Do you like to make sure plans are running smoothly? Are you good at keeping people on schedule? Is following a budget one of your favorite things to do? Then you might just be an ideal candidate to pursue a master’s in project management.
Individuals who complete master’s in project management degree programs are well-equipped to lead teams and communicate tasks and goals effectively. Those who obtain a master’s in project management can combine the technical skills they have developed in their field with the more intangible skills of organization, planning, and execution of projects.
According to Monster.com, employers look very favorably upon candidates with a master’s in project management, versus those who don’t have advanced training or certification. Because they manage a project from conception to completion, the additional skills are beneficial to work with various staff and company departments. Additionally, advanced training in project management can better prepare an individual for a variety of jobs within an organization, including work as a consultant, in business development, and even in business operations.
Job Outlook and Salaries for Project Management
The Project Management Institute’s Growth Forecast reported that there will be a 12% rise in demand for project managers, totaling more than six million available jobs by 2020. These staggering numbers are due in large part to global growth, and present a great opportunity for those trying to break into project management or advance their career. Organizations are beginning to rely more heavily on strategic planning carried out by qualified professionals, rather than simply relying on existing staff members to take on the role of project manager.
“They actually have to build a capability so they invest in career paths and invest in projects and program managers, ultimately because they recognize it’s distinct from a capability standpoint and it equates to delivering the strategy long-term,” said Mark Langley, President of the Project Management Institute.
While salaries for project managers typically vary among desired specializations and years of experience, graduates with a degree in project management can expect a positive job outlook and competitive salary. As with many professions, advanced degrees in project management can boost one’s potential median salary.
- Bachelor’s in Project Management: $105,000
- Master’s in Project Management: $113,000
Job Options for Project Management
No matter the specific tasks at hand, the overarching daily objective of a project manager is to ensure all the pieces of the “puzzle” are fitting together seamlessly. If they do this correctly, then by the end of the project, the full picture will be complete.
For most project managers, daily work will fall into three main categories: planning, organizing, and implementing. In the planning phase, the project manager will define the goals and desired outcomes of the project. They will put together a statement of work that outlines benchmarks, timelines, and budgets. In the organization phase, the project manager will build the team, using both internal and external members, depending on the scope and available resources of the project. In implementing mode, the project manager is focused on executing the necessary components of the project and making sure team members are staying on top of deadlines and responsibilities. They will communicate with higher-ups and key stakeholders to make sure the mission of the project and ongoing process is accurately communicated.
While no two projects or days on the job are the same, project managers will often be in the office before the rest of the team to make sure daily tasks are running on time, and will usually leave after the team to review what’s on deck for tomorrow. Managers may find themselves in charge of teams built solely from within their organization, or with a team of external professionals brought in for a specific project. Types of projects are wide-ranging, depending on the industry or field, but can include administrative or technology work, like implementing a new computer system, performing research or a feasibility study, or even overseeing a company relocation, like moving to a new building or space. Although project managers can be found in any organization, common industries for project managers include construction, engineering, architecture, information technology, and telecommunications.
Project managers work in all different types of fields, but many of the skills needed for this type of work are transferable across industries. In general, it’s important for project managers to be organized and able to communicate effectively. It’s also helpful for project managers to be adept at:
- Budgeting/accounting: An effective project manager produces results without overspending, and with a strong understanding of where (and during which phases of the project) money is being spent.
- Conflict resolution: A project will have many moving parts and people to manage them. Every person will consider their part to be the most important. It is critical for a project manager to be able to control and minimize conflict.
- Time management: What if the rollout of the project has been widely publicized? It’s crucial that the work is completed on-schedule, and the project manager is in charge of making sure each piece and team member is hitting their deadlines.
- Technologically savvy: Project management systems and software can be essential in organizing and managing all parts of the project. Project managers should be able to use these systems to keep track of data and collaborate with their team.
