Update 4/5/18: With the release of the 10th edition of the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Salary Survey last year, we updated this piece to reflect the latest salary information available. This information is based on almost 11,000 U.S. respondents, up from less than 9,700 respondents in the 2015 survey.
Maybe you’re like me and have a fascination with project management tools, or maybe you’re just really good at managing things. Either way, you’ve decided to become a project management professional (PMP).
You earned your PMP certification, and now you’re ready to reap the benefits of your hard work.
The question is, which industry do you want to work in?
If construction, healthcare, or pharmacy 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 average U.S. salary, a brief overview of the job responsibilities, and a few of the top companies in each sector.
First, a note on PMP certification
In the U.S. in 2017, the average project management professional without a PMP certification made $99,070 per year, according to a 2017 survey of 10,937 project managers.
With a PMP certification, the average project manager salary goes up to $119,235, an increase of more than 20% over a non PMI-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 itself costs $555 (or $405 for PMI members), with a four-hour time limit for completion.
Highest-paying PMP jobs
Now, on to the fun stuff! Of the industries that had at least 100 respondents on the PMI survey, these five jobs for project management professionals pay the most. They are ordered by salary from lowest to highest.
5. Engineering project management professional
Average U.S. salary: $121,769
Anyone who knows an engineer knows that they are some of the smartest people on the planet, but they can sometimes get caught up in the minutiae. An engineering project management professional is responsible for keeping the engineers focused.
The job: Engineering PMs work with, you guessed it, engineers. They also communicate with clients to make sure that the end product is what the client wants. A successful project means guiding the development of a product (often a complicated 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 is a prerequisite.
4. Aerospace project management professional
Average U.S. salary: $121,923
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 what you’re looking for.
The job: Aerospace PMs work with engineers and designers to make sure that 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 something is missed.
3. Consulting project management professional
Average U.S. salary: $129,208
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.
2. Resources project management professional
Average U.S. salary: $129,368
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 to become a resources project manager.
1. Pharmaceutical project management professional
Average U.S. salary: $131,833
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 make more money, on average, than in any other industry.
The job: Pharmaceutical PMs work with doctors, researchers, and engineers to ensure that research and development 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 will need an advanced healthcare degree or experience to approach top-tier salaries. Also, pharmaceutical research can move at a frustratingly slow pace to ensure compliance with necessary quality and safety regulations.
Getting your lucrative PMP job
Of course, your resume will look a lot better with some project management software experience highlighted. Good luck!
Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.