An MBA provides business professionals with enviable job prospects and earning potential. Programs across the country feature an advanced repertoire of in-demand business skills and specialized training. The degree stands as the most popular master's degree in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In the 2013-2014 school year, almost 190,000 students graduated with an MBA, a number that accounts for more than 25% of all master's degrees awarded.
Employers in many diverse industries require business operations specialists to bring projects to fruition in a timely and cost efficient manner. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that management positions will grow 8% from 2016 to 2026, the equivalent of 807,000 new jobs. Though a project management MBA requires a considerable investment of time and money, the effort often pays off. The average salary for a project manager stands at $71,749, according to Payscale, and individuals with an MBA earn about $84,000. A 2016 report by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) found that 54% of employers around the globe plan to increase salaries for new MBA employees.
Should I Get an MBA in Project Management?
While generalized MBA programs produce graduates well-versed in areas such as accounting, finance, and analysis, employers value specialized business skills such as project management. An MBA in project management gives students skills in areas such as planning, resource allocation, time management, technical abilities, negotiation, and conflict resolution -- applicable and desirable competencies across all industries. In a 2013 report, the Project Management Institute (PMI) noted that 71% of organizations house a project management office, a nearly 15% increase from 2007. PMI also forecasted 15.7 million new project management jobs between 2010 and 2020. In light of these figures, an MBA in project management can lead to a competitive career in a growing field.
Prospective MBA students must decide whether to enroll in an online or on-campus program. Working professionals often prefer online degrees because they allow students to maintain career, education, and family obligations. Recent college graduates may prefer the structure and networking opportunities of on-campus programs. Regardless of which delivery method they choose, MBA students acquire advanced knowledge and skills sought after by employers. The hands-on experience students gain from internships and team projects can vastly improve their expertise and resumes. Internships often lead to job offers, and graduates can take advantage of business schools' resources and connections in order to find job placements. MBA in project management programs also feature networking opportunities with peers and leaders in the business community. A 2016 alumni perspectives survey by GMAC found that full-time MBA students who complete two-year programs can recoup their investment in less than four years after graduation.
What Can I Do With an MBA in Project Management?
MBAs in project management qualify candidates for a number of careers in business and leadership. These individuals can find jobs in a diverse array of organizations, including nonprofits, federal agencies, corporations, and small businesses. The list below outlines five possible occupations for business professionals with an MBA in project management.
- Director of Project Management
These professionals lead a team of professionals charged with producing results on time and on budget. Project management directors establish the team's objectives, oversee procurement, review contractual obligations, plan personnel assignments, and eliminate productivity barriers. At minimum, they should possess a bachelor's degree in a field such as project management or business administration. The position requires skills in budget management, problem solving, and leadership.
Median Annual Salary: $120,764
- Project Manager
Project managers oversee project strategies, timelines, resources, and staff. They also identify problems that come up during the course of a project and propose solutions or mitigating strategies. Project managers may negotiate contracts and keep stakeholders informed about progress. These professionals should have at least a bachelor's degree in project management or business administration, along with skills in quality assurance, project coordination, and computer applications.
Median Annual Salary: $71,749
- Top Executive
Executives that focus on project management may hold many different titles, including chief business officer or chief operating officer. These executives devise strategies to ensure completion of operational and organizational goals. Depending on the company and field, many large businesses require executives to hold a master's degree or several decades of experience. Executives should have advanced skills in management, leadership, and problem solving.
Median Annual Salary: $104,700
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- General and Operations Manager
Managers direct a team of employees to achieve the organization's goals. General and operations managers manage daily operations, plan policies and strategies, and ensure the efficient use of materials and human capital. They may also work with executive management to develop, produce, and promote products and services. These professionals hold at least a bachelor's degree in a subject such as business administration or management. They should also have experience in operations management, budget management, problem solving, and leadership.
