By seeing strategic projects from inception to completion, project managers have the capacity to reduce company costs, increase organizational efficiencies, and help generate higher revenues. Fortunately, the importance of the project management function isn’t lost on company leaders. Ninety-seven percent of organizations strongly agree that project management is critical to the success of their company—and they’re willing to pay for it.
In the U.S., the median salary for a project manager is $112,000 across all industries, with most project managers earning between $91,000 and $135,000. Exactly how much a project manager makes, however, depends on several key factors, including a manager’s level of education and experience, team size, region, and the company’s industry. Let’s take a deeper dive into how these six factors can add more money to a project manager’s paycheck.
Six Factors that Increase a Project Manager’s Salary
1) A Project Management Certification or Graduate Degree
Earning a certification or advanced degree can significantly increase your salary as a project manager.
Becoming a certified project manager not only helps you enhance your salary, but it demonstrates to employers that you have the skills and knowledge to successfully manage projects and teams. A recent global study found that professionals with a PMP certification earn 23 percent more on average than those without one across all countries and industries. In the U.S., a project manager with a PMP certification makes $119,235 annually as compared to $99,070 without one.
A PMP certification is often preferred or recognized for promotions and career advancement. The certification is earned through the Project Management Institute, a globally-recognized association that promotes collaboration, education, and research within project management. The organization also maintains international certification standards, credentialing, policies, and procedures.
Master’s Degree in Project Management
The benefits of a master’s degree in project management are twofold. For one, project managers with graduate degrees earn seven percent more annually than bachelor’s degree holders. Even more compelling, however, is that 34 percent of all project management jobs now prefer or require a graduate degree. Earning a master’s degree in project management will not only increase your salary but also your marketability. A strong graduate program can equip you with the specialized skills and hands-on experience you need to lead complex projects and advance your career.
2) Years of Experience
As with most jobs, the amount of overall work experience you have will impact how much money you’ll make as a project manager. For example, project managers with more than 20 years’ experience boast an average annual salary of $124,296 compared to $76,489 for professionals with less than three years’ work experience—a 63 percent difference.
The amount of industry-specific experience a project manager has will also impact their yearly earnings. Those who have worked in the project management field for 20 years earn an annual salary of $135,626 compared to $81,137 for those with less than three years’ industry experience.
Your project management salary will also increase based on your area of specialization within the discipline. For example, you may choose to specialize and become a program manager or portfolio manager.
Here’s how the three roles break down, based on annual salary by position description:
- Project managers plan, direct, and close projects by determining responsibilities, creating inclusive plans, and managing budgets. They typically make an average salary of $99,600.
- Program managers execute several related projects in a collective way—also known as a program—to improve a company’s outcomes, and they command an average salary of $124,304.
- Portfolio managers analyze an organization’s projects to help companies identify the best tasks, distribute the right resources, and improve project performance. They earn an average salary of $137,329.
4) Project Team Size
Team size also affects a project manager’s income. Depending on the size of the team, a project manager could earn an additional $20,000 per year. According to the Project Management Institute, ranges include:
Project managers also make up to 40 percent more if they are managing initiatives with budgets exceeding $10 million.
The industry a project manager works in can have a significant impact on yearly earnings. According to the Project Management Institute, project managers in the following industries report the highest median income in the nation:
Project management salaries within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are especially high due to the rapid growth and demand in these industries. In fact, 93 percent of STEM jobs offer wages well above the national average, and the national median salary for all STEM positions is almost double the average wage for non-STEM roles.
In top-paying project management industries such as government, projects are more complex and often require specialized knowledge of particular software, making project management salaries higher than average.
Where you physically choose to work can also affect your salary, within the U.S. and worldwide. In fact, you can earn up to $16,000 more depending on your location within the U.S.
Nationwide, the average project manager salary by location is:
Worldwide, the countries where project managers report the highest median salaries are: Australia, Switzerland, the United States, Germany, and The Netherlands. According to a report by ProjectManagement.com, project managers in these countries earn a median salary of:
Where you work can have a huge impact on earnings, in addition to your education, experience, specialization, project team size, and industry. Project managers should consider these factors when considering their potential salary and career growth.
To learn more about advancing your project management career, download our free guide below.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2017. It has since been updated for style and accuracy.