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OPM.gov / Policy / Training & Development / Career Development / Differentiating Job Titles for Program and Project Managers
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Differentiating Job Titles for Program and Project Managers

Program and Project Management work has been found to be appropriately classified to numerous occupational series based on the specific work performed. The titling of program and project management positions is dependent upon the classification of the position. The selection of the occupational series determines the titling of the position.

Determining the occupational series for a position is usually apparent by reviewing its assigned duties and responsibilities and then comparing them to the series definitions and general occupational information in the appropriate position classification flysheet or standard. Generally, the primary work of the position, the highest level of work performed, and the paramount knowledge required to successfully perform the work of the position determines the appropriate occupational series.

Users of position classification standards normally have little trouble making the series decision by comparing the characteristics of the position in question to the occupational series definition and occupational information in the standards. However, if the work of a Program or Project Manager position falls into more than one series, the correct series is sometimes difficult to determine. If it is unclear whether a series predominates, consider the following to determine the correct series:

  • Paramount occupational knowledge required.Although a Program or Project Manager positions may include several different kinds of work, most positions have a paramount occupational knowledge requirement in addition to the project management knowledge, skills, and abilities/competencies. The paramount occupational knowledge is the most important subject matter knowledge or subject-related experience required to do the work.
  • Reason for existence.The primary purpose of the Program or Project Manager position, or management’s intent in establishing the Program or Project Manager position, is a positive indicator in determining the appropriate series.
  • Organizational mission and/or function. Program and Project Manager positions generally align with the mission and function of the organization to which they are assigned. The organization’s function often is mirrored in the organizational title and may influence the choice of appropriate series.
  • Recruitment source. Supervisors and managers can help by identifying the occupational series that provides the best qualified applicants to do the program or project management work. This aspect correlates with the paramount knowledge required by the program or project management position.

Titling Program and Project Management Positions

Any position may have an organizational title or functional title, but every position must have an official title. 5 U.S.C. 5105 (a)(2) requires OPM to establish the official class titles. This title must be used on all official personnel documentation. However, subsection 5 U.S.C. 5105(c) states that this requirement does not prevent the use of organizational or other titles for internal administration. Agencies may supplement the basic and prescribed titles authorized in standards with the parenthetical title (Project Manager) if necessary for recruitment or other human resources needs. In those instances where OPM has not prescribed an official title for a series, an agency may construct its own official title. According to the Introduction to Position Classification Standards , constructed titles should be “short,” “meaningful,” and “generally descriptive of the work performed.” The title selected by the agency should not be one that has been prescribed by OPM as an official title for positions in another series.

Program and Project Management Definitions

Project management work involves the coordinated application of general and specialized knowledge, skills, expertise, and practices to a temporary endeavor with a defined scope, cost and completion date. A project may be part of a larger program or portfolio. A project serves to develop, modify, or enhance a product, service, or system and is constrained by the relationships among scope, resources, and time. It is important to distinguish a project from a program. Program Management work has been found to correlate with the GS-13 grade level definition found in 5 USC 5104. Positions below this grade threshold would normally be considered developmental in nature and/or not meet the full definition of Program Management. Programs normally provide products and/or services to the public. A program entails the mission, functions, operations, projects, activities, laws, rules, and regulations which an agency is authorized and funded by statute to administer and enforce. In contrast a project has a defined beginning and end, a program is an ongoing operation.

Program Management, 0340 Occupational Title

The basic title for positions in this occupation is Program Manager.

Do not use titles authorized for other occupations to construct titles for this series (e.g., IT Program Manager, 2210).

Positions in which specialized subject matter or functional competence is a necessary qualification requirement are classifiable to whichever specialized or general series is most appropriate. Agencies must follow the specific titling guidelines found in the applicable classification standard.

Project Management Occupational Title

Agencies may supplement the basic and prescribed titles authorized in classification standards with the parenthetical title (Project Manager) if the position meets the definition and criteria for project management work.

Additional information concerning titling Program and Project Management work may be found in the Position Classification Flysheet for the Program Management Series, 0340 and the Interpretive Guidance for Project Management Positions. Guidance for titling IT Program and IT Project Management positions may be found in the Job Family Standard for Administrative Work in Information Technology Group, 2200 and the Interpretive Guidance for IT Program Management Positions .

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