Median Annual Salary: $100,410
- Project Management Consultant
Consultants work with organizations to improve operational efficiency. Project management consultants provide oversight during major projects and tasks. They hold advanced degrees in subjects such as management, business administration, and project management. Many employers prefer candidates with an MBA and certified management consultant credentials.
Median Annual Salary: $82,450
Projected Growth Rate: 14%
How to Choose an MBA in Project Management Program
When choosing an MBA in project management, learners should consider a number of factors. Most programs require 36-48 credits and take one to two years to complete. Students should research credit requirements and decide if they want to enroll in a shorter or longer program. Additionally, learners should determine if they want to attend courses online or on campus. Recent college graduates may plan to pursue an MBA in project management immediately after completing a bachelor's degree. For these students, on-campus programs often provide the most resources, structure, and support. On-campus learners also enjoy face-to-face interactions with faculty and peers, easy access to libraries and other facilities, and networking opportunities.
By contrast, working professionals often have to juggle obligations such as work and family while they attend college. Online programs provide greater flexibility and accessibility for these individuals. Distance learning options also usually cost less than on-campus programs. In addition to tuition, online students save money on room and board, transportation, childcare, and related expenses.
Whether students choose on campus or online programs, the curriculum remains the same. All MBA students receive advanced training in core subjects such as managerial finance, strategic management, organizational leadership, and operations management. The project management specialization delves into topics such as negotiations, business analysis, and program management.
MBA curriculums usually require a capstone project, major exam, or thesis. Students should research the options available at each school and decide which capstone best suits their personality and interests. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, candidates should consider cost. Make sure to calculate how much they can afford to pay for an MBA in project management degree, including costs such as campus fees and textbooks. Applicants should figure in access to scholarships, grants, and federal loans. On-campus students must also look at cost of living.
Programmatic Accreditation for an MBA in project management
Students interested in MBA in project management programs should investigate the reputation of each business school. Programmatic accreditation serves as one way to ensure that the quality of instruction meets high standards. Accredited business programs submit to a rigorous evaluation from specialty agencies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education. Some MBA in project management programs also secure accreditation from the PMI Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs.
The importance of accreditation cannot be overstated. Employers often do not recognize MBA programs without accreditation. Regardless of programmatic accreditation, students should always make sure their program at least holds regional accreditation.
MBA in Project Management Program Admissions
Prospective students should ease into the process of applying to their chosen schools by first acquainting themselves with the requirements of each program. If a college offers an online and on-campus MBA in project management, the institution generally requires the same prerequisites and admission materials for both.
Since the application process can prove laborious and costly, students should only apply to about six schools. Learners should pick schools based on their own preferences and whether their academic and professional qualifications meet admission requirements. Students should apply to a few schools that they can likely get into and one or two schools that may seem out of reach. The following lists breaks down prerequisites and admission materials students will usually need for an application.
- Bachelor's Degree: MBA programs require a bachelor's degree for admission. Many students major in business administration, but applicants may hold a degree in any field. However, MBA programs may require students without a business background to complete prerequisite courses. A few dual BA-MBA programs do exist, but they often require strict admissions requirements and extraordinary academic history.
- Professional Experience: Although not always required, many business schools prefer candidates with work and leadership experience. Most business schools want to see at least one or two years of relevant work experience; top-tier schools and executive MBA programs require five to seven.
- Minimum GPA: A stellar GPA can help make up for other deficiencies in the application. Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA for an MBA in project management program. Some programs admit applicants with lower GPAs, as long as they meet other requirements.
- Application: Learners should plan for a 12-month application process, especially for competitive universities. Some schools accept applications year-round, while others use a rounds process. Applicants should follow each school's established process and deadlines.
- Transcripts: Business programs require transcripts from all previous colleges attended. Students should request transcripts online, in person, or in writing. Most schools charge a small fee to send transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Applicants should request two to four letters of recommendation from professors, employers, and advisers. Give the referees at least six weeks to fulfill the request.
