Project managers are the organizing masterminds who turn great ideas into reality. These managers are great at putting those pieces together. Across every industry imaginable, they get to work within their area of passion to coordinate the resources, staff, and finances of long-term projects for organizations.
An online project management degree is a top choice for any business student who wants to learn how to plan, manage and budget for large-scale projects ranging from commercial web development to computer network installations. A project manager’s job cuts across all industries, but the highest paid project managers work in computer systems and IT (making an average of $118,120) and software publishing (at an average salary of $126,840), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
THE CAREER PATH
Project management is for driven professionals who enjoy the satisfaction of completing a project from its conception to its completion. They work across a diverse collection of industries, spanning from healthcare to construction, and even information technology. Project managers have a lot of autonomy when choosing the direction of their career. Most project managers will specialize in a field that interests them. Regardless of which direction they choose, the important qualities of project managers remain consistent.
They often work to motivate and manage a team of employees to facilitate the progress of long-term projects, by fulfilling tasks such as:
- Managing the execution of a project to ensure that it adheres to the budget, timeline, and vision;
- Developing and updating project objectives, technologies, schedules, funding, and staffing;
- Directing environmental sustainability projects;
- Negotiating project specifications.
Across various sectors, the types of projects that these managers will be coordinating could vary drastically. Project managers will need to have a thorough understanding of the technical and strategic aspects of their industry in order to advance their career.
Some of the different roles that project managers can fill include:
- IT project managers plan and manage IT projects by guiding the work of technical staff and serving as a liaison between the business and technical aspects of projects. They rely on critical skills in computer sciences and IT as well as the customer service and administrative skills that it takes to coordinate profitable projects.
- Construction managers are responsible for the conceptual development of construction projects as well as overseeing their organization, scheduling, budgeting, and implementation. Construction managers must be fluent in the concepts of engineering, technology, building and construction in addition to the traditional business skills of successful project managers.
- Wind energy project managers are gaining popularity as awareness grows around the need for sustainable business and energy practices. Wind energy project managers lead and manage the development of potential wind energy business opportunities including environmental studies, permitting, and proposals. This type of project management requires an understanding of environmental sciences in addition to engineering and technology concepts.
The income and demand for project managers largely depends on the scope of individual projects as well as the industry. Some project managers work for firms or organizations, while others work as independent consultants within their industry of choice. Most project managers make between $80,000 and $100,000 each year.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Project management is a career that can easily be molded to suit different types of professionals, their interests, and their goals. For professionals who feel confident managing the various aspects of overseeing projects, they can quickly develop a career in the area of their passion—whether that’s environment, education, or something in between.
Project managers are often experts in their fields who excel at meeting deadlines under pressure. A few key personal qualities that should lead to success in this field include a willingness to adapt and a sense of responsibility. Project managers also need to be able to communicate with teams of professionals as well as clients, and will need to be able to think critically and creatively between different projects.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Project management is available as a business major for bachelor level students, but it is just as often pursued as a stand-alone online certificate. For advanced training, look to a master's or doctoral program. Many master's of business administration (MBA) programs also offer a project management focus.
Information technology and computer science or engineering students who excel at planning may enjoy a project management major. If you love planning large scale projects, start your schooling by picking an area that’s compelling to you, be it business administration or computer science. If you already have an undergraduate degree, look to upgrade with an online project management certificate.
Most project managers can be adequate applicants for positions in the field after earning a bachelor’s degree and gaining some amount of experience in the type of industry that they have chosen. Developing professionals learn the most about managing projects in their specialization through hands-on experience than sitting in a classroom, and that’s what many employers will look for.
Project managers often learn their trade while on the job, but certification offers specialized training to seasoned workers. Several professional institutes offer private certifications that project managers may earn through a combination of education, documented management experience and passing a private certification exam.
If certification matters to you, look for online project management degree programs that have been designed to meet the requirements for well-respected career certifications from a professional association such as the Project Management Institute (PMI). One of the most popular certifications is the Project Management Professional (PMP). Some certifications do require continuing education to stay credentialed.
Courses in project management programs often include Project Management and Leadership, Assessing and Managing Risk, Quality Management, Foundations of Communications, and Project Management Tools.
The average cost of an online bachelor's in management is just over $53,000. However, there are plenty of affordable options that cost under $30,000. The most affordable online master's in project management costs about $9,500 while the average cost is closer to $23,000.