Best Online Master’s Degrees in Project Management: Guide to Online Programs for 2021

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Project Management: Guide to Online Programs for 2021
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Globally, there is a huge gap between the demand for project managers and the number of talents available to take on the challenge. It is estimated that by 2030, the global economy will need 25 million project management professionals. To close the project management-oriented employment (PMOE) talent gap that can result in a global GDP loss of $345.5 billion, around 2.3 million people need to specialize in project management every year through 2030 (PMI, 2021).

Many industries, from construction to utilities and even healthcare and information technology, are increasingly becoming project-oriented. As such, there is also a growing need for project management professionals. In fact, the latest data shows that the average salary for project management-oriented positions is significantly higher than those of other types of management roles (PMI, 2021).

As the demand for project management specialists continues to grow, a master’s degree in project management can easily prove to be a lucrative investment for the future. Fortunately, college graduates looking to pursue this degree can do so despite the pandemic, thanks to the availability of online degree programs in project management. This post touches on everything you need to know about an online master’s program in project management, including the requirements, costs, scope, and related opportunities.

Online Master’s Degree in Project Management Table of Contents

  1. Can you get a degree completely online?
  2. Will employers take my online degree seriously?
  3. Are online degrees recognized all over the world?
  4. Online vs. Traditional Master’s Degree in Project Management
  5. How much does an online Master’s Degree in Project Management cost?
  6. What are the requirements of an online Master’s Degree in Project Management?
  7. Courses to Expect in Online Master’s Degree in Project Management
  8. Things to Look for in an Online Master’s Degree in Project Management

Can you get a degree completely online?

Even before the pandemic, there was already a notion that the traditional higher education model is challenged. Higher education, as an industry, lagged behind other sectors in terms of becoming more digitally driven (Gallagher & Palmer, 2020). If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed forward the long-overdue adoption of fully online degree programs. This is also mentioned in a 2021 study by Yan Li, Xiaoqing Wen, and their co-authors when they discussed the implications of online education for postgraduate development during the pandemic.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 brings new challenges to the education and teaching of postgraduates in universities and colleges,” the authors stated. “Universities and colleges have started online teaching mode to ensure the smooth progress of education.” This, according to the researchers, can be a “good entry point for the reform of postgraduate education” as it can promote the exploration of new teaching methods for postgraduate education and even improve the quality of their learning experience.

The study titled “Exploration of Online Education Mode for Postgraduate Education under the Background of COVID-19” published in “Advances in Applied Sociology” also posits that “online platform education is becoming more and more important for postgraduate. And it will become an indispensable teaching method for their education, which should be vigorously promoted and popularized.”

Needless to say, the pandemic helped hasten higher education’s digital transformation, consequently benefiting students looking to take a fully online master’s degree in project management. Aspiring graduate students who want to pursue a master’s degree in project management can enroll in 100% online programs. In fact, there are more than 900,000 graduate students enrolled in distance learning programs exclusively to date (NCES, 2021). A number of universities and colleges offer online master’s degree programs, most of which are online-only programs that do not require students to register or enroll on-site. However, one should note that some institutions may invite new students for on-campus orientation.

Will employers take my online degree seriously?

It is not surprising that incoming graduate students may feel apprehensive about taking a master’s degree online, wondering whether employers will accept their online degree as they would a traditionally completed one. Fortunately, worrying about that is futile.

Earning a master’s degree can help both professionals and college graduates get ahead in their careers, and this can also be said for online master’s degrees. Even before the pandemic, there were already several institutions that offered online degree programs. Now, taking an online master’s degree in project management has become even more common and employers recognize this. Recent data also backs this up, showing that many employers do not discriminate between online and traditional degrees. Furthermore, 71% of human resource leaders reported that they have hired someone with an online degree or credential (Gallagher, 2019).

Gallagher, 2019

Are online degrees recognized all over the world?

In general, the answer will depend on the reputation of the institution providing the online degree. If the degree is from a world-renowned university and the program’s curriculum is aligned with local standards or recognized by the local department of education, then overseas employers may recognize the degree. Aside from the institution’s overall reputation, employers may also look at the quality of its graduates and the school’s accreditations.

Online vs. Traditional Master’s Degree in Project Management

An online master’s program in project management shares a number of qualities with a traditional or on-campus master’s degree in project management. Although some of the online degree courses in project management may differ in names and schools may offer different electives, the core courses tackled in an online master’s program in project management are essentially the same as that of a traditional program. These include courses that develop leadership skills, as well as the student’s technical project management, analytical, and research skills. In all, online master’s programs in project management combine business and management principles with a specific focus on project-based strategies.

However, there are certain aspects where online and traditional master’s degree programs differ. These mostly involve the delivery of the courses.

Flexibility

About 63% of students decide to study online because it fits best their current work and life responsibilities (Lederman, 2019). Online education also encourages independent learning, as also observed by Dr. David Fincham who conducted a case study of full-distance learners taking a master’s program in 2016. 

