Complete Guide to a Project Management Degree Online
Online degrees in project management are available at the bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and certificate levels. All 299 project management programs on this page provide the knowledge, skills, and techniques that allow graduates to effectively manage projects in multiple industries. Careers for project management professionals are available in aerospace, design, education, financial services, IT, manufacturing, and many other industries. Graduates can work as business analysts, production managers, and project managers, among other career possibilities.
Prospective students should research accredited project management degree programs to ensure the best academic experience. Attending an accredited program will not only make a graduate more competitive in the job market, but will reassure students that they are obtaining a quality education. Accreditation is provided by Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Read More
Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online Project Management Degree
Overview of Available Online Project Management Degrees
Knowledge areas covered by bachelor’s programs include organizational leadership, project risk management, contracts and procurement, project performance and quality assurance, and project scheduling and cost. Bachelor’s programs usually have a capstone project requirement aimed at enhancing the students’ practical knowledge in the field.
The master’s degree curriculum covers several key knowledge areas, including project management processes, assessing and mitigating risk, project planning, execution, and closure, schedule and cost control techniques, and contracting and procurement in project management. A capstone project is a typical requirement in master’s programs.
Doctorate project management degree programs explore theoretical underpinnings in project management at a far deeper level than other academic programs. The doctoral curriculum covers areas such as advanced project management methodologies, advanced risk management systems, and contemporary leadership theories and practices. Programs incorporate many opportunities for research, which enables students to improve their project management practices. Doctorate students are also required to take a comprehensive exam and complete a dissertation.
The project management bachelor's combines general business skills with the particular leadership strategies for bringing complex projects to completion. This is a four-year degree, requiring about 120 credit hours of coursework. A high school diploma or GED is the typical minimum requirement for admission and some programs require additional application materials, such as a resume, personal statement, or standardized test scores.
Project management students learn how to navigate many aspects of business to see a project through from beginning to end. Common project management courses discuss the role of the project manager, strategic goal setting, portfolio management, procurement and contracts, and budgeting. Many project management programs are offered as business degrees with a project management focus. In such programs, students also take more general business classes such as leadership, decision making, marketing, and accounting.
Most project management bachelor's programs require a capstone course or a project-based class. In this course, students manage a mock project from beginning to end, developing the project's goals, setting a timeline, assigning teams, creating a budget, and procuring contracts.
Most people who graduate with a bachelor's degree in project management generally begin by working at businesses, government agencies, or other organizations as a manager or administrator taking on small projects. Project management is a very experience-based profession, and it is unlikely that graduates will be assigned to larger projects until they have gained some professional experience. Lower-level management, information technology, accounting, and human resources positions are good jumping-off points for graduates with bachelor's degrees in project management. After gaining experience, professionals can advance to take on more projects, or they may set out as consultants, assisting businesses and clients with particular projects.
The master’s project management degree online is a focused business program that discusses the particular skill set for starting, maintaining, and finishing large projects within an organization. Most of these two-year degrees require that applicants have some formal or informal management experience, along with an accredited undergraduate degree. Individuals in an accredited master's program can use their coursework toward the 4,500 hours of project management experience required to sit for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam.
The coursework in the project management master's degree combines traditional management topics with project-specific issues. For example, courses in project planning and estimating generally include material about setting project goals and creating a budget. Project procurement courses address obtaining the necessary contracts and materials for a project and managing costs. Other common core classes discuss project risk management, quality management, financial methods, and quantitative management. Many programs also require a capstone course, where students plan and control a mock project.
Most graduates of project management master's programs will seek out careers as project managers, either as employees of firms or as consultants. Others seek out related careers, such as supply chain manager, procurement manager, or computer and information systems manager. The master’s degree can be a great way for those without significant project management experience to gain valuable skills to break into the workplace. Graduates will have an edge over those with only a bachelor’s degree and similar professional experience.
The MBA in project management combines a foundation of practical business classes with a core of classes in particular project management skills. Unlike some other graduate programs, the MBA is explicitly career oriented and designed to impart skills that are useful on the job. The basic business classes in this degree are interdisciplinary and can be applied to just about every industry. They cover topics like finance, management, organizational behavior, economics, statistics, and accounting. This firm foundation in business principles allows project managers to approach a project with an understanding of how different factors can affect the project’s success.
