Is an Online Master’s in Project Management worth the Investment?
Earning an online project management master’s degree can provide valuable skills that can be used in jobs across a variety of industries. However, does it really pay off to spend time and money earning this degree? First, let’s look at how much you can expect to pay for the degree and then consider the potential return in terms of income and employability.
Tuition Costs for a Master’s Degree in Project Management
Within the same school, tuition costs for an online master’s program are generally similar to a traditional on-campus program. However, tuition costs are calculated differently from school to school. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
To earn an online master’s in project management on the Penn State Global Campus, you’ll spend $930 per credit for a total cost of $27,900 to complete the 30 credits required. Northeastern University charges significantly less per credit, $594 in 2014-2015, but requires 45 credits for graduation. That puts the expected tuition for their project management master’s degree at $26,730. Meanwhile, at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, online courses cost only $370 per credit, making a 30-credit master’s degree a relative bargain at $11,100.
These rates are subject to change, and the posted tuition rate is not necessarily the final price. Many schools offer financial aid that can significantly reduce the out-of-pocket costs for project management students. Others may let graduate students serve as teaching assistants, which pays a stipend large enough to offset most tuition costs.
While tuition is typically the largest cost incurred in a graduate program, it is not the only expense. Students may also have to pay for room and board or commuting costs if they are enrolling in a campus program. Those with families may have to cover child care costs as well. Online students can avoid many of these extra expenses, as they are able to study from home, often on their own schedule.
The Potential Payoff
To determine whether spending nearly $28,000 for a graduate degree is a wise investment, you need to evaluate how it can impact employability and income. Industry trends show that project managers are in high demand. PMI estimates 1.57 million new project management positions will be created globally each year between now and 2020. In July 2013, according to Wanted Analytics, project manager jobs topped the list of open positions in healthcare IT. More recently, Computerworld’s 2015 Forecast survey found project management to be the second most in-demand skill, with 35 percent of IT executives planning to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.
While some of these positions may be open to those with only a bachelor’s degree, other employers may be seeking professionals with the deeper knowledge imparted by a master’s in project administration.
For qualified graduates, the financial rewards can be great. The Eighth Edition of the PMI Project Management Salary Survey, based on 2013 data, found the median salary for U.S.-based project managers to be $108,000. Looking back to 2011, PMI reported that those with a Project Management Professional certification earned an average of $14,500 more than their non-certified counterparts.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collects and publishes national employment data, doesn’t track project managers as a separate occupation. Instead, the Bureau includes project managers under the larger umbrella of managers within their industry.
To get a better idea of how project managers are compensated in specific industries, here’s a look at BLS data for different sectors. As of 2013, here’s how salaries stacked up for computer and information systems managers.
Top 10 %
Income for construction managers broke down as follows in 2013, according to the BLS.
Top 10 %
Finally, here’s a look at 2013 salaries for industrial production managers, who typically work in the manufacturing sector.
Top 10 %
With salary potential for many project managers nearing or exceeding triple digits, it’s easy to see how an online master’s in project management can have an excellent ROI.