- Leadership: A project manager will be leading a team of diverse talents and backgrounds. It’s important for them to be able to balance the needs of their staff, the needs of the project, and the demands of the stakeholders they answer to.
MBAs and Project Management
While there are many similarities and overlap between project management degrees and traditional MBA programs, the two programs also provide expertise in different areas of business. MBAs are a great fit for those with plans to take on a leadership role within an organization, while project management programs prepare students for more specialized roles leading large-scale projects. For MBA students, the focus is heavily applied on how decisions are made within a company, and each of its departments. Those who study project management focus more on decision making, but for the purpose of how to execute results.
There are also many MBA programs that include a project management focus, as much of the content is relevant to each type of specialization. These programs typically include fundamentals of business and leadership, with an increased emphasis on project management particulars including scope, time, and cost.
Advanced training in project management will provide a foundation for time management skills, setting and reaching goals and benchmarks, working with budgets, and leading a team to effective results. An MBA with a specialization prepares graduates for a broad range of skills in business, including communications, finance, and even data analysis.
Top 20 Project Management Schools
Online master’s degree programs in project management provide individuals the opportunity to increase their earning potential and open the door for jobs in a high-growth market. Those wishing to advance their education or career can do so with the flexibility of obtaining a master’s in project management online. Top institutions across the country offer high-quality programs to meet your needs.
The number one online project management degree program, George Washington University’s Master of Science in Project Management was established in 1998. Instructors bring field expertise from astrophysics, engineering, construction, and more. Students in the program become part of the university’s School of Business, and can take advantage of its alumni network and career center. While mostly conducted online, all students must attend an on-campus orientation at the beginning of the program, and then come back for a week-long stay while completing their capstone project at the end of the program.
Campus Location: Washington, DC
The Master of Professional Studies in Project Management at Georgetown is geared toward students with prior professional or educational experience, requiring at least a bachelor’s degree and two or more years of experience to apply. It combines coursework and real-life applications in the 30-credit-hour degree, and prepares students to be experts in managing a team, operating within a defined business structure, and analyzing projects to find areas of inefficiencies.
Campus Location: Washington, DC
Students can complete the Online Master of Science in Project Management in 18-24 months. The program focuses on the full project management cycle: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Internationally recognized project management practitioners teach the courses, offering expertise in project governance, agile project management, and earned value analysis.
Campus Location: Boston, MA
Brandeis’ MS in project and program management combines the study of management, leadership, and technology. Instructors in the program are experienced practitioners of project management who come from diverse industries and backgrounds. Coursework includes management of virtual and global teams, the human side of project leadership, and social media and collaboration technology in organizations.
Campus Location: Waltham, MA
The MS in project leadership and management at Regis University is an accelerated program encompassing 30 credit-hours, with each class lasting just eight weeks. Students work on learning how to communicate with stakeholders, the basics of risk management, and the important role ethics play in this line of work.
Campus Location: Denver, Colorado
Drexel’s MS in project management is specifically tailored to mid-career professionals. In this program, students complete courses such as international project management, managing multiple projects, and project teamwork. The full program is broken down into four ten-week quarters per year.
Campus Location: Philadelphia, PA
Liberty University’s Master of Science in Marketing– Project Management combines both theory and practice of project management for students. The program incorporates the added focus of leading a creative team, and appeals to students who want to increase their time management, critical thinking, and organizational skills. All courses are taught from a biblical perspective and therefore encompass how to incorporate faith into all aspects of the work.
Campus Location: Lynchburg, VA
The master’s of science in IT project management brings an added specialization to traditional coursework by focusing on information technology. Among the top online programs in project management, it is the only one with such a focus. Courses include IT policy, laws and ethics, IT economics, and portfolio management. Graduates of the program are prepared with essential project management skills, such as budgeting time, scope, and risk management. The enhanced focus on IT has garnered attention from professionals and potential employers in the fields of systems analysis, software engineers, and automation managers.
