Difference between Project Managers and Program Managers

Difference between Project Managers and Program Managers

The difference between project managers and program managers lies in their tasks and responsibilities. The roles of project and program managers are commonly confused, as they are frequently referenced interchangeably without a clear distinction between them.

The two positions have some similarities. However, they also differ in terms of skills, requirements and responsibilities.

This post examines the difference between project managers and program managers and provides insight into each role’s impact on organizational success.

Difference between Project Managers and Program Managers (Project Managers vs Program Managers)

Who is a Project Manager?

A project manager manages the planning, implementation, and tracking of a given project from beginning to end.

A project manager’s main goal is to ensure the completion of the project in the given timeframe and budget, satisfying all parties involved. They are responsible for creating and managing project timelines, identifying and addressing risks, budgeting, and meeting all expected deliverables.

The project manager position demands strong leadership, communication, and organizational abilities. They should be able to motivate and manage teams, maintain effective communication with stakeholders, and coordinate to meet every project requirement.

They should be proficient in using project management software and tools, including Gantt charts, risk assessment tools, and project management dashboards.

Who is a Program Manager?

A program manager oversees and coordinates multiple projects to reach a shared goal. The primary responsibility of a program manager is to maintain alignment between the program’s projects and the organization’s strategic goals.

They are responsible for resource management, risk identification and mitigation, and ensuring project completion within budget and on time.

A program manager should have an understanding of the organization’s goals and objectives, as well as the capability to handle multiple tasks concurrently.

They need to determine dependencies and possible conflicts between projects, assign resources in order of priority and guarantee that all projects are congruent with the organization’s overall plan.

They should be able to communicate clearly with different stakeholders within the organization and possess good leadership qualities for leading project teams.

Project Managers vs Program Managers

Project managers and program managers share certain duties, but there are distinctions between their roles.

  • Scope of Responsibility: Project managers oversee a single project, while program managers coordinate and manage multiple projects.
  • Strategic Alignment: Project managers are responsible for achieving the specific requirements of their projects. In contrast, program managers ensure that each project within the program is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals.
  • Leadership and Management: Project managers oversee and direct their project teams, while program managers must be proficient in overseeing multiple project teams.
  • Risk Management: Project managers must assess and take steps to reduce potential risks associated with their project, while program managers are tasked with evaluating and managing risks across multiple projects.
  • Budget Management: Project managers are responsible for the financial management of their projects, and program managers are responsible for the overall financial management of the program.

Difference between Project Managers and Program Managers

Below is a table outlining some key difference between project managers and program managers:

Project ManagersProgram Managers
ScopeSingle projectMultiple projects working towards a common goal
Strategic AlignmentFocused on meeting specific project requirementsEnsuring all projects are aligned with organization’s overall strategy
Leadership and ManagementManaging project teamCoordinating and managing multiple project teams
Risk ManagementIdentifying and mitigating risks within projectIdentifying and managing risks across multiple projects
Budget ManagementManaging budget of individual projectManaging overall budget of program
TimeframeShort-term focusLong-term focus
AccountabilityResponsible for delivering specific project outcomesResponsible for delivering strategic outcomes
DeliverablesFocused on delivering specific deliverablesFocused on delivering a set of business objectives
ReportingReports to program manager or senior managementReports to senior management
SkillsStrong project management skillsStrong leadership and coordination skills
Difference between Project Managers and Program Managers (Project Managers vs Program Managers)

This table summarises some key difference between project managers and program managers, highlighting the responsibilities and skill sets required for each role.

It is important to note that each role’s responsibilities and requirements may vary depending on the organization and the projects or programs being managed.

Are program managers paid better than project managers?

Program managers may receive a higher salary due to their responsibilities, which include overseeing multiple projects, coordinating teams, overseeing budgets and risks, and ensuring that all projects align with the organization’s strategy. Compared to a project manager, this role requires a greater range of skills and increased strategic thinking, which is likely to be associated with a higher salary.

It’s important to note that salaries for project managers and program managers can vary depending on a variety of factors such as location, industry, years of experience, and education.

However, below is a general comparison of average salaries for project managers and program managers in the USA, UK, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, and Canada:

Salary comparison between Project Managers vs Program Managers

CountryJob TitleAverage Salary (USD)
USAProject Manager$84,141
Program Manager$119,376
UKProject Manager£43,000 ($60,277)
Program Manager£68,500 ($95,969)
AustraliaProject ManagerAU$103,011 ($79,305)
Program ManagerAU$149,857 ($115,309)
GermanyProject Manager€58,929 ($70,047)
Program Manager€87,889 ($104,352)
New ZealandProject ManagerNZ$99,109 ($70,721)
Program ManagerNZ$148,940 ($106,630)
CanadaProject ManagerCAD$98,000 ($77,130)
Program ManagerCAD$133,000 ($109,085)
Global salary comparison between Project Managers vs Program Managers in USA, UK, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, and Canada

Again, it’s important to remember that these are general averages and can vary depending on various factors.

Additionally, salaries in other countries may vary significantly from those listed here. Nonetheless, this table compares average salaries for project and program managers across some countries.


Project and program managers have key roles in enabling organizational success. The two roles share some commonalities but also involve distinct skills and responsibilities.

The role of a project manager is to manage a project from start to finish, staying within the budget and timeline and delivering satisfactory results to stakeholders.

Program managers oversee multiple projects to ensure they adhere to the organization’s overall strategy and objectives.

Comprehending the distinctions between project and program managers may aid organizations in proficiently managing projects and programs. Choosing the appropriate individual for each role can help organizations efficiently fulfil projects, programs, and stakeholder requirements by meeting timelines and allotted budgets.

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