Difference between a Program Manager and a Project Manager

By: | Updated: May-28, 2019
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There are managerial positions that are gaining momentum and are steadily increasing in demand in the corporate world. We’re talking about program managers and project managers. They sound the same and they basically have the same skill sets for managing tasks in any type of field or industry. However, program managers and project managers play different roles and perform different duties. To further understand their differences, continue reading this article as we have identified each position’s primary roles.

Summary Table

Program Manager Project Manager
Supervises groups of projects Oversees individual projects
Goal is to complete long-term business objectives Goal is to achieve short-term, concrete deliverables
Strategic in nature Tactical in nature
The focus is on a macro view The focus is on a micro view


Tasks of a program manager

A program manager is someone who supervises groups of projects with long-term business objectives and goals. The program manager communicates a program’s strategy and evaluates how it will impact the business. The tools used by a program manager focus on a macro view and his or her role goes beyond the completion of projects to the long-term effects of the entire program.

Tasks of a project manager

A project manager is someone who oversees individual projects with short-term goals and concrete deliverables. The responsibilities of a project manager are tactical in nature, and he or she coordinates budget, time, and resources to accomplish tasks within the program guidelines. The tools that the project manager uses focus on the micro view, primarily on the execution and management of functional elements such as accomplishing timelines, staying on budget, assigning tasks, and delivering results.

Program Manager vs Project Manager

The main differences between a program manager and a project manager is that a program manager handles a collection of projects and focuses on the bigger picture and long-term goals, whereas the project manager is assigned to specific projects or tasks that are accomplished in short phases.

The program manager is similar to an architect, who sketches the main blueprint while the project manager is similar to a structural engineer or an electrical engineer, assigned to specific tasks and output. Duties of a program manager include overseeing cooperation and partnership of project teams and evaluating success metrics. Duties of a project manager, on the other hand, include supervising the operations of individual projects within the programs and reporting the progress as well as any changes in the process to the program manager.

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