Degrees and Certifications for Project Managers: How to Pick the Right Path

Insights | 20 April 2018

With the cost of an MBA degree in Australia rising 12% over the last three years and total tuition bills hitting highs of $120,000[1], it’s not surprising some professionals are asking if the MBA is worth it.

Project managers are no different. There comes a time in their careers when they ask if an advanced degree or certification is the key to getting ahead. While the right answer is deeply individual, it pays to understand the range of options out there.

It’s a lot to consider. We’ll explore the pros and cons and discuss some criteria that can be used to make the right decision.

Key differences

An MBA is a major investment both in time and financially. The typical MBA program[2] is one to two years and may require taking the GMAT to assess your math and verbal skills. This degree is not a requirement in project or programme management. Project management excellence leans most heavily on real-world experience and most practitioners will only need an undergraduate degree to excel. That said, quality certifications and degrees can make your resume more competitive, which is why most pursue them. Given how complex projects have become, Masters in Project Management degrees have become increasingly popular[3] and while generally less costly than an MBA, are still a significant investment.

Advantages of project management degrees and certifications

The Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is the gold standard for project management professionals[4]. It’s also relatively inexpensive in comparison to an MBA. The purpose and goal of this certification program is the development, maintenance, evaluation, promotion and administration of a rigorous, examination-based, professional certification credential of the highest calibre – the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential.

PM-Partners is a Global PMI® Registered Education Provider (R.E.P), we can help guide your decision as to whether the PMP certification is right for you. We offer the PMI® Exam Preparation course, providing the necessary study and preparation required to obtain the PMP or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) certification. We will guide you through the process and the study required to obtain the certification. Remember, it is also worth talking to your current employer about possible reimbursement for certifications.

Outside of certifications, there is a growing number of colleges and universities now offering academic degrees within the practice of project management. This, of course, will be a more substantial time and cost investment than certifications or other types of training, but for some it may make sense. Demand for project management professionals is also expected to increase in coming years.

Other considerations

Once you’ve considered all options side-by-side, look at those who have your ideal position and in what company (via platforms such as LinkedIn). Consider what qualifications they have and how this would look to a recruiter or hiring manager. Make your decision from there and remember that learning is not only rewarding, but fun, even if there are plenty of years between you and your last classroom.

Final takeaways

You get to define your career path. What’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. Weighing the pros and cons of degrees and certifications properly requires context, so be sure to take the time to truly understand your career goals, your local employment market and the corporate structures and cultures that surround your dream job. By staying both pragmatic and open – and doing your research – the right path forward should come into focus quickly. Good luck on your journey!

If you require any advice or are considering one of our accredited training courses, please call us on 1300 70 13 14.


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