- Test Scores: Though an increasing number of business schools accept the GRE, the GMAT remains the standardized test of choice for most MBA programs. The average GMAT score for all test-takers stands at 556.04, according to GMAC, the organization that administers the exam. MBA in project management applicants maintain a competitive edge with a score in the range of 600 and 650. Top programs demand even higher results.
- Application Fee: Learners should put aside between $50 and $100 for each application. Some schools offer fee waivers for low-income students and highly qualified applicants.
What Else Can I Expect From an MBA in Project Management Program?
Since project management is already a specialization under an MBA program, most students do not have the opportunity to concentrate their studies further. However, some students can choose courses or certifications that focus on a particular industry. Other students can add another concentration in a complementary subject area. The table below outlines five options in areas such as construction and sustainability.
|Architecture or Engineering Management||This concentration prepares individuals for managerial roles in the planning, design, and construction of civil and environmental projects in architecture and engineering. Topics covered include business development, construction management, project scheduling, and managerial finance and accounting.||Construction manager, project manager, site supervisor|
|Construction Management||This concentration focuses on time, cost, and quality control in the planning, scheduling, and building of construction projects. Topics covered include business development, construction management, project scheduling, and managerial accounting and finance.||Construction manager, project manager, site supervisor|
|Real Estate Development||This concentration emphasizes successful collaboration between project teams in the creation of commercial developments. Topics covered include site acquisition, project funding, financial feasibility, and asset management.||Real estate developer, project manager, construction manager, site supervisor|
|Sustainability||This concentration focuses on developing built environments that incorporate sustainable designs and practices. Topics covered include metrics of sustainability, systems thinking in sustainable design, and sustainability in construction.||Real estate developer, project manager, construction manager, architect, site supervisor|
|Transportation Management||This concentration provides an overview of the methods and tools used to develop, operate, and manage rail, road, and air transportation facilities. Topics covered include infrastructure systems analysis, transportation economics and finance, and the management of transportation operations.||Transportation and logistics manager, project manager, construction manager, site supervisor|
Courses in an MBA in Project Management Program
Each MBA in project management offers different courses and focus areas, but a few commonalities exist between programs. MBA programs usually require students to take a business management core that covers subjects such as managerial accounting, financial management, business economics, and organizational behavior. Students then complete a series of courses in project management. The sample curriculum below highlights a few potential courses students might take.
- Advanced Project Management
This course immerses business students in the intricacies of managing projects in a complex business environment. Learners examine topics such as project coordination, communication planning, risk management, procurement, and project leadership.
- Global Project Management
This course focuses on the use of advanced project management techniques in various geographic, cultural, and political settings. Students learn about the global logistics support process, multinational teams, virtual global software projects, and risk assessment in global projects. The course prepares project managers to work in diverse global settings.
- Project Communications Management
This course equips project managers with the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with global teams and stakeholders. Students learn how to manage conflict, foster a positive team environment, effectively preside over meetings, and accomplish project outcomes.
- Risk Analysis and Management
This course examines how project managers prepare for risks and evaluate the probability of risk in a business setting. Students use computational models and business data to analyze complex business problems. The course may also use analytics modeling to solve problems and make decisions.
- Planning and Resource Management
This course evaluates the various techniques used by project managers in the development process. Students learn how to secure and manage financial, human capital, and other resources.
How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA in Project Management?
Full-time students can complete an MBA in project management in 16 months to two years, depending on the program. While specific requirements vary, students should expect to take between 36 and 48 credits. Those who enroll in a part-time program can complete their degree in three to five years. Some business schools offer accelerated options that allow students to meet all program requirements in one year if they attend summer sessions. A number of schools allow students to transfer in credits from another master's degree in business management or a related field. A few programs also grant credits for work history, training, certifications, and life experience.
How Much Is an MBA in Project Management?
The cost of an MBA in project management depends on several factors, including tuition, enrollment status, fees, and delivery format. Those who choose an on-campus MBA program must also budget for room and board, fees, and transportation costs. Online programs often only require tuition, fees, and a transportation budget for any residency requirements.
