I want a career as a manager – what are my options?

Montage of management-related images
You can have a management career in any industry. Think about what field most appeals before exploring how to become a manager in that area.

Management jobs can involve managing people, projects, money or all three. Some managers spend all of their time managing; many others combine this with work of their own.

You could be a manager in the private sector (that is, for a business that exists to make a profit), in the public sector or for a charity or ‘not-for-profit’ organisation. So you could work in science, education, the media, finance, central government, local government or any other area you can think of.

There are different levels of management. Managing directors are responsible for a whole business, department managers are in charge of a particular group and line managers oversee one or more staff members.

Not all management jobs involve managing other people. Project managers monitor progress on important projects to make sure they stay on track, but not all of them manage members of staff. Management accountants keep tabs on an organisation’s finances but likewise don’t always manage people.

In some industries you can join an employer programme that will train you to be a manager straight after university, or even after your A levels. In many others you need a few years’ experience before looking for management opportunities.

Skills managers need

Managers take responsibility for the team, project or budget they are managing. They need to:

  • understand what goals need to be met
  • help plan how to achieve these goals
  • check that everyone involved understands what is needed
  • monitor progress
  • take action if problems occur.

Senior managers are involved in deciding strategy – what the organisation should be trying to achieve and why. Junior managers focus more on how to achieve the goals they have been given.

All managers need good organisation, planning, teamwork and communication skills. As you progress, leadership skills, confidence and the ability to make decisions will become increasingly important. Your earlier jobs should help you to develop these.

Becoming a manager in the retail, hospitality and travel industries

If you want to start training to be a manager as soon as you start work, the retail industry and the hospitality and travel industries offer lots of employer programmes on which you can do so. You could train to manage all or part of a:

  • supermarket
  • department store
  • shop
  • hotel
  • fast-food outlet
  • bar
  • tourist attraction.

This type of career may suit you if you are a practical, hands-on type who thrives on getting day-to-day jobs done, meeting targets and keeping customers or colleagues happy, rather than getting too intellectual.

There are programmes aimed at both school leavers and graduates – these involve training in management while you work and earn. You may need some relevant experience to get onto one of these, such as a part-time job in a supermarket.

Becoming a project manager

There are a number of higher apprenticeships and graduate programmes that will train you as a project manager as soon as you leave school or university.

Project managers work in lots of different industries. They make sure that projects stay on time and in budget and that they meet all of their requirements. Some project managers are the person in charge of a whole project, but there are plenty of roles for more junior project managers; they provide support to keep projects on track and can progress on to manage projects and people when they have more experience.

Becoming a management accountant

Similarly, you can start training as a management accountant as soon as you leave school or university – you’ll eventually be responsible for managing an organisation’s finances. There are higher apprenticeships and graduate programmes available with lots of different types of employers, from engineering and technology companies to the NHS. You won’t manage other people straight away, but there should be the opportunity to do so once you have a few years’ experience.

Becoming a manager in law, the media, science, education, business…

To become a manager in most other areas you’ll have to start at the bottom, build up a few years’ experience and then start looking for opportunities to manage.

  • Much of the management in solicitors’ firms is carried out by solicitors at partner level – this is the most senior level and most partners are at least 30. So your first step would be to train as a solicitor.
  • In education, headteachers and assistant headteachers play a key role in the management of schools. They also tend to be at least 30, having worked their way up.
  • Likewise, those working in science, the media, finance, engineering and IT are usually managed by more experienced colleagues.

Many of these areas are good if you want an intellectual or creative challenge, or to be an expert as well as a manager.

Becoming a management consultant

If you’re interested in management issues and are strong intellectually, you could consider a career in management consulting. Management consultants are hired by organisations if they want help or advice to make changes to the way they do business or to put new processes or technologies in place.

There are a number of graduate schemes that will train you as a management consultant, and a handful of schemes for school leavers with A levels. Again, you won’t be a manager yourself for a while but you will deal with management issues on a regular basis.

Other careers to consider

Think about why being a manager appeals to you, as other careers may offer this too.

  • Like the idea of getting involved in business or financial matters? There are lots of roles that offer these opportunities. Start with our advice on careers in business and careers in finance.
  • Keen to wear a suit to work? People in lots of different jobs do, especially in law and finance.
  • Is salary important? Each of our career sectors covers how much you could earn in that industry.
  • Want to be the person taking the important decisions from day one? You could consider starting your own business.
  • Are you a people person? Many jobs in retail, education, hospitality and the public sector offer plenty of contact with others.

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