Project Salary: What are you worth?

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Download nowWe all know that experience, qualifications, sector, and even location, all matter when it comes down to salary expectations.

Salaries can shoot-up nicely after ten years of working in your particular field, or you might find that you aren’t getting paid as much as your friends in London.

If you are currently working in project management, or looking to pursue a project management role, you may find that salaries vary quite dramatically, especially when the above factors are taken into consideration.

A quick search on Google may bring up a host of different salaries for project managers, each one with different person requirements, locations and qualifications needed.

However, a deeper look at this research paints a much stronger image, and we can discover which kind of project managers earn the most, who earn less, where do they work, and most importantly, what are you worth?

Averages

Project managers in the UK are certainly well paid, with an average salary of £40-£50k reported nationwide1.

However, when looking further at reported salaries, it is clear to see that project managers in certain regions, or those working in certain industries, are earning well above the national average.

As expected, London is where these higher earners are located, with project managers earning on average over £60k2, but Scotland also stands out as a location where project managers earn far above the UK average, earning over £68k3.

With regards to job sector worked in, it is perhaps unsurprising that the wealthy legal, IT and banking sectors report higher than average salaries, earning between £57-65k4, and project crazy sectors such as transport, public services and aerospace all earn a nice average of £57,5005.

But enough talk of high earning project managers - some sectors actually pay below the UK national average.

You may not be surprised, but project managers working in the customer services and administration/secretarial sectors earn very little compared to others, averaging as low as £23k6 for those in admin and £29k7 for customer services.

Perhaps more surprisingly is that project managers working in the education sector only earn on average £31k8, and those in the marketing/advertising/PR sector, usually a glitzy and well-paid sector, earn just £28,4119 at the lower end of the scale, £32,50010 at the higher end.

Location, location, location

London

As noted in the previous chapter, London and Scotland are home to the highest earning project managers in the UK, earning far above the £40-£50k national average.

London may be an obvious place for high earners to live and work, whatever the job role, but delving deeper to try and understand why project managers in particular earn more in the capital than elsewhere is quite interesting.

If we look at what is happening in London at the moment, the need for project managers is incredibly high, with projects springing up across the city.

Old buildings are being demolished, entire boroughs are undergoing regeneration, and let’s not forget famous projects such as Crossrail and Battersea Power Station.

With so much engineering and construction happening in the capital, it is safe to say that London-based project managers working in these sectors are earning big money, with those in the engineering sector especially earning £51k as the standard salary, rising to heights of £58-£85k for those with more experience.11

Compare this with engineering project managers in Birmingham, who earn £38k12, and those in Leeds earning £32k13, and it is quite clear that location really matters when it comes to salaries in project management.

If we also look at other project management sectors that earn big money, such as the legal, and banking sectors noted in the previous chapter, it is interesting to note that London is actually the UK’s major base for these two sectors,14 15 and so higher salaries are to be expected.

Scotland

So, London is up there as a city that pays well, but what about the rest of the UK?

If we go further north to Scotland, for example, it is clear to see from the chart below that salaries for project managers are on average, excellent, earning over £4k more than Londoners:

Project management average salaries by region for project managers
(Source: Myfuturerole.com. Average Salary by Region for Project Manager. Available: http://mysalarychecker.myfuturerole.com/salary_checker#title%3A%22project%20manager%22 Last accessed: 21st Aug 2014.)

Looking further at Scotland, we can see from the chart below that Perth, Aberdeen and Edinburgh are the highest earning cities in the region:

Project management average salaries by city in Scotland for project managers
(Source: Myfuturerole.com (unknown) MySalaryChecker - search term ‘project manager’ run on each Scottish city. Available: http://mysalarychecker.myfuturerole.com/salary_checker Last accessed: 21st Aug 2014.)

So, just what do Perth, Edinburgh and Aberdeen have to offer a potential project manager?