Learners who study at a public, in-state school can save a massive amount of money in tuition. However, an increasing number of online programs allow out-of-state students to pay in-state rates. Students planning to relocate should factor in the cost of living and moving fees.
Certifications and Licenses an MBA in Project Management Prepares For
- Project Management Professional
Recognized as the gold standard certification for project managers, PMP demonstrates a candidate's ability to direct cross-functional teams, fulfill requirements and deliverables, and take responsibility for all aspects of projects. The Project Management Institute (PMI), who offers this certification, certifies project managers with a bachelor's degree and a minimum of 4,500 hours leading projects.
- Program Management Professional
PgMP benefits program managers responsible for managing multiple related projects at a senior level. Candidates must demonstrate their ability to navigate complex activities spanning functions, organizations, regions, or cultures. These tasks should align with the organization's goals. The PMI certifies project or program managers with a four-year degree and 6,000 hours of project management experience.
- Portfolio Management Professional
PfMP signifies that professionals can successfully coordinate and manage project portfolios to achieve an organization's strategic objectives. The PMI certifies portfolio managers with a bachelor's degree and 6,000 hours of portfolio management experience.
- PMI Professional in Business Analysis
PMI-PBA spotlights the business analysis skills of project managers. Competencies include requirement definition, project outputs, and business outcomes. The PMI certifies project managers with a bachelor's degree; 4,500 hours of business analysis experience; 2,000 hours of project team experience; and 35 hours of business analysis education.
- PMI Agile Certified Practitioner
PMI-ACP recognizes the skills of project managers versed in the use of agile principles and techniques in real-world, hands-on contexts. The PMI certifies project managers with at least 2,000 hours of project management experience working in teams; 1,500 hours agile project team experience; and 21 hours of training in agile practices.
Resources for MBA in Project Management Students
An online community for the project management profession, ProjectManagement.com keeps students and professionals up-to-date on developments in the field through webinars, discussions, and blogs. For a fee, visitors can access premium content such as templates for deliverables and career development resources.
This international business honor society recognizes top-performing business students from around the world. Membership benefits include access to programs, networking opportunities, internships, and volunteer opportunities.
Published by one of the top business schools in the world, HBR hosts several free articles and videos on contemporary topics. Paid subscribers gain comprehensive access to the full repository of content and exclusive articles.
A collection of free and paid podcasts interviewing experienced project managers about a variety of topics, the PM Podcast provides resources for both beginners and experts in project management.
This service helps prospective MBA students successfully navigate the admission process. Resources and services include admissions consulting, test prep, tutoring, and career counseling.
Professional Organizations for MBA in Project Management Students
Professional organizations give students a forum to remain current on the latest developments in the field, opportunities to network, continuing education credits, and career development resources. Members may also receive access to tools and templates, annual conferences, free webinars and podcasts, and certifications. Most of these organizations offer special rates for students.
The world's leading organization for project managers, PMI boasts a membership of half a million professionals. Members can access to PMI publications, 1,000+ free tools and templates, industry-recognized certifications, local PMI chapters, an online community, and a comprehensive job board.
AMA offers membership plans for individuals and businesses in various areas of business management. Member benefits include access to the AMA Quarterly Journal, featured web content, and webcasts and podcasts. The organization also offers an AMA certificate in project management for individuals new to the field.
APM provides members with the latest information on topics such as compensation and benefits, management trends, and educational opportunities. Members also access seminars, publications, and training specifically for architects, engineers, and facilities managers.
Dedicated to postgraduate business education, the Association of MBAs oversees a membership of 35,000 MBAs, students, business schools, and employers. Member benefits include professional development opportunities, an employer network, and networking events.
NAWMBA works to advance women into positions of leadership. The organization's programs focus on education, professional development, mentorship, networking, and collaboration. Members can access events, webinars, mentorships, e-coaching programs, career resources, and NAWMBA's multi-day conference and career fair.