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Working life and job satisfaction

Project Management Salary Survey 2023
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Working life and job satisfaction

After a tumultuous couple of years that saw the entire world grind to a halt, it’s heartening to see an overriding feeling of optimism in the profession. Job satisfaction is high, pay and benefits are on the rise, and organisations are increasing recruitment.  

There are, of course, differences in optimism within certain sectors and age ranges, but the general feeling is one of positivity, with strong indications that the profession is back to pre-pandemic levels. This not only broadens the range of opportunities for those building their careers, but also the size and scope of the work.  

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Working Life (1)

Employment status

There are no big swings in employment status, with 80% currently in permanent employment compared to 82% in 2021.

There are however, a couple of notable changes, with the amount of project professionals working on contract (fixed-term and temporary) up slightly, from 5% to 7%, and the total amount of student respondents up from 3% to 8%.  

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Job satisfaction

It’s reassuring to see that the overall job satisfaction in the project management industry remains high at 81%, staying at similar levels to 2021 and 2020. As expected, the level of job satisfaction increases in line with salary, going from 77% for salaries below £35,000 to 88% at £70,000+.  

However, the relationship between job satisfaction and age isn’t quite so linear, with 35-44 and 55-64 year-olds dipping below the average.  

Looking at employment status and satisfaction, those in permanent employment, along with freelancers, consultants and the self-employed, show roughly equal levels of employee satisfaction as 2021, but those on contract appear to be less content with their careers. Project professionals with fixed-term contracts went from 81% satisfaction levels in 2021 to 75%, while those on temporary contracts dropped from 86% to 79%. This could be an indication of the desire for a more stable employment situation given the current uncertain economic environment.  

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Job satisfaction for employment status

Pay and benefits package

After the industry finally shakes off the disruption of the pandemic, pay and benefits are clearly on the rise, with 65% reporting an increase in financial reward. This is a significant leap from the 46% that saw their pay packages rise in 2021, and a strong indication that the project profession is returning to pre-pandemic levels, when 72% stated that their pay and benefits had increased.   

This financial boost is translating in healthy optimism for the next 12 months, with 66% expecting their pay and benefits to rise and just 4% expecting them to decrease. This is in marked contrast to 2021, when 48% anticipated an increase in renumeration and 8% expected a decrease.  

That optimism is most keenly felt in consultancy, with 79% of consultants expecting their pay and benefits to rise, along with project professionals in energy and utilities (75%), construction (71%) and defence (71%). Those in central and local government, however, have a much lower expectation of increased pay, with just 45% and 43% respectively anticipating a rise.  

Looking at the role of gender in pay expectation, men are statistically more likely to believe their pay and benefits will rise in the next 12 months. Along with the fact that men are more likely to hold positions of seniority in the project management profession, the reasons for this pay optimism could lie in gender studies that show that men have greater self-esteem in the workplace, leading to greater confidence in their own abilities and worth7.  

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7 1970 British Cohort Study, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL, 2022 

Supply of jobs

There’s an overwhelming optimism about the supply of project management jobs over the next five years, with 80% of respondents either optimistic or very optimistic. Indeed, the percentage of those that are very optimistic has risen from 14% in 2021 to 23% in 2023, with a corresponding drop in those that are pessimistic (16% to 12%).  

This reflects a general sense of positivity in the profession that seems to be most keenly felt by the young and those building their careers, with above-average optimism within the 18-24 (83%) and 25-34 year-old (85%) groups.  

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Supply of jobs by sector

In keeping with the general levels of optimism within the industry, we see a significant uptick in many of the individual sectors. Aerospace (up to 88% optimism from 76% in 2021), financial services (89% from 74%), hospitality (88% from 60%), and manufacturing (88% from 72%) all demonstrate resounding levels of positivity.  

However, there are some sectors that aren’t so optimistic about the supply of jobs, in particular, arts/entertainment and heritage, which fell from 80% in 2021 to 63%8, health (79% to 66%), and life sciences (75% to 65%)9.  

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8 Based on a sample of 27 respondents, 9 Based on a sample of 23 respondents

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Organisation growth

After a period of low growth in 2021 caused by the pandemic, the profession has bounced back with renewed strength, increasing recruitment and boosting growth. The proportion of companies looking to recruit additional staff is now at a five-year high at 59%, with a corresponding fall in businesses making redundancies. Given the current economic climate, this optimism is testament to the strength and resilience of the project management industry.  

However, while many sectors are looking to boost growth and recruit, such as construction (72%), consultancy (85%) and defence (76%), there are some that are experiencing a downturn and making redundancies, in particular, the health sector (up from 5% of companies in 2021 to 12%) and central government (2% to 9%). This reverses the levels of optimism seen in the 2021 survey and is perhaps a consequence of belt-tightening in the Treasury to ease government debt.   

