Project Management Career and Degree Guide

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Project Management Degree Programs


Whether you are a new or returning student, there are several in-roads to a career in project management. No matter which project management degree you choose—a bachelor's degree, master's degree or PhD—you can go to school either online or on campus.
In addition, whether you're currently in school or not, you can pursue credentials from the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI is the most widely recognized association for project managers worldwide. As with many project management careers—as well as in the business world at large—professional certification or a higher degree such as an MBA, can significantly increase your marketability and earning potential.

Project Management Degree Types: Bachelor's & Master's Programs

Here are the various project management degrees and certification levels available that can help you achieve a project management career:

  • Bachelor's Degree: Programs exist that allow you to learn about your main subject area—information technology, for example—while concurrently developing the project management skills relating specifically to your target industry. A number of bachelor's degree programs (as well as master's degree programs and higher) teach competencies found in the widely recognized standard text called the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide.

Four types of master's degrees can provide you with advanced training in project management:

  • Master of Science in Project Management (MSPM) – An MSPM degree allows a focus on project management itself while providing advanced training in practice and methodology. The MSPM program teaches the application of critical thinking to problem solving as well as fundamental analytical techniques needed for successful leadership of projects within complex organizations. Programs typically take two years to complete.
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) – An MBA program typically takes two years of study to earn and provides comprehensive formal business training; however, you may wish to consider an MBA program that offers a project management concentration to ensure specialized training in this area. Some professionals choose to obtain an MBA in addition to a specific management degree, such as an MBA/MSPM.
  • Master of Science in Management (MSM) – An MSM degree offers training in broader business management issues, particularly in the operational aspects but also in policy and strategic studies. Although there are exceptions, MSM degrees generally take less time to earn than MBAs (often with just one year of study) and often don't require prior business work experience for admission.
  • Master of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with a project management concentration – MS and PhD programs exist that enable you to obtain an advanced degree in your specialty area with a project management concentration. Such a program in information technology, for example, may yield an "MS-IT-PM" degree. MS degrees typically take 1 to 2 years to complete, while PhDs usually require four years or more of coursework, research and a dissertation.

Project Management Institute Accreditation

The Project Management Institute (PMI) launched in 1969 and is the world's most prestigious advocacy organization in project management. PMI sets global standards as well as offering education opportunities for professionals to advance their credentials. A number of schools in North America offer project management degrees approved by PMI's Global Accreditation Center (GAC), or enable students to accrue "professional development units" that can apply toward the ongoing maintenance of a specific PMI credential.