As varied as organizations across the spectrum of business and industry can be — anything and everything from technology and manufacturing to military, media, finance, nonprofits and all points in between — every organization shares in common the need for successful completion of projects.
And while a “project” can take countless forms and present any number of potential objectives, it takes the work of a skilled, well-trained project management professional to ensure it’s completed on time, on budget and in a way that satisfies all stakeholders.
This ultimately begs the question: What does a project management professional do in an organization?
The Facets of a Project Management Professional.
Project management is an essential, highly-respected field relied upon by organizations of all sizes across the globe. According to the Project Management Institute, project management includes initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing a project. Professionals in the field can find themselves working in any number of different industries.
“Project management is a very broadly applied skill,” says Dr. Steven Sherman, who leads the Project Management program at Troy University. “There are two things companies do, they have ongoing operations, and they have projects. And that’s every industry. So we’re not teaching project management for one industry; our program encompasses project management for any industry.”
Dr. Sherman explains that professionals in the field are typically judged on three criteria: time, resources, and features. “If you miss on any one of those, your project really didn’t succeed,” he says. “A lot of times people will say, ‘Well, it was a month late and a million dollars over budget, but we got what we asked for.’ But that’s still not considered a successful project, going strictly by the book. We try to teach managing all those facets.”
Having spent 20 years working as a project manager in Silicon Valley, Dr. Sherman understands well what it takes to succeed in the field.
“Project management is 90% about communication,” he says. “So it’s less a technical role than it is a people role. It’s about being able to get everybody to do what they need to do on the project. A lot of times, as a project management professional, you’re not their manager. The people on a project team report to someone else — the engineers report to engineering, the marketing people report to marketing — but you somehow have to herd them all together and make project success happen. It’s a hard skill.”
How Does TROY’s Project Management Concentration Prepare Students?
TROY’s project management program is a concentration within the broader Master of Science in Management (MSM) curriculum. It involves three nine-week courses, in addition to the other requirements of the MSM program. “Companies today put a lot of value in that project management designation,” Dr. Sherman says. “They know that the project management program measures specific skill sets that they need. So the combination of the MSM with the project management concentration is really powerful.”
The project management program begins with an introductory course that covers the fundamentals of project management. That’s followed by an intermediate course that is much more hands-on with students choosing a project to create a schedule for and manage, using the Microsoft Project software. The concentration concludes with an advanced course that prepares students for their certification exam. All the courses incorporate various aspects of ethics, Dr. Sherman says, to ensure the next generation of project managers enters the profession with the right mindset.
“The second course is where you really get more hands-on, and that’s where you use Microsoft Project,” Dr. Sherman says. “TROY has a license with Microsoft, so all of our students get Office, but in addition to that, all project management students get Microsoft Project for free as well. So they get to use the tool, but they don’t have to pay for it.”
Cristina Alamo, a 2020 Troy University MSM graduate, used a practice assignment working with Microsoft Project to prepare and plan a remodeling project for her backyard. “In the “real-world” it was an actual depiction of what a project manager would do if hired to build or remodel an outdoor park — of course this one was on a smaller scale,” Alamo says.
Alamo echoes Dr. Sherman’s point on the importance of the Microsoft Project in providing hands-on experience. “The tools, skills and knowledge gained can all be used in any organizational scenario,” she says. “For example, in my current job, there is an abundance of strategic planning occurring on a day-to-day basis to improve the functionality of systems or programs. Although I may not use the Microsoft tools for projects, the fundamentals are used for day-to-day operational planning and execution.”
Dr. Sherman says Microsoft Project is far and away the most popular tool used by project management professionals across most industries. “There are others,” he says, “but what we’re preparing students to do with this project management tool will enable them to use those other tools as well.”
The advanced course prepares students to take one of the two project management certification exams after graduation — the Project Management Professional (PMP®) or the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®).