Well, Scotland is home to some pretty wealthy companies who would certainly be requiring good project managers, with many energy, IT, food/drink and financial companies based in the region16.

Aberdeen in particular is a hub of economic activity, being the centre of the UK’s oil industry and interestingly the only UK city to experience economy growth during the recent financial crisis, overtaking London with economic growth17.

Known as the ‘oil capital of Europe’, the abundance of natural gas, oil and renewable energy companies has made Aberdeen incredibly wealthy, with the highest percentage of millionaires in the UK located here and around 40,000 people employed in the energy sector itself18.

Located in Aberdeen alone are Wood Group Engineering, GL Noble Denton, The Cammach Group and Wellahead Engineering - all companies which focus on engineering products for energy, such as drills and machinery, offshore oil exploration and welding projects.

With so many expensive energy projects ongoing in Aberdeen, it surely must follow that project managers with the right knowledge are in high demand, and will therefore be rewarded with an excellent salary.

As seen in the above chart, Perth is really leading the way with project management salaries, with earnings of nearly £45k over the Scottish average.

With an abundance of companies in sectors such as renewable energy, transport, food & drink and insurance, it isn’t difficult to see why salaries are so good in this Scottish city.

Scotland is noted for its booming food & drink sector, and the sector recently exceeded long-term sales targets to reach £12.5bn by 2017, with a record £13bn turnover recorded for 201119.

The Scottish whisky industry alone is huge, accounting for a quarter of the UK’s food & drink exports20.

Perth itself is certainly one of Scotland’s food & drink hubs, with around 130 food & drink companies based in the area21, including big names such as The Famous Grouse whisky, Highland Spring water, Bells whisky and Taylors Food Group22.

And it is clear that big money is being made in this sector, as a new business park in Perth was opened this year, designed to be a hub for the food & drink industry23.

With such a big food & drink industry emerging in Perth, it is clear that project managers with this expertise will be in high demand and rewarded with a good salary.

Moving away from Perth and on to another of Scotland’s big earning cities, Edinburgh, we can see that the finance, IT and energy sectors are very strong here.

Looking further at the high-earning financial sector, Edinburgh is a huge banking hotspot, with Standard Life, Scottish Widows, Royal Bank of Scotland and Tesco Bank all based there.24

Around 35,000 people are employed in Edinburgh’s financial sector25 and Edinburgh has the highest percentage of job opportunities available in finance out of all the major financial cities in the UK, at an impressive 16.4% (higher than London)26.

With such an array of big banks to work for, and an abundance of jobs in the sector, it would surely come as no surprise that project managers in the financial sector can expect large salaries in Edinburgh, explaining the data in the above graphs.

The IT sector is also doing well in Edinburgh, with major tech firms such as Amazon, Rockstar and Skyscanner all based in the city27, which has in recent years become a tech hub to rival Shoreditch and Silicon Valley.

Finally, Edinburgh has much in common with Aberdeen’s energy sector, being home to large companies such as Cairn, an oil and gas exploration company, as well as Pelamis Wave Power and Aquamarine Power, two large renewable energy companies.

With Scotland having 25% of Europe’s wind and wave resources, and a government plan to invest £100 billion in Scottish offshore wind over the next 10 years28, this area of the UK is going to need project managers, and they’ll no doubt be paid well.

Birmingham and the East

Time to move further down to the middle of the UK now, looking at the good salaries a project manager can earn in places such as Oxford and Birmingham, as well as towns in the east, such as Cambridge.

Looking at the chart below, it is clear that the salary in Birmingham is 3% higher than the national average for project managers:

project management pay difference by location
(Source: Payscale.com. Project manager pay difference by location. Available: http://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Job=Project_Manager%2c_%28Unspecified_Type_%2f_General%29/Salary Last accessed: 17th September 2014.)

Aside from being an area closely associated with engineering (Jaguar Land Rover) and food & drink services (the famous Cadbury) Birmingham is rapidly becoming a hub for e-commerce start-ups, with over 1,000 of these companies being set-up since the recession29.

