Several studies use importance as criterium for identifying competences for project managers. This kind of research overrates generally important competences like communication, using computers and solving problems. Furthermore most of the previous research usually omits to validate the researched list of competences, favoring easily suggested competences but risking missing critical competences.

The research reported defines critical competences as the competences a project manager needs to be better than project team members, e.g. political astuteness. Using a validated list of competences, based on management research and compared to previous competence research, this research reports on 10 focus groups with experienced project managers and a small comparison study on needed competences for junior project managers.

The effects of context on experienced project manager competences is great: even between comparable groups there are extreme differences. On the other hand differences between the aggregated results and the preferences for junior project managers are relatively small.

The implications for education are divers. The context dependency of competencies introduces several challenges in designing education. The similarity between junior and experienced competency profiles suggests that all critical competences should be developed before starting a career as project manager, dismissing life-long learning.

Ideas to provide solutions to these implications can be found in focusing on process competences, like defined in ISO 21500. This is confirmed by a small study and should be validated in a larger study.

Instead of presenting this paper as an academic paper, a more interactive form with discussion and input of participants is welcomed.