“The development of online access to the course to complement blended learning provision had a significant and practical effect on learning and teaching on the programme,” Dr. Fincham said. According to his observations, the use of online modes of interaction and computer technologies has “placed an increasing emphasis on independent and personalised learning.”

In his study “Implications and Challenges in Studying as a Full Distance Learner on a Master Programme: Students’ Perspectives” published by Sciedu Press, Dr. Fincham noted that, “unlike the traditional classroom, in which participation is limited by time and space, a virtual classroom offers asynchronous opportunities for students to engage in discussions amongst themselves and with their tutors.” The responses of the study’s participants also made Dr. Fincham arrive at the observation that “learning becomes more democratic in the sense that students who might otherwise be reticent to engage in traditional classroom discussions are able to offer their contributions to online conversations at any time.”

Furthermore, it is not just the students who benefit from the flexibility of online degrees. As mentioned by Dr. Fincham, “tutors, too, acting as online facilitators, can focus on discussions and add observations in response to student contributions.”

Indeed, the most apparent difference between an online and traditional degree is that students enrolled in a traditional master’s degree program need to attend classes on-campus. They strictly follow a schedule, with some needing to attend face-to-face classes on weekends.

Meanwhile, an online master’s degree in project management offers more flexibility in terms of schedule. Those who enroll in an asynchronous or blended program (synchronous and asynchronous) may be given the freedom to study asynchronously whenever they want as long as they submit their coursework on schedule.

Interaction and Communication

Communication, interaction, and networking with teachers and fellow students are different in an online master’s degree program. For one, there is little to no face-to-face interaction. However, there are many ways to make peer-to-peer connections and get support from classmates and teachers. Synchronous classes are often held through online video conferencing tools. Meanwhile, students can communicate with their classmates and teachers through online messaging platforms and learning management systems (LMS).

Cost

Another striking difference between online and traditional master’s degrees is the cost. For one, a traditional setting typically requires students to live near or within the campus. To many students, this means moving away from home and paying for room and board. Aside from their school needs, they also need to spare a significant portion of their allowance for transportation, food, and clothing.

On the other hand, with an online program, students can practically study anywhere. They do not necessarily need to move near the school or travel far from home. Students also do not need to worry about additional food and clothing expenses.

Is an online degree cheaper?

When it comes to tuition fees, yes, an online master’s degree program in project management may be cheaper. As the institution providing the program incur fewer expenses, it can extend the savings to students in the form of cheaper tuition rates. In addition, unlike programs involving computer, architecture, or engineering, students might not need to spend so much on new software solutions or even devices required for the coursework.

Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?

An online master’s degree in project management is designed to equip students with a mix of soft skills (e.g. communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution) and technical skills (e.g. scheduling, planning, budgeting, and project scope management). In general, a master’s degree in project management can be a key to advancing one’s career. Considering the skills and knowledge a student can acquire from both types of programs, it can be said that an online degree is as good as a regular or a traditional degree. Furthermore, getting an online master’s degree in project management is better than not having any at all.

Additionally, completing a master’s program online can also hone a student’s ability to handle demanding tasks using online tools and resources. They can also strengthen their virtual communication and learning skills. All of these combined give them an edge at this time when remote work is becoming even more rampant.

How much does an online Master’s Program in Project Management cost?

There are a number of factors that affect the cost of online master’s programs in project management. These include the number of credits required and cost per credit, school reputation, and whether the student is from the state where the school is located or not. Some schools may also charge differently for international students and those who come from a military background.

As for the actual cost, online graduate business degree programs, which often include masters in project management, charge roughly $320 per semester hour for in-state students and $950 for out-of-state students. If the program requires 36 semester hours, it will cost between $11,520 and $34,200 to complete. Meanwhile, other universities might require only 30 credits and charge around $1,000 per credit. In total, the tuition costs around $30,000.

Incoming students should note that the costs mentioned above are only for the tuition. These do not include additional fees and expenses, such as textbooks and supplementary materials. Fortunately, there are financial aid programs available to students, including scholarships, loans, and payment plans.

Is an online project management master’s degree worth it?

Education is an investment. Many corporations rely on highly skilled project managers to oversee the crucial aspects of their projects to ensure that schedule and budget goals are met. As such, a master’s degree in project management gives you additional technical knowledge that will help you understand the profession better, and the credential that can give you an advantage as you work to get ahead in your career.

Furthermore, the average annual salary of a project manager in the US as of May 2021 is $77,352 while a senior project manager can earn around $122,418 (Salary.com, n.d.). Based on these figures, a master’s in project management degree-holder can potentially earn back their educational investment within a few years.

What are the requirements of an online Master’s Degree in Project Management?

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for an online master’s program in project management vary from school to school. For instance, some institutions require a minimum GPA while some do not. Moreover, some schools require incoming students to pass either the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) while others do not. In general, however, the majority of institutions will require the following as minimum qualifications:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A good GPA (most schools require a minimum of 2.7 to 3.0)
  • A significant project management experience, especially if GRE or GMAT is to be waived

What are the technological requirements of students for online learning?

