Above and Beyond
Shawn Belling, PMP, talks about the value of a master’s degree in project management.
AQUICK SEARCH ON THE INTERNET WILL turn up numerous results with project managers asking if there’s value to pursuing
a master’s degree in project management in addition to a Project Management Professional (PMP)®
certification. Shawn Belling, PMP, one of the
practitioner faculty members at the University of
Wisconsin-Platteville, offers his take on the
question. Mr. Belling has 16 years of professional
experience and completed the PMI-accredited
master of science in project management program
at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He is also
the recipient of a PMI Educational Foundation Dr.
Harold Kerzner Scholarship and spoke at PMI
Global Congress 2008—Asia Pacific, and is expected
to speak this year at PMI Global Congress 2009—
If a project manager already has the PMP®
credential, then why should he or she pursue a
master’s in project management?
The PMP credential ensures employers a person
has a minimum amount of experience and education, and knows the fundamentals of project
management. Although PMP certification is a very
strong credential, the required courses do not
involve the same rigor as graduate-level credits.
The master’s program not only teaches advanced
project management skills, but also takes a deep
look into the “softer” skills in the field, such as
organizational behavior, communication and
Would the master’s degree be a good move for
people who don’t have their PMP certification yet?
I think it depends on where you are in your career,
but pursuing both at the same time isn’t out of the
question. You don’t have to focus on one or the
other. A good project management program such
as the one at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville—or others that are globally accredited
by PMI—will have coursework aligned with A
Guide to the Project Management Body of
Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Taking these courses
will provide a great foundation for you to take the
How has a master’s degree in project management benefited you?
My degree has opened many doors for me. I was
particularly interested in teaching at the college
level and now I’m qualified to do so. The program
was also a great opportunity to interact with the
faculty, all of whom are experts in the field. I really
enjoyed working with Ginger Levin, Ph.D., PMP,
PgMP, one of the professors in the program. She
was able to really challenge me and help my development as a project manager. Also, when speaking
with other project managers, the master’s degree
gives you additional credibility.
In other fields such as business, for example,
an MBA is slowly becoming a requisite for
career advancement. Do you foresee a similar
trend in project management?
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
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