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At some point, many project managers consider going back to school to earn their master’s degree. Some look at a master’s in project management as an alternative to earning a PMP or other project management certification and others wonder if an advanced project management degree is a worthwhile investment even after earning PMP credentials.

There are many things to consider when deciding whether an advanced project management degree is the right choice for you. Here’s a look at what master’s programs in project management typically look like, and the factors you should take into account when making your future plans.

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1. Master’s level PM programs

While it was an almost unknown degree a generation ago, today hundreds of universities in the US and abroad offer master’s programs in project management. Most schools have developed their master’s programs as a combination of standard project management training (usually based on the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge), together with general management principles similar to those taught in MBA programs. Depending on the school, you can expect to complete a master’s program in project management in one to two years as a full-time student, or two to four years as a part-time student.

As with any other academic pursuit, admission standards vary widely from school to school. At a minimum, applicants will need an undergraduate degree and a qualifying score on a test such as the GRE or GMAT. Most schools, especially the more prestigious ones, will also require a written statement explaining your reasons for pursuing the degree, as well as letters of recommendation from former professors, employers or colleagues.

Once enrolled in a program, you can expect to study a wide range of subjects, including project management methodologies, budget management, risk management and even statistics. Some PM programs may also include work experiences, with your current employer or through an internship, in your curriculum.

2. Is a master’s degree right for you?

Most project managers wait until they have a few years of PM experience before deciding to pursue a master’s degree. If you are at a point in your career where a master’s is a reasonable option, consider these points while making your decision:

  • Will you be able to take time off work to get your degree? If not, are you confident that you can juggle the simultaneous demands of work and school? Overextending yourself could create problems in both your professional and academic pursuits.
  • Will your employer provide tuition assistance? If so, what are the requirements to earn tuition reimbursement? It’s also important to know how much will you have to pay back if you leave the company after completing your degree.
  • How much will a degree increase your earning potential? Even if your employer is helping with the cost, you will likely incur a significant expense getting your degree. Do some research and try to determine whether your future earnings are likely to justify the expense.

Whether you choose to pursue an advanced degree or not, the demand for project managers continues to grow globally, and it’s predicted that more than 1.3 million new project management roles will be needed by 2020.

Jen Howard
Jen Howard, Director Corporate Marketing