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How Much Do Project Managers Make?

This informative and easy-to-read article answers the question “How much do project managers make?”, and provides practical tips for project managers to significantly boost their earning potential, career prospects, and job satisfaction.

While some professions are struggling to survive in the face automation and obsolescence, others are accelerating in the other direction as supply for talent significantly — and in some labor markets dramatically — outstrips demand. Project managers are firmly in this latter category, and they are being suitably compensated. According to the Project Management Institute’s “Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Eleventh Edition (2020)”, 72 percent of project managers reported that their total salary increased in the last year.

By the Numbers: What Does a Project Manager Make?

Answering the question “how much do project managers make?” is not just a matter of skills, knowledge, certifications and experience — it is a matter of geography. According to the above-noted salary survey by the Project Management Institute, here are the 20 countries around the world where project managers around the world earn the most (annualized salary in U.S. dollars including bonuses and all other forms of compensation):

  • Switzerland: $132,086
  • United States: $116,000
  • Australia: $101,381
  • Germany: $96,987
  • Netherlands: $93,839
  • Belgium: $92,352
  • Ireland: $85,829
  • United Kingdom: $83,140
  • Qatar: $81,668
  • United Arab Emirates: $81,665
  • New Zealand: $81,196
  • Hong Kong: $81,196
  • Canada: $73,355
  • Sweden: $72,759
  • Singapore: $71,279
  • France: $68,663
  • Japan: $66,188
  • Saudi Arabia: $63,944
  • South Korea: $62,835
  • South Africa: $62,455

Project Manager Pay: Other Factors to Consider

Now, before some project managers out there decide to relocate to where the average compensation is higher, it is important to point out that the cost of living and many other factors vary from country to country. For example, at first glance a project manager in France may be delighted about the prospect of moving to Switzerland and potentially doubling their annual salary. However, generally the cost of living in France is about 40 percent lower than Switzerland.

And of course, there are variations within countries and regions as well. For another example: the cost of living in San Francisco is 80 percent higher than the U.S. national average, and as such a project manager who wants to ply their trade while they gaze upon the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, navigate some astonishingly steep streets, or hop on and off cable cars, will want to make sure that the boost in compensation is not largely offset — or perhaps completely wiped out — by a jump in housing, groceries, utilities, and other mandatory costs.

A Closer Look at Project Management Salary in the U.S.

Some project managers in the U.S. may be saying to themselves: “Hey, wait a minute! I just read that the average salary for project managers in the U.S. is $116,000, but my salary is lower than that — am I being underpaid?!”

This article (or any other) cannot answer that question. However, before irked project managers storm into the human resource department and demand a raise, it is important to note that the Project Management Institute’s annual salary survey, while certainly credible and based on data vs. guestimates, is not meant as a definitive standard.  

Furthermore, other sources — again, credible and using data — have crunched the numbers, and point to somewhat lower average compensation levels. For example, according to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for project managers in the U.S. is $66,137 (based on 133,345 salaries in its database). And according to Payscale.com, the average salary for project managers in the U.S. is $74,612 (based on 46,257 salaries in its database).

What is a Project Manager Salary For?

Just as there is no global standard for how much a project manager can make, there is no universal definition for what a project manager does (in conjunction with her team). Generally, however, project managers have the following core responsibilities as highlighted by the Association for Project Management (APM), which is the world’s only chartered membership organization representing the project management profession:

 

  • Planning work in alignment with project objectives and organizational strategy.
  • Determining who is going to carry out work and when.
  • Evaluating and managing project risks.·
  • Ensuring that work is completed to an acceptable standard (including compliance and regulatory requirements).
  • Encouraging team members.
  • Organizing work.
  • Verifying that work carried out per the budget and schedule.
  • Managing changes.
  • Confirming that the project delivers required and expected outcomes.

 

Want more insights on project manager duties and tasks? Read our article “What does a Project Manager Do?

Factors that Increase Project Manager Salary

As discussed earlier, geography can have a significant influence on project management salary. However, there factors that boost compensation, yet do not necessarily involve relocating:

  • Certification

There are many credible and recognized certifications available to project managers, including:

    • Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute. A global study found that PMP project manager salary was 22 percent more on average compared to those without certification.
    • PRINCE2 Foundation or Practitioner from AXELOS Ltd.
    • Master Project Manager (MPM) from the American Academy of Project Management
    • Certified Scrum Manager from the Scrum Alliance
  • Advanced/Graduate Degree

There are numerous accredited project management degree programs offered at various institutions worldwide, and which can be accessed in-person or online. According to CollegeRank.net, the following institutions offer some of the top Masters in Project Management Degree programs in the U.S.:

    • Penn State
    • George Washington University
    • Boston University
    • Lehigh University
    • Northeastern University
    • Purdue Polytechnic Institute
    • Norwich University
    • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
    • University of Denver
    • Southern New Hampshire University

And according to Masterstudies.com, the following institutions offer some of the top Masters in Project Management Degree programs in the U.K.:

    • The University of Law Business School
    • Nottingham Trent University Online
    • The University of Manchester
    • Arden University
    • Robert Kennedy College
    • University of Essex
    • University of Lincoln
    • University of Sussex
    • London School of Planning and Management
    • Manchester Metropolitan University

In addition to increasing salary, project managers with a graduate degree in project management typically find themselves more in-demand vs. their counterparts without a graduate degree. A report by labor market research firm Burning Glass Labor Insight found that 34 percent of all project management jobs prefer or require a graduate degree. 

  • Experience

While new project managers are highly in-demand — because an increasing proportion of work across all sectors and industries is now project-based — individuals with a few years, or better yet a few decades, of experience typically command above-average salaries.  

  • Specialization

Project managers who can demonstrate and verify specialization are extremely coveted, and one of their biggest career-related challenges is not necessarily finding well-paying employment, but deciding which offer to accept (which is certainly a nice problem to have!). As highlighted by the Project Management Institute: “Having expertise in a particular field helps to reassure project stakeholders, senior managers, and a project manager with domain knowledge should be able to avoid any major slippage during the project.”

It is also important to note that specialization is not limited to a certain type of project management (e.g. Agile project management) or industry (e.g. construction). It also pertains to team size. All else being equal, a project manager who specializes in leading larger teams (e.g. 20+ people), will command a higher salary than their counterparts who are not as comfortable or capable leading larger teams.  

Other Factors that Determine How Much a Project Manager Can Make

In addition to the above, project managers who want to increase their salary — and at the same time, extend their influence and add to their growing list of professional achievements — should focus on cultivating the following key skills and abilities:

  • Leadership 
  • Ability to use tools and technologies, such as project and portfolio management solutions.
  • Communication (interpersonal, team-centric, informal, formal) (H3)
  • Business agility 
  • Managing change
  • Generating engagement 
  • Delegation 
  • Using data analytics 
  • Negotiation 
  • Resolving conflict 
  • Empathy 
  • Inclusion and support for diversity 

Some Final Words on “How Much Do Project Managers Make?”

Project managers typically make a comfortable —and in many cases, a very comfortable — living, and their talents are increasingly in demand. The Project Management Institute notes that through 2027, the global project management-oriented labor force is expected to grow by 33 percent, which will create almost 22 million new jobs — bringing the total of project management-oriented roles to nearly 88 million worldwide.

There has never been a better time to be a project manager, and the future with respect to earning capacity and the volume and diversity of opportunities looks very, very bright! 


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