Top 5 Online MBA Programs in Project Management 2021
| OnlineMBA Staff
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With an MBA in project management, both new and experienced business professionals can hone their skills in strategy, communication, and decision-making. These degree-seekers also learn the intricacies of overseeing project-based budgets, a strong draw for employers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), project management specialists made an average annual salary of $80,220 as of May 2019. With a 5% growth rate projected across all management positions between 2019 and 2029, a project management MBA positions graduates to take advantage of a dynamic field.
Degree-seekers can anchor their research using our list of top project management MBA programs. The list provides in-depth details about each school, allowing for easy comparisons. This page also covers degree expectations and potential careers in project management.
Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.
What Is Project Management?
Project management enjoys a history as long as civilization — for example, the Great Pyramid of Giza made its debut in 2570 BC. However, modern project management did not begin until the 20th century. In 1956, the American Association of Cost Engineers formed as the first professional organization focused on project management.
Modern project managers can follow a variety of career paths in construction, technology, advertising, and engineering. They also work as consultants, and can advance to high-level executive positions.
Project managers set goals and plans, monitor project progress, and ensure everything continues to operate smoothly after project implementation. This crucial bird’s-eye view of a large undertaking can apply to construction and capital projects, computer systems, and the management of entire corporations.
The BLS reported that nearly 1.3 million project management and business operations specialists worked in the U.S. as of May 2019. This number does not account for project management professionals with other titles. Top industries for project management specialists include management, consulting, computer systems, and government.
Successful project managers need to communicate well and possess strong leadership skills, as they often supervise teams of personnel. With an MBA in project management, graduates enter the workforce with the confidence necessary to secure the positions they seek.
Why Get a Project Management MBA?
By pursuing a project management MBA, students build leadership skills that employers value. Degree-seekers can select project management as an MBA concentration, adding skills like corporate communication and planning to a core business curriculum. The MBA provides a well-rounded approach to business education, setting graduates on a path to career success.
Other benefits of earning an MBA in project management include:
Students hoping to advance to positions in executive leadership may want to pursue a concentration in project management. The concentration emphasizes the intricacies of decision-making while overseeing the many moving parts of a large project.
Project managers need to demonstrate confidence as they oversee large tasks. By developing the knowledge and experience they need to break big projects into actionable tasks, MBA graduates enter the workforce with the assurance they need to succeed.
Project management applies to diverse areas of business. Computer and information systems are an ever-changing arena, and organizations need project managers to help them keep up with the times. Construction and government projects likewise need strong project leadership to make sure they proceed smoothly.
Top Online MBA in Project Management Program Rankings
Purdue Global offers flexible learning options that accommodate personal and professional obligations. Through online education tailored to individual needs, the school delivers interactive digital classrooms that mimic traditional education.
Purdue Global's online MBA project management concentration includes 60 core credits and 16 elective credits from the School of Business and Information Technology. Learners develop skills in financial management, business communications, marketing, strategic management, and leadership strategies. Designed by global business professionals, the curriculum meets the rigorous standards of advanced leadership positions.
Upon graduating, business students can connect with Purdue Global specialists for career-focused services to further their professional careers. Graduates benefit from virtual career fairs, portfolio development, interview preparation, career assessment and interest exploration, and access to professional development tools and job listings.
Applying to Purdue Global
Prospective Purdue Global MBA students may apply by submitting official transcripts from an undergraduate degree program with their application. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.5 GPA, although Purdue Global may accept lower GPAs with proof of academic potential.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC, ACBSP Tuition: $485/credit Required Credits: 76 credits Program Length: 2 years Delivery Format: 100% online
Penn State World Campus hosts more than 20,000 students who prefer flexible learning schedules. Since 1998, the campus has pioneered the world of online learning with its quality academic and career-focused undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs.
Prior to beginning the online MBA program, Penn State World Campus students complete a three-day residency. Learners may attend on campus or online to get acquainted with the program, curriculum expectations, required software, and build academic success skills. The residency also introduces a team performance course that enhances collaboration and group process skills.
Keeping in line with the school's commitment to flexibility, students may begin the online MBA program in any semester. The project management concentration includes courses in cost and value management, planning and resource management, and commercial law and project procurement. The concentration courses round out a core curriculum teaching data analysis, financial management, ethical leadership, and other business focused skills.
