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Is a Degree in Project Management Required?

by Josh

Degree in Project Management

A degree in Project Management isn’t something which is common, and while it’s not a bad idea if you are selecting a degree program for yourself, it’s not something I’d argue you need to go get if you already have a 4-year degree.  Especially not a master’s degree in project management without any real-world experience.

Dita wrote to me yesterday:

How to Start PM Career without any PM background

Hi Josh,

I am a fresh grad majoring in Psychology, now working as HR Analyst for less than a year.

I am exploring all possible career option for me, and I came across of Project Management. This profession seems to interest me very much!

Now my question is, how do I start to project management without having any PM background. My interest is managing project in oil and gas sector. Do you advice I should take PM training and courses, or I should directly look for PM jobs?

If I were to look for jobs, what position should I start? Project Assistant or do you have better suggestion.

I really appreciate your advice on this.  Thank you Josh!

I answered Dita’s question directly, however I want to address something specific I see very often.

If In Doubt, Seek Experience First

I recommend building up a foundation of knowledge of project management while very actively seeking a role (paid or volunteer) in which you can gain exposure and experience of managing projects first-hand.

Knowledge is awesome, but I see too many who have project management certificates or even a post-graduate degree in project management without any real-world experience.  In a role like project management, this just doesn’t work out.  You need to gain some experience.

Now, how to become a project manager you ask?

  • Take stock of your starting point.  I see a 4-year degree as a minimum, then experience rules.
  • Make a plan for your project management career.
  • Learn as much as you can, which doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school.
  • A piece of paper that says you did something is great, but never rely on that for anything.
  • Build and maintain professional relationships, groom your network.
  • Research organizations and target those who value project management.
  • Refine your plan and execute on it relentlessly.
  • Once you have gained several years of experience managing projects, you can make an informed decision about whether going back to school for an advanced degree makes sense.

Any questions you’d like to ask me?  Any advice you want to offer from your perspective on this topic?  Please leave a comment below.

Leave a Comment

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Watson June 20, 2011 at 8:42 am

Being a successful project manager depends on your ability to get other people (team members, business sponsors, stakeholders) to act together in an appropriate manner. This ability usually comes from experience, not university training.
I think it is indicative of this importance that the PMI requires you to have 4500 hours of PM experience (+ some training) before it will invite you to sit the exam.

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Josh June 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Amen Mike.

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Mike July 1, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Hey Josh,

So I’m a rising Junior (or Sophomore if you count my 5th year) and I’m getting my Major in Operations and Supply Chain Management. And I’m curious about the PMP, I know that as far as of right now I’m ineligible for going through the certification. But I would like to know, as an undergraduate, what can I do to really capture the upper edge when it comes time to scout out more serious job offers. To give you some further background, I currently work for my campus’ Housing office as an RA. Furthermore, every year I organize and plan 100-250 person event for the department and then also co-plan 7-12 smaller 20+ person events. What else can I do? I really want to hit the ground running when I come out of college!

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Josh July 2, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thanks for the comment Mike. There are many things you can do now to set yourself up for success in the future.

First, start treating those events you manage as projects in a more formal way. In your research and studies, learn the techniques and always be considering how you can apply them in your next event. Event management is project management, it has all the elements involved.

Second, start learning about organizations you may want to target. I cover this in-depth in my project management training in course # 2 about project management career coaching, but the important thing is that you find organizations which are a good fit for you, there are many clues about who values project management as a discipline and who does not.

Don’t worry so much about certifications. You can go after those after you’ve got some more experience under your belt. For now, you are doing all the right things to set yourself up for success if you continue studying hard and keep gaining experience through your event planning.

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Melissa April 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Hi josh,
I just started looking at Project Management, and it is something that i would love to get in to! Im not exactley sure the steps to take towards it yet, iv been looking around at Universities and Colleges. I found a program at my local university A Masters Degree in Project Management, would you advise taking it? Theres also courses that my local colledge is offering. Im not sure at all which step to lean in to. I havent met up with any school councellors yet, Im planning on doing that after the long weekend. But any advice you can give me, which classes i need to take? How many years im going to have to put in to this? What course to start off with, and which to end up? As you can see, i have no idea.. I would really appreachiate it if you could get back to me. Thank you so much for you time.
Molly

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Vitor May 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Josh you study degree in project management? There is this course to undergraduate level? Do you know other universities that offer the higher education degree in project management? Thank Vitor!

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Darron Tillman May 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I have many years of professional experience but I dont have a degree is it possible to earn certificates for project management being that I am in my 40′s I would like to start and finish as quickly as possible

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