ADDING VALUE TO VALUE:
PMP EDGE WITH
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
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.
THE BENEFITS OF A
PROJECT MANAGEMENT MASTER’S DEGREE
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.
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.