PMP Salary Rises Defy COVID-19 Economic Disruption

PMP Salary Rises Defy COVID-19 Economic Disruption

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global supply chains, in-person work arrangements, and the employment outlook of various sectors, project management salaries have remained on the rise.

In November 2021, the Project Management Institute published the 12th edition of its annual Project Management Salary Survey. The organization surveyed over 30,000 professionals representing 40 countries.

In addition to PMP salary 2021 information, PMI staff asked survey participants about data points related to position type, years of work experience, gender, industry, education levels, PMP (Project Management Professional) certification status, and many other variables for the survey.

For a look into salary gains, where the United States stands, and which departments and industries yielded the highest salaries over the last year, read on for takeaways.

PMPs Saw Average Salary Gains — Despite COVID-19

Even though other sectors have seen some disruption, COVID-19 hasn’t wholly stalled the salary gains of PMP professionals. According to the survey, 50% of survey participants reported an increase in total compensation (including salary, bonuses, and any additional cash incentives) over the last year.

Also, about 22% reported compensation gains of 5% during the same period. In America, most PMPs saw slight rises. The largest group of American PMP professionals saw salary gains between 3 to 3.9% over the past 12 months, while the second-largest group had PMP salary increases of 1 to 2.9%.

Even though the rises may be small, this does give the impression of demand for capable and talented PMPs.

PMP Certifications are the Great Divider

While many PMP professionals saw annual gains in their salaries, there’s still one factor that seems to impact salary increases significantly.

The PMI PMP salary survey revealed that professionals with a PMP certification saw 16% higher median salaries on average than non-certified professionals, regardless of the country.

Even though median wages can vary depending on the country, this finding proves that a PMP certification can improve the earning power of project management professionals.

We live in a time where many professionals have to take courses or get certified to increase their skill set in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Talent LMS, a learning and development company, joined Workable and the Training Journal to survey professionals about reskilling and found that 42% of participants sought out training after the pandemic outbreak.

Additionally, employers seem to be rewarding professionals who decide to continue their professional development. The survey also revealed that 35% of reskilled or upskilled professionals positively impacted their salary.

The United States is Second in Top PMP Global Salaries

The United States almost takes the top spot in median PMP salaries. The median wage for PMPs is $115,000 and is only second to Switzerland at $140,983.

Australia and Germany round out the top four with $113,664 and $106,498. Median salaries varied based on country, the number of years of experience in project management, position, average budget, and team size.

Regarding jobs, the director of project management and portfolio managers seems to be the positions with the most significant gains in salary.

In contrast, project managers I and II appeared to have the lowest wages. These numbers align with the notion that more experience results in a position with more responsibilities that translates to higher salaries.

Most PMP Professionals are Not Project Management Degree Holders

According to a 2014 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27% of college graduates have a position related to their major. The common belief — and now proven statistic — that professionals end up working in industries unrelated to their degree is accurate for project management workers.

The PMI salary survey revealed that 86% of American PMPs do not have a degree in project management. Also, their median salary — which is $115,000 — is the same as those with a project management degree.

Even when considering averages, they are only roughly $800 behind their project management degree-holder counterparts ($119,566 vs. $118,760).

So, whether someone majored in project management does not seem to impact the salary. However, as mentioned above, PMP certification status does seem to be a factor in salary numbers for PMPs. On average, certified PMPs earn about $27,000 more than non-certified professionals.

Consulting and Engineering are Lucrative Departments

Regarding median salaries, consulting and engineering departments have the highest median salaries at $132,000 and $120,000, respectively. However, they are not the most popular departments where survey participants are employed

Those distinctions belong to project management (31%), information technology and information systems (23%), and engineering (8%) at a distant third.

On the other hand, general management and training and education had the lowest median salaries at $95,000 and $97,000, respectively.

It’s worth noting that while project management departments seem to employ the largest group of PMPs in this survey, many professionals work in other areas like general management (7%), operations and manufacturing (6%), research and development (3%), sales and marketing (3%), and many others. This data shows that workers can apply project management skills to many industries and functional areas.

Even though they are in different departments, large-scale software implementations and a PR marketing campaign need project management and guidance.

And fortunately, this type of skill is being recognized and compensated by employers as most of the project management professionals in these various departments earn six-figure salaries.

Pharmaceuticals and Natural Resources Industries Have High-Salary Earners

The category of companies most likely to offer the highest salaries are pharmaceuticals and natural resources (like agriculture or mining, as described in the survey).

The former has a median salary of $136,000, while the latter offers $135,500. Both categories also provide the highest average salaries at $141,938 and $143,502.

Industries with the lowest median salaries include training and education at $85,000, business services at $95,000, and legal at $97,500. However, while pharmaceuticals and natural resources bring in the highest median and average salaries for PMPs, they are not the most common for those surveyed. Information technology (18%), government (12%), and healthcare (11%) round out the top three as the most popular industries employing PMPs surveyed.

Self-Employed vs. Traditional Employment Salaries

Except for the project management specialist position, jobs for self-employed PMPs brought higher salaries than their traditionally employed counterparts.

For example, a director of project management, the occupation offering the highest compensation for self-employed and traditionally employed individuals, offered a median salary of $150,000 and $145,000, respectively.

Most other positions saw between a $4,000 and $10,000 jump for self-employed professionals. This difference could be for a variety of reasons. Self-employed professionals have to take care of administrative tasks like tax management and accounting while also managing other related business expenses.

This situation may mean that many self-employed PMPs are increasing their asking prices to manage the costs. Also, as indicated, self-employed PMPs can name their prices, while traditionally employed PMPs have to go by what employers offer them.

What are the most popular positions in these categories? The majority of both self-employed and traditionally employed individuals are program managers. For self-employed PMPs, other than program manager roles, project management consultants are one of the most common professions.

The World of Project Management Continues to Change — And So Do the Salaries

According to a PMI-commissioned study by the Anderson Economic Group, an economic consultancy, the project management-oriented labor force is expected to rise by 33%, with 22 million jobs through 2027.

A talent shortage can severely hamper the growth of the industry. Therefore, depending on the number of professionals going into this sector in the next five to six years, project management professionals may be in a place to receive or negotiate for even higher salaries.

Also, the growth of location-independent work can spark the need for even more experienced and technologically-savvy project managers who can command higher wages.

Yet, much of this will again depend on the number of professionals, evolving needs, any new required skill sets, the economic landscape, and the trajectory of the pandemic.

Ultimately, it’s a promising sign that the pandemic did not derail the PMP industry or salary increases for capable and talented PMP professionals.


Agglomeration and Job Matching among College Graduates,

Employee upskilling & reskilling statistics: Casting light on the trend,

Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027,​​