The Proof is in the Salary: Median Project Manager Salary in Six-Figures

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 CTU Project Management Degree - Six Figure SalariesWhen you hear the term “project manager,” the words leader, communicator, detail-oriented, cheerleader, organized, motivated, flexible, responsible, good with numbers, and on the ball probably come to mind. But did you know that project management is a growing, in-demand field where the median salary is in the six-figures? As over the top as these phrases, and that salary, might seem, they’re absolutely correct.

According to Project Management Institute (PMI), a non-profit membership association for project managers, a project is defined as “a unique, temporary group activity designed to produce a unique profit, service or result” and project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.” With a job description like that, you need to take some steps in your education and work experience in order to be a strong project manager that employers love to hire and clients love to work with.

What can a degree in this demanding but exciting field get you?

A bright future

Recent studies show the need for project managers is growing and, with it, salaries are increasing. According to PMI, the median salary for a project manager in the United States was $105,000 in 2011*, and may increase with various certifications. Separately, a 2012 study by Anderson Economic Group predicts that 32.6 million employees with project management skills will be needed by the year 2016, and nearly 1.2 million project manager positions will need to be filled each year through 2016*.

While project manager may appear to be one job description, it’s important to note that not all jobs have “project management” in the title. For example, directors, program managers, and portfolio managers are also tasked with managing projects and programs. The skills learned in the classroom and on the job are in demand in a variety of fields, and can lead to consulting and teaching opportunities as well.

An abundance of opportunities

Those flexible job titles and teaching and consulting opportunities can make the opportunities for project management seem endless, especially compared to other less diversified career paths. The opportunities might not actually be endless, but keep in mind how wide you can cast your net when looking for project management opportunities: You can find positions in information technology (IT), health care, financial services, education, manufacturing, new product development, urban development, engineering, construction, administration, and government, just to name some.

That’s not to say project management in one field is identical to another. However, you do have a plethora of industries that need project managers, and as you begin to think about pursuing this field, consider what area you see yourself in so you can begin to build the right experience.

A plethora of skills

One reason project management is found in so many industries and that the role is in high demand boils down to one thing: skills. The project manager works with a number of individuals toward an end goal, and is tasked with keeping the team on task and within a budget. He or she must communicate well with a variety of people: from business leaders to construction teams, keeping in mind the message may vary depending on the audience.

For example, he or she must manage the expectations and keep executives in the loop (depending on the amount of communication and reporting appropriate for that project), while communicating effectively with all members of the project team. Project managers are team leaders who have to communication with all levels of management and clients both internally and externally. You need great communication, business acumen, critical thinking skills, and so much more. Your education can help you build that foundation so you become the project manager that employers trust representing the company.

Remember that you control your education. It’s more than simply taking tests; it’s about building the skills and knowledge that will lead you toward your career goals. Look at the course selections in your school’s project management program and talk with your career services department to learn more about steps for finding internships, volunteer opportunities or job openings in your desired field.

*Source: accessed 1/28/14

Image Credit: Flickr/Charlotte Holmes