Like Edinburgh, many computer game businesses are based here, such as Codemasters, Activision, Sega and Centresoft, and Birmingham is home to a huge 21% of the UK games industry workforce30.

As we can see, the IT industry is booming in Birmingham, but other industries need project managers too!

Aerospace was noted in the first chapter of this article as a sector where project managers earn big, and Birmingham is certainly the place to be for this sector

Birmingham is part of the ‘Midlands aerospace cluster’, with many companies in this industry based in and around cities like Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, and boasting 7% of Europe’s aerospace industry31.

Large aerospace companies such as UTC Aerospace Systems and Alcoa have their headquarters in Birmingham, and it is certainly an industry requiring the best project management talent out there.

Another area with an interestingly higher pay for project managers is the east of England, made up of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Take a look at the chart below to see how much higher the average salary is here:

project management average salaries by region
(Source: Salarytrack.co.uk (unknown) Salary results for project manager. Available: http://www.salarytrack.co.uk/salary?kw=project+manager&lo=City+e.g.+London&type=permanent¤cy=GBP&by=title Last accessed: 18th September 2014.)

One of the main reasons the East may have good project manager salaries could be because of the thriving IT start-up culture of Cambridge.

Sometimes referred to as ‘Silicon Fen’, Cambridge and the surrounding area is fast becoming the place to be for technology and IT companies, hosting 100 well-known companies in the sector32, which are often founded by graduates of Cambridge University – an institution with a famous track record of innovation, science and inventions.33

For experienced project managers wanting to work in the technology and IT sectors, Cambridge is certainly an attractive option, with unemployment at a low 3 per cent, and a huge £13 billion of revenue earned by the Silicon Fen area, you’re likely to find a decent salary here.34

Looking at the East of England further, some interesting statistics point towards the entire region (not just Cambridge) being one of the most prosperous areas of the UK.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 2011 saw the East of England having the highest rate of business research and development expenditure in the UK, boasting 20% of the UK’s total expenditure35.

This could purely be linked to Silicon Fen and the technological giants who base their research centres there, such as Microsoft, Aveva, Toshiba and Philips, however, other areas in the East, such as Hertfordshire - home to manufacture plants for Renault, Ferrero, Nestle – may also help to boost the economy in this region of the UK.

Interestingly, Bedfordshire is home to Cranfield University, an institution highly regarded for its research, being one of the top five research-intensive universities in the UK along with Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and University College London36.

This university specialises in strong research subjects such as engineering, aerospace and energy – all sectors which pay well for knowledgeable project managers – and the university has its own technology park, employing 500 staff across over 50 businesses37.

With all of this industry and research in the East of England, big money is being made, and people helping to make these research projects happen will most likely be earning big salaries.

Are you experienced?

Having looked at the locations where you can expect to earn a high salary, what about the other factors that can influence how much you earn?

Interesting data in the IT, engineering and creative sectors all point towards experience and the company worked for being major factors in salary.

The IT industry

It is fairly obvious, no matter what your job title or industry, that the more experience you have, the more you will get paid.

As we have just looked at areas of the UK with a high percentage of IT companies, who will require excellent IT project managers, it is vital we look in-depth at this industry, and just how much other factors can affect pay.

Take a look at the below chart to see experience and pay increase for an IT project manager:

project management salaries by experience
(Source: Payscale.com (unknown) Pay by experience level for Project Manager (IT) Available: http://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Job=Project_Manager%2c_Information_Technology_%28IT%29/Salary Last accessed: 19th September 2014.)

As you can see, there is a steady increase of £20k from the entry-level average salary up to the late-career salary, which isn’t really surprising.

However, what makes this interesting (and also ties in with the figures to do with location) is the company worked for, as seen in the chart below:

Project management salaries popular employer for IT project managers
(Source: Payscale.com (unknown) Employer Salaries for Project Managers (IT). Available: http://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Job=Project_Manager%2c_Information_Technology_%28IT%29/Salary Last accessed: 19th September 2014)

Interestingly, the above companies have a correlation with the locations noted as high-earning places in this article.

