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MBA might be the most popular postgraduate degree in the United States, but “increasingly, employers in various fields are seeking workers who have a proficiency in project management,” notes U.S. News & World Report. While an MBA will certainly enhance your knowledge of finance, accounting, and analysis, “employers have recently indicated that they need a more diverse set of skills from many of these high-priced employees” explains the news site.

In the wake of the economic recession, these diverse leadership skills include:

  • Cost and time management
  • Ability to execute strategic change
  • Effective management of human resources
  • Ability to move large-scale projects from concept to completion
  • Ability to keep teams on track and evaluate priority needs within the organization

While an MBA offers some of these skills, many fields require a much more targeted master’s in order to be successful. Similarly, while project management shares some of the same job qualifications as a more traditional business leadership role, MBA grads often lose out on project management opportunities because they lack those targeted skills.

The question then becomes: Are you one of those people? Do you have project management on the brain? Would you like to lead a team of successful, skilled individuals to complete big jobs on tight timelines, while respecting budgets and impressing higher-ups? If so, you might want to consider pursuing a master’s in Project Management.

Let’s take a look at the difference between the MBA and the MS in Project Management (MSPM), why the MSPM may serve you better, what job opportunities exist, salaries and job growth, and more.

MBA Versus MS in Project Management: What’s the Difference?

The classic MBA, which stands for Master of Business Administration, is geared toward preparing students for life in the business world. Classic areas of focus include finance, management and leadership. While these represent useful skills that project managers should and usually do possess, the MBA’s more general approach often fails to impart the specific implementation and execution abilities needed to manage huge projects from a bird’s-eye view.

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In response to this, many schools now offer a Master of Science in Project Management. This helps to meet the increasing demand for business analysts and project managers, degreed professionals who can help companies optimize existing projects and performance. The targeted MSPM is more likely to give students the ability to handle large projects, large teams, tight timelines, changing work parameters, communication requirements and more.

Another difference between the two is work experience. “Although MBAs are often a good choice for recent graduates with three or more years of work experience, Master of Science in Project Management candidates often have significant work experience: around 12 years on average,” according to Online Colleges.

Benefits of the Master of Science in Project Management

Again, the MBA certainly holds a place in today’s world. But if you want to be a project manager, it simply lacks many of the elements needed to put you among the most competitive candidates. MSPM coursework is extremely directed toward those skills that will help you implement and execute projects from start to finish. Common coursework includes:

  • Planning and Resource Management
  • Cost Estimation and Control
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Decision-making
  • Business Analyses
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis
  • Executive Decision-making
  • Professional Communications
  • Managing Project Teams
  • Human Behavior in Organizations
  • Commercial Law and Project Procurement

Most project managers have at least some experience in the field before applying to an MSPM program. If you combine that experience with this high-level of training, you’ll quickly outstrip project management candidates who only hold the MBA.

Consider this from Capterra’s statistical roundup:“A lack of clear goals is the most common factor (37%) behind project failure, according to executive leaders.” If you can avoid that lack — a skill you’d develop with this type of program — you’ll set yourself up for long-term success, for the project, your organization and you!

Plus, according to the same source, “85 percent of firms have a project management office, and 45 percent of the people who staff it have earned at least a Project Management Certification. In the hunt for qualified candidates for these jobs, an MSPM can help you stand out from the crowd.

What Opportunities Does the MSPM Afford?

The MSPM offers opportunities in a variety of industries upon graduation. The Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates that an average of almost 214,000 jobs will be open in the U.S. each year through 2027, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Project managers typically earn between $54,000 and $115,000 per year, with Master of Science in Project Management degree-holders on the higher end of the scale, especially those who work for technology companies, adds Online Colleges. PMI quotes the median annual salary at $108,200 and predicts that career prospects will grow the most in the healthcare industry in the coming years.

Other project-intensive industries expected to have a great need for degreed professionals include:

  • Advertising and Marketing: $129,380 per year
  • Medical and Health Services: $98,350 per year
  • Engineering: $88,674
  • Information technology: $85,724
  • Pharmaceuticals: $83,628
  • Construction: Median salary $71,805

These are averages, so depending on job experience, the starting salaries upon graduation may fluctuate. If you have considerable time in a related field, however, it’s possible you’ll land six figures right out of the gate.

The 2018 Takeaway

At the end of the day, the MSPM can help you gain the skills needed not only to lead, but to lead successfully … even in the midst of stressful, time-restricted and detail-oriented projects. The specialized skills needed to do this well take years to master out in the field, where you may not even get the opportunity to prove your worth if you’re competing with others who have MSPMs.

Instead of getting the general MBA and leaving your dreams to chance, take a direct route to success. If you’d like to learn more about Post University’s Master of Science in Project Management or our online Graduate Certificate in Project Management, please contact us.