Everything You Need To Know About Getting a Project Management Degree

The success of a project almost always falls back on one person — the project manager.

What Is Project Management?

Projects either succeed or they don’t. There are a number of factors that influence the success of any project, including available resources, teamwork, communication, and, of course, project management. Even with the best resources and communication, if there is a lack of teamwork and proper project management, a project is often doomed to fail from the very beginning.

According to Cleverism, “project management is defined as the discipline that involves initiating, planning, executing, and controlling the work of a team of people towards the achievement of a specific goal, or sets of goals.” Projects take place in all industries, meaning there is a strong need for project managers in all fields of work. The exact projects that project managers carry out are determined by their employers’ needs and objectives. For example, some employers need project managers to conduct research in hopes of developing effective price points for the products and services they are selling. Other employers may need project managers to pinpoint organizational processes that are lacking in efficiency.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

The primary goal for any project manager is to achieve a set of objectives according to a list of well-defined constraints. The more constraints a project has, the more complex and difficult it becomes to carry out. However, with refined project management skills, it becomes easier for a project manager to complete their projects in the designated period of time they have been allotted.

All projects have a starting and ending point. Once the objective has been achieved, the project manager will create a report and communicate his or her findings to the appropriate entities, which usually includes supervisors, and in some cases, stakeholders and board members.

No matter the industry a person is working in as a project manager, there are four elements to each project:

  1. Scope
  2. Resources
  3. Time
  4. Money
  • The scope of a project simply entails the size of the objective at hand as well as the goals that need to be achieved and the requirements/constraints for achieving these goals. In some cases, the project scope will outline what is to happen after the project has been completed.
  • The resources element of a project details what is available to the project manager to complete the project, including manpower, equipment, tools, etc.
  • The timeframe element simply outlines when the project is to begin and when it is expected to be finished. Oftentimes, this element will go into much detail relating to various parts of the project. Project managers are sometimes asked to create this timeframe and present it for project approval.
  • The last element, money, explains how much the project is expected to cost as well as any contingencies that may arise. In addition, the money element will usually include any revenue and profit expectations that the project will, hopefully, lead to.

Over the past few decades, the role of project managers has greatly evolved. Advancements in technology have been a huge contributor to this change. Used to, project managers were handed projects that already had all four elements defined for them. They were handed the projects and informed to have them completed by a certain date. Nowadays, though, project managers often find themselves involved in the earlier stages of projects, many times, well before the projects are even recognized as ‘projects’.

As a project manager, you are expected to wear many hats. You’ll go from turning your project ideas into feasible objectives to putting a team together and gathering resources to make sure your project can realistically be a success. And while all team members won’t need to be involved at all times during the completion of the project, as the project manager, you should be involved during each process. Even if you aren’t directly doing something, you need to be supervising your team to make sure they are carrying out the project in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Knowing How to Become a Project Manager

To become a project manager, you don’t necessarily have to have a degree, but it is highly recommended that you do. Having a formal degree will set you apart in the industry and allow you to expand your career opportunities. More so, possessing a degree will help you feel confident in regard to the various types of projects you are willing to take on.

At the least, a bachelor’s degree in business administration should be earned to be a project manager. Depending on the type of employment you are seeking, though, it may be beneficial to pursue a degree that has a specific area of concentration, such as marketing or computer science. Take for example you want to become an engineering project manager. To fill this role, it will be valuable to earn a credential that has a concentration in engineering. Even though a bachelor’s degree is the minimum for becoming a project manager, the higher the level of degree you earn, the better in terms of employment opportunities and salary potential.

Once you have completed a bachelor’s degree, some schools offer specific educational paths that lead to certification in project management. Many of these programs are available online, making it convenient for you to gain employment and continue your studies at the same time. Even better is that some certificate programs will count as valid credit hours that can be used for a graduate-level degree in project management.

What Are the Different Types of Degree Programs for Project Managers?

There are literally hundreds of degree programs for you to choose from that concentrate in project management. Your preferences, needs, and intended course of action after graduation will determine which program is best for you. For now, let’s take a close look at bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in project management.

Bachelor’s Degree

Many schools these days offer unique bachelor’s programs that enable you to complete your undergraduate coursework while concurrently studying project management skills that directly relate to the industry you prefer to work in upon graduation. When choosing a bachelor’s program, it is pertinent to look for one that teaches from the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide, which is recognized worldwide and will help ensure you learn valuable competencies directly related to effective project management.

