Remember school projects? All the anxiety over defining the tasks that needed to be completed? Who was going to get which task? Deadlines? Even budgets! Bet you it’s stressful to just think about that, right? That was project management and you probably didn’t even know!
Usually, the project would be left in the hands of one single student and it’d become their job to keep up with every little task in order to finish the work. This student was in charge of getting the job done and making sure that everything went according to plan. Without their supervision, the information would probably get lost, the team wouldn’t come to terms with their tasks, the time dedicated to the project would be significantly longer, in other words, it would be chaos.
If we were to speed the clock and put this kid in a professional environment, he would become what we call a “Project Manager”, one of the most sought-after professionals today. Companies are always looking for knowledgeable people in the project management field who are capable of managing the company’s growth as well.
But, if it’s such a relevant work position, you probably can’t help but ask: “Where can I learn Project Management?”. If that’s your case, we have good news: this guide will help you find the answer to that question and many others!
1. What is project management?
First of all, how about defining the concept of project management? In simple words, it’s the process of planning, executing, and monitoring a project from beginning to end, making sure it’s completed successfully. Long story short, project managers are catalysts for change.
A Project Manager takes an organized approach to ensure all the company’s projects meet their goals and requirements, and, just as important, are delivered on time and under budget. Here are a few of the PM’s duties:
- Always communicate to the team what work needs to be done and respect the deadline.
- Structure timelines and sequence of activities.
- Outline clear expectations for the project team and manage their performance.
- Identify potential risks and develop a plan to manage or minimize them;
- Work with the team to find a solution when the project falls behind schedule
- Encourage and recognize the valuable contributions of others
- Keep track of the team and ensure everyone is on the same page
- Respect stakeholders
- Stress integrity and accountability
- Be fully vested in the success of the project
Now you might think that becoming a project manager has everything to do with learning a series of complex concepts and abilities, but it’s important to mention that project management is more than technical knowledge: it also requires essential soft skills such as adaptability, strategic business thinking, team building, and conflict resolution capabilities. In general, this career path is a mix of traditional education and emotional intelligence, so, aside from everything you’ll learn in courses, it’s also necessary to build and develop personal strengths to take on this role.
2. Why learn project management?
In 2017, Bain & Company, a famous consultancy firm, released a document with insights into what they called “The firm of the future”. This study consisted of what the next generation of successful companies would look like. One of the things they predicted was that by 2027 most work will be project-based, with Agile teams being the dominant organizational unit.
Considering that projection, it’s safe to assume that the demand for project managers will be growing more rapidly than the demand for skilled workers in other occupations. As a result, those skills are going to be highly demanded by a growing amount of businesses. This makes the field very attractive to a lot of professionals looking for jobs or better opportunities. So, with this scenario within sight, it’s important to start the preparation as soon as possible.
If you see yourself still interested in following this career path (or developing your current work in the field), there are plenty of ways to learn practically everything there is to know on the subject. Should we get to know some of them?
3. Where to learn project management?
First off, it’s important to stress that there’s no “right” education background when someone intends to be a project manager. Actually, according to P. K. Agarwal, CEO of Northeastern University, project managers usually come from all sorts of study areas, such as computer science, engineering, law, business, etc. In fact, PM does not belong to only one industry, it can be used in several business segments. So, getting a project management education is entirely up to your intention to improve yourself or explore a new line of work.
Agarwal also said that becoming PM “Is more about the soft, organizational and administrative skills, the ability to communicate and influence effectively, as well as the attention to details”. This means that anyone can decide to follow a career in project management, as long as they dedicate time and effort to do so.
It’s interesting to point out that it is not particularly necessary to choose a specific graduation program nor pay a determined amount of money to learn PM. Nevertheless, the more you study and the more recognized the institution you get your education from, the better are your chances to stand out. To help you with that decision, in this guide you’ll find both basic and advanced options. Let’s continue?
3.1 Project management 101
Let’s start with the basics: the first step to learning project management can be through taking some introductory online courses. Usually, these courses are short and provide scenarios designed to make the students interact with the work to see if they like it and if they can handle its responsibilities. This is the moment when the student gets a global perspective of the job and, at the same time, gets familiar with general concepts that will be important when they start to dive deeper into the matter.
