Programme manager

Programme managers lead on multiple projects at once with the aim of ensuring consistency and quality across projects. Their typical work can include:

  • managing project teams or a programme team
  • project planning
  • risk analysis and assessments
  • ensuring timely delivery of projects
  • preparing reports and project updates for stakeholders

Starting your career

Subject choices

At school, there are lots of things to think about when choosing subjects. If you’re thinking about a career as a programme manager, useful subjects include:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Administration and IT
  • Business Management
  • Computing Science
  • Engineering Science

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.


Foundation Apprenticeships

A relevant Foundation Apprenticeship could give you with the skills and work experience to start your journey towards becoming a programme manager.

Find out about Foundation Apprenticeships in:

Modern Apprenticeships

Start or continue developing your knowledge and experience for a role in programme management by taking a Modern Apprenticeship.

Modern Apprenticeships relevant for this role include:

Graduate Apprenticeships

Graduate Apprenticeships can help you learn the technical, practical and job-specific skills you’ll need for a programme manager role. A Graduate Apprenticeship is work-based, but you’ll also attend college or university to get your degree.

Find out more about these Graduate Apprenticeships:

College and university

If you want to go to college or university, you can do an HND or a degree before starting your career as a project manager. Make sure you choose a subject related to the area you’d like to work in.

Many Scottish colleges and universities deliver courses in these areas:

  • Business Information Systems
  • Business Management
  • Computing
  • Construction Management
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Management and Leadership

You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). The programme supports adult learners who would like to do a degree.  

Some universities also provide access courses to help you get the entry qualifications you need for a degree programme. 

Search for college or university courses on My World of Work.

Other career pathways

Some programme managers start their careers in roles such as:

You might then move to a healthcare service manager role, before taking up the role of programme manager.

Professional qualifications that will help you become a programme manager include:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation at practitioner level
  • Agile Project Manager Foundation at practitioner level

The role

Programme managers can work in almost all areas of the NHS. You could be leading and organising multiple projects in areas like:

  • capital investment
  • business operations
  • workforce planning
  • public health
  • digital transformation

What you’ll do

As an NHSScotland programme manager, your tasks could include:

  • appraising project proposals
  • providing external stakeholders with project reviews and guidance
  • working across multiple Health Boards, liaising with local management and clinicians to set up, develop and manage programmes
  • influencing policy implementation and service delivery
  • developing and managing the plans, risks and resources associated with projects
  • managing your programme team
  • making sure that there is appropriate stakeholder engagement, which could include the public
  • working to make sure programmes meet all relevant internal and external policies and procedures
  • monitoring and dealing with quality issues that may arise
  • supporting senior colleagues with planning and managing national service reviews, establishing new services and facilitating changes to existing services

Top skills

Useful skills for programme managers include:

  • communication
  • multi-tasking
  • leadership
  • influencing
  • organisation
  • time management
  • teamwork
  • accuracy

You might also be expected to have knowledge and experience of:

  • Microsoft office, especially Excel, Word and PowerPoint
  • Google G-Suite applications
  • data collection and processing
  • NHS funding systems and their application

If your role includes national managed clinical networks for children and young people, you will also need enhanced disclosure with the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Who you’ll work with

In your role as programme manager, you could be working with colleagues in roles such as:

  • programme support officer
  • senior programme manager
  • programme associate director
  • project manager
  • project officer
  • healthcare service manager
  • health economist
  • civil engineer
  • finance manager
  • IT manager

You could also be expected to regularly engage with:

  • academic researchers
  • the public
  • clinicians
  • funding bodies

Working environment

As an NHSScotland programme manager, you can work in an office setting or remotely.

Learning and development

With experience in the role of programme manager and additional training run by professional bodies, you could apply for more senior roles, such as:

  • Senior programme manager
  • Programme associate director

Professional bodies

As a programme manager, you can join these professional bodies: