Arizona is seeing an uptick in regional employment — higher than the national average, according to labor market analytics group Lightcast — and it’s due to a recent boom in industry development. Industry is bringing large-scale projects to the forefront and, as a result, a demand for project managers.
At Arizona State University, this demand has led to a spike in enrollment in the project management master’s degree, or MPM, which has already enrolled 130 students in its first year. This success has led to the recent launch of a project management bachelor’s degree, which enrolled three students the first three days applications opened.
“A spike in enrollment for the new project management bachelor’s degree is also expected due to the workforce demand,” said Sean Ryan, a clinical assistant professor and faculty lead for the project management program in the School of Applied Professional Studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts (CISA) at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.
Teaching the foundations of project leadership and how to manage project costs, quality, schedules, resources, risks and people, the program is preparing students for project management careers across all sectors, including aerospace and defense, manufacturing, and bioscience and health care — some of Arizona’s largest industries, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority.
“When doing a job search for project manager, business analyst, manufacturing plant manager, human resource manager or other related job titles, thousands of openings with salaries around $100,000 in Arizona pop up, and we want to help put graduates on a path to fill those positions,” Ryan said.
After seeing the value of project management acumen firsthand in the workplace, ASU first-year student Oscar Alvarado said he didn’t hesitate to enroll in the new project management bachelor’s program.
“I believe that a degree in project management will provide me with opportunities after I graduate,” said Alvarado, who is returning to college after 10 years in the workforce. “I’ve noticed that the ability to lead, delegate, make sound decisions, build teams and execute on time are just a few of the qualities needed across numerous industries and sectors, and this degree will prepare me to do that.”
Who should apply for project management degrees?
“Project management is one of those fields that applies across almost every discipline,” Ryan said.
To that point, the program hopes to partner with schools across ASU, including the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and W. P. Carey School of Business, because “students in these schools engage deeply in project-oriented curriculum and careers, and could benefit greatly by adding project management skill sets to their toolbox.”
Along with pursuing ASU partnerships, one of the program’s major efforts is to expand partnerships with local firms and government agencies “to increase the depth and breadth of internships and career-connected learning opportunities for our project management students,” Ryan said.
The degree can also be a natural fit for military veterans, he said.
“Veterans typically come to ASU with a lot of military project experience,” said Ryan, a retired colonel and U.S. Army veteran who spent more than 30 years in military service. “The U.S. Department of Defense now requires that specific project management practices be integrated into the work of those who are awarded defense contracts.”
Leveraging project management curriculum to fortify his existing military skill sets, veteran Antwon Eason (pictured at left) graduated with an organizational leadership bachelor’s degree with a concentration in project management in 2023. He chose this degree because of his military experience in leadership and resource management.
“Just about every aspect of my project management and leadership training was utilized and tested in my first 90 days on the job,” said Eason, who landed a job at Specialized Office Systems in Phoenix. “The project management textbook knowledge that I learned in the classroom is now being applied to my daily life.”
Project management for every learner
In addition to pursuing one of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts’ four project management degrees, students have the option to double major, minor, and take electives in project management courses that are offered in person and online, enabling them to customize their academic journey.
“Project management pairs well with various degrees across ASU,” Ryan said. “About two-thirds of our students in the School of Applied Professional Studies at CISA take project management courses, and the remaining third is enrolled in project management degrees. So the combinations of opportunities are wide and accessible to every learner.”
Considering Arizona is a “hot spot” for project management jobs nationwide, according to Lightcast, the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts is prepared to offer ASU students the latest in curriculum and professional experience, including automatic membership in the Phoenix chapter of the Project Management Institute — so students can confidently build a career in this high-demand industry.