There is a bunch of standard answers for these questions. Apply for junior role in project management. Attend a course. Help your PM in her job. Get a certificate (this or another). Buy and read a stack of books on project management etc.
I have another answer. Actually the answer isn’t exactly mine. I’ve ruthlessly stolen it from Scott Berkun.
Go, run a project.
“How? I mean I’m yet trying to get project management job, remember?”
Pretty much everything which happens around you is a kind of project. If you invite a group of friend for a dinner it is a project. If that doesn’t sound like a real project think bigger. Maybe you can organize vacations for friends?
“Yeah, and what do I learn from such a simple thing?”
Don’t tell me it’s easy – I’m just finalizing sailing trip for 25 people. And, believe me, friends aren’t the best clients you can find around. It requires the same skills you’ll be using once you get your PM job to organize this kind of trip.
“Maybe that’s a nice idea but I don’t have 25 friends.”
That sucks, man. But you definitely have some non-profit organization which would appreciate some help in their projects. And they do have a lot of them. And they’d love your help they’d get for free (non-profit often means non-paying too).
“But, you know, this whole non-profit stiff isn’t really something I’d like to work on.”
Um, you think once you are a project manager you’ll be able to choose projects you like and reject those you don’t. I have a bad news for you. You won’t. You know life isn’t as nice as they told you.
“OK, but how it helps me to learn project management?”
You basically organize a group of people to do what you want. They come to a meeting point. They go to target place where they’re warmly welcomed by your hosts. People know when they can go watch latest World Cup match and when they should bring you a cold beer in exchange for organizing this great trip. Earlier everyone paid you their share of costs so you could have paid for your shelter.
This isn’t much different from project management in real world. You make people doing what you want. They work on a project tasks of your choice. Everyone knows when they’re free to learn new technology and when they should focus of finishing before deadline. Earlier people agreed on plan of splitting tasks and build a schedule etc.
“What about all the formal stuff? I don’t have to create technical specifications when I organize a trip for friends.”
Oh, really? You don’t? That’s interesting… OK, just joking. All the formal stuff will differ among companies so it isn’t so important anyway. Of course you should know what WBS is and understand how to find critical path, but that’s not a rocket science.
What more usually candidates for project management positions lack practical knowledge – lack of understanding of some technical terms isn’t so common.
So go, find a project and run it. After all there aren’t many things which would match your friends thanking you for a great trip and asking whether you’re organizing it next year too. This single thing is worth the whole effort. The funny thing is it works similarly in projects you run at work.
By the way, I’d use the same method to learn leadership.