Looking at organisational growth by region for people whose role involves project management, it’s clear that companies in the South West and the West Midlands are demonstrating above-average levels of expansion, with 79% and 81% respectively growing their businesses. In contrast, business optimism for London-based companies has decreased, along with those in the East of England and Yorkshire and the Humber.  

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Change of employer

In the employment world, the pandemic caused people to carefully consider their choice of employer, and many decided to either move to a different company or change career altogether. And while the survey shows the project management profession has an increase in those stating they are likely to change their job in the next 12 months, up from 26% in 2021 to 32% in 2023, it’s still not back up to pre-pandemic levels.  

Looking at age, the highest proportion of those showing the most reluctance to change jobs are the young, with 74% of 18-24 year-olds stating they are unlikely to move to a different employer, a similar figure to 2021.  

After an unsettling couple of years, many areas of the profession such as construction, defence, energy, and tellingly, consultancy are choosing to stay where they are, but above-average levels of project professionals in areas such as agriculture, arts/entertainment, health, and retail are predicting a job change in the next 12 months.  

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Job hunting criteria

When asked which aspects are important when looking for a job, the prospect of a higher salary still ranks highest on the list of desires, with 82% citing it as important. However, an increase in remote working has lifted flexible working (66%) and working from home options (62%) into second and third place, above management style/culture, which has dropped to 60% from 64%.  

The large-scale changes in employment culture and technology has had a significant effect on many areas of work, resulting in a marked decrease in location as a key criteria for a new role, which has dropped from 69% pre-pandemic to 54% this year. Following this, the prospect of more opportunities for flexible working has increased in importance for those likely to change employer in the next 12 months.  

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Encouraging talent into the profession

Making a career as attractive as possible to young people and career changers to bring in fresh energy and ideas is vital for all professions, and project management thrives on a steady supply of new talent. But how that talent is encouraged is always hotly debated. This year, having clearer career paths through project management has unseated increasing the visibility of project management in schools, colleges and universities at the top spot, indicating the value of transparency when it comes to career progression.   

Since they are closest to the initial recruitment process, one of the best groups to ask when it comes to understanding how to bring more people into the profession is the 18-24 year-olds. They prefer having more information about project management in their school, college and university, and show a greater need for financial details. Knowing more about the value that project management offers and its ability to develop a variety of skills, however, is less important to them than the general respondents.  

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Future of the profession

After the inevitable confidence dip seen in the previous survey, the amount of project professionals that feel that the industry will be enhanced in the next five years has remained steady at 67%, with just 5% stating it will decrease. This belief in the growth and development opportunities in project management is a strong indication of the high levels of resilience and optimism within the profession and its people.  

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Economic confidence

The personal and business challenges of the energy crisis and high inflation coming so soon after the pandemic has hit confidence in the economic prospects not only of the individual and general economy, but also the respondents’ organisations. For the individual, confidence for their own economic prospects continues to fall, down from 55% in 2021 to 51% in 2023. This follows a high of 65% in 2020.  

While the survey found it was the young that felt the economic downturn the hardest, down from 82% in 2020 to 72% in 2021, this year it’s those in the 35-44 and 45-54 age brackets, dropping down to 50% and 41% respectively. In contrast, individual optimism for the 18-24 year-olds has held steady at 71%.  

There’s also a marked difference in genders, with women now more pessimistic than men, showing a significant decline in optimism from 57% in 2021 to 47% in 2023. As with the Pay and Benefits section, this difference could be explained by a larger proportion of men holding positions of seniority in the project management profession, leading to greater confidence10.  

The general increase in economic pessimism extends to organisations and the economy in general, with the lowest levels of optimism reserved for the economy. While exactly half the respondents are optimistic for their organisation, just 17% have the same feelings about the economy in general. Given the recent pressures on the economy and threat of recession, this should come as no surprise.  

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10 1970 British Cohort Study, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL, 2022.

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In summary: Bouncing back with confidence

It takes a lot of resilience for an industry to come through a global pandemic and remain optimistic and fulfilled, but project management is both resilient and strong, with a good feeling about the future spreading through the profession. As well as two-thirds expecting their pay and benefits to rise, and an overwhelming optimism about the future supply of jobs, people seem to be full of confidence.  

Companies across the vast majority of sectors are seeking to invest and grow, making up for lost time by recruiting skilled staff to deliver new projects. These new staff now have different priorities when it comes to job hunting, with more looking for flexible working options and the ability to work from home.

The fact that project management has adapted well during the past two years of upheaval and now has effective systems in place to enable this stands it in good stead for the workplace revolution. The confidence that currently flows through the industry and trust in its long-term growth is something that not only encourages its existing talent to stay, but attracts new talent to join.  

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