How Project Managers Can Negotiate Higher Salaries

The Project Management Institute's latest salary survey is chockfull of specific, reliable data that project managers can use to negotiate higher salaries. Here's an example of how they might use the data in their own salary negotiations.

Specific, reliable salary data that you can use in salary negotiations is hard to find…unless you work in project management. The Project Management Institute's annual salary survey is packed with pertinent, detailed data that project managers, portfolio managers, project management consultants and PMO directors can use to negotiate higher salaries.

The Project Management Institute's latest, seventh edition of its salary survey contains even more data than in previous years. The PMI expanded its salary survey this past year to learn more about the context in which project management professionals work and to better identify the factors that give rise to higher salaries.

The issues that have the biggest impact on project management professionals' salaries are the number of years they've worked in project management, whether they hold the PMP certification (and the length of time they've held it), and the size and scope of the projects they manage.

Data with the level of specificity and granularity that the PMI's salary study provides is invaluable in salary negotiation. Here's an example of how you could use it to your advantage:

Say you've been offered a job, and the salary the employer is offering is not as high as you'd like. To make an effective counter-offer, you need to articulate the difference between your current responsibilities with your existing employer and the responsibilities you'd have with your new employer, and state why the new responsibilities are worth more money.

If, for example, the new position involves more complicated projects with bigger teams and budgets than you're current position, you can use that as your rationale to negotiate a higher salary. The PMI's salary data shows that the larger the project team or budget, the more money project managers earn. (A side note: Be sure to ask during the job interview about the size of the project you'd be working on so that you can make a case for a higher salary, in the event you need to.)

Annualized Salary by Average Project Team Size

Base annual, U.S. salaries for individual working in project management, broken down by average size of project teams.

Number of People on Team Number of Respondents 25th Percentile Median 75th Percentile
1-4 People 1,422 $80,000 $98,413 $119,000
5-9 People 4,005 $87,000 $102,500 $122,000
10-14 People 2,382 $90,000 $106,000 $127,000
15-19 People 1,048 $90,500 $106,300 $127,000
20 or more People 2,166 $97,000 $115,000 $140,000

Project Management Institute Salary Survey, Seventh Edition  

You can use this same rationale to justify a bigger pay hike if you're negotiating a promotion with your existing employer.

Annualized Salary by Average Project Budget

Base annual, U.S. salaries for individuals working in project management, broken down by average size of project budget.

Size of Budget Number of Respondents 25th Percentile Median 75th Percentile
Less than $100,000 1,247 $72,000 $88,000 $105,000
$100,000-$499,999 2,925 $82,500 $98,000 $115,000
$500,000-$999,999 2,196 $88,500 $103,000 $121,000
$1 million-$10 million 4,572 $94,000 $110,000 $132,000
More than $10 million 1,282 $105,000 $126,200 $153,000

SOURCE: Project Management Institute Salary Survey, Seventh Edition  

The type of project you'd be working on in your new role could also factor into your argument for more competitive pay. The PMI's salary data shows that business transformation projects command some of the highest salaries.

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