A survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council last month found a decline in first-year enrollment in full-time MBA programs, but a steady growth in specialized master’s degrees, such as project management. Penn State’s World Campus offers an online 30-credit masters in project management degree program with AACSB accreditation.
Jeffrey Pinto is the Andrew Morrow and Elizabeth Lee Black Chair in the Management of Technology Black School of Business at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College and the lead faculty member for the World Campus online degree. Pinto, who earned his MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, has seen the trend unfold first hand and believes that for professionals already in project management roles in their industry, the Penn State World Campus masters is a way to commit to career.
“It is becoming increasing common to earn more specialized masters degrees,” said Pinto. “Out in industry, the MBA is becoming a common degree. If you like the field and you want to (move up) the career ladder, an MPM is a valuable degree.
“For (a person with) an engineering or other technical background, who hasn’t had exposure to business education, they’d be better served to earn an MBA,” he said. “Especially people who don’t have a business background, (an MBA) gives a broad perspective.”
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Pinto describes the MPM audience as similar to the online MBA degree audience – a diverse cross section, but typically professionals in their 30′s with 10 year of experience – but the MPM program at Penn State is approximately 25% students currently serving in the armed forces.
“For all branches, if an officer is looking to move up, they usually need a master’s degree,” said Pinto. “They don’t need a broad business education, and they are looking for career usability. The Department of Defense is heavily into projects, and a MPM is the best program to get through the system to move up the ladder.”
Students are often failed by their companies when it comes to project management training sessions, says Pinto, and turn to MPM programs to find a formal training.
“We used to describe them (corporate training sessions) as ‘spray and pray sessions’ – trainers talk fast for a day or two. The information is coming at you fast and it’s superficial,” described Pinto. “It’s not the same as giving a deep-seated education. A MPM gives students a skill set that makes them cutting edge and more effective. That makes them unique.”
Due to the ineffective track record of internal corporate trainings, companies, especially in the informational technology industry, find themselves needing project managers.
“IT companies’ eyes light up, because about two-thirds of the business is projects-based,” Pinto said.
The Penn State MPM originated as a request from auto manufacturer Rolls Royce, AMEC, engineering and project management consultants, and Goodrich approaching the school’s sister university, the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, about developing a way for its top project managers to earn a specialized degree. The schools worked with the auto juggernauts to create a highly-relevant degree program. The companies then asked if a program could be developed for their North American operations and in 2001, Penn State launched the MPM program.
So ultimately, how can a student interested in project management decide between the two online degree programs? Pinto advises students to ask themselves ‘Where do you get your buzz?’
“If the answer is ‘I’m a software guy and my life is projects, even an MBA with a concentration might be too broad for you,” said Pinto, adding that prospective students need to reflect on whether project management is where they want to spend the rest of their careers. Tuition for the MPM degree program is $930 per credit hour. Penn State is a Project Management Institute (PMI)® Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.).
–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets