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Best online doctorate in project management

Earning a project management doctorate prepares you to guide projects from start to finish in the business, education, and technology sectors.
Written by Melissa Sartore, Contributor on

Project managers plan, develop, and oversee the personnel, budgets, timetables, and scopes of a project. By creating goals, maintaining communication, and defining individuals' responsibilities, project managers help optimize an organization's performance and outcomes.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that over 900,000 new positions in management occupations will be added from 2020 to 2030. Project management roles like construction manager and computer and information systems manager are projected to see an 11% growth during the same timeframe, which is faster than the national average growth rate for all occupations at 7%.

Finding the right project management doctorate is important to meeting your personal and professional goals. The information on this page can help. 

Best online school for doctorate in project management: Quick facts


Program stats

How much?

Northcentral University

San Diego, CA

  • DBA in Project Management
  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 25%
  • Students receive personalized mentorship

Per credit: $1,139

Application fee: $25

The best online doctorate in project management degrees

ZDNet's ranking methodology integrates data from federal sources and insights from industry experts to provide an objective assessment of project management programs. ZDNet's proprietary formula assesses programmatic and professional outcomes to determine the best online degrees. 

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

Northcentral University

San Diego, California

About the program: NCU's doctorate of business administration project management specialization includes 48 credit hours, during which students benefit from extensive personalized mentorship. 

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 25%
  • Avg. annual net price: Not publicly available
  • Years to completion: Three to four years
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

What to expect in an online doctorate in project management degree program

Project management doctorates come in different formats. Engineering, information technology, and education doctoral programs may have specialization options in project management.

A doctor of business administration degree with a project management specialization emphasizes evaluating, strategizing, and executing projects in practical business settings, while a Ph.D. in project management focuses on research alongside the principles, tools, and theories of project performance and organizational efficacy.

Project management doctorates integrate both coursework and research to prepare students for comprehensive exams and a dissertation proposal. Graduate students will identify a specific problem or challenge in project management to focus on while writing their dissertation.

A project management doctorate requires dedication, hard work, and self-motivation. Active engagement with classmates and faculty will help students thrive in their doctoral program.

Doctorate in project management courses

Coursework in a project management doctorate varies by institution, but some core classes remain consistent across curricula. Common courses include project risk management, legal aspects of project management, cost accounting for project managers, and improving individual and team performance. 

Project risk management

Coursework in project risk management covers theories and application of decision-making in project management. Topics include risk identification, assessment, and monitoring; risk analysis; and project risk planning, preparation, and response. 

Cost accounting and finance in project management

This course trains students to plan and manage budgets. Topics include cost estimation, evaluating project performance, cost control, and contingency and management reserves. 

Legal aspects of project management 

By exploring ethical and legal challenges faced by project managers, students in this class learn about their responsibilities in different types of projects. Topics include: contracts and procurement; health, safety, and legal implications; labor law in project contexts; and data protection and privacy. 

Optimizing individual and team performance

Individual and team performance optimization classes focus on theories and techniques used to work with people and processes. Topics include optimization models for decision making, planning and scheduling, prioritization and delegation, and objective evaluation. 

Project management degree levels

Undergraduate degrees in project management introduce you to the fundamentals of the field to prepare you for entry- and mid-level project management roles. Graduate programs include advanced coursework to increase your overall knowledge and skills while building expertise in specific aspects of project management. 

Bachelor's in project management

  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $12,000-$12,000
  • Post-grad careers: Construction manager, project coordinator, project manager

A bachelor's degree in project management includes four years of general education, major, and elective coursework. Accounting and finance classes accompany courses in project performance and quality assurance, risk and change management, and business analytics. 

Project management degrees integrate projects into coursework to give students practical experience and hone their strategic, communication, and time management skills. A culminating capstone requirement often includes a portfolio and a project during which students integrate everything learned throughout the degree program. 

Graduate certificate in project management

  • Length: One year or less
  • Cost: $2,000-$5,000
  • Post-grad careers: Project management consultant, senior project manager, project coordinator

Graduate certificates in project management build upon existing knowledge to prepare students for leadership roles. This is true for entry-level project managers and individuals with no previous project management experience. 

Many project management graduate certificates focus on specific industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology. Coursework in a graduate certificate in project management includes risk management, project performance measurement, and project planning and control. 

Master's in project management

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $8,000-$45,000
  • Post-grad careers: Senior project manager, program manager, project management consultant

A project management master's degree spans two years. Students complete coursework in topics such as financial management and risk assessment while developing strategic and leadership skills. Project-based learning accompanies lecture and research courses in anticipation of a capstone requirement. 

Within a master's degree in project management, learners may have opportunities to complete a specialization in an area such as information technology, healthcare, or supply-chain management. 

Doctorate in project management

  • Length: Three to five years
  • Cost: $18,000-$90,000
  • Post-grad careers: Senior project manager, management professor, project management consultant

Doctoral programs in project management emphasize research, strategy, and theory to prepare students for advanced project management roles. A doctorate in project management may be a specialty within a doctorate in business administration, another field, or a Ph.D. program. 

Coursework in organizational leadership, business strategy and innovation, and contemporary challenges in project management accompany qualitative and quantitative research classes. After successful completion of their doctoral exams, students defend and write a dissertation. 

In conclusion

Project managers lead projects and people alike. A project management degree emphasizes teamwork, communication, and leadership through coursework in risk analysis, accounting and finance, and management theory and practice. 

If you enjoy seeing projects through from beginning to end, a project management degree might be right for you.

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