Once you have earned your bachelor’s degree, you will then be ready to enter the real-working world of project management. If preferred, though, and highly recommended, you can extend your studies and earn a master’s degree. Generally speaking, there are four basic types of master’s programs that yield extensive and advanced training in project management.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Most MBA programs take 24 months to complete, however, accelerated programs are available that can reduce this time period to as little as 15 months. Do keep in mind, though, that the shorter the length of the program, the more intense it will be. To ensure you receive advanced knowledge relating to project management, it is crucial to pick an MBA program that includes a project management concentration.

Master of Science in Management (MSM)

With an MSM degree, your learning will focus on a much broader range of business management issues that what you would study earning an MBA. Also notable about the MSM program is that it typically only takes about a year to complete and does not require any type of prior project management work experience.

Master of Science in Project Management (MSPM)

This program is directly focused on project management, making it one of the most sought-after credentials by those wanting to become project managers. In addition to project management, though, it also focuses heavily on methodology. Many of the courses in an MSPM program will require you to complete a variety of projects that initiate the use of critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills. This type of program generally takes 24 months to complete.

Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy w/a concentration in Project Management

These programs are extremely advanced and have a heavy concentration in project management. If you choose to pursue this type of program with a concentration in information technology project management, your resulting degree would be an MS-IT-PM. A master of science degree will take about two years to complete, and a Ph.D. will take you upward of four years to earn and will include a heavy load of research as well as a dissertation.

What Will Your Degree Program Cover?

The content covered while earning your degree will, of course, depend on the program you choose to enroll in. As stated before, the more advanced the degree you pursue, the more intense the content will be. Many times, professors of the courses in these programs will build their curriculums around specialty areas. More so, they will often team up with industry partners, giving students the opportunity to put apply their course learnings in real-world scenarios; this is especially beneficial as it will allow you to make valuable industry connections while earning your degree.

All degree programs will provide you with the fundamental basics of project management, which tends to include:

  • Project life cycle
  • Risk management
  • Development of project teams
  • Roles and responsibilities of team members
  • Time and task management
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Project execution
  • Project management
  • Team management
  • Resource gathering
  • Budget creation
  • Task delegation

What Can a Person Do With a Degree In Project Management?

With a degree in project management, you will likely work closely with upper management. It will be your responsibility to make sure projects are completed according to their specified timelines as well as develop solutions for any obstacles that may become present. If any discrepancies or concerns arise, you will be the first person contacted by upper management. It is crucial that you stay up-to-date on all aspects of the projects to ensure all issues are resolved in a timely manner; this will also ensure you are prepared to speak with stakeholders and upper management at any time when they request a project update report.

As stated before, you can use your degree in project management to work in any industry of your choosing. However, if you have a specific industry in mind that you would prefer to work in, such as engineering, then it is vital to take courses while earning your degree that focus heavily on your industry of choice.

Most project managers find employment in the following industries:

  • Information technology
  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Construction
  • Telecommunications

Is Certification Important for Project Managers?

Over the next 10 years, project management has an expected growth rate of an astonishing 33 percent. This equals out to be close to 22 million new jobs for project managers. As you can see, there has never been a better time to earn a project management degree. In addition to a degree, however, it is equally important that you distinguish yourself in the workforce by earning certification. More so, you need to earn certification through the Project Management Institute (PMI). A study conducted by the PMI discovered that those with Project Management Professional certification, which is offered through the PMI, are likely to have a salary that is 23 percent higher than project managers who have the same credentials but lack a PMP certificate.

Tips for Choosing the Best Project Management Courses

Once you have decided to enroll in a project management degree program, you will first need to decide which type of curriculum is best for you — online or on campus. If you have the time and resources to make it back and forth to on-campus classes, then it is highly recommended that you do so as this will provide you with optimal opportunity to interact with your professors as well as other professionals in the field of project management. If, however, you have other responsibilities that you must devote yourself to, such as a job or family-related activities, then an online program may make for the better choice. As you go about choosing your courses, make sure to choose ones that concentrate on the industry you want to work in once you graduate. In doing so, you can rest assured you will have an in-depth amount of knowledge directly related to the field of work you wish to gain employment in, which will help you maintain a competitive edge in the workforce while applying for jobs.

"Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet." ~ Henry Mintzberg