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Should I get a Degree or Certificate in Project Management?

Project management is a unique career field that involves many skills that can be easily be transferred into a variety of well-compensated specialty areas. Ideal project managers are knowledgeable and able to carry out a variety of duties within an organization, such as managing staff and resources, creating and executing budgets, coordinating and understanding the technological needs of each assignment, and keeping projects on an allocated timeline. Project managers also work in many fields, including but not limited to, construction, healthcare, retail, engineering, and technology. The Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates there will be 2.3 million project-oriented job openings in the U.S. through 2020.

Because of the increasing need for project managers to help manage people and projects within organizations, many colleges and universities are now offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in Project Management. There are many high quality and conveniently formatted Online Master’s in Project Management programs offered to working professionals who have specific goals and are committed to advancing their career. These online master’s degrees can be completed in between one to two years depending on the program’s format and courses included within the curriculum. These programs are generally designed to improve student’s skills in highly applicable areas such as communications, risk management, leadership, budgeting for project managers, negotiations, technology, and performance reporting. An MPM degree can give students an overall business foundation and weave critical project management topics. This business foundation can help students that have their eyes on entrepreneurial pursuits, as well as help students develop many of the “soft skills” that are needed for managers.

Those who have already earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and accumulated 4,500 hours of work experience in project management, can also choose to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. If you have a high school diploma or associate’s degree, you’ll need 7,500 hours of relevant work experience before being eligible for the test. With over 774,000 PMP credentialed Project Management Professionals worldwide, professionals with this business credential get worldwide acknowledgement of their project management skills. This PMP certification covers five main topics: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. While this test does attest to a project manager’s skill level, it does not give time to develop business organizational skills and communication skills needed in a business leader’s role.

Within the field of project management education level plays an important role in being selected for industry positions. However, area of specialty, years of experience, and PMP certification credentials are also invaluable assets to any project manager’s resume. Many companies require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or PMP certification for consideration of even entry level positions. According to Payscale.com, those meeting the basic requirements for project management roles and with zero to five years of experience can expect to earn average early career salaries of $60,000 per year. Mid-level compensation for those in the field with five to ten years of experience is $75,000 per year, and those who stay within the industry for 20 years or greater can earn up to $91,000 annually. These figures are not based on a specific level of education or certification, rather the position itself. With that being said, project management is a highly competitive field where any additional steps taken to further leadership, communication, or organization skills will be recognized and rewarded.

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