“The foundation for that advanced course is something called the project management body of knowledge, which is produced by the Project Management Institute,” Dr. Sherman says. “Every quiz and the final exam are all modeled after CAPM® and PMP® exam questions. It makes it a challenging course, but it prepares students very well for the exams.”
The combination of the hands-on aspect using industry-relevant tools, along with gaining the conceptual knowledge and background necessary for the certification exams, results in powerful, real-world preparation, Dr. Sherman says.
What are Project Management Certifications and Why Are They Important?
Earning the CAPM® or PMP® credential can set a project manager apart in the eyes of employers, Dr. Sherman says, because it’s an indication that they’ve successfully completed a curriculum designed specifically around the needs of business and industry.
The PMP® certification is a higher designation, Dr. Sherman explains. The CAPM® certification, still an impressive credential, is typically the first step for younger project managers who don’t yet have years of real-world experience.
Another important advantage to the project management program at TROY is that it satisfies the required number of classroom hours necessary to sit for both the PMP® and the CAPM® exams.
“We prepare you for both because the major difference between them is your experience level,” Dr. Sherman says. “In order to take the PMP® exam, the higher level of certification, you have to have been managing projects actively. You have to demonstrate to them that you’ve actually managed ‘X’ amount of projects. So a lot of our students who are still young in their careers, are probably going to sit for the CAPM® rather than the PMP®.”
Since TROY’s project management program is a concentration within a master’s program that also draws professionals with career experience, Dr. Sherman says he sees more of his program graduates sitting for the PMP® exam. “They’re looking to advance their careers, so they do have the experience that qualifies them to sit for the PMP®,” he says. “And they go for it. It’s a four-hour, 200-question exam.”
Why Is it Important for the Project Management Concentration to be Offered Along with the MSM Degree?
As significant as the PMP® and CAPM® credential can be, the fact that TROY’s project management program is offered as part of a respected, proven master’s degree program makes it even more impressive.
“These days, the MSM degree is actually considered probably a better degree than the MBA,” Dr. Sherman says. “I have an MBA, so it’s hard for me to say that. But still, the truth is that the MSM teaches more specific management skills. So if someone’s looking to hire a manager, it’s a more action-oriented degree than the MBA — which is more of a survey degree where you learn a little bit about a lot of things. The advantage here is that if you come out with an MSM and a CAPM® or PMP® certification, you’re going to be very well positioned.”
Alamo says she chose the project management concentration so that she could be ready to step into a project management role in the future. “After going through the program, I realized that the program was so rich in the context of business fundamentals that I can use the degree and knowledge in a variety of careers related to business.”
The TROY MSM program consists of 10 courses, each of which is worth three semester hours. While the program is designed for non-business majors, it still attracts many professionals from the business world, says Program Director Dr. Diane Bandow. And while it’s possible to complete the program in one year, that accelerated pace isn’t the best approach for many.
While Alamo admits the program is intense, “the faculty and staff at Troy University exemplified leadership and a culture of caring that made the experience less daunting.” She adds, “During my time in the graduate program, I had some of the best and most qualified professors who provided an outstanding curriculum and experience that transferred incredibly to my professional career goals.”
Alamo, who is a Human Resources Specialist for the United States Air Force Reserve Command, is finding her TROY coursework especially useful. She points out that the leadership, organizational culture and ethical management courses in the degree prepare students to become valuable and effective leaders in any organization. “These courses not only prepared me but allowed me to gain knowledge on those topics that I can use day-to-day in the organization I work for now,” she adds.
In addition to the project management concentration, the MSM program also offers concentrations in talent management and leadership. “The choice of concentrations is an aspect about our MSM program that really sets it apart, I think,” Dr. Bandow says. “I think the applied piece is another important strength that students find. There’s a depth here in how students go out into the real world and actually use the knowledge, concepts and principles they’re learning.”
Dr. Bandow says that the MSM program offers an ideal backdrop for those interested in the project management concentration track. “The program is really designed to deliver universal applications of leadership,” she says. “It’s a win all the way around.”
