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The Prospects for a Project Manager Without a College Degree

by Mark Applegate

Project managers direct the progress of a project from its initial planning stages through its ultimate completion. These professionals evaluate the project's scope to ensure it stays on task, investigate and review its budget to be sure the costs fall within accepted ranges and crack the whip, when necessary, to make all parts of a team meet deadlines. While a degree is very useful, especially if you seek job advancement, you can break into this profession without these credentials.

Lack of Degree Limitations

Most project managers enter the workforce after earning a bachelor's or master's degree in project or business management. If you are to get a job as a project manager, you will be forced to compete with these educated candidates for positions and must prove your worth in a different way. You will not be able to gain a critical industry certification, the Project Manager Professional, without a four-year degree, which will put you at a competitive disadvantage for many of the highest-paying positions in the field. According to a 2010 study in "CIO" magazine, project managers with only a high school education earned $88,000 annually, while those with a master's degree earned $105,000.

Enter the Field

Many entry-level candidates still enter the field as what the American Management Association refers to as accidental project managers. Get a job within a team-based organization and excel where you are. Develop the traits of a strong project manager by honing your communication skills, assist the manager in conflict resolution, work on a budget team to set and supervise the flow of money, and closely watch your own portion of the project to see that it stays on task and within the scope the manager set in the initial documents. Once you "bloom where you were planted," seek to become a junior project manager or team lead as stepping stones to ultimately becoming a manager.

Overcome Obstacles

You will need to be superior at your job to overcome this educational requirement. Stay within your firm and develop an exemplary work history that demonstrates the stability and professionalism that make for great project managers. Learn the project management life cycle through self-study by reading and committing to practice the industry bible: the "Project Management Body of Knowledge." Learn the subject matter better than the often green candidates who emerge from college with little or no practical work experience. Take advantage of your company's tuition reimbursement benefit to work toward a degree as you build this experience, and you will have an upper hand over many of your peers.

Find Your Position

Such fields as information technology and civil engineering often seek project managers with a strong mix of industry experience and soft skills, resume material you can build as you work your way up. Consider updating your passport for even more opportunities. For example, according to "The Economic Times," India will need 3 million more project managers by 2017 to complement its two million managers in order to keep up with demand. Technology and health care project managers tend to lead the way in these international job growth possibilities.

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