While the worst of the last economic downturn may be over, the recession has made a lasting impression on many people, especially those who lost their jobs. This slump wasn’t the first to hit the country and it certainly won’t be the last, but few such episodes have had the same impact when it comes to the unemployment. Estimates put the total job losses in the US during the so-called “Great Recession” at close to eight million. Many of those jobs were in manufacturing, but other areas such as finance, real estate and retail were hit badly as well. Many of the people who were affected by job loss are actively pursuing new employment opportunities and one of the best ways to accomplish this is through educational upgrades or earning new credentials. At the same time, those entering college are watching the situation nervously, trying to anticipate where the job opportunities will be once they graduate.
In both of these cases, the question most often asked is the same: is there such a thing as a slump-proof career? There’s a better question to ask. Industries and employers are no guarantee of escaping the next economic downturn (just ask the tens of thousands of developers laid off in the past five years in the supposedly “recession-proof” video game industry). The better question to ask is whether there is a credential or degree that is slump proof, one that offers employment opportunities in a diverse array of industries so that layoffs in one or more can be balanced by opportunities in others. There aren’t many, but one immediately comes to mind: project management.
An advanced degree in project management isn’t a job guarantee, but it is one of the closest things you’ll find to a slump-proof accreditation. Master’s degrees in Project Management are offered through leading colleges and universities, with some institutions even offering the flexibility of taking the required courses online. Project managers offer employers a wide range of skills, including planning, estimation, communications, risk management, quantitative data analysis, financial management, strategic management, decision making, ethics and leadership. Any industry where there are groups of people or different functional groups each responsible for contributing to a common goal or project requires trained project managers.
Among the industries and areas where certified project managers are often employed are:
* Construction. Crews representing a range of trades and often subcontracted from other companies, tight deadlines, and large budgets require leadership in order to be successful.
* Information Technology. Computer and network infrastructure has become critical to companies, agencies and organizations in every field. Frequent upgrade cycles and deployment of new services means coordinating IT staff, functional groups, building managers and suppliers while managing budgets and timelines.
* Software Development. Releasing any software product involves deadlines, budgets and equipment while coordinating the efforts of programming, quality assurance, customer support, sales and marketing staff.
* Medical/Scientific Research. Research teams are often composed of individuals from different disciplines, each of which is responsible for a different deliverable. Coordinating these researchers is critical, as is managing and reporting on budgets (which may be grant-based and require even greater accountability). Project managers are in high demand to lead research teams that might be associated with a university, pharmaceutical firm, aerospace company or others.
* Automotive. Project managers are often used to coordinate teams working on designing new products. Engineers, designers, artists, product managers, sales, marketing and procurement staff are all part of these teams and competition means new models must be ready within specified timeframes. Project managers are often responsible for overseeing teams in automotive assembly plants as well.
There are many other areas where project managers are currently working, but the point is that they are in demand across a diverse range of industries. This makes a project management degree excellent protection against the effects of an economic downturn. It’s also financially rewarding, with project management professionals in the US often commanding salaries of $ 100,000 or more. Frequently called the “21st Century career” expectations are that demand for certified project managers will continue with estimates of up to one million new positions created yearly through 2016.
College students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program would be well advised to consider staying on to complete a project management masters if they want to graduate with an in-demand degree. Those already in the workforce have excellent educational upgrade options, especially the ability to take project management courses online through an accredited college or university, the most flexible option for earning a valuable Masters in Project Management.
Sandy Beach is a career consultant who works with many individuals who are upgrading their education to pursue better job opportunities. According to Sandy, Masters in Project Management classes are among the most popular since the degree offers high paying opportunities in fields as diverse as software development, construction and healthcare.