Project managers can work in many industries—from health care to engineering to information technology and beyond. No matter what field they choose, these professionals can get the training they need through online master’s programs in project management. Find out what you’ll study in this program, the skills you’ll develop and what career paths an advanced degree can lead to. Plus, discover the best online master’s in PM programs.
Students who enroll in project management master’s degree programs learn how to oversee different types of projects from conception to completion. But finding the right graduate school can be a project in and of itself. Not all schools are created equally, so students should carefully choose which program they enroll in. Using data from the Department of Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, plus information supplied by graduate schools, we have compiled a list of the best online project management master’s programs that can help students build the foundation for a successful career.
Project management can be a demanding field that requires professionals to juggle many activities at once. To meet these demands, they need many valuable skills. The following are examples of some of the abilities that can be developed while earning a master’s in project management.
Although a master’s in project management and an MBA in project management both address the strategies that workers use, the curriculum addresses them in different ways. Students who enroll in a master’s program delve deep into the theories of project management strategy and how those theories are applied to real-world situations. An MBA program focuses less on project management theory and more on the nuts and bolts of business. In addition, MBA programs in project management require coursework in other areas of business, such as accounting and finance.
Students in project management master’s degree programs get a comprehensive look at how professionals successfully bring projects to fruition. Below is an overview of some of the common courses offered in such a program.
Since many organizations operate on a global scale, sometimes professionals are required to manage projects at an international level. Students who take this course learn how culture, international law and regulations impact these types of projects.
This course examines the rigors of managing multiple projects. Future and current project managers gain an understanding of the theory and practice behind juggling multiple complicated projects at once.
Project managers are required to be skilled negotiators in different settings. Students who enroll in this class learn negotiation tactics that can be used when working with potential customers, employers and contractors.
Some projects have constraints that make them unmanageable or unprofitable. This class teaches how to assess the feasibility of a project by looking at financial control issues, risk, and project life cycles.
Students in this class learn best practices in assessing the risk of a project. The curriculum provides an overview of assessment tools, risk analysis models, and monitoring strategies.
Students in a project management graduate program may have the option of taking a comprehensive exam to prove their competency in the curriculum. Also, students may choose to write a thesis, where they conduct research relevant to the coursework they completed under the supervision of a department faculty member. In some programs, students may be required to complete both.
Project management principles can be applied in a number of sectors, but how those principles are applied may differ depending on the industry. As a result, students may have the opportunity to concentrate their studies on a specific area, which helps them gain the expertise necessary to work in a certain field. The following are examples of the specializations students may enroll in.
This specialization focuses on how fraud is investigated and prevented in organizations. Students may take classes about how the law defines and handles fraud, the tools and methods used to detect it, and how fraud data is analyzed.Health Care
Those who want to work in health care can get information on law and policy, health care administration, and the finances of medical facilities through this concentration. Students may also be given a look at the current challenges that health care managers face.Leadership
Project managers need strong leadership skills in order to ensure each member of a team does their part in making a project successful. This concentration teaches those skills through coursework in ethical leadership, strategy development, and innovation in organizational leadership.Organizational Communication
Students who enroll in this concentration hone their organizational communication skills through courses in crisis communication, intercultural communication, negotiation, and mediation. Through this coursework, students learn how to create a strong organizational culture that is rooted in effective communication among team members.Public Administration
Learners who would like to work for government agencies or nonprofit organizations can enroll in this specialization to learn the unique challenges project managers face in this area. The curriculum may cover public sector leadership strategies, finance and budgeting, and how nongovernmental organizations are run.
Project management is a broad field and professionals have the opportunity to work in numerous settings. The following are examples of the different career paths graduates can take once they complete their master’s in project management degree.
