Looking to Advance Your Career? Consider a Master’s in Project Management

A master's in project management can qualify you for leadership positions and help you grow your career. Learn why you should get this degree today.

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by Danika Miller

Updated November 28, 2022

Edited by Hannah Muniz
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Looking to Advance Your Career? Consider a Master’s in Project Management
Image Credit: USC Bovard College

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If you want to advance your career, regardless of your profession, consider a master's in project management. A project management program can teach you how to lead and manage projects and organizations. It can also prepare you for professional leadership roles, business operations, and project management jobs.

Nearly every industry finds value in project management. Mike Fanning, a professor in USC Bovard College's online master's in project management program, spoke about some of the positions students have landed after graduation.

My students have received promotions or were selected for new positions in the U.S. Space Command, Disney, Boeing, Apple, Goldman Sachs, City of Los Angeles, U.S. Marines, Northrop Grumman, and dozens of entrepreneurial and consulting ventures, Fanning said.

Here are four reasons why you should consider a master's in project management to advance your career.

A Project Management Degree Can Work for Any Career

You don't need to work as a project manager in order to pursue a master's in project management. The degree could actually expand your job options if you want to switch careers or prepare you to advance into leadership roles.

Current students and our graduates work in aerospace, information systems, logistics, military, consulting, finance, construction, analytics, healthcare, entertainment, gaming, defense, public policy, education, customer services, or are entrepreneurs, said Fanning.

Crystal Smith, an adjunct professor for the USC Bovard College master's in project management program, shared that her students come from industries like pharmaceuticals, entertainment, professional sports, healthcare, construction, education, manufacturing, and the defense sector.

Some students have no experience in project management and some are very advanced in project management and their career, said Smith. Students have networked amongst themselves and provided others with new career opportunities.

Project management master's degrees also allow room for you to tailor your projects and some course assignments toward your interests.

Students have the option to choose their own projects based on their background, experience, and interest, said Kaali Dass, Ph.D., another professor in the master's in project management program at USC Bovard College. Many of the discussions and assignments are carefully selected based on research by experts, current organization needs, and industry trends.

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You'll Gain Essential Leadership and Management Skills

Students graduate from a master's in project management degree program with a variety of leadership and management skills.

The reason these and other careers value USC MSPM graduates is because of the many skills they bring to the table, including business analysis, execution, change management, conflict resolution, negotiation, performance, quality, budget, and risk management, said Fanning.

These skills hold value in nearly every industry and can help you advance in any career. Being able to communicate and analyze trends in your field is a critical skill — and is often key to working your way up.

Understanding scope and schedule development, budget, risks, stakeholder identification and management, governance, execution and implementation in detail can apply in a broad range of positions and industries, said Smith.

For most employers, a project management graduate is the ideal employee, teammate, and business leader.

What separates USC Bovard College graduates from the pack is their ability to listen closely to their team, their stakeholders, and all affected parties to identify and develop the optimal implementable solution, explained Fanning.

A project management degree is easily transferable and can help you master leadership skills in a practical way.

Students gain expertise and confidence to influence the leaders within and outside the organization to incorporate a new way of working and add value to the customers, said Dass.

Some classes you may take include business analysis, cost estimation, risk management, process improvement, and business relationships.

A Master's Program Can Provide Work Experience

A project management master's degree can help you build your resume.

Most degrees give students the chance to create relevant projects and practice real-life applications. This can help you land a job even if you lack previous work experience in the field.

Focused task and role-oriented coursework is continually updated to reflect the dynamic tools and methods necessary for mastery of project management's technical skills, said Fanning. And integrative courses throughout the program show students how to transcend from managers into leaders.

Hands-on coursework can prepare you to problem-solve and succeed in the real world.

Master's in project management courses … connect the learners from theory to practice with real-time case studies and examples from a variety of industries like IT, construction, drug development, and other industry domains, said Dass.

The capstone project at the end of a master's in project management program is typically designed by the student. It's a great opportunity to showcase what you've learned and how you can apply that knowledge to a specific industry.

And it's an achievement you can (and should) note on your resume.

If you're hoping to change careers but don't have relevant job experience, your project management degree can bridge the gap.

An electrical design engineer working for a defense company can move to being a project manager at a tech company, said Smith. Project management expertise is invaluable to most employers.

You'll Qualify for Leadership Positions

An advanced project management degree can qualify you for leadership positions, preparing you to lead teams and eventually entire organizations.

A master's degree in project management from USC is a career-maker, explained Fanning. Whether our graduates decide to remain as project managers or use their project management skills to become CEOs or business owners, they are ready for whatever path they choose.

Not only will a project management master's degree increase your salary potential and qualify you for promotions, but it can also empower you to lead a business.


With Advice From:

Portrait of Mike Fanning

Mike Fanning

Mike Fanning is a project manager with over 30 years of experience in the public sector. Following positions at the White House and the Washington Post, he served as the U.S. Postal Service's environmental chief of staff and as agency environmental executive.

In addition to managing emergency preparedness, response, and recovery support, he led a large national staff on projects that required continuous cooperation with White House and Congressional staff, Homeland Security, and postal operations managers.

Mike earned his BA in government and sociology from Georgetown University and his MS in environmental, safety, and health management from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He also studied crisis management and risk communications at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He holds PMP certification and four patents in emergency and environmental management.

Portrait of Crystal Smith

Crystal Smith

Crystal M. Smith has over 20 years of experience in project management, construction, corporate real estate, cost analysis, and quality control. She has worked in over 13 cities in the U.S. and in the Netherlands on international assignment.

She currently serves as a project director, leading the construction of the new Duke Energy Plaza 41-story tower in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is responsible for managing the construction team, ensuring budget adherence, overseeing cost change control, driving project schedule, and leading overall project execution. She is also an adjunct professor teaching in the MS in project management program at the University of Southern California Bovard College.

Portrait of Kaali Dass, Ph.D.

Kaali Dass, Ph.D.

Kaali Dass, Ph.D., has over 25 years of information technology and project management experience spanning multiple industries. He has led many cross-functional and global software projects.

Currently, he works as a senior technical program manager at Cisco Systems Inc. He also serves as director of IT at the North Carolina Chapter of PMI and as an adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern California, where he teaches in the MS in project management program.

Dass has a Ph.D. in IT management, an MBA in finance, and professional certifications in project management and IT security. He has published papers on project management and frequently writes and speaks on agile and IT project management-related topics.

He specializes in portfolio management, strategic planning, agile coaching, technical project management, IT security, and compliance.