PhD in Project Management

Who Gets One & What to Expect

Earning an online Ph.D. in project management can allow a professional to access many new professional opportunities and leverage their abilities to oversee project execution, mitigate risks, and ensure project deliverables on time and within budget. Furthermore, this degree strengthens a student's research skills beyond what a master's program offers.

Candidates learn to think critically, collaborate well with others, and lead diverse teams of people. The best Ph.D. in project management online programs hone these attributes, along with organizational skills, making you an attractive recruit to potential employers.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Project Management

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% growth in management occupations from 2018-2028. The following reasons may inspire you to consider entering an online Ph.D. in project management program.

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    Increased Demand

    According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), organizations waste about 12% of their project investments, so they need professionals who can reduce these kinds of costs, even while managing multiple projects.

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    Industry Flexibility

    You may choose project management as a career, but you can enter whatever industry most interests you. Many businesses and industries require skilled project managers to drive organizational efficiency.

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    Lucrative Earnings

    The BLS puts the median annual salary of those in management careers at just over $104,000. Several management professions rank among the agency's top 20 highest-paying occupations.

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    Collegial Collaboration

    Project managers lead teams of professionals to attain expected organizational goals. Collaborating with others allows you to build rewarding relationships as you work together to achieve shared outcomes.

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    Continuous Learning

    Choosing this career allows you to continuously build your skills by remaining current on best practices, whether it's on the job or through additional education.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Project Management?

Earning an accredited online Ph.D. in project management allows you to choose a career in the industry that most interests you. Unlike a doctor of business administration that develops the skills practitioners need to problem-solve workplace challenges, a Ph.D. demonstrates your ability to conduct, analyze, and report research that helps inform the field and build on existing management theories. Moreover, a Ph.D. equips you for a college teaching career.

This credential allows you to hold a senior leadership position in the occupation you select. While the job title depends on the employer and industry, the skills you bring to the workplace can put you in high demand, regardless of the path you pursue.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

An online Ph.D. in project management can give you a competitive edge, thanks to the expertise you acquire in strategizing business solutions, optimizing performance, and problem-solving potential challenges before they arise. The following table showcases job titles that professionals in project management occupations can pursue.

Senior Data Engineer

These senior-level professionals provide counsel to data engineers as they design and develop complex projects. They offer the leadership needed to enhance data solutions for seamless integration into a data ecosystem.

Average Annual Salary: $124,063

Senior Data Analyst

These professionals collect and analyze data to help organizations make informed decisions. The role may mean overseeing teams of junior professionals, providing database maintenance, and drafting thorough reports.

Average Annual Salary: $79,561

Computer and Information Systems Manager

These managers plan, coordinate, and oversee an organization's computer-related activities. They help to attain technology goals by installing leading hardware and software, performing cost-benefit analyses, and directing other IT professionals' work.

Average Annual Salary: $142,530

Senior Project Manager

Senior project managers lead technical and complex projects while overseeing teams. They lead the project direction, define and capture appropriate metrics to monitor progress, and communicate with stakeholders to thoughtfully manage expectations.

Average Annual Salary: $104,496

Construction Manager

Construction managers prepare budgets, cost estimates, and timelines to control project expenses and ensure that final products arrive on time. They work with engineers and architects to fulfill clients' objectives when building various kinds of structures.

Average Annual Salary: $93,370

,em>Sources: BLS, PayScale

Project Management Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

Studies for an accredited online Ph.D. in project management generally require an application and transcripts to verify previous degree completion. Check with your school to determine if admission requires a minimum GPA. Some universities prefer that each applicant possesses a master's degree in a related field. Once enrolled, you must earn approximately 60 credits, which typically takes 3-4 years. Your school may allow you to choose an area in which to specialize, such as IT, to further support skills development and career advancement.

While you can complete much of your coursework online, some universities have on-campus requirements. These opportunities help students to network, engage in hands-on learning, and participate in workshops and symposia. Furthermore, each enrollee must write a dissertation and may be required to sit for a comprehensive exam that assesses all information covered throughout a doctoral program.

Common Courses

The best institutions that offer an online Ph.D. in project management blend business principles and project management know-how to prepare learners for their professional lives. They sharpen research skills and master the tactical application of their textbook knowledge to the benefit of their organizations.

Advanced Project Management Methodologies

Learners explore project management literature to assess the methods that ensure successful outcomes for simple and complex projects. This course can also prepare students to become senior project managers by reviewing the techniques and tools required to initiate and plan projects with regard to cultural diversity and organizational environments.

