How to become a commercial project manager in 4 steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The role of a commercial project manager, or commercial PM, is key to the construction field in overseeing the development of industrial properties. These high-level project managers have many responsibilities when monitoring the progress of construction development. Understanding their role, including how to become one, helps determine whether this career is suitable for you. In this article, we define a commercial project manager, offer a four-step guide on how to become a commercial PM and share information about the required skills.

What is a commercial project manager?

A commercial project manager works to manage and coordinate the development of a commercial construction project. Their management and coordination of these projects include delegating tasks to other members of their team, tracking the progress of the development and working towards an overall outlined goal for the construction project.

Commercial PMs complete projects for an extensive range of industries and often work collaboratively with engineers, designers, technicians and installers to move towards completing a project. Commercial PMs work on construction sites, yet many carry out most of their duties in an office environment.

Related: Project manager requirements (with duties and skills)

How to become a commercial PM

Here's how to become a commercial PM in four steps:

1. Complete your qualifying education or work-related equivalency

The first step to becoming a commercial PM is to receive an education that aids in qualifying you for this role. There are three different educational routes for you to consider pursuing to qualify yourself for this role: university study, an apprenticeship or working directly with a construction company. Each of these three educational routes has its conditions and entry requirements to meet, as outlined below:

University

The most popular route to becoming a commercial PM is to pursue a university degree. One of the most popular subjects that those seeking this career path study is a quantity surveying degree, yet other related subjects include building studies, construction engineering, building technology and building engineering. To qualify for the study of one of these undergraduate degrees, two or three A-Levels, or the equivalent, is usually the requirement. Once your undergraduate degree is complete, completing a graduate traineeship as a junior commercial PM is the most common path.

Apprenticeship

If university study doesn't suit you, consider an apprenticeship. You can choose a construction apprenticeship to forge yourself into the industry. Or you can opt for a degree apprenticeship in project management, which traditionally lasts four years, to gain the required education and skills. Completing an apprenticeship typically involves splitting your time between hands-on experience on a construction site and learning key information in college-style establishments. To qualify for an apprenticeship, you need at least four or five GSCEs (A* to C), or an equivalent, to be a suitable candidate for apprenticeship study.

Employment

The third potential route to becoming a project manager is to work directly for a construction company. This route demands that you have many years of professional experience in construction, administration or project support. This route is available for those with years of professional experience in the industry and hoping to change their role. By appealing directly to a company to start work as a commercial PM, educational training is typically necessary to prepare you for the position.

Related: A guide on how to become a construction project manager

2. Gain relevant work experience

The next step to becoming a commercial PM is to gain relevant work experience. Work experience is an excellent opportunity to develop and refine your professional skills in a working environment. Gaining work experience is also extremely valuable for showcasing your commitment to the role and the industry to potential employers. It demonstrates that you've put your skills to use professionally.

Relevant work experience for a commercial PM can include most roles in construction, as you'll gain valuable experience working in a construction environment on the sites. Gain experience shadowing a commercial PM or working in an administrative role on a construction site.

Related: What is a project manager assistant and what do they do?

3. Write a CV

The third step to becoming a commercial PM is to write a CV that appeals to potential employers. Writing an engaging CV is key to standing out against competitive candidates for the role. A CV positively showcases your educational qualifications and your relevant professional experience. You can also list examples of times you have utilised your skills in a professional setting.

One of the simplest ways to write an engaging CV that appeals to employers is to tailor your CV to the employer and the role specifically. Do this by inserting the same keywords throughout your CV that the employer used within the job listing for the role. By using these same keywords, you're directly appealing to what the employer is looking for and showcasing your suitability for the role.

4. Apply for available job roles

The last step to becoming a commercial PM is to apply for vacant roles. When applying for roles, tailor your cover letter in the same style as your CV to ensure consistency and to reinforce the relevant skills and experience that qualify you for the role. If you successfully progress to the interview stages for an available role, prepare some questions to commonly asked questions so that you can answer them clearly and concisely, focusing on key details you want to showcase to employers and highlighting strong communication skills.

Related: Project manager interview questions and answers

What are the responsibilities of a commercial PM?

Here are the primary duties of a commercial PM:

  • Outlining commercial project goals: Commercial PMs outline and determine the key goals of a commercial construction project, meaning drafting the project objectives and outlining various routes to achieving these goals. Whilst outlining the goals, they delegate tasks to the various teams working on the project.

  • Planning a project: Commercial PMs plan the overall project, including brainstorming ideas with different department heads who are contributing to the project and communicating their plans via visual presentations to showcase more clearly what the project hopes to achieve.

  • Monitoring progress: Commercial PMs handle continuously monitoring the general progress of the project, which includes completing progress reports regularly and identifying areas that need prioritising. They track progress to ensure that a client's needs and wants are being met throughout the project.

  • Meeting deadlines: Commercial PMs ensure that the outlined deadlines for the completion of the project, or the completion of areas of the project, are being met. To achieve this, commercial PMs communicate with the various departments working across the project regularly to check in on their progress and ensure that they're on track to meet the deadline.

  • Reallocate various resources: Commercial PMs reallocate resources to the areas across the project that need them. This responsibility contributes to ensuring efficiency and productivity across the project whilst also cutting costs in some areas to support budgeting.

  • Working with administration: Another key responsibility of commercial PMs is coordinating efforts with the accountants, marketing and sales departments on the project. This includes determining financial budgets and projected costs and implementing strategies to reduce the overall cost by considering different methods and materials that meet the project's vision.

Related: Project manager vs resource manager: what's the difference?

What are the skills of a commercial PM?

Here are the recommended skills of a commercial PM:

  • Communication: Verbal and written communication skills are highly beneficial for this role, especially when writing progress reports, filling out important documents, presenting ideas to clients and other departments and liaising with engineers and designers about the requirements of a project.

  • Analytical skills: Analytical skills are valuable for establishing a successful and efficient approach to a construction project whilst helping to find solutions quickly if any issues occur. Analytical skills are valuable for determining the project's overall goals and how to achieve them.

  • Time management: Time management is essential for tracking and monitoring a project's progress and meeting the outlined deadlines for the different stages of the project and the main deadline for the overall project.

  • Leadership: Leadership skills are essential for commercial PMs who oversee commercial projects and represent the client's needs for a project. Leadership skills are valuable for the delegation of tasks and the assignment of duties and resources.

Explore more articles