Applying to Penn State World Campus
Applicants should submit an online application and official transcripts from a regionally accredited baccalaureate program. Enrollees must also submit their GMAT or GRE scores (waivers available for qualified applicants), GPA, an essay, a resume, and two references.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: MCSHE, AACSB Tuition: $1,236/credit Required Credits: 48 credits Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
The University of Mary is a private institution based on Christian, Catholic, and Benedictine principles. More than 3,800 students from varied faiths attend Mary's programs, including over 50 flexible online and evening options.
The school's online MBA in project management gives learners a robust academic experience in a flexible format. Designed to complete in about 16 months, the program maintains a rolling schedule that offers start dates every five weeks. Courses in project initiation, project planning, and project execution and control prepare students for careers as team leaders and various types of project managers.
The project management concentration adds nine credits to a 27-credit core curriculum, for a total of 36 credits. Core classes cover foundational business concepts, such as marketing, managerial finance, business research and writing, and ethics. During their final term, learners complete a graduate business capstone during which they conduct research and write a paper on a business concept.
Applying to Mary
MBA applicants must hold a minimum GPA of 2.75 from a regionally accredited bachelor's degree program. The school requires official transcripts and an application fee along with the application.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: HLC, IACBE Tuition: $550/credit Required Credits: 36 credits Program Length: 16 months Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus
Founded in 1901 and located in Nashville, Trevecca's mission emphasizes leadership and service. Trevecca's Christian focus and academic standards work to shape each student's spiritual, educational, and intellectual well-being.
Enrollees in Trevecca's MBA in project management program can expect to finish in less than two years. This flexible graduate program offers a one class at a time schedule for students to complete coursework around their personal and professional responsibilities. Trevecca does not require applicants to submit GMAT scores or an application fee, making the application process highly accessible for many students.
The MBA in project management curriculum blends faith with business through courses tackling topics in ethics, leadership, and workplace culture. Additionally, learners study key principles in project management, including scheduling, risk management, and procurement management. Students may choose to complete all classwork online or complete one weekly evening course on campus.
Applying to Trevecca
Trevecca requires prospective MBA students to hold a minimum 2.75 GPA from an accredited institution's bachelor's program. Applicants must submit an online application, ID verification, and official transcripts.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $536/credit Required Credits: 36 credits Program Length: 22 months Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or online with some in-person requirements
UL Lafayette enrolls 19,000 students annually into its undergraduate and graduate programs. The university's online MBA programs provide career-focused students with the opportunity to learn while accomplishing professional goals and responsibilities.
UL Lafayette's MBA in project management allows learners to complete their degree in an accelerated format in about 15 months. Each course includes eight weeks of instruction and coursework with flexible scheduling for students to work at their own pace. A curriculum based in foundational business concepts with a strong focus in project management skills leads to careers as project managers, directors of operations, or project consultants.
Enrollees study accounting, finance, economics, and quantitative methods applied to business and leadership. Data analysis, marketing management, and information technology courses round out the core curriculum. UL Lafayette requires proctored exams for some courses, but online students may take exams with a virtual proctor.
Applying to UL Lafayette
Applicants must submit official transcripts from their bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants with lower than a 3.0 GPA must also submit GMAT scores and a resume with relevant work experience, if applicable.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC, AACSB Tuition: $388/credit Required Credits: 33 credits Program Length: 15 months Delivery Format: 100% online
What to Expect From an Online MBA in Project Management
An online project management MBA teaches best practices in project strategy, goal-setting, and assessment. Participants often engage in hands-on experiences as they learn to communicate with other managers, delegate tasks, and understand where a project fits into the overall company. Many project management MBA programs prepare students for industry certifications through the Project Management Institute (PMI).
A typical project management MBA requires 35-45 credits, which students can complete in as few as 16 months. Enrollees can choose from online, in-person, and blended formats. Some online programs run courses asynchronously, enabling participants to access materials at their convenience. Others require real-time online meetings. Degree-seekers may pursue similar project management concentrations alongside a master of science.
Admission requirements may include GMAT scores, GPA minimums, work experience, and business course prerequisites.
The MBA Admission Process
Project management MBA applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Some schools set minimum GPA requirements in the neighborhood of 2.75-3.0, while others view grades holistically in context of the whole application. Students may need to submit GMAT or GRE scores, though not all programs require them.
One of the larger variances in admission requirements exists between programs that cater to experienced business professionals, and those that accommodate any academic background. The former may require prerequisite courses in accounting, statistics, and economics, plus three or more years of work experience. The latter programs tend to provide the essential foundational courses, and require little to no previous work experience.
