To grow and adapt, companies need to complete carefully planned-out projects. Whether it’s fixing a software bug, building a new access road, or developing a strategy to increase sales, someone needs to lead the team.
This is where skilled project managers come in. They’re responsible for owning projects and ensuring the process runs smoothly. The success or failure of the entire task rests firmly on their shoulders.
If you’re a strong communicator with excellent planning and organizational skills, you could have what it takes to become a well-paid project manager. To get started in this field, most students opt for a degree. But there are other education options available and degrees aren’t always required.
Read on to learn how you can kickstart your career in project management. We’ll discuss the degree programs, certifications, and bootcamps available to you, and where you should enroll. But first, let’s look at the project management role in more detail.
What is Project Management?
Project management is defined as the application of specific processes and principles to start, plan, implement, and supervise business projects. A project may involve several people with different areas of expertise, working as a team to accomplish a unique goal. There are four important components of project management:
Talented project managers juggle all of these components to achieve a goal. It's a tall order, and that's why project management is one of the most in-demand, stable, and sought-after jobs in tech. According to the PMI (Project Management Institute), project-oriented sectors are expected to grow by 33% by 2027. That’s a staggering 22 million new project management jobs on the horizon.
Success in the role requires excellent planning and negotiation skills with great verbal and written communication abilities. The capability to manage diverse teams and control project risks and deadlines make the role challenging, but highly satisfying and rewarding.
How Much Can Project Managers Earn?
A 2019 Glassdoor report cites the average salary of a project manager as $75,000. Generally, a well-qualified project manager can take home $100,000 to $150,000 a year, with even non-certified project managers earning about $80,000 to $90,000 per year.
Specialist Project Management Degrees
It’s a common misconception that the best way to learn PM skills is to enroll in a project management bachelor’s degree. Most experienced project managers don’t actually have a degree in project management itself. Instead, they’re graduates in specific areas like computer science, data science, or engineering. They’ll join relevant organizations, gain experience, and move into project management roles within their domain of specialization.
But if you know that this is the professional route for you, then you may decide to specialize. Because project management is gaining popularity and droves of professionals are now opting to become project managers after working as engineers or developers, many universities have started offering master’s degrees in project management.
Here's our list of some of the university programs focusing specifically on project management.
1. BBA in Strategic Project Management - This is a 4-month long, full-time course offered by the University of California, Berkeley, with arrangements for special internships in Silicon Valley companies.
2. BS in Business Administration (Project Management) - A full 4-year degree offered by Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The focus is on mastering the business skills related to project management and organizational business practices.
3. BS or MS in Project Management - St. Louis University offers bachelor's and master’s degrees in project management. Most of their programs are online and have flexible schedules.
4. BS in Project Management - Northeastern University in Boston offers a 100% online bachelor's program, with different scholarship options available. The course requires a credit of 60-127 semester hours for graduation.
5. Masters in Project Management - the University of Denver offers an 18-month long master’s program. The program is online and conducted in the evenings to suit working professionals. The course details techniques on managing large-scale and small-scale projects and the curriculum is closely aligned to the PMP certification pattern.
Some other highly ranked master’s programs in project management are offered by Boston University, Georgetown University, Stevens Institute of Technology, the University of Texas at Dallas, New York University, and Penn State, to name just a few. The wide variety of schools offering project management programs speaks to the growing popularity of this career track.
Business-Oriented Project Management Degrees
If you want to broaden your field of education and keep your options open, it might be more appropriate to get a degree in a field similar to project management. For example, you could pursue a degree in business or commerce, like a BBA or an MBA, with project management as one of your focus areas.
You can get hired first as a business analyst or manager and gain experience while working on live projects and managing diverse teams. This would make the transition to project management smooth and give you a rich background in the company's product or technology as well as in the management of resources.
Depending on your budget, exam scores, and time constraints, you have a wide range of options available.
Project Management Certifications
Many successful and competent PMs working in top organizations hold non-PM degrees. Instead, they learned on the job. For example, a software tester will learn aspects of project management associated with product or technology testing. Or a design engineer would be aware of how project managers ascertain the design requirements, chart-out milestones, and track deliverables.
This leads to another popular path to becoming a project manager. After several years of experience in the field, you can enroll in a certification program.
Standard certifications can really add value to your resume. Candidates can enroll, and after clearing the relevant exams, are certified to work as project managers globally in their respective domains. The most renowned certification body is the Project Management Institute or the PMI. The PMI standards are globally accepted in all industries. You would see universities adhering to the PMI course structure and exam patterns during their certification or degree courses.
Let’s look at some of the popular certifications available.
1. PMP or Project Management Professional - Offered by the PMI, this is the most coveted certification that validates your project management skills. It's said that certified PMPs earn about 20-25% more than non-certified project management professionals.
To be eligible for the PMP certification, you must have either:
- a four-year degree, plus 36 months experience leading projects as a project manager and 35 hours of project management education/training, or
- CAPM Certification; or
- a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, plus 60 months experience of project leadership and 35 hours of project management education/training.
Once you're PMP certified, you can work as a project manager in any industry, domain, or location. Even employers benefit, as PMP professionals increase the chances of completing on time, reducing budgets, and mitigating risks.
2. CAPM or Certified Associate in Project Management - This course precedes the PMP certificate and is regulated by the PMI. It’s an entry-level certification and is best for those who don't have a formal degree, yet have corporate experience in project management. Some prerequisites for this certification are a high school diploma or associate’s degree with either 1500 hours’ worth of project management experience or 23 hours of classroom training before the exam.
3. CompTIA Project+ - Offered by the Computing Technology Industry Association, this is similar to the CAPM offered by the PMI. It offers training in resource management, handling project constraints, project management documentation, project life cycle, communication, and coordination with different stakeholders. Anyone with one to two years of experience in project management can opt for this certification, and it’s suited for both IT and non-IT professionals.
4. Associate in Project Management (APM) - Another entry-level certification accredited by the Global Association of Quality Management (GAQM). APM assesses the general understanding of project management and its terminologies. If you don’t pass the exam, you can re-attempt it after fourteen days.
5. Professional in Project Management (PPM) - Again, offered by GAQM, this is a significantly advanced certification compared to APM, and verifies that professionals have a fundamental knowledge of the project life cycle, roles of a project manager, setting project goals, progress milestones, developing project planning worksheets, and an understanding of different project risks.
It’s especially directed at preparing candidates for crucial challenges that arise while managing projects. PPM up-skills a trainee in developing project schedules, project measures, and leading and motivating a project team. It also ensures that standard knowledge and experience requirements have been met. It’s another prestigious certification to have in the project management industry.
Other popular courses in the project management domain are Certified Project Director (CPD) and Master Project Manager (MPM). These days, with the popularity of Agile and Scrum methodologies, especially in the IT industry, certifications like Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) are rapidly gaining prominence.
For projects in the government domain, the PRINCE2 certification (Project in Controlled Environments) is also considered valuable.
Many universities like Stanford, Ohio, and Villanova also offer certification courses in project management. The admission criteria, duration, and format might vary for different universities. You should be sure to check the specific course listings for details.
Get An Education That Leads to a Career
If you're after a long-term career, the best bet for aspiring project managers is to enroll in a bootcamp, like our technical project management course. This 3-month online course teaches you career-ready PM skills like task management, Agile, and Scrum methodologies. It’s affordable, focused, and geared around getting you hired as a well-paid project manager.