Analysis of 300 Job Listings Reveals What Employers Are Looking For in a Project Manager


Managing Editor, Software Advice

According to a recent report from the Project Management Institute (PMI), an estimated 6.2 million new project management jobs will be created in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020—growth of more than 12 percent. Of the sectors hiring project management (PM) professionals, aerospace, healthcare and IT are the three of the fastest-growing.

Obviously, this is great news for PM job seekers. But many may be wondering: how do the requirements for roles in each of these sectors compare? What experience, degrees or certifications are required?

To help you better understand the current PM job market and avoid wasting valuable time and money on unnecessary credentials, Software Advice set out to learn what the ideal PM job candidate looks like.

We analyzed 300 U.S. job openings for project managers posted in March and April of 2014—100 each from aerospace, healthcare and IT. Here, we reveal which sectors have the highest barriers to entry and what qualifications are required for each.

Key Findings

  • Aerospace project manager positions have the highest minimum education and experience requirements.
  • Over a third (38 percent) of IT positions accept relevant work experience in lieu of a bachelor’s degree.
  • The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most-requested or preferred certification, accounting for over 79 percent of all certification mentions.

Aerospace Has Highest Minimum Education Requirements

Of the 300 total job listings we analyzed, 49 percent required a bachelor’s degree (BA/BS). Listings with a preference or desire for a BA/BS often included a caveat about accepting a combination of work and education. Across all sectors, 36 percent of jobs said they would prefer a BA/BS, but would accept equivalent experience.

Companies calculated equivalent work experience differently, but to provide one example, a listing for a mid-level IT project manager stated that 3-5 years of experience would be considered equivalent to a BA/BS.

Degree Requirements for Project Manager Positions

Bachelors Degrees RequiredBreaking it down among individual sectors, aerospace set the highest bar for candidates, with 60 percent of project manager positions requiring a BA/BS. It’s important to note that aerospace positions didn’t require just any BA/BS—46 percent of listings in this sector specifically required a BS in engineering or computer science from an accredited university.

On the other end of the spectrum, 38 percent of IT listings accepted experience in lieu of a BA/BS, while 62 percent of IT job listings either did not list a requirement or accepted equivalent experience.

Half of Jobs Require or Prefer Some Type of PM Certification

After a college education, project management-specific certifications were the next most valued education requirement. Fourteen percent of job listings across all sectors required some type of project manager certification, while 52 percent either required or preferred certification.

General PM Certification Requirements (All Sectors)

General Certification RequirementsWhen broken down by sector, we found that certification is most often required for project manager positions in IT (19 percent) and healthcare (14 percent).

While aerospace jobs required certification somewhat less often (7 percent of the time), 46 percent of aerospace project manager jobs required or preferred certification, so certified candidates are likely to be at an advantage in this sector as well.

Listings Preferring or Requiring Some Type of PM Certification

Certification Listings by Sector

PMP Certification Is By Far the Most Desired Certification

When we drilled into specific certifications listed, the PMP was by far the most popular. Across all sectors, 79 percent of listings that stated a single preferred or required certification listed the PMP.

Job seekers trying to decide  whether to get PMP certified should note that having this credential clearly makes them a more attractive candidate for the listings we evaluated. Additionally, listings for companies that required the PMP certification often included a caveat that candidates would be allowed six months to two years to obtain the certificate after hire.

PMP Preferred/Required vs. Other Certificates (All Sectors)

PMP Certification Preferred or RequiredIn 12 percent of job listings, the PMP was mentioned alongside other preferred or required certifications, such as the Six Sigma Greenbelt/Blackbelt in aerospace, a manufacturing certification with a body of knowledge that is similar to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

Other certifications mentioned included the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Agile/Scrum, a software development certification. While these certifications were most commonly found in IT sector postings, they were also found in listings for IT project managers within the aerospace and healthcare sectors.

Advanced Degrees Are Seldom Required or Preferred

Somewhat surprisingly, advanced degrees—either a master’s degree (MA) or Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)—were seldom listed as a necessary qualification for PM jobs. Across all three sectors, only 0.7 percent of listings, or two out of 300, required such a degree; both came from the IT sector.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of listings indicated a preference for a candidate with an MA or MBA. Once again, aerospace set the bar highest, with 24 percent of listings indicating at least a preference for an MA.

Advanced Degree Requirements for Project Manager Positions

MA Degrees by Industry

Healthcare Positions Require the Least Minimum Experience

The experience level required for project manager positions varied across all three industries. Aerospace had the toughest minimum experience requirement—only 16 percent of listings in this sector listed a minimum of 0-3 years of experience as an acceptable qualification.

Healthcare project management jobs, on the other hand, had the lowest barrier to entry, with nearly 40 percent of listings requiring just 0-3 years of experience. Meanwhile, IT’s barrier to entry fell in the middle, with 31 percent of jobs requiring 0-3 years experience.

This information indicates that, while the barriers to entry vary considerably, all three sectors have positions available for project managers who are just beginning their careers.

Years of Project Management Experience Required

Minimum Experience RequiredDrilling down further, companies often listed two different sets of requirements for project managers: experience as a project lead and total industry experience. Across all industries, companies required an average of four to five years of project manager experience, and an average of five to six years of total industry experience.

Years of Experience Required: Team Lead vs. Overall

Average Experience RequiredThe fact that aerospace requires project managers to have the most experience is not surprising, given the findings presented earlier in the report regarding aerospace’s higher education requirements. The higher standards for safety with aerospace manufacturing (and the highly technical areas of associated knowledge) may explain why formal education is more commonly required than other industries.


This study was conducted by pulling data from 300 national listings from (100 each from IT project management, aerospace and defense project management and healthcare). It should be noted that although some job listings did not list degree or certification requirements, job seekers may nonetheless find there is a competitive advantage to having these, or conversely a disadvantage to lacking degrees and certifications.

To further discuss this report, or obtain access to any of the charts above, feel free to contact me at

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