2020 Best Online Project Management Degrees & Certificates
Online project management degree programs are offered at the certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels to help prepare aspiring project managers for careers in finance, information technology, and many other industries. Our best online bachelor's programs and best online master's programs highlight exceptional options, based on tuition costs and alumni salaries reported by PayScale. Prospective students should research accredited project management programs to ensure the best academic experience.
2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Project Management Degrees
The 25 schools on this list are the best value options for obtaining an online bachelor's degree in project management based on alumni salaries and low tuition rates. A degree from Assumption College has an impressive return on investment, with an annual tuition of $12,720 and alumni reporting a mid-career salary of $113,800. Wentworth Institute of Technology offers distance learners a Bachelor of Science in Project Management for $34,970 per year. Alumni reported a mid-career salary of $102,000.
2020 Online Colleges Offering Project Management Degrees - Ranking Details
Online Project Management Degree Overview & Career Information
Online project management certificates offer concentrated training on management skills through courses ranging from cost management to communications. The graduate-level certificates are open to students with an accredited undergraduate degree. Most certificates take a year or less to complete, making it a great option for working professionals to enhance their management opportunities.
Online bachelor’s degrees typically include topics in organizational leadership, project risk management, contracts and procurement, project performance and quality assurance, and project scheduling and cost. Bachelor's programs usually have a capstone project requirement aimed at enhancing the students’ practical knowledge in the field.
The online master’s degree curriculum covers several key knowledge areas, including assessing and mitigating risk, project planning, execution and closure, schedule and cost control techniques, contracting and procurement in project management, and project management processes. A capstone project is a typical requirement in master’s programs.
Online doctoral project management degree programs explore theoretical underpinnings in project management at a far deeper level than other academic programs. The doctoral curriculum covers areas such as advanced project management methodologies, advanced risk management systems, and contemporary leadership theories and practices. Doctoral students are also required to take a comprehensive exam and complete a dissertation.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Project Management
Online bachelor’s degrees in project management help prepare students to navigate the many aspects of a project that they see through from beginning to end. The project management bachelor's degree often combines general business skills with particular leadership strategies for bringing complex projects to completion.
Online bachelor’s degree programs generally require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED for admission, and some programs require additional application materials, such as a resume, personal statement, or standardized test scores. This is a four-year degree, requiring about 120 credit hours of coursework.
Undergraduate courses cover topics such as the role of the project manager, strategic goal setting, portfolio management, procurement and contracts, and budgeting. Many project management programs are offered as business degrees with a project management focus. In such programs, students also take more general business classes such as leadership, decision making, marketing, and accounting. Most project management bachelor's programs require a capstone course or a project-based class. In this course, students manage a mock project from beginning to end, developing the project's goals, setting a timeline, assigning teams, creating a budget, and procuring contracts.
Graduates with bachelor’s degrees will typically find lower-level project management positions in management, information technology, accounting, and human resources. Most people who graduate with a bachelor's degree in project management generally begin by working at businesses, government agencies, or other organizations as a manager or administrator taking on small projects. Project management can be an experience-based profession, so after gaining experience, professionals may be assigned to larger projects and can advance to take on more projects.
Online Master's Degrees in Project Management
The online project management master’s degree can be a great way for those without significant project management experience to gain valuable skills to break into the workplace. Graduates will have an edge over those with only a bachelor’s degree and similar professional experience. The master’s in project management degree online is a focused business program that teaches the particular skill set for starting, maintaining, and finishing large projects within an organization. To learn more about online master's programs in project management, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best programs.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Project Management
Online doctorate level programs take a more abstract approach to project management while exploring advanced methodologies, systems, and theories. Programs will often incorporate many opportunities for research, which enables students to improve their project management practices.
Applicants to most project management doctorate programs must hold an accredited master’s degree and have at least five years of professional management experience to be considered. The college or university will need to see official transcripts of all postsecondary work the applicant has done, as well as a resume and letters of recommendation. Some schools also request a personal essay as part of the application package. The 16-course program and dissertation can be completed in three to seven years.
Students enrolled in a project management doctorate program will take courses in knowledge management, project management leadership, project procurement and ethics, data analysis and interpretation, and systems modeling and the nine schools of project management. Other courses in the program focus on research methods and the philosophy of knowledge. Doctoral candidates must also write a dissertation as part of their program. The project will be approved and supervised by a faculty member, who acts as an advisor. Each student's work must be orally defended in front of a jury before the doctorate will be granted.
