Project management pay at US-based financial institutions is on the up and up – and one group of project managers is out-earning their peers.
The median salary of project management professionals in the U.S. financial services industry was $108k in 2015, up slightly from $106k in 2013, according to the Project Management Institute’s biannual Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey. In addition, the 75th-percentile salary rose from $127k in 2013 to $130k last year.
More significantly, project managers who earn the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification have median salaries that are 20% higher than those who don’t have the certification, according to Mark Langley, the president and CEO of the Project Management Institute, a not-for-profit membership association for project, program and portfolio management professionals.
“There is a talent gap in project management, and based on our survey that identifies growth areas for the profession, financial services one of the top six or so sectors that has shown some of the best growth,” Langley said. “From a PMI membership standpoint, among our 1m certified members, we have four times as many people who identify themselves as financial services professionals compared to five years ago.”
Banks, hedge funds and other financial services firms use project management professionals to implement new products, services, information systems, including customer relationship management systems, and programs. Such personnel are common in, but not limited to, departments ranging from regulatory compliance and marketing to information technology and operations.
“Efficiency is critical to financial services firms, so they seek out high-performing project managers to help the organization waste fewer resources,” Langley said. “They want to be best-of-breed in projects and programs to gain competitive advantage over others.
“All strategic change through projects and programs, which increasing falls under the buzzword ‘transformation,’ needs to incorporate the best practices of project management,” he said.
There really is no singular tried-and-true project management career path. Many project managers come in from other disciplines as varied as engineering, computer science, marketing, business and finance.
“People get promoted and find themselves suddenly leading projects, and they need project management skills and competencies as part of role delineation and leadership,” Langley said.
There are standalone project management programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level, but also courses can be incorporated into other areas. For example, you could get an MBA or MS in finance plus a concentration in project management.
The PMP certification exam has 200 multiple-choice questions that you have to complete in four hours. The prerequisites are a Bachelor’s degree, 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.
“The recent shift has been to focus on three core types of technical project management skills: first, sound technology skills, because pretty much everything has a tech component and most projects are implemented first in the IT group before moving out to some other area of the enterprise,” Langley said. “They also need to develop leadership skills, including negotiation, conflict resolution, change management and, sometimes most importantly, leading people across several departments and breaking down the siloes to complete a project or coordinate program
“The third skill set is strategic business management skills, being able to understand the organization’s customer relationship management. How does your project or program fit in from an alignment standpoint?” he said. “Both degree programs and certification courses incorporate those three areas into training and development.”
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