Project vs Program Managers:

A Quickstart Guide for Tech Project Managers

If you are looking for a role as a project manager, you may come across openings for program managers and wonder if you have the experience to apply to these jobs.  What is the difference between project and program management? Let's take a quick look. 

Program managers are responsible for the management of large software development projects or programs.  Generally, they lead one key product line for a company and may manage multiple projects that are related to that product.  They carry out some project management duties but their focus is on strategy and leadership.

Project managers, on the other hand, are responsible for planning and managing specific projects in order to meet a goal or complete milestones. They make sure all team members know their responsibilities and track progress to meet deadlines.

The main difference between project and program management is in the scope of responsibility.  A program manager looks at the big picture while a project manager takes care of smaller details.

Of course the exact differences will vary greatly depending on the company.  In some companies, program managers work more tactically and hands on to execute projects, and in other companies, the program manager relies on a team of project managers to execute the day to day, while she focuses on big-picture items. 

So to answer the question, as someone with project management experience, should you apply to program management roles?  The answer is yes. Go for it.  Program management roles tend to be a bit more senior, and as a result will pay more, and are a little harder to land a role in, compared to their more junior counterpart, the project manager.  However interviewing and applying to program manager positions is a great way to gain experience if you eventually would like to jump into a program management role.