The Basics of Defining Salary for Project Management
With some basic online research, you can easily find tools that will help you define your Program Manager and Project Manager job descriptions and data that will help you set standards when it comes to project manager salary. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t classify program and project manager in their job repository, but instead suggest that they are unclassified managers. In the program and project management industry, even methodologies used to manage them aren’t commonized enough to say that any project manager in any industry can efficiently manage projects in another one. Project and Program Managers should be able to quickly ramp up on construction terminology and use conventional management methods, but I hardly doubt they will be able to perform at high standards until they understand the industry.
In another blog post I discussed the outlook for project managers globally and so you should arm yourself with the ability to quickly understand how your salary stands up to your peers. Found the Project or Program Manager position you’ve had your eye on? You need to use sound research to respond to an offer.
Notice that nowhere in this article do I refer to the need for certifications.
Many Project Managers wonder what the average project manager salary is for their industry or organizations need a good job description. With a little research, you can easily find the information you need by focusing on industry, years of experience, education, and level of management. For this exercise though, we’ll only detail the Project Manager role, but you can also use Program Manager as the job title. A Program Manager is expected to manage several projects executing simultaneously or has a single vision where initiated projects follow a product vision.
You can also use this information when receiving a job offer, and you aren’t sure what to counter with, consider applicants for your program and project roles and average wages, understand your current salary against others in the same industry, and be able to benchmark salary.
Although the BLS does not have those specific job titles you can still narrow in on information to use as a job description, or, better yet, use the information to craft a resume. You’ll want to think of the job in the industry, so in this case, we’re focused on technology, or computer information systems.
Each month, BLS’s Current Employment Statistics (CES) program surveys approximately 149,000 businesses and government agencies, representing 651,000 individual worksites for data they use on the website. The best way to start is to narrow in on geographic location, and BLS makes this easy with their clickable maps. In this example, we’ll use the Pay News Release page to find the area. There are many tables and charts you can look at, but the key is to look at management and computer related hourly rates. In your geographic area, “occupational employment and wages,” you should find a table on the page. In this case, we see that in the Atlanta area, the mean hourly wage for management is $24 and computer/math is $43. Obviously, highly technical positions in the computer field can skew results, so you need to consider that.
We can start our research with a basic wage of $20-$40 per hour with the most basic functions. The lower end of the scale would support an entry-level information system project analyst and the higher level a project manager with experience.
Other Salary Sites for Project Managers
Now let’s move to Salary.com and use their tools to get further information regarding not only salary but job description as well. I went to the Salary.com and utilized the “Know your worth” tool on the main page. I used project manager and Atlanta Georgia as terms then submitted. That brought me to a comparison screen where I can choose three job titles to compare. I picked a level II and III project manager role as well as a project management manager.
Once I click compare, I have information to review how Salary.com categorizes those job roles. I like the succinct descriptions Salary.com uses and how it shows the typical years of experience. Ultimately, any PM role, “Has overall responsibility for managing scope, cost, schedule, internal staffing and outside vendors, and contractual deliverable” and anything related to that. That’s the most basic job description you can write for PMs, and it should be the base from which you build it. Every nuance from there leans to the technical understanding of the subject area (in this case IS or IT) and education. Notice the three descriptions don’t mention certification at all.
Since IT Project Manager II only requires five years of experience we’ll use it to drill down on salary data by clicking the free link underneath the information. Once the chart loads, you’ll see a range of annual salary, but we want to use the free filters to narrow in on our fictitious project manager. Since we started with BLS, change the filters as follows: Hourly, Bachelor’s Degree, 5-6 Years of experience, 0 direct reports, reports to a manager and meets expectations. You’ll see the chart change as you do this.
As we can see, the projected hourly range is now $44-$47. As expected, the scope of government expectation (BLS) and private (Salary.com) is different, but with that information, you can derive salary expectations and use it to map your PM resources or respond to an offer with facts.
Another resource we can use is SalaryExpert.com. While it’s not as easy to filter into the information, we can get a range, albeit not hourly so we’ll need to do the math.
The average salary puts us into the $50 hourly range. Remember these are experienced project managers with formal education.
The last tool I use for estimates is GlassDoor.com. Many companies who get low company reviews/scores on GlassDoor often refute its data but time and time again I have found it to be pretty spot on. To be able to use GlassDoor.com the user usually writes one review and puts a range of salary in the system. As well, GlassDoor.com pulls job information in with reasonably accurate salary ranges. First I can check local Project Manager jobs and see wages that are in line with the research we’ve completed thus far.
Then I can use the salary tool to narrow in on my prospective range:
Again, we have another range of salaries we can easily use the research we already completed to come up with a definitive salary expectation or counteroffer.
Using these four websites will help you nail down the range your organization offers, or an individual expects. You can also use it to build a basic description then add from the nuances of your company. There are far too many Program and Project Manager job descriptions that are encyclopedic because a project manager truly does fill many roles. It’s important to focus on the basic function of PM, “Has overall responsibility for managing scope, cost, schedule, internal staffing, and outside vendors, and contractual deliverable”. Anything you add to that should be specific to your industry or company.
Often when we receive a job offer, we don’t know how to counter and back it up with data. The steps above can help you do this and give your prospective employers the heads-up that you know your worth. Already in a position but the knowledge has surprised you? Perhaps a renegotiation is in order or you need to start shopping. The lower BLS end of the pay spectrum gives you a bottom line benchmark and further research builds the story. Get to the negotiation table armed with the right data!