Here are some examples of websites offering online project management education opportunities: edX, Coursera, Udemy, or Alison. Those platforms usually have introductory courses, with a short duration and, if not free, courses are reasonably priced. A good strategy is to take the most information possible from these platforms since the most complete PM courses in the market usually cost a bit more.
Remember that these platforms are focused on basic education, so you’ll start by learning the fundamentals of project management. Now, let’s talk recommendations:
- Fundamentals of Project Management (Alison): This option offers a comprehensive introduction to project management starting with methodology, toolsets, documentation, and project life cycle.
- Introduction to project management (Alison): It’s more complete and it also contemplates the soft skills concepts, such as teamwork, leadership, and communication.
- Effective Communication for Program and Project Stakeholders and Teams (edX): from this course, you’ll learn how to structure clear communication for a program or project for the most effective understanding by stakeholders, project managers, and project teams.
- Introduction to Project Management (edX): This course teaches practical ways to use project management skills, whether the project is large or small.
- Google Project Management (Coursera): In this Google program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than six months. No degree or experience is required.
- Project Management Principles and Practices (Coursera): A course offered by the University of California, Irvine (UCI), that will teach you how to define a project’s scope, write a project plan, build schedules and create a project budget.
- Project Management & Other Tools for Career Development (Coursera): also offered by UCI. this course will teach you how to allocate project resources, define scope, apply management principles and problem-solving skills, communicate with coworkers, and writing.
Still on the introductory education ground, another great strategy to begin the journey of becoming a PM is to follow this Linkedin learning path. The complete program takes about 11 hours to complete and you’ll tackle several areas in different courses:
- Project Management Foundations (PMF) – you’ll study from building a project plan to managing progress.
- PMF: Ethics – you’ll learn how to recognize and apply appropriate ethical standards to your project
- PMF: Requirements – You’ll get to know an easy 10-step process to manage the requirements for any project).
- PMF: Schedules – you’ll learn how to proactively manage project schedules.
- PMF: Budgets – you’ll study how to manage your project’s budget.
- PMF: Teams – you’ll get to know some tools that leaders can use to assess the character traits of team members and manage the development of teams.
- PMF: Communication – you’ll see some strategies to keep the projects on track, create a communication plan, effectively manage meetings, and write reports).
- PMF: Risk – you’ll learn how to manage project risk.
- PMF: Stakeholders – you’ll be able to know how to identify stakeholder needs and expectations (both explicit and implicit) and how to build and sustain engagement.
3.2 Project management specialization
Since we’ve covered many beginner courses so far, it’s time to talk about the more advanced and comprehensive ones. These will provide more specialized capacitation and a larger understanding of the subject.
First, an interesting option is to take an online project management degree (a great alternative if you don’t want to invest time or resources on a traditional college degree or a PMI course, which can be expensive). The three following examples are degrees that you can get through online education:
- Online Master’s Degree in Project Management from the Colorado State University-Global Campus
- Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Purdue Global University
- Master of Business Administration in Project Management from Liberty University.
Getting an online degree also opens the door for a lot of opportunities, one being the possibility to have an internship in the field. Aside from that, a degree will always be a relevant confirmation of the effort that was put into studying a specific matter. So, this makes it a great alternative for entering the project management world.
4. Project management certifications
Becoming a certified project manager can certainly open up doors for career opportunities and higher-paying jobs but in an environment filled with educational institutions offering multiple specializations, how to identify which one makes sense? Don’t worry, our job is to help you with this important decision.
4.1 PMP – Project Management Institute
Currently, the most renowned institution is the Project Management Institute (PMI), it’s globally recognized by its standards, certifications, resources, tools, and professional development courses. The Institute offers the “PMP® certification”, known to be the most famous project management certification. To study for the PMP Exam, it is recommended to follow the PMBOK Guide and Standards, because it contains the most important guidelines and characteristics needed for project management.
But, there’s a trick, the PMP exam requires a few prior accomplishments:
- Three years of previous working experience as a project manager (or five if you don’t have a degree in PM);
- At least 4,500 hours of experience working on directing a project (or 7,500 if you don’t have a four-year degree);
- 35 hours of formal education on the project management process.
