Best Online Master’s Degrees in Project Management: 2016

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Advanced Project Management Programs, Careers & Pay

As business dealings become increasingly complex, companies and governments must make the best use of their resources and personnel. Project managers are tasked with ensuring that operations run smoothly within corporate and public bureaucracies, implementing projects that progress on time and within budget. As more sectors switch to project-based approaches, a master’s degree in project management offers individuals knowledge and skills that are prized in virtually every industry.

Online Master’s in Project Management Timeline

Getting in: The Application Process

Quality programs offering a master’s in project management are often flooded with hopeful candidates, which means acceptance hinges on a standout application. Students should familiarize themselves with the entire process so they may plan accordingly and have sufficient time to complete each step. Most programs will require the following:

  • GRE and/or GMAT scores

    Students bound for grad school usually take the Graduate Record Examination, or for some schools, the Graduate Management Admission Test. The GMAT is geared specifically towards business schools, while the GRE is a general grad school aptitude test. It’s possible to take the exams more than once to improve your numbers if needed.

  • Undergraduate performance

    Moving on to earn a master’s generally requires a student to already hold a bachelor’s degree, often with a minimum GPA. Schools may expect higher grades for foundational courses that the master’s degree builds on, in this case classes in business, management and related subjects. A sample of previous management work, such as application of management skills from a bachelor’s capstone project, may also be requested.

  • Statement or personal essay

    Writing samples not only display communication skills, but also demonstrate a candidate’s passion for the field. For a master’s in project management, schools often require more than one essay, with one addressing why you want to apply to their program, and another asking about your career prospects.

  • Resume

    Most graduate programs in project management require that the applicant have several years of practical experience in the field. The average requirement for some programs can be as many as twelve years of previous experience. A strong resume will reflect a candidate’s ability to advance a career.

  • Letters of recommendation

    Supportive letters from former professors, work colleagues or other experts in the field can be a great way to bolster an application. Letters should speak to candidates’ professionalism, organization skills and ability to effectively manage a diverse team.

  • Interview

    Some colleges will conduct personal interviews of the most promising candidates. Interviews can be done in person or via video chat for those who don’t live near the physical campus.

  • Financial Documents

    Some schools may request financial documents to show how a student will pay for the program. In addition, to apply to financial aid programs—which are available at the federal and state levels, as well as through private sources—students will need ready access to information about their income and assets.

Year 1

During the first year of an online master’s program, students dedicate themselves to learning the fundamentals of project management, including skills and techniques used for cost control, resource allocation, procurement practices, and problem-solving strategies, as well as how those are applied specifically in the corporate and public sectors. Other topics cover the concepts, methodologies and analytical techniques necessary to develop successful leadership and management skills.

Year 2

Students take courses that focus on their chosen concentrations, as well as courses that fulfill other degree requirements, such as a capstone project. A career development course designed to improve employment opportunities may also be part of the second year’s work. In addition to finishing required coursework that will meet their concentration credits, students begin complete their work on final projects.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

In addition to coursework, graduation from an online program in project management requires that students demonstrate they have gained the full complement of skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the field. Most schools expect students to complete one or more of the following:

  • Capstone project

    Closely related to the student’s concentration, this project demonstrates the student’s ability to generate unique ideas and support them with research; students present their ideas and findings during the second year. For master’s in project management students, the capstone demonstrates their ability to apply their classroom learning to practical problems like they would in the workplace.

  • Internship

    This provides real-world experience in a position related to the student’s concentration. An internship might be set up through the college, or students might find one on their own. Internships also offer a potential avenue to employment after graduation.

  • Master’s thesis

    The thesis caps the master’s pursuit with a report or presentation that includes original research and theories on a project management issue. Depending on the school, the thesis may be optional, and instead substituted with a practical internship.

  • Comprehensive exam

    This examination tests the knowledge and project management skills that should have been gained throughout the master’s program. Studying for this exam is intensive and should begin well in advance, typically beginning in the first year of a program.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Project Management

Because there are so many options for obtaining a master’s degree in project management online, it can be overwhelming to sort through all the possibilities. Students can create a more manageable shortlist with this search tool, which allows filtering the options by location, degree level, school type, tuition rates and student population.

Student Population:
School Type:
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Career Paths & Possibilities with a Master’s in Project Management

An online master’s in project management offers additional employment possibilities in both the public and private sectors, especially for those who have already gained on-the-job experience. Below are some of the most popular concentrations in project management, and the jobs they may lead to.

Concentrations
Business Analysis

Teaches students to critically analyze the operational structures of organizations, so that they can be set up to ensure the most effective and efficient use of resources, budget and personnel.

Career:
Structural Business Consultant
Structural Business Consultant

Specializes in offering businesses the tools and ideas needed to restructure their organizations so that each unit can work effectively and efficiently within the whole.

Business Analyst
Business Analyst

Often acting as a bridge between employees and stakeholders, analysts communicate the needs and desires of stakeholders to management, in order to ensure that assets and resources are used effectively.

Supply Chain Manager
Supply Chain Manager

As specialists in logistics, these individuals oversee supply operations by selecting efficient transport routes, creating supply chain models for clients, and analyzing and forecasting material costs. They negotiate with suppliers, vendors and freight forwarders to ensure quality control.

Organizational Communication

Focuses on teaching students how to negotiate, mediate and facilitate solutions; how to analyze group dynamics and deal with interpersonal conflict; how to communicate in times of crisis; and how to bridge cultural boundaries in an ethical and sensitive way.

Career:
Project Coordinator
Project Coordinator

Responsible for creating and delivering projects of all scopes and sizes. They organize, direct and control project activities under the supervision of a project manager or director.

