The Ultimate Manual to Project Management Salaries

Project management salaries vary widely depending on your certifications, experience, past performance, and average project budget. Even your location influences the salary you earn!

Whether the salary is enough for you will depend on your personal goals and lifestyle. Are you willing to work your way to the top? Is it enough for you to live the life you want? Does the job offer reasonable growth in terms of money?

There are so many questions you must consider. That is precisely why we’ve created this guide to help you set some realistic expectations concerning your project management salary.

How Much Does the Average Project Manager Make in a Year?

If you check five different sources to find the average project management salary, you’ll find five different answers.

Websites like Glassdoor and Salary.com undoubtedly have good salary information, but they are mostly estimates. For example, while Glassdoor says the average national salary for a project manager is $87,628 per year in the United States, Salary.com considers the median to be $130,779.

On the other hand, the Project Management Institute Salary Survey established the average salary at $116,000 for a project manager with 5-10 team members.

The moral of the story? While different websites have different salary ballpoints, they highlight how project management can be a six-figure career.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a US-based non-profit professional organization for project management and the issuer of internationally recognized project management certifications like the Project Management Professional (PMP) and others. The PMI has members in 213 countries and was founded in the 1960s.

What Factors Affect Project Management Salaries?

As mentioned, project management salaries depend on a variety of factors. Let’s review the considerations in more detail below.

Education and Certifications

Like other industries, higher-level and specialized education will yield higher pay in the project management niche. In other words, your salary will go up along with your degree level. Here are some average annual salaries based on higher education levels:

  • Bachelor’s degree — $110,250
  • Master’s degree — $120,000
  • Doctoral degree — $123,000

In addition to education, earning project management certifications also help validate your skills and experience to potential employers, which usually translates to a higher salary. Case in point: the median salary for project managers who hold a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification was $25,000 more than those without it.

Here’s a list of the top project management certifications other than PMP that can increase your salary:

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
  • PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)
  • Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)
  • PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)

The good news is you can get certified in various project management methodologies, such as scrum, agile, and kanban. You can also get industry-specific certifications like the CompTIA Project+ certification for IT project managers.

Experience

The longer your tenure as a project manager, the more you can expect to earn. For example, according to Glassdoor, the average base salary of project managers with one to two years of experience was $7,363 more per year than those with no prior experience.

The PMI Salary Survey reported similar results. It found project managers with three to five years of experience earned $15,000 more annually than those with less than three years of experience.

Location

Location affects how much salary you earn in several industries, including project management.

According to ZipRecruiter, project management jobs in Boston, San Francisco Bay, and New York City have the highest annual salaries as opposed to other parts of the USA. This is mainly due to the higher cost of living in major metropolitan areas.

Below is a list of the top three highest paying and top three lowest-paying states in the United States for project managers to help you get a better idea of location-based project management salaries. These are averages.

Highest Paying States:

  • Massachusetts — $101,716
  • Rhode Island — $101, 456
  • New Jersey — $101,723

Lowest Paying States:

  • West Virginia — $57,591
  • Arkansas — $57,071
  • Montana — $54,639

States with the highest pay also have higher living expenses. Therefore, it makes sense to offer people living in these areas more money for the job.

Job Title

The project management industry offers several roles. While there’s no doubt your level of seniority and experience does correspond to your position, your job title is another way to determine a typical project management salary.

Based on the PMI Salary Survey findings, here are a few job titles and their median annual salaries:

  • Program Manager: $125,000
  • Portfolio Manager: $138,000
  • Director of Project Management: $144,000
  • Project Management Specialist: $92,221
  • Project Management Consultant: $120,000

Project Manager Demand

As with any other field, project management works on supply and demand. The logic is simple: if the number of project managers is more than the number of project management job opportunities, the salary offered will likely be lower. But if there are many open project management jobs and nobody to fill them, the starting pay will automatically be higher to attract top-notch candidates.

The good news is that the best time to be a project manager is right now. A PMI study found that project-oriented roles can grow by 33% through 2027, which, in turn, will create over 22 million new jobs.

Sounds great, right?

Team and Company Size

The organization and team size are other influencing factors when considering your salary.

As you may have guessed, the larger the organization and team, the higher the median annual salary for project managers. Companies with fewer than 100 employees reported a median salary of $111,000, while companies with 10,000 or more employees reported $120,000.

The same logic applies to team size. Teams of four or fewer people corresponded to a median salary of $106,888, while teams of 20 or more people reported a median salary of $130,000.

Project Management Methodology and Industry

The project management methodology you work with and the industry you work in also impact your pay. For example, project managers who use extreme or area-specific project management techniques generally earn more than those who use traditional methodologies like agile, waterfall, and lean.

Project management salaries also differ industry-wise. While pharmaceuticals and consulting pay between $130,000 and $132,500, other industries like IT, healthcare, and construction pay between $107,659 and $120,000 (according to the PMI Salary Survey).

