Above all else, a Master of Science in Project Management provides the hands-on skills and in-depth knowledge vital to success for the demanding position of project manager. This role is of utmost importance in a field increasingly driven by influential short and long-term initiatives, which must be executed promptly and seamlessly.
What, exactly, a project manager does depends on the industry and department in which the employee works. This can vary significantly from one position to the next. In general, however, project managers are responsible for leading teams through all elements of defined projects. This may involve the conception of said projects, with managers often asked to analyze existing company concerns to determine how they can best be resolved within a matter of weeks or months.
Once defined, the project in question must be planned in detail to ensure that it can be completed within specific parameters related to budgetary or timing concerns. From there, project managers oversee the execution and completion of assigned initiatives. Nearly all work within teams. They often consult with professionals from a variety of other departments. The collaborative nature of the work calls for extensive soft skills and a love of working closely with all kinds of professionals.
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Depending on the scope of the organization, project managers may be employed in a variety of specific industries or within certain departments. Information technology and information systems project managers are particularly common, with data from the Project Management Institute’s 10th Edition Salary Survey revealing that 25 percent of project managers work in these niches. Other common fields include engineering, manufacturing, and health care. Corporate work is common, while some project managers find employment in government agencies.
Specific responsibilities also depend largely on the level of the position in question. Some companies use a single title to define standard project managers, perhaps adding the term ‘senior’ to indicate greater responsibility. Many, however, classify employees within three main levels, including:
Project manager I
Often relegated to inexperienced project managers, this position involves projects of limited complexity. Level I managers often hold supportive roles, rather than leading projects on their own.
Project manager II
Similar to level I, this position requires greater experience, as it grants professionals a more hands-on role in the execution of limited, but critical projects.
Project manager III
Typically involving the more complicated aspects of projects, this role grants professionals the ability to pursue independent, yet collaborative initiatives. This level necessitates at least five years of experience, although those with sufficient academic credentials may jump quickly to this position.
Beyond responsibilities, pay differs somewhat depending on the numerals following project management titles. According to the aforementioned PMI salary survey, level I project managers earn median annual wages of $87,000, versus $109,000 per year for level III. These figures exclude self-employed project managers, many of whom out-earn their conventionally employed counterparts.
Director of Project Management
With experience and a graduate education, successful project managers can move into senior positions. Those employed at large corporations or in charge of especially significant initiatives may be referred to as directors of project management. This additional responsibility comes with a significant boost in pay. PMI survey results reveal median wages of $140,000 for project management professionals serving as directors.
Unfortunately, the pay raises that naturally accompany director positions also come with a dramatic increase in time spent on the job. Listings often indicate that directors of project management are expected, on average, to spend just over 40 hours per week at work. In reality, however, the average position actually involves over 48 hours per week. Many directors of project management report maintaining 50 or even 60-hour workweeks, with demands intensifying as projects near completion.
Project Management Consultant
While many project managers are continuously employed by a variety of organizations, some prefer the comparative freedom of working as consultants. The field lends itself well to consulting, especially given the typically temporary nature of key initiatives. Consultants may be called upon to handle specific projects that align with their niche skills. Others, however, examine project management departments from an outside perspective to determine where improvements can be made. Their efforts help organizations improve both the efficiency and outcomes of key projects.
Many project management consultants are employed by firms which are tasked with finding them positions that match their unique skills and knowledge. According to PMI data, these consultants earn median annual salaries of $110,000. Self-employment is also common in this field and can actually deliver higher wages, as evidenced by PMI data indicating median annual earnings of $128,500 for exclusively self-employed project management consultants.
Similar in many respects to project management, this position shifts its focus slightly to a specific program or department. While projects are, by nature, temporary, program managers tend to take a long-term approach. Rather than focus on a single project at a time, they handle a series of interconnected projects with the ultimate intention of meeting ambitious business objectives. These projects rarely hold the clearly defined budgets or timelines associated with the initiative pursued by conventional project managers. Despite these differences, a Master of Science in Project Management offers the crossover skills needed to impress those in charge of program management hiring.
According to the PMI, program managers earn a median salary of $120,000 per year. With experience, employees may move into senior or director positions which deliver considerable boosts in pay and benefits.
The future is bright for the field of project management. It promises considerable growth in the next several years. From consulting gigs to lucrative director positions, a variety of opportunities can spark professional growth in project managers at all levels. If you love working in a team-based environment and taking on new challenges, you could be a great fit for this promising field.
While employers value experience, it’s possible to gain an edge with targeted graduate education. It demonstrates the mastery of complicated subject material and the ability to excel in leadership positions. A Master of Science in Project Management may open up a variety of compelling opportunities. Your hard work at the graduate level could lead to your dream job in project management.