Are Project Management Degrees Worth the Investment?

How to Make Sure Your Choice Pays Off

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Setting out to earn any degree is a substantial investment, both in terms of time and financial outlay. It’s a long-term commitment that could see you jump ahead in your career and earning potential, but it’s not a decision to take lightly.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that project management jobs will grow by about 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, which matches the average job growth for all occupations. Management jobs, in general, tend to pay much more than average, with a median annual salary of $104,240 in 2018.

Take a look at some of the considerations to take into account before making the decision to take a degree course in project management.

Degrees: Not Required to Get a Job

A project management degree is most definitely not required to get a job. Project coordinators start work often without any formal credentials aside from an interest in organization and delivery. Many senior project managers today came into project management from another field, such as software development or healthcare administration. It was their background that gave them the skills required to do a great job, not their education. You can always get a professional certification or a degree in the subject later.

However, when the job market is competitive, you may find that having a relevant degree gives you the edge for securing a job. It can also lend confidence, and many courses will offer placements or some kind of work experience that will introduce you to what the project environment will be like. Again, that gives you extra information for your resume and material to talk about at an interview beyond what a week-long project management course can offer.

There are many advantages to earning a project management degree, but if the length of time it takes, and the financial commitment, isn’t something you can take on right now, then you can still start your project management career and build on your education later.

What Kind of Degree to Get?

The other choice you’ll have to make is what kind of degree to pursue. There are project management specialist MBA programs, or if you aren’t sure if an MBA is right for you, there are undergraduate (Associate and Bachelor’s) and graduate degrees (Master’s) with project management either as the main subject or a subsidiary subject.

Check the syllabus to ensure that project management is covered in enough detail for your needs. Many Associate level degree courses, for example, only touch on project management by offering a course or two, with the rest being other business or management topics.

It might make sense for you, for example, to study a construction degree with a project management component. Or to take a nursing degree with a focus on business administration and project management. You’ll get the industry background and a good grounding in project management as well, and you can be sure that case studies, examples, and techniques will be relevant to the context you will be using them in.

As well as degree courses, many academic institutions also offer short courses or modules in project management which can be taken either as part of a different degree or on a standalone basis. If you can’t commit to a full degree course right now, this might be the way to go.

A degree in project management can offer you credibility, confidence, deep domain knowledge and skills, along with connections and a network that can support your career for years to come. You may also be able to secure a higher paying job because of your educational background and the experiences it offered you.

What the Degree Courses Cover

You’ll find project management degrees offered by colleges, universities and dedicated business schools. The content of these differs as professors will build courses around their specialist interests and sometimes in conjunction with industry partners; this can be a benefit if you are hoping to find a new job as a result of your studies.

Many courses will require little to no prior knowledge, so you can expect to cover the basics of project management before quickly moving on to the more advanced subjects.

In your coursework, you’ll get an in-depth look at the fundamentals of project management. You may cover topics such as the project life cycle, the responsibilities of the project team and project board, and risk management. Once you learn the basics, you should expect to cover subjects in more detail with classes on subjects such as responses for managing positive risk.

Course Homework Examples

Degree programs take a variety of formats so research what your course will expect from you and what fits best with your personality and time schedule. You may have essays to do, a long dissertation, or a research project. Some courses that involve work placements require students to write up their experiences.

There may also be some reflective work analyzing the successes (or otherwise) or class projects where you work in small groups.

Find an Accredited Course

Another factor to take into account is whether your course or school is accredited. There are a number of bodies that accredit universities, including The Project Management Institute (PMI). Taking an accredited course can open up funding opportunities and speed up getting additional qualifications as sometimes what you learn on your degree course can count towards the requirements for professional or accrediting bodies.

Accreditation also gives you confidence that you are going to study for a quality degree. It’s also recognized by employers, so that can give you the edge when it comes to applying for jobs later.

Alternatives to Project Management Degrees

If you can’t commit to a project management degree right now, there are a number of high quality, well-respected project certification options instead.

PMI is an accrediting body that has a family of credentials that are recognized globally. This could be a good option for you if you need something cheaper and that you can complete faster and yet still have a certification that your employer will find valuable.

There are other national project management organizations with their own credentialing, so you can look into those as well.

After Graduation

Project management is a huge field. Project managers are essential to most industries, so whether you choose arts administration, healthcare, oil, and gas or construction, there’s a demand for qualified, experienced people who know what it takes to get a team to come together to deliver something of value.