When applying to an MBA in project management, prospective students may need to submit a personal statement, resume, and recommendation letters. Many schools require application fees.
Prospective students interested in project management may encounter the major in different forms. A master of science in project management focuses exclusively on topics like supply chain, product development, and risk management. These programs typically emphasize particular areas of project management, such as technology, or offer specific concentrations like agile project management and business analysis.
Degree-seekers may also find project management attached to another degree type as a concentration. For example, a school might offer a master of science in leadership and organization development with a concentration in project management. Such a program would focus on the main topic, providing in-depth leadership concepts and adding a smaller credit load related to project management.
These options may still lead to PMI professional certifications. Unlike the MBA, however, the curriculum may not provide general business knowledge in crucial areas like finance and accounting. Students looking to obtain solid business skills that apply to many industries and occupations should consider the wide breadth of knowledge an MBA in project management can provide.
Degree-seekers with an interest in business leadership may question whether to pursue a general MBA or an MBA emphasizing project management. While similarities exist between the two paths, students can consider their career goals and personal interests to select the right program.
Because an MBA in project management provides integrated business knowledge, students can enjoy flexibility even with a specialization. Their understanding of the many moving parts involved in a large task make project management graduates attractive candidates for executive organizational leadership.
Students who know they want to pursue such roles, or who aim for construction or IT management, may want to pursue the concentration. Those less certain of their career goals may prefer the general MBA.
Comparing Project Management MBAs to General MBA Programs
MBA in Project Management
Credits for Graduation
Core business courses in strategic management, accounting, and marketing; concentration courses such as project initiation, project planning, and supply chain management.
Strategic management, accounting, marketing, operations management, brand management, and entrepreneurship; electives include negotiation and customer analysis.
Management consultant, construction manager, supply chain manager, marketing manager, IT manager, quality assurance manager, chief executive officer
Management consultant, marketing manager, chief executive officer, IT manager, financial manager, human resources manager
May enter seeking to hone skill sets for a particular job, or a profession they already hold.
May enter without much business knowledge, or looking for the most flexible career options.
Each online project management MBA program presents its own curriculum, designed to meet the specific needs of its student body. Still, learners can expect to encounter similar coursework among many programs. Foundational business courses represent the core of most MBA programs, with specialization options branching out from there.
Some programs offer elective choices, allowing students to select from two or more courses to fulfill a particular requirement. Many programs also require capstone projects. Coursework frequently encountered in an MBA in project management program includes:
Often appearing as an MBA core requirement, this course teaches students to prepare financial reports, assess them, and use the data to direct company operations. Topics include accounting for financial strategy and decision-making, resource control, planning, and evaluation. Students also engage with accounting software tools.
Building on foundations in business operations, microeconomics, and macroeconomics, this course applies theory to hands-on managerial decision-making. Subjects cover the impact of market fluctuations on business operations and the analysis of business problems through an economic lens. This course usually appears as part of the MBA core.
A staple of the project management concentration, project initiation focuses on setting up project goals that align with overall organizational goals. Enrollees learn to choose a project, communicate its value to directors and investors, and handle legal questions. The course may also cover methods for assembling business cases, statements of work, and project charters.
This required core course teaches students to identify the major aspects of a project, list potential roadblocks, and assemble a team. Topics may also include negotiation, conflict resolution, effective communication, and further legal considerations.
This course addresses project changes such as schedule shifts. Topics include quality control, budget management, and techniques for effectively closing out a project. Students may also learn lean and Six Sigma methodologies for waste elimination.
How Much Will an MBA in Project Management Cost?
Program cost is an important factor for many prospective students. While tuition costs vary widely, degree-seekers can expect to find online project management MBA programs in the range of about $20,000-$50,000. Prospective students must also budget for books and materials, cost of living, and travel costs associated with programs that include on-campus visits.
Many factors can influence tuition costs, including state residency status, school prestige, and program type. Private schools often charge higher tuition than public schools, for example, and some schools apply reduced rates to online learners regardless of residency status.
For assistance in funding their education, students should fill out a FAFSA to qualify for government grants and loans. They may also seek out need and merit-based scholarships from professional societies, corporate foundations, and nonprofit organizations.
Project management MBA programs prepare graduates to work in a variety of lucrative business occupations. With the knowledge and experience the degree provides, graduates can choose from many types of companies and industries.
