Project Management Salaries Show Earnings Growth, Career Potential

The latest salary survey from the Project Management Institute proves that project management remains a lucrative IT career. It also reveals what factors influence project management professionals' salaries the most.

Project management may not be the most exciting job in IT these days, especially when most of the talk about hot IT jobs pertains to software developers, information security professionals and business intelligence analysts. Nevertheless, IT project management remains a stable, lucrative career with opportunities for growth, according to the latest salary survey from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

"We're seeing huge demand for IT project and program managers," says Mark Langley, president and CEO of PMI. "The data in the survey demonstrates that."

Indeed, the median base salary for an individual working in the field of project management in the U.S. is $105,000. Such a high median shows that companies are willing to pay top dollar for project management expertise.

Employers pay even higher salaries to project managers who hold the PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP) certification: Those who've held a PMP for five to less than 10 years earn a median base salary of $113,000, while those who've maintained a PMP for 10 to less than 20 years earn a median base salary of $120,000, according to the survey. (See related story, Why Project Management Certifications Matter.)

Langley notes that PMP certified project managers earned 10 percent more than non-certified project managers last year. This year, they earned 16 percent more.

You might think that the salary numbers for PMPs reflect the number of years they've worked in project management, rather than the perceived value of the credential. The PMI took that issue into consideration by examining project managers' earnings according to the number of years they've worked in the field of project management. The PMI found that the median base salary for people who've worked in project management for five to less than 10 years was $97,000—that's $16,000 less than PMPs who've worked in the field for the same amount of time. For individuals with 10 to less than 15 years of project management experience, their median base salary was $108,000.

The PMP certification is one of a handful of factors that positively influence project managers' salaries. Other factors that contribute to higher pay include the size and scope of project managers' projects. The PMI's salary survey reveals that project managers who work on complex, globally dispersed projects with big budgets and lots of team members earn more.

Men who work in project management in the U.S. continue to out earn women. Men earn a median base salary of $108,000--$8,000 more than American women. (The apparent gender disparity may be due to the number of men and women reporting their salaries: 63 and 37 percent, respectively.)

The industries that pay project managers the best are consulting (median base salary of $120,000), natural resources (median base salary of $116,000), pharmaceuticals (median base salary of $113,909), and aerospace and engineering (both of which pay median base salaries of $110,000). The IT industry ranked seventh with a median base salary of $104,000.

The Project Management Institute surveyed more than 30,000 project management professionals in 29 countries. In the U.S. alone, 13,572 project management professionals responded to the survey.

Annualized Salary By Position Description: United States

Base salaries for various project management-related job titles.

Position Percent Reporting 25th Percentile Median 75th Pecentile
PMO Director 6% $105,000 $127,000 $151,000
Portfolio Manager 6% $101,000 $125,000 $151,000
Program Manager 24% $97,000 $115,000 $135,000
Project Manager III 28% $89,000 $102,000 $120,000
Project Manager II 16% $78,000 $92,975 $110,000
Project Manager I 9% 70,050 $87,000 $105,000
Project Management Specialist 4% $68,775 $87,000 $105,000
Project Management Consultant 7% 88,000 $108,546 $135,000

SOURCE: The Project Management Institute Salary Survey, Seventh Edition

Annualized Salary By Average Project Budget: United States

Base salaries for people working in project management, broken down by the average budget size of the projects they work on.

Average Project Budget Size Percent Reporting Median
Less than $100,000 10% $88,000
$100,000 to $499,000 24% $98,000
$500,000 to $999,999 18% $103,000
$1 million to $10 million 37% $110,000
More than $10 million 10% $126,200

SOURCE: The Project Management Institute Salary Survey, Seventh Edition

Meridith Levinson covers Careers, Security and Cloud Computing for CIO.com. Follow Meridith on Twitter @meridith. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Meridith at mlevinson@cio.com.

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