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Guide to Earning Your MS in Project Management
What is a Master's Degree in Project Management?
A master's degree in project management is a graduate-level degree that gives you an in-depth understanding of the project management process so that you can successfully lead high-budget, multi-step, and high-stakes projects. It's a smart choice for current project managers who want to advance their careers or for people who are brand new to the field and want to jump in at a leadership level.
"By obtaining a master's degree in project management, employers will recognize you as a doer and a leader," says Morgan Martin, the CEO and founder of CoApt Projects, LLC. "Having a master's degree in project management positions you as team lead and gives you a chance to break out of what otherwise might be siloed work."
Typical Programs and Concentrations for Project Managers
While project managers are needed in every field, there is greater demand in certain industries, such as construction, information technology, manufacturing, healthcare, and marketing. To prepare project managers for this demand, many master's programs offer concentrations in these industries.
You'll find master's programs that grant degrees such as "Master of Science in Project Management with a concentration in Healthcare Administration" or "Master of Project Management with a concentration in Marketing Strategy." Other common concentrations include:
You might see project management master's degrees with names like "Master of Science in Project Management" or "Master of Project Management." These different degree titles won't change the content of your program or courses. They're simply how the school has chosen to designate their project management master's degree. But be aware that a master's in product management is different than a project management master's. No matter what it's called, your master's degree will take two to three years to complete.
Project Management Master's Coursework
The exact courses and structure of degree programs vary by school, but the fundamentals of your degree cover the same core topics.
"A reputable master's-level program in project management should dedicate time to data analysis and decision making, leading teams, and human behavior," says Martin, "and ultimately give you the opportunity to capstone with real-world project management."
"Every program typically covers project management knowledge areas such as cost management, schedule management, resource management, risk management, etc.," adds Dr. Nebil Buyurgan, director of the Project Management Master's Program at Missouri State University.
A typical master's program will cover areas such as cost management, schedule management, resource management, and risk management.
Prerequisites for a MS in Project Management
It'll take two to three years to earn your master's degree, and you'll need at least a four-year bachelor's degree in any subject before you begin. Master's programs are often competitive and many look for GPAs of at least 3.0. Some schools will also ask for GRE scores, admission interviews, letters of recommendation, resumes, and personal statements explaining your career goals.
Other Degree Programs for Project Managers
A master's in project management isn't your only option if you want to become a project manager. You can also consider:
Is Certification Important?
There are no required certifications for project managers. However, there are a few that are highly recommended and that can make a major impact on your career. These certifications might not be national or state requirements, but they are often required by employers seeking qualified project managers. Holding both a master's degree and a certification can help you gain access to high-level, high-paying roles in project management.
Your master's degree alone isn't enough to qualify for certifications. You'll likely need some experience first. However, the degree can help you meet the educational requirements and give you the knowledge you need to pass your certification exam on your first try.
Programs and Schools: What to Look For
The project management master's degree program you select can have a significant impact on your career. It's important to choose a program that aligns with your goals and meets your learning needs. It's also important to choose a program that will deliver a high-quality education. One of the best ways to ensure this is to check for accreditation. Project management schools and programs can be accredited on two levels, ensuring a solid project management education.