Top industries for project management specialists include scientific and technical consulting, higher education, and government. Careers for graduates with an MBA in project management include:
Architectural and Engineering Manager
Often employed in government, manufacturing, and engineering services, these professionals develop new products. They assemble recommendations for staffing, equipment, and scheduling, including a budget for the whole project. They also hire project staff and oversee their work. Adept in business, they may handle construction operations, manage production plants, and oversee quality assurance departments.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; master’s often preferred
Many construction managers run their own businesses as contractors. These professionals also work for specialty trade contractors and nonresidential business construction companies. They oversee entire construction projects from concept to completion, often serving as a main point of communication for their clients. They estimate project costs and schedules, hire subcontractors, ensure that their project meets relevant regulations, and troubleshoot problems.
Sometimes known as IT project managers or computer and information systems managers, IT managers coordinate technology for their organizations. They set goals, implement strategies, and make sure computer systems operate smoothly. They need to understand a company’s overall goals so they can research and select systems to help meet them. These professionals often work in industries such as computer systems design, finance, and insurance.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; master’s often preferred
Chief executives supervise their company’s overall direction. Their responsibilities include establishing policies, setting goals, and working with directors to ensure staff meet those goals. They design and approve strategies, receive reports from managers, and may report on the company’s progress to a board of directors. They oversee all budgets and financial operations, analyze reports, and make top-level decisions for optimizing operations.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; master’s often preferred
Degree-seekers can use the list of the top project management MBA programs as a solid starting point for finding great schools. Every prospective student prioritizes different objectives, however, and clarifying priorities can help narrow down the list of potential schools.
Accreditation should rank high on every prospective student’s list of considerations. National and regional accreditation apply to the institution as a whole, with regional accreditation widely accepted as the more rigorous standard. Many employers do not recognize degrees from schools without regional accreditation. For program-specific standards, aspiring MBA students can look for accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
The length of a program is another important factor for many students. Professionals already working full time may prefer a longer timeline. Those hoping to enter the workforce sooner might opt for accelerated programs, or schools that allow them to take more credits at once.
A strong alumni network can help graduates secure jobs. Many degree-seekers look for programs with alumni connections to major companies. Program participants may also want to consider whether they can access the school’s career resources, attend networking events from a distance, and participate in student chapters of professional associations.
Why You Should Get Your MBA in Project Management Online
Online education provides flexibility for both students and academic programs. As online study grows in popularity, options abound across a variety of disciplines. With an MBA, learners can enjoy the same breadth of concentration options and rigorous programming as those offered by in-person programs.
With an MBA in project management, students can engage in distance learning without worrying about fulfilling crucial in-person components. MBA students can often gain significant experience by meeting with colleagues and business partners online.
When considering an online MBA in project management, students should ensure they can motivate themselves to complete work outside of a classroom environment. Synchronous class meetings or periodic in-person residencies can energize those who thrive in communities, while asynchronously presented materials may suit those who work best on their own.
Because an online MBA demands the same commitment as an on-campus program, students should honestly assess their own capabilities before enrolling.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with an MBA in project management?
Project management MBA graduates enjoy a wide variety of career opportunities. With a strong knowledge base in business foundations, they can manage departments or advance into upper management to oversee whole organizations. Popular career paths for project managers include architectural and engineering manager, construction manager, IT manager, management analyst, and chief executive officer.
Is PMP better than an MBA?
Project management professional (PMP) certification is a widely recognized industry credential. Many MBA programs actually lead toward PMP certification, making the two educational paths complementary rather than exclusionary. With an MBA plus a PMP, project managers offer employers a foundation of business experience that extends beyond their specialization.
Is an MBA in project management worth it?
With an MBA in project management, graduates qualify for an exciting variety of potentially lucrative jobs. Many employers prefer a master’s degree for positions such as IT manager, architectural and engineering manager, and top executive. The salary potential is a strong draw; chief executive officers, for example, earned an annual median salary of $184,460 as of May 2019.
What kind of project management degrees are there?
The master of science in project management zooms in on the specialty with a highly focused curriculum. A master of science in leadership may also offer concentrations in project management. With the MBA, students complete a business core, taking courses like accounting and strategic management alongside their concentration courses.
Do project managers need an MBA?
Project managers may qualify for some jobs with a bachelor’s degree, depending on the employer and the level. With an MBA, though, graduates typically secure faster advancement and higher-level jobs. Some big companies require managers to hold an MBA, and many employers list the degree as a preference.