What Can You Do With a Project Management Degree?

Project Management Header

Table of Contents

The Role of a Project Manager

Project managers carry out organizational changes to meet strategic objectives. They typically lead projects through the initiation, planning, execution and completion phases.

What Project Managers Do

As overseers of strategic projects, project managers are called upon to offer management expertise to an organization when it changes direction, new technology is implemented, or when layoffs, acquisitions or divestitures occur.

In all cases, communication, people management, team management, and organizational skills are essential. Technology competence is also a plus.

In general, project managers are tasked with:

  • Understanding and documenting requirements
  • Creating and organizing plans
  • Forming and managing a team to complete the requirements listed
  • Creating and managing the budget, timeline and scope of a project to make sure the tasks are completed as promised
  • Reporting to stakeholders

In short, they manage an organization’s projects from beginning to end. Program managers, the next level up from a project manager, are tasked with managing multiple projects with multiple deliverables and teams.

Degree Requirements

Unlike many professional positions, there is no specific degree required to be a project manager. However, most hiring managers require or prefer that a candidate hold a bachelor’s degree and/or Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. 

Those who wish to pursue a project management position within a specific industry, such as computer technology, art, advertising or design, may wish to pursue a degree in their career sector of choice to gain a better understanding of the discipline.

Certification

Certification isn’t a requirement to gain employment, especially if an individual is transferring to a project management position within the same organization, but having a certificate does open doors. Hiring managers often list PMP or CAPM (Certified Associate Project Manager) certifications, earned through the Project Management Institute (PMI), as either a requirement or preference.

The following are descriptions of project and program management certifications offered through PMI, recognized as the industry leader in certification for the profession:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): This certification validates a project manager’s competence to lead and direct projects and teams.
  • Program Management Professional (PgMP): This certification is designed for those who manage multiple, complex projects to achieve strategic and organizational results.
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): This certification demonstrates an individual’s understanding of the fundamental knowledge, terminology and processes of effective project management.

Industries that Hire Project Managers

Large organizations, especially those who use technology strategically, frequently hire project managers, as do construction companies that do large-scale projects. A search for project management jobs online is likely to turn up a wide range of employers, from construction and lumber companies to the Salvation Army.

Project management skills lend themselves to many industries because of the job’s focus on:

  • Understanding requirements
  • Communicating effectively
  • Organizing tasks
  • Working with teams to accomplish tasks
  • Problem solving, and
  • Staying focused

Job Titles Project Managers Hold

Generally, those hired in the field hold some variation of the following titles:

  • Project manager
  • Program manager
  • Portfolio manager
  • Technical manager
  • Systems engineer
  • Contracting officer
  • Commercial project manager
  • Business manager
  • Supervisor
  • General manager
  • Project coordinator
  • Event project manager
  • Communication specialist
  • Business development manager

Frequently, project and program managers have titles specific to the industry or company, such as software project manager or construction program manager.

Traits of a Successful Project Manager

As project managers are called upon to lead, strong leadership and organizational skills are a must. He or she must learn how to successfully juggle the roles of team leader, coworker and supervisor at the same time, which can present relational challenges with peers, so often they are an “office psychologist” who is available to help resolve conflicts and make tough decisions.

Project managers are also problem-solvers, as they are typically the person people turn to when a problem arises.

In addition to strong organizational skills, a successful project manager is adept at soft skills that include:

  • Accountability
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy
  • Decisiveness
  • Critical thinking
  • Work ethic
  • Ability to deal with stress
  • Strategic thinking

Ultimately, project management is all about teamwork, so being flexible, understanding and patient goes a long way toward success in the profession.

Salary Expectations

A project manager’s salary will vary greatly, as variables such as location and work experience factor significantly in compensation. As of 2019, the annual mean wage for project management specialists and business operations specialists was between $67,000 and $116,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual mean wage nationwide for the occupation is $80,200.

Is Project Management a Good Fit?

If you see yourself as a strong leader – and adept at handling the team dynamics and logistical challenges common to most tasks – a career in project management may be right for you.

The field also affords flexibility, as a wide range of employers representing multiple sectors of business consistently seek individuals to provide direction for given projects.

» Learn more about George Fox University's bachelor's degree in project management, offered online or in Portland, Oregon