Where do IBM have offices? Cambridge, Edinburgh and Norwich – all locations where project managers get a higher salary than rest of UK.

IBM are a huge IT company, operating in 170 countries, and having alliances with Microsoft and Cisco, so they will only be wanting the best.

Oil giant BP have offices in London and Aberdeen, Barclays is based in London, and Accenture have offcies in both Edinburgh and London – all places where project managers earn more than the UK average.

Engineering

Like the IT industry, engineering salaries for project managers rise dependent on years of experience, as seen below:

Project management salaries pay by experience for engineering project managers
(Source: Payscale.com (unknown) Pay by experience for project manager (Engineering) Available: http://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Job=Project_Manager%2c_Engineering/Salary# Last accessed: 19th September 2014)

Creative sector

Looking at the last two charts, project managers in the IT and engineering fields both seem to begin their working life earning on average £35k, and rising to around £50k or over with experience, which is very good news for them.

But what about project managers working in creative sectors, such as the digital and design worlds?

Junior project managers in the design & advertising sector have a salary that starts off reasonably low compared to that of entry level IT or engineering project managers, at an average of just £28,488 for those working in London and £26,115 for those outside London38.

As seen in the chart below, not only do salaries vary dramatically for design & advertsing project managers dependent on experience, but also working in or outside London makes a huge difference:

average project management salaries for design and advertising project managers
(Source: Creativepool.com (unknown) 2014 Creativepool Salary Guide & Survey. Available: http://creativepool.com/marketing/2014SalarySurvey.pdf . Last accessed: 4th November 2014.)

As seen above, although the middleweights earn roughly the same, there is a big contrast between what you would start off earning and what you would end up earning, depending on whether you are working in London or outside.

Also noticeable is that a Londoner earns £34,405 as a middleweight, and then £54,755 as a senior, which is a salary rise of just over £20k – those outside London only seem to see their salary rise £6k from mid-weight to senior.

Digital project managers seem to get the same problem with salaries when working outside London, earning on average £1,830 less than their London counterparts if working in a junior role, and a huge £19,410 less than Londoners if they work in a senior role:

average salaries for digital project managers by experience level
(Source: Creativepool.com (unknown) 2014 Creativepool Salary Guide & Survey. Available: http://creativepool.com/marketing/2014SalarySurvey.pdf . Last accessed: 4th November 2014.)

We could come up with many reasons why creative project managers outside London don’t get paid as much as those in London, and why there is not much of a difference between a mid-level and senior salary.

One simple fact is that almost a third of the UK’s jobs in the creative sector are based in London.39

The lower starting salaries for creative sector project managers may simply be because small digital start-ups do not have the big money available to pay out a larger salary, and another reason for the lower pay may be the high amount of freelance staff working in the digital realm, with a huge 24% freelancing in 201240.

After a few years working as a project manager in the creative field, building up their experience, many of these project managers may simply leave to become freelance, and so employers have this in mind when paying salaries.

What are you worth?

The overall trend for jobs in project management seems to be that you can expect to be earning an average of £40k - £50k, whichever industry you work in.

Experience is highly rewarded, and when you are considered to be experienced enough, you can expect a pay rise, especially in the IT and Engineering sectors.

Location also matters too, and it isn’t simply Londoners who earn more, as many very large companies are based in other areas of the UK, and they reward their experienced project managers with high salaries.

However, when it comes to a fast-moving sector such as the creative sector, it seems that high salaries do not matter as much, and it may well be that people don’t stay there for long.

When it comes down to you, and what you’re worth as a project manager, it is worth keeping these statistics in mind, as you are worth what a company is willing to pay for you, and ultimately, skills and experience will get you that job and that pay rise you have always wanted.

References

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