Information Technology

How Much Does a Program Manager Make?

How Much Does a Program Manager Make?
As you might expect in a tight labor market, program manager salaries are keeping pace with the high demand for project management professionals. Image from Pexels
Lucy Davies profile
Lucy Davies August 19, 2022

US program managers earn about $142,000 per year, but pay varies depending on location, education level, and experience. Some program managers earn close to $200,000.

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The US-based Project Management Institute (PMI) reports that the need for skilled project management professionals is on the rise, widening an already sizable labor gap in this field. PMI first identified this trend back in 2008, and its initial projections subsequently proved conservative: the global talent shortfall has outpaced those early estimates, with employers looking to fill project-oriented roles at a rate of 2.2 million a year through 2027. The lack of qualified project and program managers could end up costing businesses an alarming $207.9 billion by 2027, the result of predicted losses from the missed implementation of strategic initiatives and lack of innovation and change.

As you might expect in a tight labor market, program manager salaries are keeping pace with the high demand for project management professionals. PMI notes that in project-heavy industries, wages of project-oriented workers exceed those of their non-project-oriented peers, at a premium of 82 percent. The organization also highlights how education and training impacts pay. By its accounting, earning a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification increases average pay by about 20 percent.

This piece answers the question how much does a program manager make? In addition, it also covers:

  • Which industries need program managers (and what do they pay)?
  • Do I need a Master of Science in Information Management to be a program manager?
  • What is a Master of Science in Information Management?
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How much does a program manager make?

Several factors impact the total compensation a program manager earns. One is where they live and work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists New Mexico, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia as the highest-paying states for project management specialists’ income. Metropolitan areas around San Jose, Birmingham, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC pay top dollar for program managers and related jobs (all in the $115,000 to $134,000 range). Note that the higher salaries typically correlate to areas with a higher cost of living. Your level of education and years of experience also can affect your base salary.

A salary survey by Salary.com pegs the salary range for program managers at $104,000 to around $182,000. The average program manager salary in the US is approximately $142,000.

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Which industries need program managers (and what do they pay)?

Every industry that utilizes data and technology to inform business planning and goals and relies on complex and interconnected teams for large-scale projects needs program and project managers. Leaders in healthcare, software engineering, finance, architecture, construction, and information technology all depend on senior program managers to oversee everything from human resources to scheduling to financial planning for long-term strategic initiatives.

If you search online for program manager jobs, the results typically include postings at major companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Cisco Systems, with salaries of $150,000 and higher.

Do I need a Master of Science in Information Management to be a program manager?

You need a high level of knowledge and expertise to be an effective program manager or technical program manager. Program managers are responsible for overseeing large programs through a full life cycle—from planning and organization to teambuilding, scheduling, and implementation. Gaining a working understanding of the application of systems and design thinking and the importance of strategic alignment and the interdependencies of teams requires training and experience. Many program managers find that earning a Master of Science in Information Management represents an invaluable investment in their career.

What is a Master of Science in Information Management?

A Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) program prepares students for senior-level roles. Graduates of this master’s degree program know how to organize and analyze information, recognize and resolve information issues, translate datasets into actionable information, and leverage data to forecast future trends. They are equipped with the essential analytic and interpersonal management skills necessary to effectively lead complex programs and successfully meet desired goals.

Who pursues a Master of Science in Information Management?

MSIM programs are designed for early or mid-career professionals in project-oriented industries who want to raise their level of credentials and qualifications. Most have some professional experience as project managers or project management assistants.

What will I learn in a Master of Science in Information Management program?

In most programs, the core MSIM curriculum includes courses in project management, ethics, information technology, computer science, data management, business analytics, data analytics, database management, IT project management, software engineering, user experience, and organizational design and implementation.

Typically, MSIM programs offer students the opportunity to specialize. For example, the University of Washington provides many specialization tracks, including program/product management and consulting, information and cyber security, information architecture, user experience, data science, and business intelligence. Each program track requires unique core requirements and elective options, enabling students to gear their coursework to their career objectives. Data science students, for example, complete coursework in machine learning and econometrics and programming for information and data science. Students in the management track attend classes in consulting practices and project management.

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Master of Science in Information Management program admissions criteria/prerequisites

Applicants to MSIM programs are required to submit their official bachelor’s degree transcript showing a GPA of 3.0 or higher, GRE or GMAT test scores, resume, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Other admissions requirements are program-specific. Many schools expect program candidates to possess several years of experience in the field before applying to their program. The University of Washington offers two tracks, one for early career professionals and the other for mid-career professionals. The track for more-experienced students accepts established information management professionals only.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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