What Are the Education Requirements for Becoming a Project Manager?

Project managers oversee corporate projects of all kinds from inception to completion. Project manager prerequisites can be difficult to navigate, as a variety of backgrounds can lead to this career, but there are some common education and training requirements to be aware of. Schools offering Business Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Project Managers Do?

Project managers are management-level professionals appointed to run a particular project within a company. 'Project' is a loosely defined term that could refer to many things, but in order to be considered a project, the work must be something that is not part of day-to-day running of a company, and will last for a finite period of time. As a result, project managers could be doing work that differs significantly from year to year. Project managers could specialize in certain areas (like new product development or research and experimentation), certain fields (such as construction or pharmaceuticals), or accept a wide variety of jobs. Success as a project manager relies on good leadership skills, the ability to delegate responsibilities, and an eagerness to face new challenges.

Project Manager Education Requirements

Project manager education is offered at a variety of levels in universities, from undergraduate certificates to graduate degrees. However, a degree in project management is not required to hold the position. While education requirements will vary from employer to employer, it is entirely possible to manage projects with a high school diploma or equivalent, without any postsecondary education at all.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Project Manager?

In most corporations, a candidate for a project manager position will need to hold a bachelor's degree, although candidates with expertise in a specific area or long time experience may be able to get by without one. Contrary to what you may believe, the bachelor's degree does not need to have been earned in a project management major; degrees in other areas may actually be more useful in certain circumstances, such as an architecture, construction management, or engineering degree for a construction project manager. Having knowledge and experience related to the project's goal is often just as important as general project management experience. If you are looking for a program specific to project management, you might consider:

  • Undergraduate Certificate in Project Management
  • Professional Certificate in Project Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Project Management

For those looking to become full-time project managers with bachelor's degrees in other areas, obtaining a master's degree in project management can be advantageous. Graduate degree programs in project management tackle subjects like:

  • Cost and Value Management
  • Interpersonal and Group Behavior
  • Project Initiation
  • Ethics in Project Management

What Can I Do with a Degree in Project Management?

Because of how flexible the term project is, project managers can find work in almost any field. Project managers are often seen in the construction and information technology fields as well as general areas of business, such as marketing. However, project managers can also bring their skills to work for non-profits, helping to manage fundraising campaigns or new initiatives, and governments, managing infrastructure upgrades or major projects for agencies. As long as an organization sets out on undertakings with a finite end goal in mind, it can make use of a project manager's skills.

How to Become a Project Manager without a Degree

While many corporations prefer project managers hold a bachelor's degree, it isn't a universal rule. Smaller companies may not have strict education requirements, instead preferring someone from within the company, with no project management degree required. Project management can also take place at a less formal level, where a boss simply places an employee in charge of accomplishing a task with the help of a small team due to their seniority or familiarity with the project's focus. As long as this experience is documented, it can be used as proof when seeking project management jobs later on or be applied towards certification. It may also be possible to work one's way up from related positions, such as project coordinator, while staying in the sphere of project management.

Project Manager Certification

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the professional organization that offers certification for project managers, using a credential called Project Management Professional (PMP). Certification is entirely optional, but can serve as evidence of experience and dedication to the career. Certified project managers may find themselves in greater demand, and be able to earn higher salaries as a result. To obtain certification, one must either:

  • Hold a 4-year degree in any area, complete 4,500 hours of managing projects, and attend 35 hours of school for project managers
  • Hold a high school diploma (or equivalent) or associate's degree in any area, complete 7,500 hours of managing projects, and attend 35 hours of school for project managers

Credit towards the 35 hours of schooling can be earned from PMI-approved programs, which range from the certificate level to the master's degree level. Once these qualifications have been met, applicants must pay a fee and pass a 200 question exam. To maintain certification once it has been obtained, a PMP is required to complete 60 professional development units of continuing education every 3 years.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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