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How to Become a Program Coordinator

Do you have excellent leadership skills? Are you self-motivated with the ability to work well under pressure? Then becoming a program coordinator might be the perfect role for you. 

A program coordinator plans, coordinates, and oversees employees for various fiscal, administrative, and operational activities, programs, and projects in an organization. Projects are usually for a specific purpose and may be scientific, research, educational, or service-oriented in scope. Program coordinators are also responsible for maintaining the budget and records relating to a program’s expenses, implementing policies and procedures, organizing the activities, and setting the agenda for the program. 

Sample job description

We’re looking for an experienced program coordinator to join our team, and as an ideal candidate, you have proven experience planning and organizing programs and activities as well as carrying out a variety of administrative and program management tasks. The program coordinator is responsible for providing a level of service that will help maintain pharmaceutical manufacturer relationships. This position will work closely with program managers and existing manufacturer clients to ensure that their programs are designed effectively by handling customer inquiries and providing oversight to program processes.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Plan and coordinate programs and activities
  • Monitor implementation of program policies and practices
  • Keep programs on schedule and budget
  • Support program growth and development
  • Coordinate program communications
  • Manage staff, including assignments, workloads, and schedules
  • Oversee fundraising operations and community outreach for programs 
  • Coordinate activities of all program stakeholders
  • Schedule and run meetings and events
  • Manage technology, such as video conferencing and presentation software, for programs
  • Create and maintain program records, reports, presentations, and proposals

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in business administration or related field
  • 2+ years of experience as a program coordinator or in a similar management role

Required skills and qualifications

  • Ability to make sound decisions and judgments
  • Able to coordinate and organize meetings and special events
  • Intermediate skills in the use of personal computers and related software applications
  • Able to organize resources and establish priorities
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Strong leadership qualities
  • Detail-oriented
  • Working knowledge of finance, accounting, budgeting, and cost control procedures
  • Familiar with communication principles and marketing techniques
  • Ability to gather and analyze statistical data and generate reports

Preferred qualifications

  • Intermediate proficiency in MS Office
  • Experience in a fast-paced environment
  • Master’s degree in business administration or similar field
  • Experience in budgeting, bookkeeping, and reporting
  • Experience in a supervisory role
  • Experience in event planning

Typical work environment

Program coordinators work in a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, higher education, and non-profit organizations. 

Program coordinators working in the healthcare industry typically work in hospitals or rehabilitation facilities where they provide informational and recreational programs, including classes on wellness or disease management. They might also handle holiday activities for long-term patients. 

Program coordinators working for non-profit organizations typically work in residential facilities where they provide on-site activities, such as game nights and live entertainment, or plan and organize day trips and other forms of recreation.

Program coordinators who work in educational facilities generally coordinate extracurricular or educational programs. In a school environment, project coordinators might work closely with teachers and students to develop curriculums for various departments and activities.

Typical hours

Program coordinators typically work a 30 or 40-hour workweek. They might work overtime to meet program deadlines or facilitate an after-hours program.

Available certifications

Many institutions offer specialized certifications to provide program coordinators with a more in-depth understanding of how best to serve certain facilities and sectors of the population. Here are some of the available certifications:

  • Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Coordinator Certificate. This program is designed for program coordinators who manage depository collections in a facility such as a library. The FDLP Coordinator Certificate program features eight online classes that cover the proper methods for managing and cataloging Federal depository collections. Topics covered include legal requirements and regulations, collection management, cataloging, the SuDoc item number system, policies, LSCM services and products, and regional responsibilities.
  • Certified Wellness Program Coordinator (CWPC). The CWPC, offered by the Chapman Institute, helps candidates determine the best ways to assess an individual’s wellness needs, develop wellness strategies, and design onsite programming for wellness activities. The program builds your skills in areas such as how to assess your employees’ wellness needs, how to use a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), how to implement a wellness strategy for your organization, and how to design your organizational infrastructure. With a CWPC, you can go on to earn a Certified Wellness Program Manager credential, which equips you with a broader list of desired skills. You are required to complete 2 modules of continuing education each year to maintain certification.
  • START Coordinator Certification. This certification is for master’s-level professionals who coordinate START (Systemic, Therapeutic, Assessment, Resources, and Treatment) clinical teams. The certification is managed by the Center for START Services and demonstrates your ability to improve the outcomes for individuals with behavioral health care needs. The START Coordinator Certification must be renewed every 2 years.

Career path

To become a program coordinator, you typically need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related field. Some employers are looking for candidates with a master’s degree. However, you can become a program coordinator with an associate’s degree, a high school diploma, or a GED if you have significant work experience. Program coordinator positions usually require 2 or more years of experience in a program coordinator position related to their industry, such as education, non-profit, or healthcare, or in a closely related administrative, managerial, or supervisory role. Many employers provide on-the-job training and offer internships that allow you to gain valuable experience. Program coordinators can advance into other positions such as program manager or program director.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-9151

2020 Employment174,200
Projected Employment in 2030200,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 15% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift26,400 increase

Program coordinators are taking on more responsibilities, including functioning as managers who are more heavily involved in budgeting, departmental operations, and regulatory affairs. They are taking a larger role in the development and implementation of program initiatives, policies, and outcomes. Program coordinators will need to continue to develop the management skills required to expand their roles in an organization and continue to add value to their programs and institutions. They are also taking greater responsibility for facilitating training and administrative tasks.