Project Management

5 Highest-Paying Jobs for Project Management Professionals (PMP)

Published by in Project Management

There’s a lot of money to be made in project management. But which industries pay the most?

header image shows an upward trending bar chart with dollar sign icons on it.

Whether you’ve always loved using project management software to complete projects, or you’re just really good at communicating with people, staying organized, and leading teams, you’re probably reading this article because you’ve chosen project management as your career path.

Great choice! Project management can be a rewarding career, both mentally and financially. It can be even more lucrative if you earn your project management professional (PMP) certification, which can increase your annual salary by more than 20%.

The question is, which industry do you want to work in?

If the construction, healthcare, or pharmacy industries all equally call to you, or if you’re just wondering in which industry a PMP-certified project manager can make the most money, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll look at the top five highest-paying job markets for PMP-certified project managers, along with the average U.S. salary, a brief overview of the job responsibilities, and pros and cons of the role.

First, a note on PMP certification

In 2019 in the U.S., the average project management professional without a PMP certification made $100,247 per year, according to a 2019 survey of almost 9,000 project managers by the Project Management Institute. Not bad, right?

But get this: With a PMP certification, the average project manager salary goes up to $123,314, an increase of 23% over a non PMP-certified project manager.

Now more than ever, a PMP certification is critical for project managers who want to earn more money.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) says that any experienced project manager “responsible for all aspects of project delivery, leading, and directing cross-functional teams” is a good candidate for PMP certification.

The 200-question PMP certification exam costs $555 (or $405 for PMI members), with a four-hour time limit for completion.

Note: Big changes are coming to the PMP exam starting July 1, 2020. If you’ve already prepped for the current version, make sure you take it by the end of June. After that, the new exam will have a less technical feel and instead will focus on three key areas: process (50% of the questions), people (42%), and business environment (8%).

Highest-paying PMP jobs

Now, on to the fun stuff. Of the industries that had at least 100 respondents on the PMI salary survey, these five jobs for project management professionals pay the most. They are listed in order of increasing average salary, based on the PMI survey.

1. Engineering project management professional

Average U.S. salary: $124,434

Anyone who knows an engineer (like my dad) knows that they are some of the smartest people on the planet, but they can sometimes get caught up in the minutiae and lose sight of the big picture. An engineering project management professional keeps engineers focused on completing the task at hand for project success.

 The job:  Engineering PMs work with, you guessed it, engineers. They also communicate with clients to make sure the end product is what the client wants. A successful project means guiding the development of a product to completion within a specified timeline and budget.

 Pros/cons:  An engineering project manager has the satisfaction of seeing something very real, useful, and tangible at the end of their project—a large bridge, a new computer chip, or a satellite. On the other hand, the engineering PM must have extensive knowledge of the product they are overseeing, so experience as an engineer in that field may be a prerequisite.

2. Aerospace project management professional

Average U.S. salary: $129,732

If you were the kind of kid who built model airplanes and dreamed of flying, but became a project manager instead, a job as an aerospace project management professional might be just what you’re looking for.

 The job:  Aerospace PMs work with engineers and designers to make sure new aircraft is delivered on time and on budget. Focus areas include risk management and quality control. A successful project means overseeing proposals leading to the development of new aircraft and aerospace systems.

 Pros/cons:  An aerospace project manager gets to work with airplanes and some of the most advanced technology on the planet. Because aerospace projects have a lot of moving parts (like, a lot) there are lots of opportunities for something to go wrong if anything is missed.

3. Pharmaceutical project management professional

Average U.S. salary: $133,246

The average salary of a pharmaceutical project management professional grew by less than $2,000 per year over the past two years, causing this job to fall from the top spot to No. 3 on this list.

Globally, the pharmaceutical industry is expected to breach $1.1 trillion in sales by 2022. So it’s no wonder that pharmaceutical project management professionals earn one of the top five salaries among PMPs.

 The job:  Pharmaceutical PMs work with doctors, researchers, and engineers to ensure that research and development activities stay on schedule and on budget. A successful project means overseeing the development of new medication for the treatment of diseases or other health problems.

 Pros/cons:  A pharmaceutical project manager can literally help find a cure for cancer and save millions of lives—talk about a rewarding career. On the flip side, pharmaceutical PMPs need an advanced healthcare degree or experience to approach top-tier salaries. Also, pharmaceutical research can move at a frustratingly slow pace in order to ensure compliance with necessary quality and safety regulations.

4. Consulting project management professional

Average U.S. salary: $134,149

A consulting project management professional is different from a project management consultant—the first works as a project manager for a consulting company while the second works as a consultant who specializes in project management. We’re talking about the first of the two.

 The job:  A consulting project manager is the chameleon of the project management universe. The consulting PM could work with environmental engineers one month and sales managers the next. A consulting project manager’s goal depends on the industry of the company they are working with on a case-to-case basis. In general, the goal is to furnish industry expertise and advanced knowledge to the client so that they can be successful in their project.

 Pros/cons:  A career as a consulting project manager is especially rewarding for someone who enjoys variety, as they will be asked to wear every hat from a construction helmet to a computer technician’s… computer hat? However, that same unpredictability could be dizzying for someone who works best in a defined environment.

