Definition of Program Manager

A program manager oversees the management of a specific program, generally in the credit card or information technology business. In the credit card or corporate card area, a program manager oversees the issuance and cancelation of cards, liaises with various departments, and monitors and reports on key performance metrics. In information technology, a program manager oversees groups of related projects that are managed by individual project managers.

Breaking Down Program Manager

The program manager role is a leadership one that requires a combination of skills. The card program manager's diverse job functions include identification of business opportunities, vendor negotiations, risk mitigation to minimize credit losses, and compliance. It also involves establishing policies and procedures, and cardholder support services.

In the information technology realm, there are some key distinctions between program management and project management. While a project manager's performance is based on time, cost, and scope of a project, a program manager is judged on a cumulative basis for all the projects within their program. This requires the program manager to consider other factors apart from the near-term project deliverables that are the focus of the project manager, such as the long-term effectiveness of the program, its impact on corporate targets, etc.

Project Management Institute, a not-for-profit professional membership association for project and program management, offers a number of recognized certifications in these areas. The Project Management Professional (PMP) credential is a globally recognized credential that demonstrates a program manager's competency to oversee multiple, related projects and allocate resources to achieve strategic business goals.

To be eligible for the PMP certification, one needs a four-year degree, 36 months of experience leading projects and 35 hours of training; or one needs a high school diploma or two-year degree, 60 months of experience leading projects and 35 hours of training.