Project Management Degrees: Master's, PhD and Online Training Info

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Master's and PhD degrees in project management can lead to careers in business or academia. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Study Project Management: Degrees at a Glance

Graduate degrees in project management may benefit you if you are an experienced professional looking for career advancement. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as the ability to execute projects through the efficient use of resources. Since project management applies to almost any industry, you will likely need a bachelor's degree in that field. As a project manager, you will have to concern yourself with budgets, timelines and productivity. While a master's degree is ideal for a business career, a PhD program will prepare you for an academic career.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Experienced individuals looking for a project management position Individuals looking to teach or research at the university-level
Common Career Paths*** (with approximate median annual salary) - General project manager ($36,000 - $100,000)*
- Construction project manager ($42,000 - $110,000)*
- Information technology project manager ($51,000 - $129,000)*
- Engineering project manager ($55,000 - $129,000)*
(In addition to jobs available to master's degree holders)
- Postsecondary business school teacher ($75,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 3-5 years full-time, post master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 30 credits
- Master's project
- Some advanced coursework
- Qualifying exam
- Doctoral dissertation and defense
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- GRE or GMAT scores
- Bachelor's or master's degree
- GRE or GMAT scores
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *Payscale.com salary data (October 2012, 10th to 90th percentile), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011), ***All master's career fields typically require a bachelor's degree and experience

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degrees may be offered as programs specific to project management or as specializations with other Master of Science or Master of Business Administration programs. Many schools offer this program onsite and online to accommodate both traditional and working students. These programs will teach you how to manage people and resources while maintaining a schedule and budget. You will also learn how to evaluate a project's performance.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs may be offered onsite and online by the same school
  • Offered as a specialization with MBA or other master's programs
  • Experience may be substituted for standardized test results when applying
  • Concentrations within a project management program are offered

Cons

  • Professional experience may be required for admission
  • Employers may still prefer experience to a degree
  • Online programs may require some in-person commitments

Coursework and Requirements

Master's programs typically require the completion of around 30 semester credits. The coursework is often practical and begins with foundational topics before advancing to more complex and specific issues in project management. These programs may require a capstone course that allows you to apply the skills you've learned in a program to an advanced project. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Risk management
  • Cost estimation and control
  • Project management finance
  • Global project management
  • Optimization models for decision making
  • Project planning and scheduling

Online Programs

Online master's programs in project management are available through both traditional universities and professional schools. These programs typically include the same courses as onsite programs. You'll learn through video recordings of lectures and online chat sessions. You may be required to complete a brief residency and attend an on-campus orientation.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

You may consider becoming professionally certified through the PMI. This institute offers several certifications, including the Project Management Professional credential. This credential requires a bachelor's degree and at least three years of project management experience. Technically, you should be proficient in the software programs and technologies that are prevalent in your career field. These may range from standard computer applications to more industry-specific technologies.

PhD Programs

PhD programs in project management are rare but some are available. While these programs tend to be research-based, some may include hands-on practice managing teams. You will have flexibility in the design of your program with your advisors and dissertation committee. As a PhD candidate, you will pursue advanced research in project management and related areas.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • These can prepare you for a career researching and teaching at a university
  • Programs may be specific to project management within a certain industry
  • These may provide more flexibility than master's programs

Cons

  • Few programs available and often aren't specific to project management
  • May not be advantageous for a career in the business world
  • More research-based rather than practical
  • A master's degree may be required for admission

Coursework and Requirements

In addition to advanced coursework, PhD programs require qualifying exams in the core areas of project management. The capstone requirement for earning a PhD is the completion and defense of a doctoral dissertation. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Research foundations
  • Applied research techniques
  • Global operations
  • Advanced concepts in project management methodologies
  • Advanced risk management systems and research

Online Programs

Online PhD programs related to project management are available. These programs provide learning tools to you like online course discussions and networking sites. During the weekends, you may be required to meet in-person residency requirements.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

In addition to the certifications available to master's students, you may also consider orientating your research toward a broad area of project management that can be applied to many business types. This may make you marketable to areas other than academia. Technically, you may want to ensure that your skills in software like Microsoft Project are adequate.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Global Leadership (Executive Format)
      • Doctorate: Management - Organizational Development and Change
      • Doctor of Management - Project Management
      • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Management - Leadership
      • Doctor - Management - Nonprofit Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Organizational Leadership
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Organizational Leadership
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • PhD-TIM - IT Project Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Development
  • Southfield, MI

    Lawrence Technological University

  • Milwaukee, WI

    University of Wisconsin

  • Online Programs Available
    6. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
  • Arlington, VA

    University of Management and Technology

Featured Schools

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Global Leadership (Executive Format)
  • Doctorate: Management - Organizational Development and Change
  • Doctor of Management - Project Management

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Organizational Leadership
  • PhD in Business Admin - Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Organizational Leadership

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Development

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Lawrence Technological University

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership

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University of Management and Technology