Who is a Good Fit for the MSM Program and Project Management Concentration at TROY?
Students are drawn to TROY’s MSM program and the project management concentration from a wide range of professions and industries. However, Dr. Bandow says it has been a particularly popular option for certain professions.
“The military loves this program,” Dr. Bandow says. “We have a lot of active duty students who serve with all five branches of the military; typically, students from military bases all over the world, representing different occupations such as pilots. We have a niche in the master’s in management that nobody else has. We have three courses with applied projects, where students bring in problems from work and we take the models, the framework and the concepts we work with to solve those problems. They can then take this back to work with them and use what they have learned immediately.”
Dr. Bandow can cite numerous examples of students whose classwork is having a very direct impact on real-world project management challenges. “I recently heard about one of our military students in the project management concentration who left his class project for continuous improvement on his desk” says Dr. Bandow. “He later returned to find it missing — it turns out his Master Sergeant had picked it up, read it, and was already interested in implementing it. That same student is working on an organizational change project — and his Master Sergeant now wants to know how soon it will be done so they can use it!”
Dr. Sherman agrees that the program has been especially popular with both active and retired military, for a good reason. “We get a lot of folks who are retiring from the military who are only in their 40s,” he says. “They’ve probably managed projects in the military, but they don’t have the project management credentials. So they’re coming back to get the master’s degree and the project management concentration, and that puts them in a very strong position in the job market.”
In addition to the military, Dr. Bandow says you’ll find students from medical device manufacturing, major call centers, financial institutions, insurance companies and professionals working for nonprofits and utility companies. “We’ve had someone come through who was with the Space Force,” she explains. “And then there are people who come through just for personal development — including stay-at-home moms.”
Since the TROY programs are offered entirely online, they’re an ideal fit for working professionals located anywhere looking to advance their careers without sacrificing their current jobs.
Being able to take classes while overseas and in different states helped Alamo tremendously. “Troy University truly owns their institutional goals of improving diversity and proactively working with members who served and currently serve,” she says. “It gave me the opportunity to not have to choose between my career and educational goals — I was able to do both! The online program is one way that Troy University provides innovative and flexible education curriculums. It also provides a huge opportunity for working adults who seek to find quality of life and balance career, education, and family to enhance their personal and professional goals,” she adds.
Putting Classroom Knowledge to Work
Prior to joining TROY, Dr. Bandow worked for about 22 years, some of those being in a leadership role with AT&T and AT&T Labs, giving her a unique and impressive perspective when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of academic programming.
She says there is no shortage of stories demonstrating the power of the MSM and project management programs in terms of student accomplishments and applying the leadership and project management principles students learn at TROY.
“Recently, a service member in the MSM class worked to improve processes to recover materials like tents and camouflage netting for the military,” Dr. Bandow adds. “He saved them a significant amount of money with his project management skills.”
What Do Future Job Prospects Look Like in Project Management?
For anyone considering a career in project management and earning their MSM with the PMP® or CAPM® credential, the timing couldn’t be better.
“Every company out there deals with project management,” Dr. Sherman says. “Take a manufacturing company. When they’re about to launch a new product, that’s a big project. You’ve got to create the marketing materials, revamp the manufacturing line, line up the supply chain for it. And somebody has to manage that project.”
Dr. Sherman says statistics indicate that project managers who have the PMP® certification typically earn a 20% higher salary than project managers who lack the credential. “The demand is very high,” he says. “The Project Management Institute claims there will be 22 million new project management roles by the year 2027.”
How Do I Learn More About TROY’s Project Management Program?
Alamo adds that she couldn’t have been happier with her TROY MSM education. “My experience overall was great, to say the least. The Troy University staff makes the process of finding the program, classes and schedule that work best for a student, pretty effortless” she says.
If you would like to learn more about the program, you can speak with an advisor or request more information. Visit the project management concentration MSM page on the Troy University website, or call 334.983.0005.