Project Management | 2021 Job Outlook

Industry Advice Management

Project managers are vital in today’s fast-paced, results-oriented workplaces. By overseeing every aspect of a project from conception to completion, trained project managers have the tools required to keep any scope of work on track.

As project managers become more and more instrumental in the successful completion of work across industries, the job outlook for project managers continues to improve, as well. Read on to learn what the work of a project manager entails, how much these professionals earn, and how you can stay competitive in this growing field. 

Download Our Free Guide to Advancing Your Project Management Career

Learn what you need to know, from in-demand skills to the industry’s growing job opportunities.


Project Management Responsibilities

At the most basic level, a project manager’s responsibility is to guide a project toward completion, but the actual process of doing so is much more complex. Their work begins with a project initiation phase, in which the main objectives of the work are defined, contributing parties are identified, expectations are set, and the scope statement for the work is fully established. 

Next comes the planning phase, in which project managers meet with stakeholders and develop an actionable process for the project to follow. This includes establishing the project’s scope, budget, timeline, risk, etc., and identifying the key deliverables and tasks that make up the scope of this work.

The executing phase begins when the individual members of the project team are ready to embark upon their tasks. During this stage, project managers primarily focus on time management, facilitating communications, streamlining processes, and adapting the project scope to reflect any changes. Throughout this phase—as well as during initiation and planning—project managers must also work to monitor the processes they have set in place. This includes ensuring timelines are being followed, budgets are being respected, and key milestones are being reached.

The final stage of a project is the closing phase, in which the project manager makes sure all activities have been successfully completed throughout the scope of the work. This phase also includes working with the stakeholders to ensure all their expectations have been met, releasing any resources held for the project, and archiving any necessary files for future reference.

Though project managers may also have to own very industry-specific tasks depending on the organization they work for, these phases outline the general responsibilities of a project manager.

Project Management Job Outlook

Considering the growing reliance on project managers across industries, individuals trained in this discipline have a very promising career outlook. As of 2017, 71 percent of global organizations had a project management office, and those numbers have continued to increase over time. It’s estimated that an additional 22 million jobs will be added in the sector by 2027, representing a projected 33 percent growth for the industry. This growth trend is also expected to generate a total of 88 million jobs in the field worldwide by that time.

However, alongside this exciting career outlook comes the concern of a talent gap between the number of individuals needed for these roles, and the number of people actually qualified to do the work. For this reason, those hoping to change careers might consider earning an advanced degree and becoming qualified to work in the project management industry. In the same regard, existing project managers will likely need to invest in further education in order to not only stay abreast of changes in this fast-evolving industry but to also remain competitive as others undoubtedly prepare for a career in this fruitful field, as well.

Project Management Salaries

The median salary for project managers to be $116,000 per year. While most in this field make between $90,000 and $140,000 annually, there are quite a few factors that determine where on this scale a project manager might fall. These factors include the individual’s education and experience level, the size of the organization they are working with, where their organization is located, and even their own declared specialization in the field.

Learn More: How Much Do Project Managers Make?

There are a variety of steps project managers can take to ensure that they are on the higher end of the pay scale. Those willing to relocate, for instance, should consider moving to cities where project managers make above the national average—including New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago—or even to countries like Switzerland or Australia, which offer average salaries of $132,086 and $101,381, respectively.

Others looking to find that competitive edge in the industry might aim instead to earn a graduate degree in order to obtain a mid- or senior-level project management position, expand their skill sets, and increase their overall salary potential. After all, graduates of advanced degree programs in general earn up to 28 percent more on average than those with just a bachelor’s degree.

Gearing Up For Success in a Growing Field

Pursuing an advanced degree in project management is a strategic way to stay relevant in this thriving industry.

Elevate Your Skills

Learning about project management from industry leaders will help elevate your skills while also enabling you to keep up with project management practices and tools that are timely and relevant. For example, the reliance on project management software for high-performing projects has increased to 77 percent in 2018. Now, more than ever, project managers need to have a current understanding of these types of programs in order to complete their work. A master’s in project management program provides the necessary exposure to and training on these types of practices needed to keep project managers prepared for these changing elements of the industry.

Gain Relevant Industry Experience 

Alongside the exposure to relevant tools and practices, pursuing an advanced degree at an institution that places great value on experiential learning also gives you an edge in this competitive industry. Experiential learning provides students with hands-on exposure to real-world projects and processes, unparalleled access to top companies, and valuable networking opportunities that can positively impact your career post-graduation.

Learn More: 5 Reasons a Master’s in Project Management is Worth It

Finally, the opportunity to declare a project management concentration while in grad school is a major benefit for those who want to increase their salary. The opportunity for specialization allows professionals to hone in on the specific industry, methodology, or discipline they’re interested in post-graduation and tailor their studies to best set themselves up for success. 

Those who choose to focus on a particular industry while in school, for instance, may earn a higher salary than their peers when they graduate. For example, PayScale reports that a general project manager might make between $48,000 and $111,000 per year on average, whereas a PM who specializes in IT could make anywhere between $55,000 and $125,000 per year.

Declare a Specialization

Similarly, project managers hoping to stand out in a competitive field may consider specializing in product, program, portfolio, or operations management. This decision can also subsequently increase your earning potential in the field: Program and portfolio managers earn an annual average of $127,517 and $140,780, respectively, compared to a general project manager’s $91,245 earned annually.

Those interested in the benefits of a concentration within their graduate program should consider Northeastern’s Master of Science in Project Management, which provides a built-in opportunity for students to declare a specialization. Currently, Northeastern students can choose from concentrations in:

  • Clinical Trial Design
  • Construction Management
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Information Security Systems
  • Leadership 
  • Leading and Managing Technical Projects
  • Organizational Communication
  • Agile Project Management
  • Program and Portfolio Management
  • Business Analysis 

No matter their reasons, project managers looking to stay ahead in this constantly growing industry should consider advancing their education through either a graduate degree or the completion of a project management certification.

Learn more about how Northeastern’s Master of Science in Project Management program can set you up for success in this thriving field.


Download Our Free Guide to Advancing Your Project Management Career” width=