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Project Management Associate Degree Guide
Although most project managers hold a bachelor's or post-graduate degree, an associate degree can be a good way to jump-start your project management career and be considered for entry-level roles. You can't earn an associate degree specifically in project management, but you can earn a degree in one of the fields project managers often work in. From there, you can apply for project management roles and build your career. Earning certification can help you stand out as project manager at the associate degree level. Plus, the credits from your associate degree can count towards a bachelor's degree later in your career.
Types of Associate Degrees for Project Managers
An associate degree, which will typically take 18 months to two years to complete, can serve as a strong foundation for your project management career. Your degree will help you learn business basics such as budgeting, scheduling, project oversight, and more.
"Project managers often hold business degrees at the associate level," says Jon M. Quigley, a project manager, product developer, and author with more than 30 years of experience in the field of project management.
The right associate degree for project managers depends on the field you'd like to pursue. Some appropriate degrees include:
Are Online Programs Available?
There are several all-online, associate-level degree options for aspiring project managers. These programs allow you to complete your degree without ever needing to come to campus. Generally, online programs allow you to work at your own pace and complete your program on the weekends, at night, or whenever is convenient for you. Some degrees or programs might have a few in-person requirements such as an internship or hands-on project, but many are 100% online.
What to Look for in a School
You'll have a lot of options when you're looking for the right associate degree program and school for your project management career. But before you settle on a program or school, it's a good idea to make sure both are accredited. This will ensure your credits will transfer to a four-year college or university if you decide to continue your education later. Accreditation also means your school has met the quality standards set by your state and will deliver a great education. Plus, accreditation allows you to apply for government student aid to help pay for school.
Are Certifications Required?
You won't be required to earn certification as a project manager, but it can be a good idea. Certification can boost your career, allow you to apply for higher-level roles, and may even help increase your salary. Plus, some employers prefer to hire certified project managers. Fortunately, there are certifications available for project managers at every educational and career level. That means you can earn certification with an associate degree.
One of the most popular options for project managers with an associate degree is the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) from the Project Management Institute (PMI). This is an entry-level project management certification that can help get your career off to a great start. You'll need to take a 23-hour online Project Management Basics course from PMI on top of your associate degree to be eligible for CAMP certification, but you don't need to wait until you have experience.
About Undergraduate Certifications
An undergraduate certificate and a certification might sound similar, but are actually very different things. Certification is a credential granted by an organization such as PMI that proves you've mastered certain skills and knowledge. A certificate is an educational program you can complete. Certificates aren't full degrees. They can generally be completed in a few months and some might only take a couple of weeks. Certificates are granted after you complete a few courses in specific subjects, such as project management.
Certification is a credential granted by an organization such as PMI that proves you've mastered certain skills and knowledge. A certificate is an educational program you can complete.
Certificates are often a good idea for working professionals who want to add project management to their current roles, but who don't have time to earn a full degree. Certificates vary widely by school. Some schools grant undergraduate certificates in project management to students who've completed six credits, for example, while others require students to complete 20 or more credits hours. Similarly, some certificate programs don't require prerequisites. You can begin by simply signing up and paying the tuition fee. Other programs will ask that you have at least an associate degree before you begin and require a full application process.
Salary and Job Outlook
Your salary as a project manager depends on your experience, education, industry, location, and more. However, project managers are generally well-paid. Additionally, project managers in industries such as healthcare and software development are in high demand. There are opportunities for project managers at all levels of education to join the field and experience career stability and salary growth.
Written and reported by:
With professional insight from:
Jon M. Quigley, MS, PMP, CTFL
Project Manager and Product Developer