In addition to these business classes, students in MBA in project management degrees will also take classes which cover the unique skills involved in getting a project off the ground, maintaining it during execution, and finishing strong. For example, classes on project overview and strategy cover meeting with the client, determining the goals for the project, developing a timeline, and hashing out a budget. Courses in project planning focus on procuring contracts, developing teams, and creating diagrams for the work flow of the project. Other core classes discuss project initiation, project simulation, and legal considerations in project management.
An accredited undergraduate degree is required to apply to an MBA program. Some MBA programs only accept applicants who also have a minimum of two years of professional experience in project management or a related business area. Some online programs require current employment in a project management capacity. GMAT scores, professional recommendations, and a personal statement may also be required.
In many MBA programs, the foundational business classes and much of the upper-level curriculum can be completed completely online. In some programs that require simultaneous employment in a project management role, students are expected to apply what they learn directly to their job in order to put their skills into practice. Other online MBAs may require some on-site labs or seminars where students can develop their practical skills. The on-site requirements vary by school, so make sure you can fulfill any on-site requirements before enrolling in an online MBA.
Applicants to most project management doctorate programs must hold an accredited master’s degree and have at least five years of professional management experience to be considered. The college or university will need to see official transcripts of all postsecondary work the applicant has done, as well as a resume and letters of recommendation. Some schools also request a personal essay as part of the application package. The 16-course program and dissertation can be completed in three to seven years.
Students enrolled in a project management doctorate program will take courses in knowledge management, project management leadership, project procurement and ethics, data analysis and interpretation, and systems modeling and the nine schools of project management. Other courses in the program focus on research methods and the philosophy of knowledge.
Doctoral candidates must also write a dissertation as part of their program. The project will be approved and supervised by a faculty member, who acts as an advisor. Each student's work must be orally defended in front of a jury before the doctorate will be granted. Graduates from this type of program will be qualified for positions as university professors, or they can take on roles as mentors and researchers.
Project management certificates are graduate-level programs aimed at providing a focused education in the leadership and management skills needed to oversee complex projects. These programs typically require 5 to 10 courses and can be completed in a year or less. Most are offered through business schools or university extension programs. Applicants need an accredited undergraduate degree; some programs require a year or more of professional project management experience. Students in Project Management Institute-certified programs can use the course credits toward the PMP exam educational requirement. Project management certificates can also be used as continuing education units if they meet certain criteria.
The courses in the project management certificate focus on the unique leadership, planning, and management skills required to lead large projects. The foundational project management principles course includes topics like cost management, the different stages of a large project, and project networks. Later courses focus on a particular aspect of management, such as communications, risk management, program management, and quality management. Some certificate programs have a set list of courses, while others include a core sequence and electives. The certificate coursework can also be used as the start of a master’s program at some institutions.
Work as a project manager or program manager is the obvious career path for graduates of a certificate program. The project management career area is still emerging and specialized education isn’t widely available at the bachelor’s level. Thus, those with a graduate certificate will have a wider array of job opportunities than those with only a four-year degree and similar experience. Other related career areas include construction management, engineering management, or healthcare management. Professionals already working in a professional area can use the certificate to support expanded responsibilities in supervision or project management in their current workplace.
It's important to consider the reputation and qualifications of any project management degree program you're considering, and official accreditation is one way to begin narrowing down your choices. When a school or program is accredited, it means that its curricula, faculty, student outcomes, and general academic standards have been reviewed, evaluated, and deemed acceptable by an independent agency.
Entire institutions can be accredited by national or regional accrediting agencies, or individual PM programs can be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs. It's wise to refer to the lists of accrediting agencies that are recognized by US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
For more information about the benefits of accreditation, visit the Guide to Online Schools accreditation hub.
Professional certification is a credential bestowed by a professional group, such as Project Management International (PMI). The certifications offered by PMI are among the most popular credentials for project management professionals. The group currently offers seven different certifications. The standard certification is the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. To earn the PMP title, candidates must have a four-year degree and 4,500 hours of PM experience or a high school diploma and 7,500 hours of project management experience. Candidates must also pass the PMP certification exam. After earning certification, project management professionals must complete continuing education credits every few years to maintain their credentials.
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Accessed August 14, 2014. http://www.acbsp.org/page/main.
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Accessed August 14, 2014. http://www.aacsb.edu.
- Management Occupations. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed August 14, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/home.htm.
- Project Management Professional. PMI. Accessed August 15, 2014. http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PMP.aspx.
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