Project Management Graduate Degrees

Project management graduate programs teach how to oversee all aspects of a project, from initiation and planning all the way to the execution and closing, in order to ensure ...

a systematic and smooth flow of activities. Typically, students analyze the best practices, techniques, and methodologies of project management to develop a complete understanding of each step in the process. Through elective courses, they may also examine the needs of different industries.

Many schools offer three levels of project management programs: certificates, masters, and doctorates degrees. Plus, schools typically offer these degrees in a variety of learning formats in order to provide you an opportunity to earn your degree in a way that matches your learning style. These formats include online, on-campus, and a hybrid format that combines online and traditional approaches.

Did You Know?

97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.

Project Management Graduate Programs?

Project Management Graduate Programs: Key Topics

Project management graduate programs cover the many aspects of project planning and execution. This includes a number of factors which can range from cost analysis and accounting for environmental threats to negotiating with vendors and properly planning time, budget, and resources needs for completion. Students may also examine various leadership and management styles, and study how to identify which best fits different situations and organizations.

Another key topic in the field is how to understand risk and mitigate those risks in the planning stage of a project. By carefully outlining the budget, resources, and time needed for each step, project management graduate programs teach how to identify potential problems in advance, and restructure the plan as needed.

A sample of topics you might study while earning your project management graduate degree are listed here. Programs vary.

  • The selection and initiation of projects
  • Project planning to accurately forecast timelines, costs, and quality
  • Effective project execution and control techniques
  • Reporting on work progress and budget issues to clients
  • Responding to work delays, emergencies, and other delaysi

What Is the Process of Project Management?

The basic project management process is broken into five steps.

  1. Initiating: Defining overall project direction and objectives
  2. Planning: Creating a workable scheme in order to accomplish a goal
  3. Executing: Carrying out the plan
  4. Controlling: Measuring progress and taking any necessary corrective steps
  5. Closing: Formal acceptance of completion of project

Each of these steps are essential parts of most projects, and therefore a key topic in many project management graduate programs.

    Common Project Management Courses

    To analyze each of the above topics and how they fit into the project management process, students are typically required to take a combination of core and elective courses. Core courses usually consist of business and foundation courses in project management. Electives may focus on one specific topic, such as scheduling, or specific industries, such as IT or healthcare.

    Some of the common courses you may take while pursuing a project management graduate degree are listed below. 

    • Project Risk Management
    • Fundamentals of Project Management
    • Project Cost Accounting and Finance
    • Leading Global Organizations
    • Agile Project Management
    • Applying Project Management Principles to IT
    • Planning and Resource Management
    • Commercial Law and Project Procurement
    • Strategic Perspectives on Project Management
    • Project Analytics

    In addition to coursework, many project management graduate courses require some form of a final project. For masters programs, this is usually a capstone or thesis. Doctorates may require a dissertation. Keep in mind that every school has a different curriculum and the specific requirements may vary. In addition, each of the various project management graduate degrees require a different amount of courses and credits in order to earn your degree or certificate.

    Project Management Degrees: Graduate Programs

    Most project management graduate programs come in one of three options. While each of these degree levels focus on core topics in project management, they are also different in some ways. Many of these differences revolve around the coursework, research, and critical analysis required by the student. For instance, doctorate level courses usually ask for more independent research and analysis from students than graduate certificate courses do.

    Below are the three levels of project management graduate programs, as well as some of the common admissions and graduation requirements, to help you identify which might be a great fit. Keep in mind every school is different, so follow up directly with the programs that interest you.

    Graduate Certificate in Project Management

    Certificates are shorter, non-degree programs that are usually focused on a specific aspect of a field. When it comes to earning a graduate certificate in project management, some programs are more focused on the human resources side, while others may concentrate on supply chain management.

    Most certificates require somewhere between four to six classes, though some programs may require more. Often certificates are offered as part-time programs and may be completed in a year, though this may vary depending on when the availability of courses.

    Typically, the admissions requirements for certificates include those listed here.

    • Bachelors degree from an accredited university
    • Official transcripts
    • Statement of purpose
    • References

    Some schools may allow students the opportunity to apply credits earned while pursuing a certificate to a masters degree. Usually, this only applies to schools that offer both a certificate and a masters degree. Programs vary so be sure to check with each school before applying.

    Project Management Masters Degree

    A masters in project management may be a great option for those looking for a comprehensive program that may help them develop both leadership and management techniques. Most full-time students earn a masters degree in two years. However, this depends on when courses are available and the structure of the program. In order to provide you with options that suit different learning styles and different situations, many schools also offer the option to earn your degree as a part-time student, which usually takes longer.

    Many masters degree in project management programs require students to complete a capstone or thesis project upon completing all required courses. This may be a written assignment, project, or other way to assess a student’s understanding of the coursework, as opposed to introducing new concepts. Capstone projects typically focus on practical applications of project management processes, while a thesis may be more research focused. Consider your plans post graduation to determine which option might best fit your goals.

    Admissions requirements for project management masters degrees include the following.

    • Bachelors degree from an accredited university
    • Official transcripts
    • Personal statement
    • References

    Additional admissions requirements may include a resume, interviews, and test scores. However some schools may not require these materials. Be sure to check with a number of project management graduate programs to find a perfect school for you.

