Between the unstable economy, the rising cost of living and high unemployment rates, it can be easy for college students to feel discouraged. A recent survey done by the Pew Research Center revealed that only 54 percent of young Americans, aged 18 to 24, were employed; even more frightening is the fact that the unemployment rate for this age group has not been this low since 1948, according to the research center.
Not all job sectors have been experiencing severe cutbacks and layoffs. The field of project management has is one that has seen an increase in job opportunities and average salaries, according to a report by the Project Management Institute.
PMI, led by CEO and President Mark Langley, is a non-profit organization that sets international standards for project management and works to advance the field by offering certifications, research opportunities and professional development. The institute set the gold standard for the field in 1984 when they introduced the Project Management Professional certification. Today, over 370,000 people around the world currently hold PMP certifications.
“The Project Management Institute as an organization has really been a champion of continuing the field”, said university professor LuAnn Piccard.
Professor Piccard is the head of the UAA Department of Project Management and has worked tirelessly during her time as Interim Director of the Engineering Science and Project Management Department.
“The main focus of project management is to finish the intended project, to do it on time, and to stay within budget,” explained Piccard. “People want to make sure that their investment sees the greatest possible returns.”
A career in project management offers job opportunities in a diverse range of careers, including engineering, informational technologies and government. The versatile nature of the degree gives graduates the flexibility to work in vastly different fields, which insulates them from the uncertain economy. Because the concepts learned in project management are easily applied to other fields, the job possibilities are staggering.
Alaska in particular has a high demand for project managers due to the unique logistical challenges offered by the state geography. Project managers are needed in all types of positions, from construction to oil management.
“Alaska is a project state, everything we do here fits that description,” Piccard said. “We believe that if you can become an exceptional project manager in Alaska, then you can be an exceptional project manager anywhere in the world.”
Professor Piccard spoke extensively about the success of UAA’s Project Management Department, highlighting the rapid growth and statewide importance of the program.
“UAA was one of the first 13 universities worldwide to be accredited by PMI. We’re considered to be one of the leaders, academically, in the world. UAA is really leading the way in the field.”
Though UAA’s Department of Project Management has only been around since 2004, the program has grown; the department currently boasts around 200 graduate students, and expects to graduate between 15 and 20 students in the spring. The program also offers real-time distance courses, allowing students who cannot physically attend class the opportunity to participate in class discussion.
The distance courses are particularly useful for students who are already working in their intended fields. The system allows the students to continue their careers while also pursuing a degree. Piccard estimates that nearly 10 percent of students enrolled in the program take advantage of the distance courses.
“The classes are designed to accommodate the working professional,” explained Piccard. “As far as I know, we’re the only program in Alaska that offers real-time distance courses.”
PMI’s annual report found that project managers with less than three years experience can expect to earn a median salary of nearly $80,000 and 76 percent of those surveyed expected their salaries to rise in the next year.
With the demand for project managers at an all time high, and salaries rising at a consistent rate; it is possible that the field can provide security for college graduates.
“It’s a very stable and growing field”, stated Piccard. “It’s not by accident that projects are managed effectively.”