Project managers make about $75,160 per year1, ensuring that projects for companies and organizations run smoothly and efficiently. Project management job seekers can take courses to become certified in various project management methodologies, making the job search easier and helping their resumes stand out.
The guide explores several project management degree options for students and the different career paths available to graduates.
What Is an Online Project Management Degree?
An online project management degree teaches students the principles of leadership. Project managers wrangle teams and ensure that each project remains true to scope. They take on responsibility for quality testing and manage each iteration in product innovation.
The degree remains career-focused rather than industry-focused. No matter what industry students choose to work in, project management principles still apply. During courses, students learn to:
- Apply proven strategies and project management best practices to a variety of project types in different industries
- Build successful teams and identify the best management strategies for ensuring cooperation
- Assess which strategies support business initiatives and ensure a well-documented project
- Evaluate the role of risk and how to mitigate that risk before, during, and after the project
- Apply a code of ethics to all project management methods
- Integrate data into the project’s process and post-analysis for insights into making future projects better and more efficient
Not all programs ensure eligibility to sit for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate exam, but the course curriculum can help students prepare. The PMP tests students in three basic management types: waterfall, agile, and hybrid2.
Students who want to sit for PMP certification should meet the following qualifications2:
- A four-year degree
- 36 months of experience
- 35 hours of project management specific education
Alternatively, students can qualify if they possess:
- A high school diploma or associate degree
- 60 months leading projects
- 35 hours of project management education
How Can I Use a Project Management Degree?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)3, project managers can make the highest average salaries working in these five different industries.
Independent Artists, Writers, and Performer Project Management Average Annual Salary: $120,000
Paying well over six figures per year3, the creative industry uses project managers to ensure that each new creative project comes off without a hitch. These projects involve a multitude of people, different timelines and deadlines, and budget considerations. The field is expected to employ around 1,360 new people per year3.
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing Project Management Average Annual Salary: $118,950
Project managers in this field can make over six figures per year3, helping ensure the timely manufacturing and delivery of new products and parts. Project managers help ensure a smooth, efficient logistics process.
Monetary Authorities Project Management Average Annual Salary: $112,620
Project managers in this industry make over $112,000 per year3, ensuring projects run smoothly. They provide risk assessment and mitigation strategies, ensuring success for projects taking place in this finance and banking field.
Software Publishers Project Management Average Annual Salary: $107,580
The software industry uses project managers to ensure smooth delivery of new products, paying them over $107,000 per year3. This field employs over 16,000 new job seekers per year3, giving potential job seekers plenty of opportunities.
Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing Project Management Annual Salary: $107,160
Paying their project managers over $107,000 per year3 on average, these industries leverage their skills to ensure projects run smoothly and efficiently. Manufacturing requires managers to maintain and improve logistics.
Project Management Courses
Project management courses cover skills required for leaders and team builders. They provide the foundation for ensuring projects run smoothly. While different programs require slightly different things, courses comprise some common themes.
Principles of Management
Many project management degrees include an overview of the three main types of management: waterfall, agile, and hybrid. Waterfall management offers a top-down approach, much like the traditional management styles of the past. Agile management, made famous by the software development industry, relies on interactions, collaborations, and sprints. A hybrid approach combines the two.
Project Procurement and Contract Management
Procurement and contracts make up part of the project manager’s responsibilities. Students learn negotiations and deals, as well as vital skills in the negotiation, settling, and maintenance of contracts.
Assessing and Managing Risk
Risk management also lies within the project manager’s domain. These types of courses teach students the skills to assess risk through grounded, data-driven methods. They also learn ways to mitigate inevitable risks associated with projects.
Project Scheduling and Control
A project manager estimates the scope and timing of a project and ensures that teams stay on schedule for delivery of products or finish sprints when expected. These courses teach students to create realistic timelines and scopes so that teams hit their marks.
This course falls under many different names, but the principles are the same. Students learn to build great teams and lead people with leadership and management best practices. Project managers must exhibit excellent leadership skills to keep projects on track, so these courses ensure those skills.
Project Management Degree Concentrations
One common path for project management students includes majoring in business with a project management concentration. However, project management degrees also offer their own concentrations. Some common examples include:
- Entrepreneurship: Students learn to manage their own business or join a startup to offer their skills.
- Business economics: Students build a better understanding of business through the lens of economic principles. This provides a foundation for working in enterprises or large companies.
- Real estate: Real estate offers many different career paths, and a concentration in this industry allows project managers to oversee construction or renovation projects, among other things.
- Supply chain management: A supply chain contains many moving parts, making the skills of project managers critical to timely manufacturing and delivery.
- Construction management: Construction also includes many moving parts, and project managers can ensure projects stay on budget and on deadline.
- Computer and information systems: Technology fields require project management skills for development projects, so leaders who understand these technologies make great additions.
Students could also have different concentration options depending on their chosen online program. Because project management fits into multiple industries, students may even decide to major in that industry.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Project Management Degree?
A traditional project management undergraduate degree — or a business degree with a project management concentration — takes four years of full-time study. That includes state-required core courses as well as major or concentration courses.
A traditional associate degree takes two years of study, including state-required core courses. Master’s level degrees take one to two years of study on top of the time required for a bachelor’s degree.
Online formats may vary. Executive programs, for example, often forgo the traditional core requirements by considering work history and other types of alternative credits like military experience. Some use 5-8-week course sessions so students can finish the online undergraduate degree in the same amount of time as a traditional option while taking fewer courses at a time.
Discover More About Project Management Programs
Q. What is the application process for project management degree programs?
For associate or bachelor’s degrees, students need a high school diploma or equivalent. They should follow the application process for their chosen school. Some schools will require a slightly different process for online degrees than traditional ones.
Q. How do I become certified in project management?
Students with an associate or bachelor’s degree need the required experience to sit for the certification exam. Students should also look for a program that aligns with the Project Management Institute’s Body of Knowledge to ensure compliance.
Q. Are there scholarships available for project management programs?
Students can check with their chosen school and seek out state resources to make the degree more affordable. In some cases, employers may also offer current employees stipends or reimbursements for professional development in project management.
Q. Is a project management degree worth it?
Project management is industry agnostic. Students can apply for positions in nearly every industry there is. Many positions pay well over six figures per year.
Q. Does location matter for project management degrees?
Project management degrees can happen entirely online, so students can choose programs suitable for them no matter where they currently live. As far as jobs, the BLS identifies these five states as being the best places for project management job seekers2:
- District of Columbia average annual salary: $105,730
- Maryland average annual salary: $99,170
- Virginia average annual salary: $97,570
- New York average annual salary: $97,340
- Massachusetts average annual salary: $96,960
Q. Can I become a project manager with no experience?
Earning a bachelor’s degree will help students get a foot in the door. An internship while in school helps students acquire the hands-on experience they need to sit for the certification exam. While it’s possible to land an entry-level project management job with no experience, the certification exam requires at least three years of project management experience.
Q. What does an entry-level project manager do?
Entry-level project managers can improve communication between departments and take on team projects. They can foster collaboration and ensure quality communication with all stakeholders.
 PayScale. (2021). Average Project Management Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Project_Manager%2C_(Unspecified_Type_%2F_General)/Salary
 Project Management Institute. (2021). Project Management Professional. https://www.pmi.org/certifications/project-management-pmp