Difference between Project Manager and Program Manager:

While there are similarities between managers of projects and programs, there are also stark differences between both roles. It helps if you look at the differences between projects and programs which require similar management styles, but have different overall objectives. Thus, the program manager vs project manager dynamic is in place.

Understanding Project and Program:

A project is a singular effect that is focused on a concept or product while a program consists of several projects that fall under the same department. This means that running a program is far more complicated than overseeing a single project which means that different skill sets and objectives apply when it comes to managing the overall effort.

To put it another way, a project is a temporary effort that has a singular goal while a program is several projects grouped together because of their general similarities. For example, a marketing campaign may be considered a program that promotes several different projects that include traditional media, promotions, social media, public relations, and more. It may be related to several project management industries.

Program Manager:

This is the leader of a department or section that oversees several projects that fall along the same general lines. So, someone who is head of marketing for a company would be a program manager running the different projects that fall under the advertising campaigns. Their job would be to define and initial the projects necessary to reach a specific goal for an overall program. They choose the leaders of each project, focus on the overall strategy, and make sure that the projects are completed by the deadline.

Project Manager:

A project manager runs the individual project under the program manager. They help set up, initiate, budget the time and resources needed to complete the project on time. They also delegate tasks within the project to different people. If a program manager is a General, then the project manager is a Captain or Major leading a smaller force within the larger organization.

program manager

Program Manager vs Project Manager – 7 Major Differences:

Although there are basic similarities in terms of overall leadership and organizational style in the 7 major roles, there are also considerable differences.

1. Scope:

Managers of programs have far more employees under their watch.

2. Size:

Those who manage programs carry far larger responsibilities compared to projects.

program manager vs project manager

3. Budget:

Managers of projects have smaller budgets for their work.

4. Placement:

Managers of programs are more advanced in the organization.

5. Flexibility:

Programs often change considerably over time, projects when completed will end.

6. Time:

Projects will end, programs never end.

7. Contact:

Managers of projects work directly with their staff, those who run programs work more indirectly.


The basic concepts apply to both project and program management styles. The differences are mostly based on scope since projects are smaller, single-focused work while programs are larger, ongoing efforts. Considering program manager vs project manager, the differences are subtle but profound in terms of the overall size, scope, and responsibilities required for the positions. Professionals study the online project management courses and masters in project management programs to develop skills and expertise in program and project management. These programs are offered online by AIMS’ project management academy. Many who rise to the level of program management started their careers in charge of smaller projects, so it is no surprise that many use some of the same techniques in their approach.

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