Project Manager Salary: Are You Making Enough?

What is the “typical” project manager salary?

Project managers guide projects from initiation through planning and execution; as a result, they are some of the most valuable employees within an organization. Not only must they wrangle teams and organize timelines and deliverables; they must be consummate problem-solvers.

In the course of any given day, for example, a project manager might need to keep leadership appraised of project progress; set strategy with the team; interact with customers; ensure consistency of methods employed to complete the project; and update activity schedules as needed.

In light of that, you might expect the “typical” project manager salary to be quite high. However, that salary depends on a variety of factors.

What is a Project Manager’s Average Salary?

The median salary for a project manager is $80,280, according to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. That’s not the whole story, of course; once you control for variables such as education and experience, the picture changes radically.

For those with only an associate’s degree, for example, the median project manager salary is $54,900, versus $84,800 for those with a bachelor’s degree. In a similar fashion, those with less experience are also (predictably) paid less: The median project manager salary for those with 0 to 2 years of experience is $56,000, while those with 9+ years of experience can earn a median salary of $103,000.

Check out the full chart for project manager salary and experience:

Now check out the one for education:

Some 80.5 percent of project manager job postings ask for a bachelor’s degree, while 11.5 percent want a candidate who has completed high school, 4.7 percent desire someone with an associate’s degree, 2.8 percent want a master’s degree, and 0.5 percent want a doctorate. In other words, you don’t need a master’s or PhD to land a project management job (although there are clearly cases where such degrees are demanded), although more experience and education can contribute mightily to a larger project manager salary.

What are the Most Valuable Project Manager Skills?

For a breakdown of which skills are most valuable for project managers (and thus translate into a higher project manager salary, provided you learn them), we can turn again to Burning Glass, which analyzes the skills mentioned in job postings and divides them into three categories:

Distinguishing skills (advanced skills called for occasionally) that truly differentiate candidates applying for various roles. These are the skills that hinge on years of experience and education.

Defining skills are the skills needed for day-to-day tasks in many roles.

Necessary skills are the lowest barrier to entry; they are also skills that are often found in other professions, providing a springboard for people to launch into a project-management career.

Project manager is a role that demands a mix of “soft skills” (such as empathy and communication) along with technical skills (which can hinge mightily on the role; for example, a manager of A.I. projects will need to master a completely different knowledge-base than one who specializes in, say, mobile app development). And that makes total sense: Management is all about figuring out how to make teams work best. 

During an interview, keep in mind that project manager interview questions about soft skills and hard skills will crop up; prepare a few stories that show how you managed your way through project challenges, including inter-team conflict. (And don’t forget: When designing your project manager résumé, your experience section should highlight your accomplishments utilizing these skills, as well.)

Do Project Managers Need Certifications?

When it comes to project management certifications, popular ones include the Project Management Professional (PMP), which pops up in job postings with fair frequency. In addition, keep in mind those certifications that validate the holder’s expertise in Scrum, IT security, and other vital elements of project management:

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

Managed by the Project Management Institute, CAPM is a way for those who are relatively new to project management to validate their skills before escalating to a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

Certified Project Director

This certification is meant to cover the more complicated aspects of project management, such as determining scope and budget for big projects. It is conducted by the Global Association for Quality Management.

Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)

This certification indexes management skills, including technical abilities; it is overseen by the EC-Council.

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

Agile is a key component of project management, so it’s natural that there’d be an agile certification for project managers’ ability to work with Agile, Scrum, and so on. This one is overseen by The Scrum Alliance

CompTIA Project+

CompTIA Project+ touches on a variety of project management skills, from product lifecycle to “soft skills” such as communication. It’s overseen by CompTIA, and crops up in job postings.

Are Project Managers in Demand?  

According to Burning Glass, project managers are indeed in high demand, with 282,081 open job postings in the past 12 months. The time-to-fill for such positions is 34 days, and projected growth of the profession over the next 10 years is 8 percent.

If you’re just breaking into project management right now (or if you’re considering doing so), it seems pretty opportunity-filled in both the short- and long-term. After all, companies of all sizes and types need people who can actually wrangle projects from inception through completion.

Is Being a Project Manager Stressful?

It’s like any job: Faced with mounting deadlines and tight budgets, a project manager can find themselves overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them. This is when skills and experience can make a real difference, as they allow project managers to better prioritize as needed.

Moreover, the project manager profession is evolving rapidly. Methodologies and tactics evolve and change; for instance, the project-management field has lately embraced hybrid frameworks as a way to complete projects, as this 2019 graph from SlashData demonstrates:

Leading and motivating teams, all while juggling processes and tools, can prove a challenging job at moments. However, many project managers find these challenges quite fun. A higher project manager salary can also help when it comes to the motivation to endure.

Download Dice’s 2022 Salary Survey Report Now!

Want to know how you can improve your skills as a project manager to maximize your salary? Check out Dice’s exclusive post about project management training.

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