Project Manager Salary - United States

Written by Wan How on August 29, 2020

Guide, Trend and Analysis

Are you being paid what you are worth? In this guide, I will dive into project management salary numbers published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), provide some analysis and trend information. PMI categorizes Project Manager jobs into three levels. To find out which level you belong to, check out the job descriptions here:

Step 1: Identify what level of project manager you are based on your job responsibilities.

Even if your job title is Project Coordinator, based on your responsibilites, you could be categorized as Project Manager I by PMI standards.

Project Manager I

Under direct supervision of a more senior project manager, a Portfolio Manager, or a Program Manager, oversees a small project or phase(s) of a larger project. Responsibility for all aspects of the project over the entire project life (initiate, plan, execute, control, close). Must be familiar with system scope and project objectives, as well as the role and function of each team member, to effectively coordinate the activities of the team.

Project Manager II

Under general supervision of either a Portfolio Manager or a Program Manager, oversees multiple projects or one larger project. In addition to duties of Project Manager I, responsible for assembling project team, assigning individual responsibilities, identifying appropriate resources needed, and developing schedule to ensure timely completion of project. May communicate with a Senior Project Manager, Functional Area Manager, or Program Manager regarding status of specific projects.

Project Manager III

Under general direction of either a Portfolio Manager or in some cases a Program Manager, oversees high-priority projects, which often require considerable resources and high levels of functional integration. In addition to duties of a Project Manager II, takes projects from original concept through final implementation. Interfaces with all areas affected by the project including end users, distributors, and vendors. Ensures adherence to quality standards and reviews project deliverables. May communicate with a company executive regarding the status of specific projects.

Table 1: Project Manager - Average total compensation in the United States i.e. salary and bonus (USD)

Source / Level Year Non-PMP PMP Value of PMP ($) Value of PMP (%)
PMI - PM I 2019 $85,235 $102,931 $17,696 21%
PMI - PM II 2019 $96,698 $112,213 $15,515 16%
PMI - PM III 2019 $110,568 $127,414 $16,846 15%
Indeed 2020 $99,955 $107,675 $7,720 8%
Glassdoor 2020 $66,137 (salary only) No breakdown between PMP and non-PMP
Payscale 2020 $75,735 (salary only) No breakdown between PMP and non-PMP 2020 $146,229 (median salary and bonus) No breakdown between PMP and non-PMP

PMI conducts and publishes salary data every two years. For this first time in 2019, PMI published salaries for project managers with the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential and those without. Based on this data, having the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential can boost your salary by $16,846 to $17,696 or 15% to 21%. The most significant jump is at the entry level.

As a comparison, Indeed lists the average 2020 salary for a project manager in US as $99,955 (without PMP) and $107,675 (with PMP). This is comparable to PMI's mid-level PM salary. Glassdoor and Payscale are likely listing salaries at the lower percentile of entry level PMs. is probably getting respondents at the higher bracket of senior PMs.

Career Tip #1: If you don’t have the PMP, aim to get it as soon as possible. Set a S.M.A.R.T. goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) and ask your manager if the company will support you in this. These two articles provide a step-by-step guide on how to get your PMP.

Table 2: Project Manager - Average US compensation by Percentile in US Dollars.

This table shows the average salary by 10th, 25th, 50th (median), 75th and 90th percentile. Horizontal arrows show the percentage salary increase when you move to another percentile. Vertical arrows show the percentage salary increase when you advance to the next level. You can either advance horizontally or vertically. The green arrow indicates a higher salary increase; the blue arrow indicates a lower salary increase.

Career Tip #2: Once you have your PMP, take a look at which percentile your salary falls in. From there, you have two options, get a raise while maintaining the same level and job responsibilities. To get a raise, you need to demonstrate that your skills and contributions have increased based on your years of experience. The second option is to move vertically up to the next level of responsibilities. Sometimes, moving horizontally will get you a better raise than moving vertically.

My general rule of thumb is this: if you are below the median, progress horizontally and once you are at the median or 75th percentile, aim to advance vertically to a role with more responsibilities.

In a coaching setting, I would give you personalized advice based on your values, strengths, areas of growth and long-term career roadmap. For example, if you are on a fast-track to be an executive, then you want to move vertically at every opportunity.

How do you advance horizontally or vertically? The PMI has introduced the talent triangle. To maintain your PMP, you need to accumulate professional development units (PDUs) in Technical, Strategic and Leadership areas. While there are many offerings for technical skill development, career coaching can help you grow in leadership, business and soft skills needed to advance your career.

Table 3: Project Manager to PMO Director - Average Canadian compensation by Percentile in Canadian Dollars.

Analysis. There is a similar pattern for roles above the project manager. If you are a program manager, portfolio manager or PMO director, a promotion to the next level may not increase your salary as much as staying at your same level and getting better at your job. You can do this by adding to your skills, experience, and contributions. It is likely that 90th percentile salaries are only available in certain industries and may not be feasible for your specific industry. Pay more attention to median salaries because average salaries are calculated and may not actually exist in the real world.

Table 4: Project Management - US Salary Trend 2003-2021

Level 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 2021 Trend (Pre-COVID)
PM I$77,472$82,034$88,499$91,075$90,881$101,962$94,258$94,746$96,447$99,270
PM II$80,757$87,407$94,527$97,708$98,481$104,989$103,664$105,129$108,606$112,761
PM III$89,986$99,183$104,776$110,269$115,812$118,441$117,069$120,853$124,726$129,977

Table 5: Project Management - US Salary Percentage Increase 2003 - 2019

Level 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 Average Annual Increase Increase from 2003-2019
PM I6%8%3%0%12%-8%1%2%1.46%24.5%
PM II8%8%3%1%7%-1%1%3%1.91%34.5%
PM III10%6%5%5%2%-1%3%3%2.10%38.6%

Analysis. What is worth noting is the pay cut in 2015. The US was impacted by a global economic slowdown, partly due to a drop in the price of oil and weakening of emerging markets. Entry level PMs were impacted more than intermediate and senior PMs. The trailing effect of the 2009 financial crisis showed up in 2011 figures with PM I getting no raise and PM II getting 1%. In contrast, PM III received a 5% pay hike. The higher up you are, the less you feel the impact of recessions. Will we see the same pattern repeat post-COVID?

Trend. Look at the average pay rise over a span of 16 years. Intermediate PMs got 0.45% more annually and 10% over 16 years compared to entry level PMs. Senior PMs got 0.19% more annually than intermediate PMs. The difference adds up to 4.1% over 2003 to 2019.

Career Tip. If you are an entry level PM, get to PM II as soon as possible. You will be less impacted by economic downturns and get significantly higher annual pay increases.

Level 2003-2019 Average Annual Increase 2020 Trend (Pre-COVID) 2021 Trend (Post-COVID) No Bonus Projected 2021 Salary (Post-COVID)
PM I 1.46% $97,859 -$4,096 $93,763
PM II 1.91% $110,683 -$5,477 $105,206
PM III 2.10% $127,351 -$7,734 $119,617

While not necessarily reducing the salaries of PMs, COVID-19 may have reduced the overall number of jobs and there may not be a bonus for 2020. So my prediction is that 2021 salaries will likely remain at 2020 levels with no bonus. Bookmark this page and check back for an update next year.

Career Tip #3: To maintain your income with stagnating salaries and potentially no bonus, plan and work towards a promotion.