Online master's in project management unlocking doors to diverse careers

By Shannon Lee

Project managers use their specialized training and their organizational and interpersonal abilities in a wide range of companies. These professionals are responsible for the planning, direction, coordination and budgeting of projects, and they work closely with every aspect of a project, employing excellent communication skills and the ability to juggle several issues or problems at once. Project managers have an eye for delegating responsibilities to the proper team members, estimating both time and money involved, and can work well under pressure and on a deadline.

Project management skills and training are useful in many different fields, including construction, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications, finance, information technology and more. Project managers collaborate with anyone involved in a project, from owners to financiers to vendors and other company workers, in order to achieve the best results.

Graduate degrees in project management

Those who choose a master's degree in project management usually begin with a bachelor's degree in the field of their choice. For instance, those who prefer to move into information technology might choose a bachelor's degree in computer science, or those who want to pursue a job in construction could choose a construction discipline as their bachelor's study. The master's degree program typically takes two to three years of education beyond the four-year bachelor's degree.

Since many companies use project-based tasks to move to the next level, project managers should also gain experience where possible while pursuing their master's degree. Internships are a good way to accomplish this, and in some companies, internship experience is a requirement of application.

The master's degree in project management can help prepare a student for a career in many occupations. According to Salary.com, 29 percent of project managers in construction held a master's degree, as did those in science and technology fields. In more advanced positions in science and technology industries, the number of those holding a master's degree jumped to 44 percent. Among high-ranking information technology project managers, 51 percent held a master's degree.

Typical coursework for online project management degree programs

Degrees in project management focus on several aspects of the job, from theory to practical application. The curriculum varies widely, from accounting to organizational behavior. Here are some other courses one can expect to find in project management programs:

  • Business management
  • Applied managerial statistics
  • Project management systems
  • Advance program management
  • Risk management
  • Cost and schedule control
  • Contract management

A firm background in management, statistics and business is also expected of those who pursue a master's degree in project management. Courses often include mathematics, finance, marketing, communications, statistics and more. No matter the industry chosen, strong computer skills are a valuable asset.

Many online project management schools offer programs that have been accredited by the Project Management Institute, or PMI. This approval from the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs, or GAC, assures the quality of the degree program.

Project management salary and career paths

Many industries need project managers, which creates broad career possibilities for those who graduate with a degree in project management. In addition to the roles of construction manager and information technology supervisor, other potential professions for graduates include the following:

  • Quality management project coordinator
  • Sales manager
  • Business planning analyst
  • Master scheduler
  • Industrial production manager
  • Quality control manager
  • Administrative services manager
  • Human resources manager
  • Project risk manager

Since careers are available across so many industries, salary estimates for project managers can vary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction project managers made a mean annual wage of $94,240 in 2010, while computer and information systems managers earned a mean annual salary of $123,280. In the 2009 Salary Survey, PMI reported median annual earnings of $90,260 for all project managers.

A vast array of companies use project managers to handle current operations and ensure newly implemented programs run smoothly. An online master's degree from a project management program could introduce graduates to wide-ranging industries with diverse and dynamic career paths.


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