In our ever-evolving society, positive change in the fields of healthcare, technology, infrastructure, business and beyond is pivotal to building the future we want to see. But high-impact change requires high-impact and highly skilled people.
In the professional landscape, those people are called project managers and they’re critical to the success of any organisation. If you’re considering a career in this in-demand field, you may be wondering: is it worth it? How much does a project manager earn?
Because project management roles span a vast number of industries and levels of expertise, the answer to that question depends on a vast number of factors.
Here, we explore what those factors are, and what you can expect from a project manager salary in Australia.
Which factors affect the average project manager salary?
A project manager salary in Australia can vary from $70,000 - $90,000+ for entry-level positions to $300,000+ for more senior positions such as project directors. There are a number of factors that impact your earning potential as a project manager, which include:
The industry you specialise in
As a project manager, you can work across a large number of industries including tech, construction, manufacturing, business services, oil and gas, renewable energy, insurance and more. Industries like finance and tech often have higher budgets and higher demand, therefore pay more than others. In the wake of COVID-19, the Australian government has increased spending in construction, health and transport - increasing job opportunities and salaries in this area.
One of the most effective ways to increase your earning potential is to complete some formal education, such as a certification or postgraduate qualification. This is especially true if the formal education is accredited or endorsed by an industry body such as Project Management Institute (PMI) or Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM). This is because higher-skilled candidates are generally seen as more valuable to employers, and have a greater chance of securing roles in the more technical and higher-paid fields like finance, tech, construction and healthcare.
Experience and specialisation
Like most industries, higher levels of experience equate to higher salaries in the world of project management. Specialising in a certain industry to develop expertise and reputability can also make you significantly more valuable to prospective employers.
The location you’re working in can play a big part in your earning potential, as salaries are typically relative to the cost of living in each region. For example, salaries in Sydney - which was named the 10th most expensive city in the world in 2022 - are typically higher than their equivalents in Adelaide, where housing is reportedly 48.1 per cent cheaper.
Project manager salaries by job
There are a number of positions that sit under the project management umbrella, and each comes with a different payscale - largely depending on your level of experience.
Junior project manager salary (e.g. project coordinator, officer or administrator)
Entry-level project management positions can be given a number of titles, including junior project manager, project coordinator, project officer or project administrator. These roles typically include supporting the more senior project managers and performing administrative tasks as you develop in the role.
In Australia, salaries for these positions can range from approximately $84,000 per year for project administrators up to $115,000+ for junior project managers. The specific title and salary will vary depending on your industry, qualifications and location.
According to Talent.com, Australian project managers are earning between $107,000 and $160,000. The variation of project manager salaries will depend on the factors outlined above.
It’s also important to note that you can opt to be an ‘internal’ project manager, whereby you provide services to your organisation in-house, or an ‘external’ project manager, whereby businesses contract you on a project basis. If you’re working as an external contractor - generally after gaining years of experience in-house - you have the option to set your own rates, which could increase your earning potential in certain industries.
Project directors oversee the team of project managers and are responsible for the overall success of an operation. According to Seek, the average annual salary for a project director ranges from $225,000 to $245,000 per year.
Project manager salaries by location
When it comes to answering the pivotal question of how much does a project manager earn - the region in which you’re based can be a big factor. Most often, salaries are relative to the cost of living in each city - and in Australia, the cost of living varies significantly. According to Finder.com, the cost of living in Sydney - our most expensive city - is 49 per cent more expensive than in Adelaide.
The average project manager salary in Sydney is reportedly $136,000+, which is 5 per cent above national average. Glassdoor reports the average salary range as $100,000 - $150,000 per year.
According to Indeed.com, the average project manager salary in Brisbane is $144,000+, which is 11 per cent above national average. Glassdoor reports the average salary range as $100,000 - $150,000 per year.
It’s worth noting that Brisbane has experienced a post-pandemic boom in construction and development, which are big industries for project management. This has coincided with increased government investment ahead of hosting the Olympics in 2032, which contributes to the higher salaries.
According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for a project manager in Melbourne is $131,000+, which is on par with the national average. Glassdoor reports the average salary range as $100,000 - $145,000 per year.
According to Indeed.com, the average project manager salary is 9 per cent above national average at $140,000+ in Perth, where mining and construction are lucrative and big industries. Glassdoor reports the average salary range as $100,000 - $150,000.
According to Indeed.com, the average project manager salary is just shy of $110,000 in Adelaide, which is 16 per cent below the national average. Glassdoor reports the average slightly higher at $119,000, with an average range between $90,000 - $130,000. It’s worth noting that Adelaide has the lowest cost of living in Australia.
The average project manager salary in Darwin currently sits at around $120,000 according to Indeed.com, with Glassdoor reporting its average range as $95,000 - $130,000. Construction, mining and renewable energy are among the main industries in Darwin, where cost of living is 29 per cent cheaper than in Sydney. They also tend to be well paid industries for project managers.
According to Glassdoor, the average project manager salary in Hobart is $113,000 (Indeed reports $117,000 based on a smaller sample) with a range of $102,000 - $133,000. It’s worth noting that Hobart is one of Australia’s least expensive cities to live in.
According to Indeed.com, the average project manager salary in Canberra is just over $120,000. Glassdoor reports the average salary range as $100,000 - $150,000. As Australia’s capital, Canberra provides a number of opportunities for project managers across the public sector, IT, defence, education and more.
Can higher education influence my earning potential?
The short answer? Yes. Formal education is one of the most effective ways to significantly increase your project manager salary in Australia. A global report by Project Management Institute (PMI) found that qualified project managers can earn 22 per cent more on average than those without formal training, and more than half (51 per cent) of organisations require project managers to hold some form of certification for their role.
There are a number of project management qualifications available in Australia, which range from entry-level certifications through to high-level postgraduate degrees. Generally, the more knowledge and expertise you bring to the role, the more valuable you will be. Investopedia states that “most companies see the greater potential a well-educated candidate can offer. Having a higher degree also generally increases the pay level in this field.”
Forward-thinking postgraduate programs like the Master of Project Management Online, which can be completed in as little as 18 months, are designed to equip you with the high-level skills and industry recognition that top tier employers are not only looking for - but invest in.
Developed by industry leaders, ECU’s Master of Project Management Online empowers students with the high-level critical thinking and leadership skills needed to drive meaningful change in Australia’s most in-demand industries. You’ll be armed with applied skills for real-world scenarios, global knowledge to meet industry demands, and innovative solutions for contemporary issues. Designed for professional recognition, it is credited by the PMI Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC) and endorsed by the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM).
If you’re interested in expanding your skillset and increasing your earning potential as a project manager, reach out to one of our Student Enrolment Advisors on 1300 707 760, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or download a brochure.
Note: All figures are correct as of October 2023.