5. Resources project management professional

Average U.S. salary: $134,577

The average salary of a U.S. resources project management professional increased by more than $5,000 per year since the 2018 survey, helping this job move into the top spot from No. 2. Resources project managers work in industries such as mining, petroleum, and agriculture that extract and grow natural resources.

 The job:  Resources PMs work with farmers, mining, and oil companies to make the process of extracting and growing natural resources as efficient as possible by eliminating waste and improving communication. A successful project means overseeing the procurement of natural resources for efficient delivery to end consumers.

 Pros/cons:  Resources project management offers plenty of opportunities to travel and be outdoors. Because of the specific processes related to each natural resource, background as an engineer in a given field (farming, mining, drilling) may be required.

Getting your lucrative PMP job

There you have it: the top-five highest paying PMP jobs. Next up: Get your PMP certification and start sending out those resumes and cover letters.

Of course, your resume will look a lot better with some project management software skills highlighted. In fact, 96% of SMB leaders surveyed as part of our 2019 Top Tech Trends survey say that project management software is critical or beneficial to their business.

You can also use our Buyer’s Guide to learn how to talk the technical talk during your interviews. Speaking of interviews, our rundown of common project management interview questions (and what business leaders are looking for in your answer) can help you prepare. Good luck!

Note: With the release of the 11th edition of the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Salary Survey this year, we updated this piece to reflect the latest salary information available. This information is based on almost 9,000 U.S. respondents, down slightly from the almost 11,000 respondents in the 2018 survey.

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

About the Author

Andrew Conrad

Andrew Conrad

Andrew Conrad is a senior content writer at Capterra, covering business intelligence, retail, and construction, among other markets. As a seven-time award winner in the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. and Suburban Newspapers of America editorial contests, Andrew’s work has been featured in the Baltimore Sun and PSFK. He lives in Austin with his wife, son, and their rescue dog, Piper.


Comment by Raymond miller on

Truth is, many times having the PMP attached to your name is what many industries want to see. Clients want the assurance that the product they purchased is delivered at or under budget and on time. I earned my PMP in 93 and every time I was assigned a project in my Communications industry our client were assured the project was led by professionals.

Comment by Mike O'Kane, PMP on

Although experience will get you a good job, imagine that same experience with the PMP certification. It matters. I know. Good luck.

Comment by Saurabh Rai on

Nice Article


Comment by Garth Johnston on

There are many certifications out there for Project Management to place in your CV with many offering great frameworks and methods to help aide the PM. The main difference with PMP is that it requires solid past PM experience before you can even qualify to take the exam. When a recruiter sees the PMP certification they also see a person that has proven experience. In the end, all the comments are correct, nothing will beat real and referenced experience. If you have 30 years and can prove that in your CV then, of course, PMP is not needed.
The article was great in that it served its purpose. This is something that you can read in less than 5 minutes and give yourself a goal to achieve if you are looking for a higher paying PM job and where to go to get it. At the end, the author may want to give some references or links to where the reader can go more in depth.

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[…] an engineering PM will typically have an educational base in engineering. The average salary for an engineering project manager is […]

Comment by PMP Guy on

now days pmp is common , everybody who have work ex with project management is applying for pmp and many companies offered guaranteed certification, the same happen with six sigma also, but the thing is very few have a detailed knowledge about real project management methodologies.

Comment by Steven L Fritz on

I might have come up with a different list of the top five project management opportunities, but everyone will have their own list.

I’m not sure I saw much of anything as a Takeaway. The impression I did get is that there is a lot of advertising for the Project Management Institute.

I have hired dozens and dozens of project managers and rarely do I use a PMP has any part of my criteria. Why? Because I’m looking for the project to be managed not to have the project to be bogged down in methodologies and templates. Why? Because going into a shop with 500+ IT people is no place to try to shoehorn in anything that they don’t have already. That includes any methodologies or approaches from the PMI.

Comment by Dan C on

There’s a new project & program management certification coming. It’s industry vertical centric and it’s called Symytry Foundations.

There will be three different cert levels:

1. Symytry Foundational Project Management Generalist (similar to a PMP)
2. Symytry Foundational Project Management Industry Vertical (Pharmaceutical, Automotive, Oil & Gas, High Tech, Chemical, CPG, Food & Beverage, etc.) Master Professional
3. Symytry Foundational Project Management Gold Scepter Expert Professional

This is in formative stages but it’s coming in 2018.

Comment by Dan C on

I’m a consulting pm and I work on a project by project basis as an independent and perform mostly in the SAP realm in functional and technical projects. I do not have a certification but I do have 29 years into it and can tell you that having a PMP isn’t necessary. Working with someone who has experience is definitely the trick.

The earned value mgt concepts, time mgt, pm processes, all the key formulas, etc. are the rote easy parts of it. It’s the people skills and the underbelly, facilitation and leadership mgt skills that are the challenges.

Learn the mechanics of pm in your fave college or university. The other skills won’t require any certification.

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[…] Andrew Conrad lists the top five paying industries for those project managers holding the PMP. […]

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