Aside from program-specific requirements, students who will enroll in any online degree program need to meet minimum technological requirements. This will ensure that they can accomplish tasks and keep up with their online classes.

For example, if the school will require the use of LMS Blackboard, you might need a Windows 7 SP1 or Mac OS X 10.12 and higher. Students’ computers should also have at least 4 GB of RAM. Furthermore, students must also be able to smoothly run video conferencing tools such as Zoom.

In general, online degree students should have a computer and internet connection fast enough to stream audio and video lectures as well as live meetings. Their device should also have sufficient storage for software and files.

Courses to Expect in Online Master’s Program in Project Management

It is estimated that through 2029, there will be an 8% increase in the demand for construction managers, 11% for management analysts, and 25% for operations research analysts (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021), which are just some of the career opportunities that await project managers. A typical online master’s degree in project management consists of core courses, specialization requirements, and electives, which when combined together provide students with advanced knowledge and skills beyond the undergraduate level that will ultimately prepare them for leadership roles.

Below are some of the courses a student can expect in an online master’s degree in project management:

  • Business Analyses. This course aims to train students’ business analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. They will be required to analyze a real-life case study and apply business analysis fundamentals to solve hypothetical issues.
  • Project Monitoring and Control. Project managers are expected to develop and utilize metrics to measure key performance indicators (KPI) and gauge the overall effectiveness of their projects. This course trains students to make measurement-driven decisions and strategies.
  • Resource Management and Planning. It is also crucial for project managers to know how to effectively manage resources and effectively plan their allocation. Resources include everything from raw materials to human talents.
  • Professional Communications. As leaders who also work as liaisons between their organizations and teams, project managers are expected to exhibit professional communication skills. These skills must be applied in both written and verbal communication.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Things to Look for in an Online Master’s Degree in Project Management

Spring 2021 saw a significant increase in online graduate degree program enrollment: about three times higher than pre-pandemic levels (EducationData.org, 2021). Students who are also thinking of enrolling in an online master’s program in project management should take these considerations in mind:

Accessibility and Availability

Indeed, an online master’s degree in project management offers more flexibility compared to its traditional counterpart. However, students should also try to learn more about how accessible a specific program really is. Doing so involves finding out if the synchronous classes will fit your time zone or schedule. It is also important to determine whether course materials are easily accessible.

Accreditation

Before enrolling in an institution, a student should ensure that it is accredited to offer an online master’s degree in project management. Among the credentials to check is the PMI accreditation.

School and Faculty Reputation

The better known the school is, the better your online master’s degree in project management will be honored by employers. As such, it is best to enroll in an institution known for having a good overall reputation and high-quality faculty.

Hidden and Additional Costs 

Most educational institutions publish a standard rate per credit or credit hours. However, students should also prepare to pay for additional costs aside from tuition fees derived from those standard per-credit rates. These include:

  • Technology fees – Institutions might charge a separate fee for the use of technological services and equipment, such as their LMS.
  • Tiered tuition – While institutions are transparent with their tuition fees, they may charge differently depending on the number of credits students will take. For instance, a student taking a maximum of 11 credits may pay higher than a student who is enrolled in 12 or more credits.
  • Support services – Additional tech support, academic assistance, or instructions may be charged separately.

Choosing the Best Online Master’s Degree in Project Management for You

Project managers play a vital role in practically every field. They help teams and organizations succeed by ensuring that projects tasked under their supervision are completed successfully, on time, and within budget. As such, the demand for highly knowledgeable and skilled project managers is here to stay. Ultimately, it makes good academic and business sense to invest in a master’s degree that will get you ahead of the competition.

As COVID-19 paved the way for the prevalence of online distance learning, working professionals and undergraduates who wish to pursue higher education in project management can take advantage of online master’s degree programs. Whether they choose a fully online program or opt for blended learning, they can find a program that best suits their schedule, budget, and expectations, as long as they keep crucial considerations in mind.

 

References:

  1. EducationData.org. (n.d.). Online Education Statistics. Retrieved from EducationData.org
  2. Fincham, D. (2016, November 10). Implications and Challenges in Studying as a Full Distance Learner on a Masters Programme: Students’ Perspectives. Retrieved from ERIC
  3. Lederman, D. (2019, June 5). Online Is (Increasingly) Local. Retrieved from Inside Higher Ed
  4. Li, Y., Wen, X., Li, L., Zhou, Y., Huang, L., Ling, B., Liao, X., & Tang, Q. (2021, May 7). Exploration of Online Education Mode for Postgraduate Education under the Background of COVID-19. Retrieved from SCIRP
  5. NCES. (2021). Fast Facts: Distance Learning. Retrieved from NCES
  6. PMI. (2021). Talent Gap: Ten-Year Employment Trends, Costs, and Global Implications. Retrieved from PMI
  7. Salary.com. (2021). Senior Project Manager Salary in the United States. Retrieved from Salary.com
  8. U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics (2021). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Construction Managers. Retrieved from BLS
  9. U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics (2021). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Management Analysts. Retrieved from BLS
  10. U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics (2021). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Operations Research Analysts. Retrieved from BLS

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