Project Engineer
Project Engineer

The primary technical point of contact for the consumer, these individuals create schedules as well as plan and forecast the use of technical resources.

Business Analyst
Business Analyst

Often acting as a bridge between employees and stakeholders, analysts communicate the needs and desires of stakeholders to management, in order to ensure that assets and resources are used effectively.

Structural Business Consultant
Structural Business Consultant

Specializes in offering businesses the tools and ideas needed to restructure their organizations so that each unit can work effectively and efficiently within the whole.

Leadership

Trains students to effectively offer guidance and knowledge in team and hierarchical structures. Students learn the skills necessary to provide strategic and ethical guidance—often within changing organizational environments—and to adapt such skills according to specific needs.

Career:
Project Leader
Project Leader

Planning, executing and closing projects are the duties of these upper-level project managers; they typically work in leadership capacities to inspire and motivate team members.

Construction Manager
Construction Manager

Also called site managers, these individuals supervise operations on a physical construction site to ensure that tasks are performed safely, on time and on budget, and meet quality standards.

Project Engineer
Project Engineer

The primary technical point of contact for the consumer, these individuals create schedules as well as plan and forecast the use of technical resources.

Structural Business Consultant
Structural Business Consultant

Specializes in offering businesses the tools and ideas needed to restructure their organizations so that each unit can work effectively and efficiently within the whole.

Information Security Management

Students learn to negotiate the digital world using technologies for secure information management; thorough risk analysis; system and network administration; and data warehousing and mining.

Career:
IT Project Manager
IT Project Manager

Works in the information technology sector to manage projects so that they meet client specifications and operate within the required time, budget and personnel constraints. Keeps higher management apprised of progress.

Systems Implementation Manager
Systems Implementation Manager

An IT project professional who focuses on integrating information systems into a business environment, making sure that projects stay on track in terms of purpose, budget, and timeframe. Also serves as a liaison between project workers and upper management.

Project Coordinator
Project Coordinator

Responsible for creating and delivering projects of all scopes and sizes. They organize, direct and control project activities under the supervision of a project manager or director.

Construction Management

Covers delivery methods, project control strategies, and relevant issues in construction law. Students also develop skills for implementing quality control measures, creating a safe and legally compliant work environment, and applying risk management principles.

Career:
Project Engineer
Project Engineer

The primary technical point of contact for the consumer, these individuals create schedules as well as plan and forecast the use of technical resources.

Operations Manager
Operations Manager

Responsible for overseeing the production of goods and providing of services; keeps the organization running smoothly and efficiently while making sure that products meet all standards and specifications.

Construction Manager
Construction Manager

Also called site managers, these individuals supervise operations on a physical construction site to ensure that tasks are performed safely, on time and on budget, and meet quality standards.

Salary Potential with a Master’s Degree

A master’s in project management can lead to more diverse responsibilities and supervisory roles, as well as a commensurate increase in salary. According to the Project Management Institute’s 2015 salary survey, the median salary for project managers with only a bachelor’s degree was $105,000. With a master’s, it was $113,000. The numbers below reflect the outlook and salary for operations managers in particular, many of whom hold project management degrees.

Growth potential 12%
Average Salary $97,270

Additional Resources & Links

To learn more about project management, students and working professionals alike can find information and contacts at the following links:

  • American Management Association (AMA)

    Offers various PMI-certified project management training courses and seminars.

  • ASAPM

    The American chapter of the IPMA advocates for the importance of project management across professions. It promotes high standards within the discipline, and offers member services for educational and career development.

  • International Project Management Association

    IPMA promotes the project management profession by offering certification, education, research and training to its members. Also acts as a networking platform for those exploring new employment opportunities.

  • Project Management Institute

    A not-for-profit professional membership organization for the project, program and portfolio management professions. PMI offers members professional counseling, educational, networking and certification services.

  • Project Management

    A site that serves as an online community for project management professionals, its goal is to help industry professionals succeed by offering expert advice from fellow project managers, as well as peer connections.

Best Online Master’s in Project Management Degrees

A master’s in project management is readily available through distance and online learning, with programs offered by an impressive number of respected colleges and universities. To help narrow the field, aspiring students can identify programs that may be a good fit by reviewing reputable rankings that consider factors germane to the degree.

Check out our rankings of the Best Online Master’s in Project Management Degrees for 2015-2016 — and learn more about our methodology here.

Rank College Score Student-Teacher Ratio Cost Graduation Rate
1 Harvard University 100.00 8:1 $$$$$ 98%
2 Florida Institute of Technology 98.50 9:1 $$$$$ 55%
2 Brandeis University 98.50 10:1 $$$$$ 91%
2 Lehigh University 98.75 10:1 $$$$$ 87%
4 Drexel University 98.00 10:1 $$$$$ 67%
5 La Salle University 97.75 12:1 $$$$$ 66%
6 Granite State College 97.50 12:1 $$$$$ 14%
7 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota 97.00 16:1 $$$$$ 65%
7 George Washington University 97.00 12:1 $$$$$ 79%
7 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide 97.00 12:1 $$$$$ 23%
7 Sam Houston State University 97.00 21:1 $$$$$ 53%
12 University of Michigan-Dearborn 96.75 15:1 $$$$$ 50%
13 University of Wisconsin-Platteville 96.50 21:1 $$$$$ 52%
14 Bellevue University 95.75 32:1 $$$$$ 29%
15 National University 95.50 20:1 $$$$$ 40%
16 New England College 95.00 18:1 $$$$$ 36%