Here are some examples of the average project management salary by industry in the US, according to the PMI:

  • Training and Education — $92,700
  • Business Services — $97,232
  • Aerospace — $129,732
  • Pharmaceuticals — $133,246
  • Consulting — $134,149
  • Resources (Mining, Agriculture, and so on) — $134,577
  • Real Estate — $108,554
  • Healthcare — $111,248
  • Construction — $112,850
  • Manufacturing — $114,773
  • Government — $116,664
  • Financial Services — $118,358
  • Legal — $121,990
  • Engineering — $124,434

There’s certainly a substantial difference in salary between the highest-paid project management industries and the lowest-paid project management industries. If you want a big salary jump, you can always switch from one project management sector to another. However, this switch is easier said than done, so make sure you’re prepared to overcome the challenges you’re bound to face before making any decision.

How to Get A Higher Project Management Salary

If you want a higher salary for your project management job, you should consider the above factors and work on them to make them favorable for you. But there are a few other ways to get paid more.

Step 1: Ask for a Raise

Why complicate simple things, right?

You can simply ask your employer for a raise at any time. Many people don’t realize that they can go in and ask for a raise at any time and justify why they deserve one or feel uncomfortable asking for more money. Let that go and use specific metrics to show why your value to the business.

You have to let the manager know you’re worth more money, but you should also back this up with a solid why. Do some research to make a solid case with the hiring manager or your current manager to see things from your perspective. See if your current salary matches the average for project managers in your area with your level of experience.

Leverage your work experience, the outcomes you’ve achieved, the money you helped the company save, and so on. Always use metrics and quantifiable reasons to pinpoint why you deserve a raise.

You can also negotiate for more money when being offered a new position elsewhere or getting promoted within your current company. Use the same approach as when asking for a raise.

An important thing to note is that you can negotiate the salary and benefits before accepting a new job offer. You can also attempt to use the new offer to negotiate or a higher salary at your existing job–but be aware that if they know you’re looking for a new position, that can damage your reputation and opportunities at your current company.

Step 2: Ask for Bigger Projects

You can demand a higher salary if you work on bigger projects. Larger, more complex projects mean bigger teams and budgets. It’s why you should ask for more extensive projects if you want to earn a higher salary.

Make sure you’re ready to advance to the next level and take on those additional responsibilities before asking for larger projects, though. After all, if you fail, this might end up working against you and hurt your credibility.

Step 3: Consider the Benefits Package on Offer

Your base compensation is only one part of your salary—employee benefits make the other half. But while there’s plenty of salary talk, employee benefits are often overlooked.

This isn’t exactly fair as some companies offer an excellent benefits package to compensate for average salaries. Let’s explain this with an example.

Suppose your company offers 401(k) matching that ends up being around $10,000 per year. You find a similar role that pays $8,000 more in base compensation with no company matching. When looking at those numbers, you’re actually getting a better overall deal at your current job.

Some non-base-salary benefits to consider are:

  • Matched 401(k) contributions
  • Subsidized health insurance
  • Childcare support
  • Help with transportation/commute costs
  • Vacation days
  • Paid time off or PTO
  • Subsidized food costs
  • Coverage of certification/education costs
  • Coverage of conference costs
  • Coverage of training event costs
  • Tuition reimbursement

Considering non-monetary compensation benefits and perks is also crucial. Try to score a better overall compensation and not just higher base pay.

Step 4: Earn Project Management-Specific Certifications

You may probably already be getting a respectable paycheck, thanks to your college degree and work experience. But if you want to increase your salary in the project management industry, you should add certain project management certifications to your resume.

The good news is you can select from several project management certifications.

PMI’s PMP certification is considered the gold standard for American project management managers. Getting this certification can significantly increase your salary by more than 20%!

If you’re a beginner, you can opt for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) course. The CAPM requires 1,500 hours of general project management work experience or 23 hours of project management education. In comparison, the PMP requires 4,500 hours of project management work experience.

Though those numbers may sound high, if you have an associate’s degree or equivalent, you can earn the 23 hours of PM education by taking the PMI’s Project Management Basics online course.

Prince2 is another standard project management certification that can work wonders.

Of course, you have to pass examinations to get these certifications. Luckily, there are many amazing prep courses online to help you study and ace your tests.

Step 5: Be Optimistic But Realistic

When discussing project management salaries, you have to learn how to manage your expectations.

If you’re new in the field, don’t expect to earn a six-figure income right off the bat. You also cannot ask for a raise after working for just 50 days. The same applies to experienced project managers. When asking for a raise, don’t expect a 50% raise.

Approach the situation from a place of research and knowledge. You should know your industry, company, and the value you provide but also be realistic about what you can make in your location, industry, and with your current level of experience and education.