    Doctorates Degree in Project Management

    A doctorates degree in project management is the terminal degree in the field, or the highest degree you can earn. Usually, these degrees require more critical analysis, research, and writing in order to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to add your own findings and theories to the field.

    Some of the common admissions requirements for doctorate degrees in project management include the following. 

    • Masters degree from an accredited university with a minimum of a 3.5 GPA
    • Official transcripts
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Statement of purpose
    • Resume or CV

    Some schools may have additional requirements, such as minimum GRE scores, while others may not require that you even take the GRE. In addition, some schools may require a lower minimum GPA. Keep these differences in mind while searching and be sure to carefully review the requirements of each school before applying.

    Most doctorate in project management programs require students to complete and defend a dissertation before graduation. This, combined with coursework, may take a full-time students four to five years to complete. However, this varies based on enrollment status and time spent on the dissertation.

    What Industries Use Project Management?

    As technology has become an important component in many different industries, a number of projects are now entirely technological from start to finish. This has opened up new industries where project management could play an important role. This is different than years ago when many project management courses and techniques were focused only on the construction management side.

    Some of the industries that project management techniques can be used in today are listed here.

    • Construction
    • IT Development
    • Manufacturing
    • Consulting
    • Architecture
    • Health Care
    • Real Estate Planning
    • Government Services

    To accommodate this shift, many project management graduate programs now cover these areas as well. Typically, you may take electives to focus on a specific industry. Programs vary, so read curriculum and contact schools directly to learn what courses might be available.

    What Is Global Project Management?

    Global project management is the effective guidance of projects that involve team members from different cultures, organizations, countries and time zones, and that speak different languages.

    As these projects present unique challenges, many businesses and organizations refer to the global project management framework in order to better plan and execute various projects. The global project management framework requires organizational changes in the following five categories.

    1. Global Team Management
    2. Global Communication
    3. Global Organizations
    4. Collaborative Tools
    5. Collaborative Techniques

    As the global economy continues to be more connected, global project management may be an increasingly popular topic. Look for project managament graduate programs that offer these courses if it interests you.

    Different Learning Formats for Project Management Graduate Programs

    Typically, there are three different learning formats offered by project management graduate programs.  In order to find a perfect option for you, research a number of different programs and compare the curriculum of each. Consider your goals, learning style and scheduling needs.

    1. Online Project Management Graduate Degree: Online programs may provide you with more freedom and flexibility while earning your degree. These programs could allow you to choose when to perform your coursework and provide access to resources 24/7. Keep in mind that some online programs may require you to go to campus. This is more common while pursuing an online doctorates degree in project management for dissertation requirements and milestones. However, every school is unique.
    2. On-Campus Project Management Graduate Degree: Traditional, or on-campus programs, may provide more structure as classes typically meet at a specific time and place. This also may offer more face-to-face interactions and networking opportunities with classmates and professors.
    3. Hybrid Project Management Programs: Hybrid programs have been called the best of both worlds because they combine aspects from both online and on-campus programs. Hybrid programs have some courses and assignments that need to be completed on-campus and others that may be completed online. Campus components may either be full courses or brief residencies. Contact individual programs to learn more.

    What Is a GAC Accreditation?

    The Global Accreditation Center (GAC) of the Project Management Institute (PMI) is committed to fostering excellence and continuous improvement in academic programs related to the field of project management. The GAC accreditation confirms that an institution’s project management degree meets comprehensive, global standards. It also indicates that the institution and its faculty are committed to ongoing evaluation and continuous learning.

    Keep in mind that though some schools may not have a GAC accreditation, they are not necessarily bad schools. It simply means that you may need to perform more research about the program on your own to ensure the quality of the degree.

    Project Management Careers

    There are a variety of careers and fields which may utilize project management techniques. For this reason, graduates of project management programs may go on to pursue several different career paths. Some of these are listed below. 

    Construction Managers:

    • 2016 Median Annual Salary: $89,300ii
    • Project Change in Employment, 2014-2024: 5%iii

    Architectural and Engineering Managers:

    • 2016 Median Annual Salary: $134,730iv
    • Project Change in Employment, 2014-2024: 2%v

    Computer and Information Systems Managers:

    • 2016 Median Annual Salary: $135,800vi
    • Project Change in Employment, 2014-2024: 15%vii

    Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary:

    • 2016 Median Annual Salary: $97,530viii
    • Project Change in Employment, 2014-2024: 13%ix

    Typically, for each of these positions, you need to have earned a bachelors degree and have considerable work experience for entry level positions.x However, many employers and firms are looking for candidates who have advanced degrees. This is especially true for computer and information systems managers.xi Postsecondary teachers typically require a doctorate degree.viii

    Find the Perfect Project Management Graduate Program for You

    Are you interested in understanding the key topics, techniques, and methods to effectively complete projects from initiation to completion? Then compare project management graduate programs to find a perfect school for you.

    Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page for more information about different schools. This includes common courses and admissions requirements. You can even reach out to your favorite schools directly and request more information. Learn how to apply today!


    [i] bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-2 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-5 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-6 [iv] bls.gov/ooh/management/architectural-and-engineering-managers.htm#tab-5 [v] bls.gov/ooh/management/architectural-and-engineering-managers.htm#tab-6 [vi] bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm#tab-5 [vii] bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm#tab-6 [viii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-5 [ix] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-6 [x] bls.gov/ooh/management/architectural-and-engineering-managers.htm#tab-4 [xi] bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm#tab-4