Graduates from this type of program will be qualified for positions as university professors, or they can take on roles as mentors and researchers.
Online Certificates in Project Management
Online project management certificates are graduate-level programs aimed at providing a focused education in the leadership and management skills needed to oversee complex projects. These programs typically require 5 to 10 courses and can be completed in a year or less. Most are offered through business schools or university extension programs. Applicants need an accredited undergraduate degree; some programs require a year or more of professional project management experience.
Students in Project Management Institute-certified programs can use the course credits toward the PMP exam educational requirement. Project management certificates can also be used as professional development units if they meet certain criteria.
The courses in the project management certificate focus on the unique leadership, planning, and management skills required to lead large projects. The foundational project management principles course includes topics like cost management, the different stages of a large project, and project networks. Later courses focus on a particular aspect of management, such as communications, risk management, program management, and quality management. Some certificate programs have a set list of courses, while others include a core sequence and electives. The certificate coursework can also be used as the start of a master’s program at some institutions.
Graduates of a certificate program often work as a project manager. The project management career area is still emerging and specialized education isn’t widely available at the bachelor’s level. Thus, those with a graduate certificate will have a wider array of job opportunities than those with only a four-year degree and similar experience. Other related career areas include construction management, engineering management, or healthcare management. Professionals already working in a professional area can use the certificate to support expanded responsibilities in supervision or project management in their current workplace.
It's important to consider the reputation and qualifications of any project management degree program you're considering, and official accreditation is one way to begin narrowing down your choices. When a school or program is accredited, it means that its curricula, faculty, student outcomes, and general academic standards have been reviewed, evaluated, and deemed acceptable by an independent agency.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the most popular and reputable project management organization. PMI's Global Accreditation Center (GAC) for Project Management Education Programs is the leading accrediting body for project management related education. Committed to excellence, GAC accreditation ensures that programs maintain policies and procedures of project management. Students who attend a GAC accredited program demonstrate to future employers that they have received an enriched education that equipped them with necessary skills, techniques, and experience to succeed as a project manager. PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.), which are organizations that have been approved to provide training in project management, are also strong indicators of a quality education.
Entire institutions can be accredited by national or regional accrediting agencies, or individual PM programs can be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs. It's wise to refer to the lists of accrediting agencies that are recognized by US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
For more information about the benefits of accreditation, visit the OnlineU accreditation hub.
The certifications offered by PMI are among the most popular credentials for project management professionals. There are eight different certificates available: Project Management Professional, Program Management Professional, Portfolio Management Professional, Certified Associate in Project Management, PMI Professional in Business Analysis, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner, PMI Risk Management Professional, and PMI Scheduling Professional.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) credential is considered the gold standard of project management certification. A Project Management Professional Certification is recognized worldwide and can be attained regardless of industry. The PMP Certification communicates to potential employers that the candidate has an understanding of project management that is consistent with the other members of the organization.
To obtain the PMP certification, experienced project managers must pass a 4-hour exam that consists of 200 questions. All those hoping to be certified must have at least 35 hours of project management education and 7,500 hours experience leading and directing projects or 4,500 hours if the applicant holds a bachelor’s degree. To maintain the certificate, students must earn 60 professional development units every three years.
Project managers juggle the moving parts of a project and must be open to rapidly changing environments. They must have an ability to move other people into action and keep them accountable for the progress of a project. Project managers are necessary for many industries including:
- Healthcare: where they oversee new hospital remodeling projects, assess spending and budget allocation, and transfer doctors between departments.
- Information Technology: where they design, plan, and carry out software or computer engineering projects from start to finish. This role involves coordinating with multiple companies and the information technology team. Managers troubleshoot problems and make a plan to stay within deadlines.
- Manufacturing: where they assess risks and constantly make efforts to improve the quality of the product. In manufacturing, project managers might compare products and efficiency against other competing products.
- Construction: where they work closely with clients to make sure budgets and project needs are met. Building projects are susceptible to alteration every day, so project managers must be able to adapt quickly to changing environments, scope, and budget.
- Project Management Institute, Inc. Accessed November 3, 2017. https://www.pmi.org/.
- Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Handbook. Project Management Institute, Inc. Accessed November 3, 2017. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/ccr-certification-requirements-handbook.pdf.
- Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC). Project Management Institute, Inc. Accessed November 2, 2017. https://www.pmi.org/global-accreditation-center.
- Find a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.). Project Management Institute, Inc. Accessed November 2, 2017. https://www.pmi.org/learning/training-development/reps/find.