school, we need on-job training. You will not be taught how well to deal with dissatisfied employees in a certain organization, something that you will have to learn in the course of your interaction with them.

Therefore, when initiating your career change, make sure that you have an open mindset and are willing to learn and grow. Having and maintaining an all-around knowledge of the different departments of your organization can never be sufficient. You have to strive to accommodate opinions that will make your work easier and turn you into an effective project manager.

Also, do not be rigid. Be flexible and willing to learn from your fellow employees and even those in top management. However, be wise and discern what you need to know from what needs to be ignored.

7.      Get Yourself a Mentor

The best way of becoming a good project manager after your career change is to get someone in your current field. If not, get somebody who has the same skills. The easiest way to learn is through the help of someone who has gone through the same experience.

You should approach people with the desired skills to guide you through project management. If possible, approach a manager whose style you love and get to learn a thing or two from him/ her. You will witness what makes such a manager successful and what you should do if faced with certain challenges.

However, we need to mention that the selection of a mentor should be a personal matter. We can only advise you to have one, but your choice of mentor depends on you. All in all, look for a mentor who will inspire and encourage you instead of one who will demoralize and bombards you with narrations of how management is not an easy fete.

Your mentor should show mutual respect, high standards and should have good interpersonal skills. You can also choose to attend meetings led by your mentor to learn some of the on-job skills. Instead of learning everything from scratch, a mentor will hold your hand, ensuring that you get it right as you juggle your new career.

Most managers excel in their roles because they had someone looking out for them during the onset of their careers.

8.      Gain Experience Faster

The world waits for no one. Top management in different firms will not wait for you to adjust because of your career change. Once you decide to move from engineering to project management, everyone expects you to be a polished product.

Therefore, focus more on gaining experience and knowledge. Familiarize yourself with project management tools, which will play an important role in your new career. Learn how to use Gantt Charts and Earned Value Analysis early enough.

Also, strive to gain experience at different stages of project management. Projects are usually broken down into several steps, with each having its own set of challenges. Therefore, if you would like a smooth transition from a technical position to management, understand the importance of all these stages and what they mean to the project.

Take time to be involved in various stages of project management early enough, as these experiences will come in handy in the course of your new career.


Transitioning from engineering to technical project management is not usually a challenging process, given your technical background. However, you must ensure that you have it right by following the steps that we have discussed.