Is a Project Management Degree Right for You?

Project management programs give students the knowledge and skills they need to work with other staffers and create budgets, policies, procedures and schedules for businesses and organizations. They teach students the tools to complete projects on time and within a budget. Even with the downturn in the economy, the employment outlook for project managers is positive due to a growing shortage of project management talent in the profession, according to the Project Management Institute. The key is to seek out positions in growing industries, such as health care, infrastructure development and green technologies.

Advice for Earning Your Project Management Degree Online

Project management majors are offered at many online colleges and universities. Whether you decide to earn an associate, bachelor's or master's degree, the awarding school should be accredited. Accreditation ensures that the learning institution strives to provide a high quality education. There are regional and national accrediting groups, and it is possible for individual programs to be accredited as well. Many employers accept degrees only from accredited institutions.

Required Courses

Project management degrees prepare students to excel as team participants and leaders. Students begin by taking general education courses such as English, math and science. They then take specific project management and business classes such as fundamentals of management and leadership, e-business, marketing and sales, human resources management, communication and ethics.

Common Career Paths

Many businesses and companies hire project managers; they are very common in software, architecture, construction, design and Internet technology fields. Career options for project management graduates include (but are not limited to):

  • Cost Estimators: These professionals make realistic predictions about a project's cost based on research into the prices of line items such as materials, equipment and labor. They may break down a project into phases and provide their client with an estimate for each part. When a company or government entity sends out a request for proposals to general contractors for projects they need completed, the bidders often enlist the help of a cost estimator to provide an accurate budget breakdown. Part of a cost estimator's job is to research the duration of the project, and thus come up with a close approximation of how much workers must be paid during that time frame.

    Employment of cost estimators is expected to increase 36 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $57,860 in 2010.

  • Construction Managers: These managers are in charge of keeping construction on task. They are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating various construction projects, typically specializing in a particular type, such as residential or industrial. Construction managers set schedules, hire workers, assign tasks, select subcontractors, acquire any needed permits or licenses, and ensure construction projects are completed on time and within a budget. They typically aren't responsible for the actual labor, but they do have to make sure the construction workers assigned to the project are performing well.

    About two-thirds of construction managers were self-employed in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment in the field is projected to expand 17 percent between 2010 and 2020. Their median annual salary was $83,860 in 2010.

  • Industrial Production Managers: These managers oversee production activities at manufacturing plants. Tasks include managing staff, making sure the manufacturing equipment is in working order, and ensuring the plant meets goals for production quality and quantity. For small plants, there may be just one industrial production manager on site, but for large ones, the manager may work as part of a team and be responsible for only a single department. The industrial production manager must implement strategies to keep production churning, including motivating and training staff and correcting any problems that crop up that slow production. They also have to make sure that the goods being made at the plant meet certain quality standards.

    Employment of industrial production managers is forecast to grow 9 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $87,160 in 2010.

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