What Degree Do I Need to Be a Program Manager?
August 31, 2022
Program managers often earn a Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) to enhance their knowledge and skill set, as well as prepare for more senior positions in the field.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) recently published a job growth report detailing the talent shortage forecast to hit management-oriented occupations from now through 2027. By the end of that period, PMI anticipates that employers will need over 87 million people globally working in project management-oriented roles. This is due to both attrition in the field and a significant increase in the demand for project talent—all fuelling a projected 33 percent job growth in project management, equalling around 22 million new jobs.
All of those project managers, of course, must be overseen by program managers (PMs). These professionals supervise multiple project management teams as they work toward their project goals in support of the organization’s intended outcomes. Project managers also design the project planning including scheduling, arrange for the procurement of materials and team members, budget time and money, facilitate communication with all stakeholders, and mitigate project risk for the life of the program. These positions rely heavily on the PM’s leadership skills and working knowledge of information technology to guide complex projects and initiatives to completion.
Job market analytics firm Burning Glass anticipates that the program manager field will grow by 8 percent over the next decade—which tracks with US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections that all management occupations will increase by 9 percent between 2020 and 2030. So, the program management field is ripe with opportunities for proficient professionals well into the future.
Program managers work in almost every business sector, particularly those reliant on data and information management. According to the BLS, the industries with the highest wages for PM roles are computer systems design (approximately $115,000 per year), architecture and engineering ($105,000), management, scientific, and technical consulting ($102,000), oil and gas ($152,000), and securities, commodities, financial, and other investment pools and funds ($129,000 to $138,000).
If you’re wondering if you need an advanced degree to be a PM, this article addresses the question what degree do I need to be a program manager, as well as:
- What is a Master of Science in Information Management?
- What will I learn in a Master of Science in Information Management program?
- Top Master of Science in Information Management programs
What degree do I need to be a program manager?
Program managers utilize skills rooted in a variety of fields, including information technology, business administration, project planning, risk management, and human resources to make informed business decisions and fulfill organizational goals. These are related to the fundamentals of a Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) degree program, which teaches you how to organize and analyze information, recognize and resolve information issues, translate datasets into actionable information, and leverage data to forecast future trends. In addition, an MSIM degree provides you with the essential analytic, critical thinking, communications skills, and interpersonal management skills necessary to effectively lead complex programs and meet desired goals. (As well, some professionals earn additional credentials, such as program and project management certificates to further specialize.)
What is a Master of Science in Information Management?
A Master of Science in Information Management is a professional master's degree focused on data-driven strategic business planning and leadership skills. This master’s program provides general project management courses along with foundational knowledge of technology and the impact of information systems on business decision-making. It’s designed for early and mid-career professionals who seek to enhance their knowledge and optimize their understanding of information systems and develop their organizational management skills.
What will I learn in a Master of Science in Information Management program?
The University of Washington’s MSIM program offers core classes in:
- Management and Strategic Leadership
- Policy and Ethics in Information Management
- Analytic Methods for Information Professionals
- Foundations of Information Management
In addition, UW provides six specialization tracks in:
- Business intelligence
- Data science
- User experience
- Information architecture
- Program/product management and consulting
Specialization coursework for the program/product management and consulting track include:
- Enterprise Systems Analysis & Design
- Program Management and Consulting Practices
- Product and Project Management
Recommended elective course options for this specialization are:
- Information and Operational Risk
- Operational Risk Management in the Public and Private Sectors
- Cross Cultural Approaches to Leadership.
UW also requires a capstone project overseen by PMP (Project Management Professional) certified faculty in line with the student's career path.
Of note, the University of Washington and other MSIM programs also train students to consider the ethical, social, and environmental implications of their decisions and strategies, encouraging social responsibility in business and manufacturing.
Master of Science in Information Management program admissions criteria/prerequisites
Admissions criteria and prerequisites are all program-specific, so make sure to check on each school's website or speak to the admissions team about enrollment details, (as well as financial aid information). At the University of Washington, applicants must have a bachelor's degree from a US institution with proper accreditation and a GPA of at least 3.0. All mid-career applicants must have at least five years of work experience (early career applicants who are less experienced need to supply GRE/GMAT scores).
Top Master of Science in Information Management programs
You can earn an MSIM in full-time, hybrid, or online programs from the following schools:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Indiana University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- New York University
- University of Arizona
- University of Maryland - College Park
- University of Pennsylvania
- The University of Texas at Austin
- University of Washington
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