Campus Location: West Lafayette, IN
The 36-hour master’s in project management teaches students how to plan and manage complex projects, employ project management best practices, lead diverse groups, and address cross-cultural and social challenges. Students are able to choose between a final paper or project simulation to close the program, and may go on to work in a variety of occupations, including operations manager, risk manager, and information security analyst.
Campus Location: Winona, MN
Penn State Online offers a master of project management degree with 30 credit-hours that can be completed in as little as two years. The master’s program also contains the four classes necessary to earn a graduate certificate in project management, allowing students to earn credentials to enhance their resume before they even complete the full master’s degree.
Campus Location: State College, PA
The master of science in project management program at UW-Platteville enables students to achieve success at the highest levels of management by preparing them to lead complex projects, cultivate relationships between project teams and customers, and manage the “triple constraint” of time, budget, and scope of project. The project management program is globally accredited by PMI and the curriculum is aligned with the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).
Campus Location: Platteville, WI
The master’s in project management program covers both the fundamentals and advanced skills needed for project management, including statistics, cost, and economic analysis. Students can select from a variety of concentrations, such as operations research, information systems, or a specialization designed by the student themselves.
Campus Location: Melbourne, FL
The MS in operations and project management online degree from SNHU gives students access to renowned guest-lecturers and visits to high-profile companies, helping the program live up to the school’s motto: “the greatest and the best.” The program focuses on analysis, design, implementation, and management of operations and projects for work in manufacturing and service industries.
Campus Location: Hooksett, NH
The Master of Science in Project Management at Sam Houston is a 36-credit-hour program available for students who are hoping to advance their expertise in managing projects in rapidly-changing environments and businesses. Sam Houston awards $1,000 scholarships for first-time, completely online students, and offers around-the-clock support for participants.
Campus Location: Huntsville, TX
Embry-Riddle has more than 130 locations worldwide, and its Master of Science in Project Management can be completed at one of its many locations, or online. The program prepares students for project management in fields such as technology and renewable energy, in industries with growing needs such as aerospace and defense. The program also promotes continued personal development for students while they are enrolled, encouraging attendance at seminars and networking events and participation in professional organizations.
Campus Location: 130 locations worldwide
The Master of Science in Project Management at Missouri State will take students through coursework and training in technical, healthcare, business, and finance concentrations. The program is available entirely online and includes classes like product design & development, cost analysis for project management, and management of innovation and technology.
Campus Location: Springfield, MO
The Master of Science in Project Management at the City University of Seattle is the only of its kind in the Northwest that is accredited by the Project Management Institute and available solely online. Courses in the 45-credit-hour program include a focus on how to lead global teams, align the goals of the company and the project, and problem-solve.
Campus Location: Seattle, WA
NEC’s Master of Science in Management – Project Management teaches online students the “art and science” of project management, providing advanced learning in project workflow, risk, and manpower. NEC offers increased flexibility by providing rolling admissions; students can begin coursework every seven weeks and there are no residency requirements for the 100% online program.
Campus Location: Henniker, NH
The Bellevue master’s in project management program helps students combine the technical with the personal, preparing them with skills in data collection, research, scheduling, and budgeting. The 36-hour program is modeled after the Project Management Institute’s standards for project management professionals. With a main campus in Bellevue, Nebraska, the university consistently ranks highly among national institutions for its accommodations for military students; helping active-duty and veteran military personnel obtain their degree has been a main tenant of the institution since its founding in 1966.
Campus Location: Bellevue, NE
Students enrolled in the online master’s degree in project management are taught best practices of project management while integrating fundamental business skills with leadership training. The program focuses on advanced management skills, including managerial accounting, financial metrics, and contract negotiation.
All CSU-Global instructors have advanced degrees and have been trained in online teaching methods, further allowing students to apply what they have learned to real-life situations. Students can specialize in finance, human resources management, or information technology, among other options.
Campus Location: Fort Collins, CO
To determine the best online master’s degrees in project management, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top 20 master’s degrees in project management. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.