Another relevant detail is that the PMP certification expires every three years, so it’s necessary to renew it due to the changing nature of project management. Also, this certification is mostly known and required in the USA, Canada, and the Middle East.
4.2 CAPM – Project Management Institute
Right now you might be a little scared about the rigorous requirements of PMP and wondering if there’s any certification destined for the beginner level. Yep, there are a few! The most famous one is the “Certified Associate in Project Management – CAPM” and it’s perfect for less experienced people, professionals without a college degree, or those who want to achieve their certification in slower steps.
The requirements are having a high-school diploma, an associate’s degree or equivalent, and at least 1,500 hours of project management experience or 23 hours of project management education. Much easier, right?
Another thing you might be wondering is which certification is the best if you’re not from North America or the Middle East. Well, for Europe and Australia, the most strategic choice would be the PRINCE2 certification (PRojects IN Controlled Environments). This specialization was developed by the UK government and it has two main learning paths you can choose to pursue:
- PRINCE2 Foundation: it’s focused on confirming the student’s basic knowledge of the PRINCE2 method. There are no prerequisites to take this exam and it allows you to work in a team that uses PRINCE2 as a PM method.
- PRINCE2 Practitioner: it focuses on confirming whether the candidate can use the PRINCE2 method in real-life scenarios or not. It allows the applicant to work as a project manager that can apply PRINCE2 principles to a project.
4.4 SCRUM – Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org
A lot of people choose to specialize in a specific methodology instead of general concepts of project management. This usually happens because certain companies are looking for professionals that have a unique qualification in the area, and one of the biggest examples of this is the Scrum methodology. If you’re interested in this framework, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from Scrum Alliance is a great start. The organization provides resources for professional development and has formed more than 450,000 certified practitioners worldwide.
Another organization focused on the Scrum framework is Scrum.org and it provides assignments that can certify your Scrum knowledge. You can choose between the following assessments:
- Professional Scrum Master™
- Professional Scrum Product Owner™
- Professional Scrum Developer™
- Scaled Professional Scrum™
- Professional Agile Leadership™
- Professional Scrum With Kanban™
4.5 But do certifications matter?
Absolutely! They’re still very much relevant! That’s because, especially during the process of job interviews, you’ll probably have to prove your project management knowledge or you’ll be asked by your employer to get a certificate. Aside from the certification, it’s extremely important to value the things you’ve learned during the process of training and taking the exam.
Although having a PM certificate is something that adds up to your professional profile, your experience and knowledge in the segment are definitely the keys to the success of your work. So, if you’re not able to get a certification just yet, you can still prepare and present yourself for career opportunities. Remember, all the diplomas in the world don’t necessarily mean real and applicable knowledge.
5. Complementary and alternative ways
5.1 Start working in the field
A dynamic way of learning PM is by looking for work in the area, but focusing on managing smaller projects, products, or even teams. An internship would be a perfect match for this purpose. This experience will be extremely constructive, it’ll give you a rich perspective of what you’ll be dealing with in the future. It’s your chance to learn and find your talent. And since we’re talking about work opportunities, it’s only fair that we leave this list of websites to find jobs in the project management space:
5.2 Tools and resources
Another small but super strategic tip is to get familiar with project management software. When you or your team track their work in a project management tool, you get all the data you need to see what’s working, where you can improve, and how your projects compare to your benchmarks. With this source of information, you’ll always be learning through every step or detail of your project. Then, you’ll use those stats to make data-driven decisions and comprehend the particularities and the behavior of project management.
Usually, the software’s website and social media have a lot of content aimed at spreading information about project management, which makes it a rich source of knowledge. Take a look at the Nutcache blog where you will find tons of useful information revolving around project management, or try out Nutcache, the complete project management software that has helped several businesses with their projects.
Through this guide, you were able to see the relevance and the growing presence of project management in a business. Although it’s a relatively new career path, it is already making a huge impact on how companies now work and grow.
If you found value in these tips and are considering everything you’ve learned, use this information to develop your own personal and professional abilities. The future is counting on project management and, with the necessary efforts, you can definitely be a part of it!