These types of project managers supervise commercial and residential building projects, which can entail taking the lead on many administrative duties, such as scheduling workers. Other tasks include creating proposals, working closely with clients to ensure their needs are being met and performing quality control testing.Engineering Project Manager
Engineering project managers are responsible for taking a leading role in specialized engineering projects. Work duties include creating and maintaining financial records for projects, overseeing project testing to ensure it meets the outlined specifications and certifying that all projects adhere to relevant safety regulations.Information Technology Project Manager
Project managers interested in hardware or software development can fill these jobs, which involve applying software life cycle methodology to projects, testing projects and overseeing modifications as necessary, and creating a project plan that outlines when all tasks are to be completed. Information technology project managers also work with technical teams to design and develop projects.Marketing Project Manager
These professionals manage marketing campaigns from start to finish, ensuring that they convey their intended message effectively, while adhering to strict deadlines. This involves assigning tasks to members of a team and making sure each one is completed on time. These project managers help to design advertisements, branding efforts and marketing campaigns.
As technology advances, the way that project managers do their job evolves. One way to stay on top of changes in the industry is by participating in professional associations, such as the ones described below.
This organization provides information on industry trends, educational opportunities and benefits available to people in the industry. The group also offers consulting services.
The IAPM grants several certifications, including the Certified Project Manager, Certified Agile Project Manager, Certified Junior Project Manager and Certified International Project Manager. The association also has professional support groups and committees.
This group serves project managers in the construction industry by providing news about the field and an annual conference. There is also an awards program to recognize innovation in the profession.
PMI members can take advantage of the organization’s pre-made project plans, a guidebook that outlines international best practices and webinars. The Institute also provides professional certifications including the Program Management Professional (PgMP)®, PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® and Project Management Professional (PMP)®.
Since most industries require project managers, there are an abundance of project management roles available, especially for those with an advanced degree like a master’s in project management. However, depending on the role, additional training or certifications in a related field may be necessary in addition to coursework in project management.
|Career||Lowest 10% Earned Annually||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10% Earned Annually||Job Growth 2016-2026|
|Construction Manager||Less than $54,810||$91,370||More than $159,560||+11%|
|Architectural and Engineering Project Managers||Less than $88,050||$137,720||More than $208,000||+6%|
|Information Systems Project Manager||Less than $83,860||$139,220||More than $208,000||+12%|
|Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Project Manager||Less than $48,150||$106,130||More than $208,000||+10%|
|Training and Development Manager||Less than $59,170||$108,250||More than $187,670||+10%|
|Social and Community Service Manager||Less than $39,730||$64,100||More than $109,990||+18%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
According to the Job Growth and Talent Gap in Project Management report published by the Project Management Institute, by 2027, 8.8 million project management related jobs will be created, in part because many workers qualified to fill these positions are retiring. Exact growth trends will depend on the specific industry. The sectors that will see the most growth in the coming years will be health care, construction, finance, and oil and gas.
Earning a master’s degree in project management will help train the workers needed to fill these positions. The degrees also position workers to increase their earning potential. According to The Center on Education and the Workforce, workers who have a bachelor’s degree make $2.3 million in lifetime earnings, while those with master’s degrees will make $2.7 million.
Project managers are tasked with making important decisions about which contractors to use, materials to buy and clauses in contracts to negotiate. One of the most important decisions these professionals will make is where to train for their career. In order to get the quality education they need, students should choose a school that has been accredited by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD). Schools that have earned accreditation from these organizations are certified for their quality curriculum, research efforts and faculty members.
Much of the work of project managers deals with finance and budgeting—and many of them can begin developing this skill when exploring ways to keep their education costs down.
In order to find financial aid opportunities, students should begin by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine how much they can receive in federal loans and grants.
In addition, students may be able to receive scholarships from industry organizations. For example, the Dallas, Orange County and Pittsburgh chapters of the Project Management Institute provide scholarships to graduate students. Also, the International Institute for Learning, in conjunction with the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation, offers a scholarship for this degree program.
In some cases, project management students may be able to win scholarships from the school they attend. Boston University, for example, offers funding for students in its graduate degree program.