Projects as Complete Adaptive Systems

Enrollees can evaluate the successes and failures of projects and programs by developing professional leadership competencies. The course explores what it means to execute, monitor, and control projects based on theories found in PMI's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.

Emerging Trends, Theories, and Research for Project Management

Students can assess the communication dynamics and leadership styles between diverse stakeholder groups to yield intended project outcomes. Degree-seekers can explore how to ask appropriate questions and choose the right methodologies for a given environment.

Program and Portfolio Management Dynamics

Learners can explore trends in program integration and portfolio management to understand which methods boost their value. This class can help prepare students to become senior data analysts by examining how to balance business ethics and integrity with goals that align with business strategy and operations.

Advanced Risk Management

This class helps enrollees blend multidisciplinary theories based on project, program, and risk management research. Coursework encourages an understanding of the latest trends and methods in mitigating risks. It also analyzes project management research to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

Other Requirements

Completing a Ph.D. program requires more than enrolling in the required classes and submitting assignments. Earning this advanced degree also brings additional expectations to demonstrate your knowledge and deep understanding of subject matter. While each school specifies what students must do before graduation, the following list provides examples of what most enrollees can expect to encounter.

Comprehensive Exams

Most Ph.D. programs require that you sit for any necessary tests by the end of the semester following your course completion. These exams assess how much knowledge you acquired and retained in your classes.

Dissertation Prospectus

Make certain to discuss your proposed research within six months of completing any language requirement and comprehensive exams required by your program. Think carefully about what you wish to research and what contribution your findings can make to the field. Committee members will sign the necessary paperwork once you successfully defend the research topic.

Dissertation Defense

A student must file reports with their program coordinator each semester as they write their dissertation, to ensure an ongoing record of progress. Each enrollee must prepare to defend the dissertation before their committee. The dissertation is the final step in an academic program.

Skills and Competencies

Graduates of Ph.D. in project management online programs possess an array of skills that go beyond what they learned in textbooks to demonstrate their ability to succeed in the workplace.

Risk Mitigation

This skill helps to minimize the possibility of adverse effects of your organization's initiatives by identifying what challenges could arise and designing solutions to avoid them.

Critical Thinking

Students who possess this ability know how to use facts, research findings, and data to make informed, logic-based judgments. Doing so allows them to draw pragmatic conclusions for problem-solving purposes.

Project Management

A doctoral program will sharpen this skill, which enables learners to deliver projects within budget, according to schedule, and in compliance with their scope.


This skill helps enrollees to evaluate the costs and benefits in order to make specific determinations. Students and professionals can use data and evidence to help guide their appropriate choices.


This skill allows learners to identify what issues may exist and why, allowing them to consider how best to resolve them. As a result, they can devise solutions to overcome challenges before they become more complex.


Students and professionals must exchange information with peers, supervisors, subordinates, and external stakeholders in easily understandable ways. They need to clearly articulate themselves in emails, reports, presentations, and dialogues.

Project Management Professional Organizations

Students and professionals alike should consider joining project management membership associations to complement their education and training. A professional organization can enhance your networking opportunities and connect you to experts in the field. A membership association may also allow you to earn the credits required to renew professional certification, which further communicates your expertise.

Your participation in a professional project management organization can also lead to more career opportunities. Most of these groups maintain active jobs boards, which list internships and full-time positions for those seeking to either enter or advance in the field. Moreover, you can take advantage of their conferences, workshops, and symposia. These events keep members apprised of best practices in project management and emerging research.

Project Management Institute

  • PMI engages nearly 3 million professionals across the world, thanks to its globally recognized standards, resources, tools, and publications. The association also offers multiple certifications for project managers at all levels.

Association for Project Managers

  • This organization disseminates information and provides educational resources to professionals in design and construction organizations. The association offers many seminars and symposia, in addition to providing training and consulting services.

International Project Management Association

  • An estimated 70 member associations comprise IPMA, which strives to ensure project management competencies in key geographies globally. The organization offers certifications, training, and resources for newcomers to the profession.

A/E/C Project Management Association

  • Members of this organization can pursue its certification, access articles that offer strategies to improve professional practice, and continuously build knowledge through webinars and podcasts.

American Management Association

  • AMA equips members with the skills successful managers need in the 21st-century workplace. It offers a project management certificate through a three-day seminar for professionals interested in learning the latest tools and techniques.