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- Project management is a quickly growing field — and one you can break into without a master's degree.
- Below are 10 online courses and resources, from free intro classes to programs that will prepare you to take the Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP) exam.
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In these rapidly changing times, project management skills are in increasing demand across all industries. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 79,800 new project management jobs between 2019 and 2029, with employment in the field growing at a faster-than-average rate. With this high demand, transitioning into project management is definitely a viable career option for the future.
Even though you can often apply skills from your previous jobs to this field, it's worth thinking about gaining project management certification. The Project Management Institute's Pulse of the Profession report shows that roughly half of organizations require project professionals to hold some type of certification for their role. Even if a position doesn't require a certificate, having one can give you an edge over other applicants.
There are many courses available that teach project management (or specific aspects of it). It's worth looking at job descriptions to see what methodologies and certifications are preferred in the industry you're aiming to work in. If you're still unsure, some of the courses listed below cover both traditional and specialized methodologies, as well as free or affordable introductory courses to get you started.
Here are 10 of the best online courses and programs to kickstart your project management career:
Introductory project management courses
If you're not sure about committing to getting project management certification, you can get a basic project management credential that will help you land a project management job and successfully deliver your first projects. It can also be a useful foundation for a more advanced and specialized certification later on.
For instance, early on in my career, I decided to work towards the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. As the PMP requires 36 months of project management experience, I started with a university project management course that fulfilled the education requirements for the PMP (and acted as a useful addition to my CV until I got the certification).
Project Management for Beginners (Project Management Institute)
Run by the Project Management Institute, this free intro course helps those new to the project world understand project management language, what the role of a project manager is, and the basics of working in a project environment.
Offered by: Project Management Institute
Time commitment: 4 hours
Introduction to Project Management (edX)
This course takes you through the processes for planning, scoping, scheduling, costing, and managing a project. It also covers the communication and people management skills needed for successful project delivery.
Cost: Free; $199 for a certificate
Offered by: The University of Adelaide
Time commitment: 2-3 hours per week for 6 weeks
Certification: A verified certificate is available (Note: This is not the same as having an official Project Management Institute PMP certificate, which requires passing an exam).
Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management (Coursera)
This course covers project management tools, techniques, and processes for project planning, risk management, and project execution. The last week includes a discussion of alternative project execution methods such as Agile and Scrum.
Cost: Free; $59 to access assignments and receive a certificate
Offered by: The University of Virginia
Time commitment: 9 hours over 4 weeks
Certification: A paid certificate is available (Note: This is not the same as having an official Project Management Institute PMP certificate, which requires passing an exam).
Project Management Foundations (LinkedIn Learning)
While it doesn't offer any official PMP certification, this step-by-step introduction to project management is useful for someone who needs to learn project management processes and tools fast. It shows what to do at every stage of the project lifecycle, and explains the difference between traditional and Agile project management techniques. Exercises at the end of each section help you practice what you've learned.
Cost: 1-month free trial, then $39.99 per month to continue learning
Offered by: LinkedIn Learning
Time commitment: 3 hours 20 minutes, plus time to complete exercises
Certification: None, though you can add the completed course to your LinkedIn profile
Practical Project Management certificate (FutureLearn)
This FutureLearn course covers the project lifecycle from beginning to end, using real-world examples to teach practical project management skills. You will learn about developing project plans, tools, and techniques needed at each stage of a project, and how to apply these in the workplace.
Offered by: The University of Glasgow
Time commitment: 10 hours per week for 10 weeks
Certification: Online micro-credential providing 10 academic credits at postgraduate level from the University of Glasgow.
Project Management Basics (Project Management Institute)
Focused on preparing for the Project Management Institute's Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam, this course has practice tests and exams. It covers project management vocabulary and standards, and how project management processes work together.
Cost: $400, plus $225 if you wish to take the exam
Offered by: Project Management Institute
Time commitment: 23 hours
Certification: This is a preparation course for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam. Taking the exam requires a separate application and fee.
Professional Management Professional (PMP) certification prep
The Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is widely recognized internationally and PMP-certified project managers can reportedly earn up to 25% more than non-certified PMPs.
In order to get PMP certification, you'll need to fulfill certain educational requirements and pass the PMP exam. The programs below can help you achieve some of the requirements needed to qualify for taking the exam.
edX MicroMasters in Project Management (edX)
This edX MicroMasters program covers not just technical tools and processes used throughout the project lifecycle, but also the organizational and leadership skills needed to deliver successful projects. It includes three courses (all of which you can individually audit for free):
- Project Management Lifecycle
- Best Practices for Project Management Success
- International Project Management
Offered by: Rochester Institute of Technology
Time commitment: 8-12 hours a week for 8 months
Certification: A MicroMasters certificate is awarded after completing all three courses and passing the exam. This can be credited towards a full master's degree, and also fulfills the education requirements for taking the PMP exam.
UCI Project Management Professional Certificate (Coursera)
This Coursera program takes you through the tools and practices used at each project stage, finishing with a practicum where you apply what you've learned. It covers both traditional and Agile project management methods and includes four courses:
- Launching Your Project
- Planning Your Project
- Executing Your Project
- Project Management Practicum
Cost: $777 per course; $2,980 for all 4 courses and program certificate
Offered by: The University of California, Irvine
Time commitment: 120 hours over 6 months
Certification: A Coursera Professional Certificate is awarded after successfully completing all four courses. This fulfills the education requirements for taking the PMP exam.
Specialized certifications (Agile, PRINCE2)
If you're looking into project management within a specific field, training in a specific methodology may help. For instance, various Agile certifications, such as Scrum Master, are popular in IT and creative industries, while PRINCE2 is more common in Europe and within government organizations.
Professional Certificate in Agile Project Management (edX)
This program has five courses covering Agile project management practices and processes:
- Applied Scrum for Agile Project Management
- Sprint Planning for Faster Agile Team Delivery
- Agile Innovation and Problem Solving Skills
- Agile Leadership Principles and Practices
- Agile Process, Project, and Program Controls
It looks at a range of Agile frameworks including Scrum, Kanban and hybrid Agile, and when it's best to apply these in practice.
Offered by: The University System of Maryland
Time commitment: 2-3 hours per week for 5 months
Certification: Professional certificate
PRINCE2® 6th Edition: Foundation Certification with Official Manual and Exam (FutureLearn)
Another exam preparation course, this one leads to gaining the first level of certification for the PRINCE2 project methodology. It explains the PRINCE2 framework and its core principles, the managerial roles required in a PRINCE2 project, and processes used throughout the project lifecycle.
Cost: $719 (including the exam)
Offered by: QA
Time commitment: 24 hours over 6 weeks
Certification: PRINCE2® Foundation
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