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What degree should I take if I want to be a project manager

Should I take a business degree or Information systems degree?

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Carl’s Answer

Hi Shaina. Great question. Training is so fundamental for project managers and yes, there are curriculums designed to educate individuals in project management. I'm a project manager for Verizon. My training includes master's degrees in Business Administration, Network & Communications Management, and Project Management. I specifically manage projects designed to commercialize 5G so I used every bit of my education. In addition, I also hold a Project Management Professional Certification from the Project Management Institute. This certification requires extensive hands-on training before you are allowed to even sit for the exam. To my original point, training is fundamental because project management is analogous to starting a new business within a company. Project managers are trained with the tool kits to facilitate the moving parts of an organization's new endeavor. The more training you have, the more tools you have at your disposal. A few schools offer degrees in project management, whether it be undergraduate or graduate. DeVry University offers undergraduate and graduate programs that are accredited by the Project Management Institute. You can obtain a bachelor's degree in project management, a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in project management, a master's degree in project management, or a master's degree in a technology field with a concentration in project management. Schools like the University of Southern California and Penn State University also offer Master's Degrees in Project Management. I would recommend looking at schools and matching programs with your interest. Don't be intimidated by dual degree options. My experience is that I was able to add a few more classes and get additional degrees. This increased my breadth of knowledge. It doesn't have to be an either/or option. You can do both. The business landscape is changing and those that are trained in project management will be the drivers of those changes.

Carl recommends the following next steps:

Visit devry.edu and look at the many programs available for project management education.
Visit PMI.org to see the certifications as well as the requirements to sit for the certification exams.
Go to the University of Southern California's website and review their graduate program in Project Management
Go to Penn State's website and review their graduate program in Project Management.
Thank you comment icon Great advice Sir Carl, Unfortunately, my country does not offer a "Project Management" degree. Nevertheless, I'll take into my account your suggestions. Thank you so much. Shaina T.
Thank you comment icon Hi Shaina. The schools I mentioned have online options. I obtained my Master's in Project Management online. They all admit international students. Carl Manson Jr., PMP
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Jaime’s Answer

Project Management is a set of skills that can be applied to almost anything from throwing a birthday party to upgrading the software of a public hospital that services the community. I knew that I wanted to work with software when I was going into college. So I got a degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS) with the ASU W. P. Carey School of Business. Having the CIS title on my applications to jobs definitely gave me an advantage to others who had a degree in Business Administration or Finance. My degree would not have given me any advantages if I had wanted to be a real estate / construction project manager who oversees building skyscrapers in New York.

So if you enjoy a specific area like real estate / construction, software implementation, or even running non-profit organizations - get a degree that teaches skills relevant to that industry or sector of business. I would say that 80% of the project managers I know and work with got a business degree in management. It sounds generic but it teaches the organizational skills that are relevant for the job.

Honestly, getting your first job as a project manager will be the hardest step in your career. Project Management is a role that is hard to get immediately out of college as it does come with a managerial role. When hiring a PM, people want to know they are hiring someone who is confident to lead a team and has experience solving problems. If you put strong professional language in your resume, you can get hired right out of college into a PM role! You'll hear no a few times but you can do it. Keep applying and keep advocating for yourself. Having confidence in yourself when speaking is extremely powerful

I was able to get a job as a PM immediately after college because I specifically had experience interning with the Project Management Office of large corporations. An internship can show hiring managers you have already done the work and if given the opportunity you can overcome the statements of "need 3 years prior hands-on experience".

It may sound disappointing, but you will actually see many people get jobs as analysts or coordinators before going into project management. Don't be afraid to apply for positions that are in business as a starting point. You can tell your manager that you want to transition into project management and after you show your performance is good - they'll help you transition into that other department of the company.
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Scott’s Answer

Hi Shaina! I agree with some of the other responses here, it really depends on what you want to do. I have a degree in Business Marketing, but have been on both the Business and IT sides of Verizon.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have gone for the technical degree. From my perspective, there is more opportunity to get into Verizon this way as a project manager, having been a hiring manager on both sides.

I think it is easier to move from the IT side to the Business side once you get in and get some experience, rather than the opposite.

Good Luck to you!
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Sirlei’s Answer

Hi Shaina!

It depends...what type of projects do you intend to manage?
A business degree will help you manage all types; it is broad and teaches you overall administration. It really applies more to administration of businesses, but it teaches you overall finance, administration, accounting and other critical skills that come in super handy!

For more specific industry project management jobs, companies also look for individuals with other degrees though. For example, an energy company would hire someone with a mechanical or electrical degree. A systems company, may look for someone with an IT background.

Eventually, you may want to also look into getting the PMP certification. It would make you a professional project manager. For more info on it, visit this site: https://www.pmi.org/certifications/project-management-pmp
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Nicole’s Answer

A business degree would defintly help with this. I would look into the specific classes you would be taking in the degree and see if any of those can help you with your goal of being a project manager. If not, I would look into taking online courses and applying to interships that can get you more specific experience in the project management field.
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Jacqueline’s Answer

Shaina, project management is definitely a growing skill in the business field or any field out there. There are business programs that have concentration in Project Management, however you can get a general Business degree and then consider getting your PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. LinkedIn training also has training courses to expose you to Project Management.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hi Shaina, project managers are valuable employees across nearly any area of a company and the needs for skilled project managers is growing. If there is not a specific project management track of coursework, a business degree would give you a good foundation that could apply in many areas. An information systems degree could also be helpful, particularly if technology is your preferred area of work.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Ms. Michelle, this was super helpful!! Shaina T.
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