Inside Project Managers' Paychecks: PMI Salary Survey Results

The Project Management Institute's (PMI) latest salary survey reveals what project managers earn, how their salaries fared during the worst of the recession, and the factors that positively or negatively affect their earnings.

Despite the global recession, historic unemployment and massive corporate budget cuts, U.S. project managers are largely optimistic about their salaries in 2010, according to data from the Project Management Institute's (PMI) recently released 2009 Project Management Salary Survey.

Two-thirds (67 percent) of project management professionals in the U.S. expect their salaries to improve in 2010. Only 4 percent think their salaries will decrease this year, while 29 percent see stagnating wages in their future.

During the worst of the global recession, between fall 2008 and fall 2009, American project managers who managed to hold onto their jobs didn't fare too poorly, compared to professionals in other fields: 53 percent earned a raise (though most raises amounted to between 1 percent and 3 percent of their salaries), 34 percent went through a salary freeze, and 14 percent experienced a pay cut.

The median base salary for a project management professional in the U.S. is $100,000. Three-fourths of survey respondents earn more than $84,000 per year, and one-fourth of survey respondents take home an annual base salary of more than $120,000.

PMI's salary survey also reveals what project management professionals earn according to a variety of variables, including:

  • their title
  • educational background
  • whether they hold a PMP certification (and how long they've held it)
  • the department they work in
  • their industry
  • the type of project they work on (e.g. construction, IT, R&D)
  • the average size of their project team and budget
  • gender

Here's a look at how project managers' salaries fare along each of those criteria.

Salary by Title

Project managers' salaries are, not surprisingly, a function of their rank inside their organizations as well as their level of experience. Thus, entry-level project managers earn the least (the median salary for a project management specialist in the U.S. is $85,000), while directors of project management earn the most, with a median annual salary of $123,000. Project management consultants also do well: Their median salary is $105,000. The medians for other project management titles include:

Project Manager I: $84,000

Project Manager II: $90,000

Project Manager III: $99,000

Program Manager: $110,000

Portfolio Manager: $117,000

Salary by Educational Background

Just as title and experience positively influence a project management professional's salary, so too does their level of education. Project managers with Master's degrees and PhDs earn more than project managers who hold Bachelor's degrees. Here are the median salaries for project management professionals according to their highest level of education:

High School Degree: $88,000

Some College or Associate's Degree: $90,000

Bachelor's Degree: $98,000

Master's Degree: $105,000

Doctoral Degree: $114,000

Salary by Certification

Survey data shows that the longer project management professionals hold PMI's PMP certification, the higher their salaries. Consider the median salaries of project management professionals according to how long they've held a PMP:

Less than 1 year: $86,000

1 to 5 years: $100,000

5 to 10 years: $108,206

10 to 20 years: $118,000

Don't have a PMP certification? Don't worry too much. Project management professionals who lack a PMP still pull a median annual salary of $91,000. (For more information on the importance of project management certifications, see Why Project Management Certifications Matter.)

Salary by Department

The largest number of project management professionals who responded to the survey work in corporate IT departments, and they earn among the highest median salaries. IT project managers are edged out only by project managers who work in consulting or research and development departments.

Consulting: $115,500

Research & Development: $109,000

Engineering: $104,000

IT: $100,000

Project Management/PMO: $100,000

Administration/General Management: $100,000

(The survey lists 10 other departments, but those are the top five where project managers' median salaries are $100,000 or more.)

Salary by Industry

PMI's survey results indicate which industries are potentially the most lucrative for project management professionals. The nine industries that pay the most for project managers are:

Resources (Agriculture, Mining, etc.): $120,000

Consulting: $116,000

Pharmaceuticals: $110,000

Engineering: $106,000

Aerospace: $105,000

Government: $104,832

Food and beverage: $102,000

Utility: $102,000

IT: $100,422

Salary by Type of Project

Some kinds of projects appear to pay slightly more than others:

Engineering: $106,198

R&D: $106,000

Business Transformation: $105,000

Supply Chain Management/Logistics: $105,000

Construction: $102,000

IT: $100,000

Quality Management: $100,000

Regulatory Compliance: $100,000

Manufacturing: $99,800

Operations: $99,138

Salary by Size of Project Team and Size of Budget

Project managers' salaries are clearly a function of the size of their project team and the size of the project budget. The bigger the project budget and project team, the more a project manager will earn. Here are the median salaries for project managers in charge of various team sizes and project budgets:

1 to 4 project team members: $96,000

5 to 9 project team members: $100,000

10 to 14 project team members: $102,000

15 to 19 project team members: $105,000

20 or more project team members: $110,000 Budget of less than $100,000: $85,600

Budget of $100,000 to $499,999: $95,000

Budget of $500,000 to $999,999: $100,000

Budget of $1 to $10 million: $106,793

Budget of $10 million or more: $120,000

Salary by Gender

The pay disparity between men and women in project management persists, but it's not clear whether the pay gap is a result of men earning more because they're in higher-level positions and women earning less because they're in lower-level positions. (See Gender Discrimination Linked to Poor Project Management.)

The median base salary for a male project management professional is $105,000. Three-fourths of male project management professionals earn more than $87,500 per year. One-fourth earn more than $125,000 per year.

For female project management professionals, the salary figures are considerably lower. The median base salary for female project management professionals is $95,000 per year—$10,000 a year less than what men earn. Three-fourths earn more than $79,000 per year. One-fourth earn more than $112,918 per year.

PMI surveyed nearly 35,000 project management professionals in 19 countries from late October 2009 until early December 2009. The majority of survey respondents—more than 19,900—were American project management professionals. Sixty-one percent of respondents were men; 39 percent were women.

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