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Project Manager Salary – How Much Can You Make?

I’m so excited to be here with you today. Just a reminder this month, for the rest of this month and the month of April we’re talking about how to get a project management job. You maybe be looking for your first project management job, you may already have one or you’re looking for your next one. If you’re in either one of those scenarios we’re going to have lots of great information for you this month and next month. In our last video we talked about how to determine whether or not project management is right for you. Hopefully you found that useful. If you didn’t see that video I’ll put the link to it in the upper right hand, right, nope my right, your left. You may want to click that, go watch that before you watch this one.

This article today is all about compensation. Hey when you’re looking to get into project management or into any profession you’ll want to talk a little bit about what is the earning potential. So we’ll get into that today. I’m going to apologize to my viewers who are not in North America. The information that I have for you today is North America specific and I have no idea how it translates into other markets. So for those of you who are not in North America I apologize, this information may not be relevant to you. For those of you who are, then let’s get right into it.

Today I’m gonna talk a little bit about, I’ll give you sort of an overview of what the range of what people get paid as project managers today as of the filming of this video. Then we’ll talk about some of the factors that factor in to whether you’re at sort of the upper end of the range that I give you or if you’re at the lower end. In order for me to explain how project managers are compensated we need to break it down into the, there’s different job levels typically out there in corporate America, different job levels for the project management profession. It starts with the project administrator which is more of any entry level role that people can get into.


Then there’s the junior project manager, then there’s the project manager, the senior project manager, and now I’m seeing a lot more executive, we call them like delivery, executive delivery managers. Or even program manager. So those are the bands. Project administrator, junior PM, PM, senior PM, and delivery executive. The PA, or project administrator I typically see them getting compensated between, check my worksheet here, between I want to say 40 to 60K, depending on a couple of factors, but PA entry level job, somewhere between 40 to 60K is what I’m seeing them get compensated for, typically. The junior PM you would expect to see most jobs fall between 60 to 70K, That’s really what I’m seeing on offer these days. PMs between 70 to 90K, senior PMs 90 to 130K and the executives, 130 plus depending on the level of executive we’re talking about and the size of the project involved. So that sort of general overview of the salary bands that I’m seeing out there in corporate America. What determines whether you fall higher end of that band or the lower end? The obvious thing is experience. That is one thing.

But there is other factors. There’s things such as industry, right? So I think the smaller mom and pop shops that maybe less than 100 people they’re hiring project managers full time they typically, not even actually in the band, they’re usually below. So I see the smaller shops hiring PMs, like full fledged PMs, not junior PMs they’re advertising them for maybe $50,000 to $60,000. Where I typically see the junior PM being compensated. But the cool thing about those smaller shops is they’re easier to break into. So if you don’t have a lot of experience, they’re more willing to look at you. They understand, they’re not being very competitive where they are but they do need a project manager to help them do whatever it is they’re trying to do. The mom and pop shops typically are not even in the band, but below the band. I find that retail and service industries fall towards the bottom of the bands that I just gave you. Technology and teleco companies also unfortunately more often than not are falling at the bottom of those salary bands.

Finance and insurance are usually in the middle to upper end of the band, depending on which one you’re working for. Consulting is either all the way at the top or maybe even outside on the positive side of those salary bands. And of course the reason for that is, those consulting firms when they hire a project manager they’re usually very, very senior and they’re consultants as well. They’re fully billable at a astronomical rate. Makes sense for PMs in those organizations to get paid a lot more than some of the others. And then I also find that energy and utilities, they tend to pay, not on the high end but even outside of those salary bands. Generally the kinds of projects that they’re into are tremendously huge. I mean, upgrading electrical infrastructure and doing things like building oil platforms in the middle of the ocean. I can only imagine what that would be like. These are very specialized roles and for people who have experience doing that sort of thing they usually get compensated very well for that. Government I find is it depends on whether it’s local government or federal or state or provincial, it varies wildly. But what I find is when you get in to the provincial or federal or the state and the federal the salaries are typically in the higher end of the bands and sometimes they fall up and above some of those bands.

That’s kind of what I’m seeing as far as salaries and the different levels and the different factors that influence. Before we end this video I want to take a minute and talk about what makes project management so unique, especially when it comes to how you’re compensated. I think the cool thing about project management is that you have an opportunity to earn a significant amount of money in a very early stage of your career, if you’re good at what you do. I find that things like years of service, degrees, those kinds of things are less of a factor when people consider you for promotion and when they consider putting you on bigger projects.

The only thing that really seems to matter in the project management world is whether or not you can get the job done. Whether or not you’re a problem solver, and whether or not you can be trusted to make good, sound business decisions with the amount of money they’re entrusting you with. If you demonstrate those things, nothing else matters. They want you and they want you now, to manage the projects that they want to deliver on in this fiscal year. If you’re good at what you do and you learn very quickly you can earn a large salary fairly quickly. I earned six figures well before I was in my mid 30s. It’s not a hard thing to do. The other cool thing about project management and it’s not, it is related to salary and compensation, but it’s a little unrelated, and it’s, even a junior PM might manage a project that’s in the $250,000 to $500,000 investment range. That’s not a small sum of money.

Typically your executive sponsor for something like that would be maybe a vice president. A junior PM could be somebody who’s in their 20s. They’re just getting started in their career, they were a PA for a few years, they now are a junior PM, and they’re sitting across the table, as part of their job, from a vice president, and they’re interacting with that person, learning from that person. And they’re involved in conversations around investments and business decisions and things that typically people don’t actually get to see or even experience until much later in their careers. If you were in a finance role or a marketing role or an HR role you would have had to worked your way up the ranks in order to work that closely with a senior executive. The project management profession is really cool in that if you’re good at what you do and you’re passionate, and you’re a problem solver and you make good, solid business decisions, you can move up quickly. You can make a lot of connections, and you can make a decent living.

That is in a nutshell what I have to say about compensation. Hopefully that helps you understand what the landscape looks like. The final thing that I will leave you with, because this always comes up in the compensation conversation, is the whole full time employee versus contract employee conversation. This comes up a lot. At some point in your career you’ll be working alongside another project manager who was brought in on contract and for whatever reason you discovered oh my goodness, they get paid a heck of a lot more per hour than I do. Maybe you’re making $35 an hour and they’re making $65, or $75 an hour.

And you think, how can I get a piece of that action?

The one thing I would say about that is, you really have to think, and maybe this is a whole other video, but you have to think long and hard about what you want out of your career. I’ve been on both sides, contract and full time, and I’ve made the decision, actually I like being a full time employee better than I like being a contractor. Although I earned a significantly more as a contractor than I have as a full timer. We’ll talk about why I like being a full timer later. As a contractor, one thing you have to be very aware of, is although it seems like it’s a lot of money up front, unless you’re very shrewd with your money and you’ve set your corporation up correctly, and you’ve got a good accountant, you can end up actually with a lot less money in your pocket if you’re not careful.

You also could end up in trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing. It isn’t all rainbows and butterflies for the contractor. They do have to go look for their next job, there may be some down time between different jobs although today, if you’re good you probably won’t have a problem. It’s not always apples to apples when you look at the compensation. And as a full time employee you also get benefits, the contractor does not. There’s that to consider. But there is a lot of earning potential for those who are experienced, they’re good at what they do, and who are contracting or even freelancing. There’s my project manager compensation chat. Hopefully that was informative and it’s helped you understand the landscape a little bit. If you liked this information or if you find that this information was helpful and you think other project managers would be able to leverage this information, please interact with this article. Leave a comment.

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