Getting smart in the world of project management
Higher education yields a higher income—but thats not the end of the story. Here's an overview of degree programs and their benefits for project managers.
by Frank Toney
WHAT IS THEVALUE of knowledge? In composing a response, many project managers take a utilitarian point of view. Simply stated, “getting smart,” or acquiring project management-related knowledge, skills and competencies, tends to increase wealth and accelerate career advancement. Further, it enhances the image of professionalism and increases the respect received from peers. As a result, it is no surprise that the subject of educational resources is important to PMI and its members. The PMI Education Committee encourages colleges and universities to offer project management degrees and to incorporate A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PM BOK Guide) in their curriculums. The committee is already developing accreditation standards for colleges and universities that plan to offer project management programs at their schools in the future. The committee is also preparing for the increased need for degree programs and continuing education programs, since it is anticipated that the Project Management Professional (PMP) recertification and professional development program will require continuing education to maintain PMP currency.
At the same time, universities and colleges are recognizing the value of project management as a field of study. Degrees in project management are currently available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Distance learning options provide worldwide access to the leading project management degree programs. Most of the programs incorporate information from the PMBOK Guide and offer courses and workshops that assist students in preparing for the PMP certification exam.
Impact of Education on Pay. The PMI 1996 Salary Survey disclosed that one of the most predictable ways to make more money in project management is to acquire degrees from traditional colleges and universities. Exhibit 1 shows incremental compensation increases that result from higher levels of education. Note that the salaries in the survey are the result of self-disclosure and include benefits. Also, they are not starting salaries, but represent averages for all ages and experience levels.
Completing the bachelor's degree can be expected to increase one's average lifetime earnings from $71,190 to $75,825 per year—a 6 percent yearly increase for each year of one's life. The master's jumps the holder another 10 percent in yearly earnings to $83,270. The doctorate increases average lifetime yearly income to $104,970, a 26 percent increase over the master's. One may conclude from the salary survey that the investment made in each degree program represents a significant return over a lifetime; particularly when 89 percent of survey respondents reported that their company provides reimbursement for most if not all of their educational expenses. One may also speculate that the benefits of education will become more dramatic when PMI initiates continuing education requirements in January 1999 and if the multilevel PMP certificate becomes reality.
Demand for Project Management Graduates. There is high demand for graduates with professional project management competencies and skills. The 60+ companies and government agencies that participate in the Fortune 500 Project Management Benchmarking Forum attest that large companies are increasingly recognizing the phenomenal bottom-line benefits that accrue from effective cross-functional project management. Participants of the Fortune 500 Benchmarking Forum indicate that some companies pay hiring bonuses up to $20,000 for project managers.
The PMI Education Committee: Its Impact. The mission of PMI is to serve its members by (a) advancing the state of the art in the practice of managing projects and programs, (b) fostering professionalism in the management of projects, (c) providing world-class services and products to project management stakeholders, and (d) advocating acceptance of project management as a profession and discipline. Accomplishing the PMI mission means improved careers and lifetime financial returns for PMI members. Education differentiates the professional project manager from the huge mass of people who hold the title of project manager but have limited professional training, education and certification.
Trends in Project Management Education. Distance Learning. Provision of distance learning options by nationally recognized universities gives virtually everyone access to accredited degree programs. George Washington University, the University of Phoenix, and Western Carolina University all offer or are preparing to offer distance learning degrees.
Exhibit 1. As shown in this table, project manager compensation increases with each ascending level of education.
Global Project Management Training. Global companies are increasingly seeking international training and common project management approaches for their companies throughout the world. Both the University of Phoenix and George Washington University have international campuses as well as plans for expansion.
PMI/Educational Organization Partnerships. In the interest of PMI members, partnering with universities and making curriculums compatible with the PMBOK Guide adds credibility and cross-validates both the PMP certification and the college degree. Consequently, the PMI Education Committee is favorably inclined toward partnerships with academic organizations. Two universities, Western Carolina University and the University of Quebec, are accredited by PMI under a prior program. At present, the PMI accreditation process is being revised. Upon its revision, several other academic institutions have expressed a desire to formalize an association with PMI. In the meantime, universities and colleges promote their compatibility with PMI's PMBOK Guide (for example, George Washington University and the University of Phoenix). The message is that the PMI linkage adds credibility and the course work supports the student's capability to prepare for the Project Management Professional certification exam. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge is often used as the primary or supplementary text for college-level project management courses.
An overview of representative college and university degree programs can be found in the accompanying sidebar.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT for project management professionals. The PMP recertification program, the potential for multilevel certification, and increasing educational degree programs from accredited universities and colleges all work together to improve the career value and image of the professional project manager. ■
Frank Toney, Ph.D., is a former chair of the PMI Research Committee and a professor of management at the University of Phoenix. He has written numerous articles about project management.
Reader Service Number 5095
PM Network • May 1998