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Guest post by Rebecca LeBoeuf of Southern New Hampshire University
Nobody’s as organized as you. You can communicate well with anyone – from
developers and creatives to subject matter experts and stakeholders. Unexpected
steps and obstacles don’t even faze you when you’re guiding a project from
beginning to end. You’re a project manager that’s ready to take on greater responsibility and more
complex problems. You want to be a competitive candidate and a valued leader.
An increase in salary potential wouldn’t hurt either.
A Master of Science (MS) in Project Management might be the next step toward
advancing your career.
What Can You Do with an MS in Project Management?
Whether you’re already working in the field or shifting the focus of your career, a
master’s in project management can help you lead organizations across all
industries to success with every project you manage. It’s not only a program that
can help you grow as a professional; it can also serve as a catalyst for additional
professional development opportunities.
An MS in Project Management can:
1. Help you hone and expand your skill set
2. Help prepare you to sit for industry certification exams
3. Introduce you to different career options
4. Make you a competitive job candidate
And to top it off, you can begin experiencing the benefits of the degree program
before you have a diploma in hand. You can apply what you’re learning in the
classroom to your practices at work — and vice versa.
“(A master’s) in project management teaches skills that are in demand, and
students can use them as they progress throughout their degree and after
graduation to advance their careers,” said Dr. Zuzana Buzzell, an associate dean
of business programs at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
Advance Your Skills
If you earned a bachelor’s degree in project management, you learned about
methodologies and tools used in the field and began developing the soft skills
needed to be an effective project manager. A master’s degree in project
management allows you to expand from those foundations through a well-
thought-out, cross-functional lens.
“A graduate degree offers opportunities to build skills and adaptable strategies in
project management, supply chain management, and logistics that project
managers will leverage throughout their careers and that is necessary for
today’s culturally diverse global organization,” Buzzell said.
Studying project management at a master’s level can also be helpful if you hail
from a different educational or experiential background.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), project managers work in all industries.
Because of that, a diverse background could allow you to bring valuable
perspectives to a project management role.
For instance, if you’re making the shift from constructing buildings to
coordinating their construction as a project manager, you’ll have first-hand
knowledge of what it takes. Or maybe you’re a web developer taking on the
coordination efforts involved in an Agile team. BLS reports that some employers
within the computer, IT, and engineering industries prefer their project managers to
have a technical background.
Explore Career Possibilities
Internships aren’t only for undergrads. While enrolled in an MS in Project
Management program, you could immerse yourself in work that supports what
you’re learning in the classroom for course credit. “Students can take an
internship as one of their major courses and complete their degree with real-life
work experience that is part of their educational journey,” Buzzell said.
Through this type of experiential learning, you can decide what you like and what
you don’t like, helping you identify the career options available to project
managers and pinpointing where you see yourself flourishing.
Taking a variety of courses with different learning outcomes can also help you
with this exploration. And, as a student, instructors who double as project
management professionals can serve as valuable resources for you. Through
conversations with them, as well as classmates and alumni working in the field,
you can access a wealth of knowledge.
“In my opinion and experience, to advance in any field, the best person to talk to
is someone who made a lot of mistakes in their career. You can learn so much
from other project managers; mistakes and hence avoid them in your own
projects,” said Dr. Kishore Pochampally, PMP, CSSBB, CAP, CSM, an SNHU
professor of management science and information systems. “Similarly, I suggest
interviewing project managers about what made their projects successful. Every
project is unique, so everyone has a different story.”
Earn Industry Credentials
Project management is a field filled with certifications you could earn to prove
knowledge and skill in different areas. The Project Management Institute (PMI),
alone, offers more than a dozen certifications — from some that focus on risk
management and scheduling to others that are Agile-specific.
Sometimes you must meet certain educational and professional requirements to
qualify for certification exams. There are MS in Project Management programs
that prepare you to sit for them. For instance, one of the qualifications for
PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is 35 hours of project
management education. You can fulfill that requirement within some master's
On the flip side, if you already hold certain certifications, such as a Six Sigma Black
Belt or Certified Professional in Supply Chain Management (CPSM), you may be
able to waive some courses and add a master’s degree to your list of credentials
Show You’re Competitive
An MS in Project Management can show employers how serious you are about
your work. A master’s degree is not the typical requirement, but it does
demonstrate mastery of skills and knowledge associated with project
“A master's degree in project management means that you are a specialist in the
ever-growing project management field,” Pochampally said. “Since projects are
initiated, planned, and executed in every industry, the knowledge and skills that
you learn in the master's degree can be applied to virtually any project at any
It could be just the boost you need to advance your career and your confidence,
Which is Better: PMP® or Masters in Project Management?
The PMP® certification and MS in Project Management are two solid credentials
for professionals in the field.
Dubbed the “gold standard” of project management certifications by PMI, the
PMP® designation “validates your competence to perform in the role of a project
manager, leading and directing projects and teams.”
Some topics the exam include, according to CIO, a business technology magazine,
- Assessing and managing risks and conflict
- Building and leading effective teams
- Executing projects that deliver business value
- Planning and managing budgets and resources
“A search of PMP in any career website demonstrates that the PMP®
certification is highly valued by many employers,” Pochampally said. And
according to CIO, it’s also a prerequisite for a number of other projects
Earning a master’s degree in project management offers you broad immersion in
many aspects of the role and can be a solid step toward PMP® certification. You
can learn how to assess tools and processes, develop project plans and
recommend strategies for improvement — all with an eye for efficiency.
If you attend a college or university that is an authorized training partner with
PMI, you should feel confident that you’ll also study the topics that appear on the
PMP® certification exam. Some schools also require that all their project
management instructors are PMI® Authorized Training Partners, meaning you’ll
learn from people who can deliver quality PMP® exam training.
Paired together, an MS in Project Management and PMP® certification indicates a
project manager is well-versed in their field. So why not opt for both credentials?
Adding them to your resume can also help you increase your salary potential. BLS
reports that master’s degree holders earn a median of $12,480 more per year
than those at the bachelor’s level. Additionally, according to PMI, those with a PMP® certification
earn a median of 32% more in the United States than those without it.
Is Project Management a Good Career Path?
If you’re a collaborator at heart and thrive when using processes to work toward
business goals, project management might be the right career path for you.
Because of the role’s broad scope and demand in all kinds of industries, you can
pair your talents with your interests. If technology excites you, you might search
for a project management position at a machine learning company. If you care
deeply about quality healthcare, you might prefer a clinical environment.
According to BLS, 29% of project managers are in professional, scientific, and
technical services. BLS reported that they’re also needed in construction, manufacturing,
administrative, and support services as well as finance and insurance.
There’s also an ongoing need for project management professionals.
For instance, project management specialist roles will experience a 7% growth
through 2031 and have around 70,400 job openings in the U.S. each year, BLS
projects. In addition, PMI’s 2021 Talent Gap report predicted that 2.3 million
project-oriented roles will need to be filled each year globally through the end of
“Given this high demand, a master's in project management, along with the
PMP® certification should be worth it,” Pochampally said.
As for the project management career path itself, there’s no correct progression,
but there’s certainly room to advance. Typical entry-level job titles, according to
- Assistant Project Manager
- Project Coordinator
- Project Scheduler
Through experience, more opportunities will become available.
“Success in such a position typically leads to more recognition and larger
responsibilities that include leading teams and managing projects,” he said. As a
result, you may find yourself with a project or program manager job title and a
growing list of designatory letters beside your name.
SNHU does not endorse or sponsor any commercial product, service, or activity
offered on this website.
Dr. Zuzana Buzzell Dr. Kishore Pochampally