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How To Get A Project Management Master S Degree


Academic year: 2021

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Business organizations of all kinds are becoming more complex and globalized.

Carrying out projects effectively in this fast-changing environment now requires

significant expertise. This is especially true in IT project management, where costly

failures such as the Healthcare.gov website make news headlines regularly. As a

result, demand for project managers is growing across a broad range of industries.

occupations is expected to climb 11% nationally by 2022, construction project managers should see growth of 16% (about 78,200 more jobs) 1, and

demand for IT project managers will rise by 15% (about 59,600 new jobs) 2.

Competition for these roles can be fierce. Many professionals who want to make a career of project management choose to pursue Project Management Professional certification (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI). This certification is the gold standard for project management

professionals—and if you’re reading this, you’re probably considering earning your PMP yourself. It’s definitely worth it to obtain your PMP

certification. Surveys conducted by PMI indicate that PMP status is valuable in terms of earning potential: PMP holders regularly command higher salaries compared to other project managers with similar experience. 3

However, because of this value, the PMP is one of the fastest-growing certifications. There are now nearly 600,000 PMPs in the worldwide job market. 4

As a result, you’ll need to stand out if you want a competitive edge. Earning a master’s degree in project management in addition to your PMP is an excellent means of distinguishing yourself in a

crowded job market. This article explains some of the benefits a project management master’s can offer above and beyond the PMP, and offers a guide to what you should look for in a degree program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job

openings for many types of project managers will grow at a faster than average rate compared to the overall average. For example, while growth across all


According to PMI’s 2011 Project Management

Salary Survey, 53% of PMP-certified project

managers were only educated as far as the

undergraduate level.


Master’s degree holders accounted for 45% of the remaining respondents—although many of these individuals may have held a master’s in another area, such as business, general management, engineering, or technology.

A master’s degree in project management in addition to a PMP can enhance your competitive edge by showing employers you’re committed to a high level of practice, and that you’ve taken the time to pursue in-depth expertise.



You’ll Stand Out in the Job Market

Employers place a greater value on the additional

skills and depth offered by a master’s degree.

PMI’s 2011 Salary Survey showed that PMPs who held a master’s degree had a higher median salary than those without. PMPs with only a bachelor’s earned around $101,000, while those with a master’s earned $108,528. 6

This potential boost in salary is in addition to the enhanced earning potential that comes from earning a PMP in the first place.


Many project managers preparing for the PMP

examination never enter a classroom.

Instead, they purchase study guides. By contrast, earning your master’s degree with a PMP-focused program allows you to pursue in-depth study of the concepts and skills covered in the Project

Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The PMBOK includes ten areas of focus:

Integration management Scope management Time management Cost management Quality management

Human resource management Communications management Risk management

If you’ve been acting as a de facto project manager in your work, this formal training can be immensely enlightening, enhancing your capability to deliver quality work in your current role even before you start looking for new jobs.

Formalize and Deepen Your Knowledge

Additionally, a quality degree program will keep up

with the latest developments in the field, exposing

you to potentially useful new trends and

methodologies that may not be in the PMBOK yet.

Even if these concepts won’t help you pass your PMP certification exam, they may be applicable in your workplace—and that’s what really counts.


A well-designed project management master’s

program will emphasize experiential learning by

actually putting you to work designing and

carrying out projects.

As you work, you’ll be able to test out the theories you’ve learned, and see at first hand the strengths and limitations of various methodologies and metrics. You’ll also hone your capabilities for collaboration and communication, as many of these projects may have a group aspect—just as they do in the workplace. In addition, if you’re continuing to work while you pursue your project management master’s, you may learn something in class that you can use on the job immediately. In this way, a project management master’s can start improving your performance long before graduation.

Develop Hands-On Experience

A master’s program offers plenty of opportunity for

expanding your professional network.

Whether it’s like-minded classmates whose work experience anecdotes give you great new ideas or a seasoned faculty member who acts as a mentor, a master’s program can help you establish strong new relationships in the field.

It’s much more productive than poring over a PMP study guide on your own.


You can also gain specialized knowledge of a

specific industry in a master’s program in a way

that’s not possible by earning the PMP alone.

This opportunity for specialization can either

formalize skills you’ve developed through experience, or prepare you to branch out into a new industry. At Harrisburg University, many master’s candidates in the project management program choose to take specialization electives in IT, analytics, learning technologies, or information systems engineering. These electives offer students the opportunity to adapt PMBOK concepts to a specific industry.

Pursue a Specialization

A well-designed project management master’s

degree will emphasize the so-called “soft skills” of

motivation and communication—without which

you may soon find yourself in a hard place.

A 2007 study of famous project failures found that "undermined motivation probably has a larger effect on productivity and quality than any other factor." 7

As Albert Sarvis, Assistant Professor of Geospatial Technology and Information Technology Management at Harrisburg University says, “You can know all the metrics and methodology involved in project

management inside out, but if you can’t motivate your team or explain your process to stakeholders, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Whether it’s a specific class on principles of effective leadership or the ongoing skills development provided


So, you can see that a project management

master’s degree program has the capacity to

enhance your career prospects across the board.

But what does a quality project management degree program look like?

First, you’ll want to find a school that has regional

accreditation. Earning your degree at an

unaccredited school is risky, because some

employers may not recognize qualifications from

such schools as valid.

Additionally, you should choose a school that is a

Project Management Institute Registered

Education Provider (REP). Earning your degree with

a REP school ensures that you are learning the skills necessary for PMP certification, and learning them to a high standard.

In addition to being a mark of quality, a REP school can help you after certification: these schools often provide ongoing professional development courses for PMPs. Continuing education is requirement for maintaining your PMP status.

Accreditation and PMI REP Status

What You Should Look for

in a Degree Program

A school with PMI REP status will understand the

value of the PMP, and will provide you with

opportunities for some good old-fashioned test prep.

Your instructors will walk you through PMP


The next critical factor is the faculty. You’ll want to

choose a program that doesn’t just populate itself

with academic researchers. Take the time to

research faculty backgrounds and achievements.

A program that employs seasoned professionals who are committed to helping develop the next generation of project managers is a program that will offer you real value.

At Harrisburg, for example, a retired military officer teaches courses on leadership, while a veteran procurement officer from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania teaches the Procurement, Contracts, and Risk Management course. Faculty members with this type of experience will be able to help you see real-world applicability of the concepts you study.

Quality Faculty

Finally, a quality project management master’s

degree program will be ready to help you connect

to a career—before or after graduation.

In addition to support (or letters of recommendation) from faculty and instructors, your university should offer dedicated career development services. This can include networking through alumni or through companies that have relationships with the school. It can also include interview preparation, resume review services, job fairs, and networking nights. Taking advantage of these services can help you reap the full value of your master’s degree in project management.

Career Support

1) http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm


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