- While paid educational programs are available, IT managers interested in project management can take advantage of free training materials.
- Many project management certifications require an exam to demonstrate your competency in the information the course covers.
- An IT certification can propel your career forward, give you more experience and advance your project management skills.
- This article is for IT professionals, managers and entrepreneurs interested in project management training.
Project management and information technology (IT) have a complicated relationship. While it’s not exactly a core subject for related academic curricula, project management is something that touches deeply and directly on most IT activities. That probably explains why project management certifications command a constant presence among the top 10 top-paying certifications of interest to IT professionals over the past decade.
Given the incredible popularity and demand for project management skills and knowledge, it is no surprise that one can find commercial project management training courses to fit nearly every schedule and budget. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good choices available for free training. In this article, you’ll learn about some of the best project management training systems and certifications to help you become a better IT manager.
What are some free project management training options?
An online education phenomenon is reshaping the training landscape as we know it. It’s based on free online training courses called MOOCs, short for massively online open courses. These are housed on open, high-volume, high-capacity, cloud-based training platforms, such as edX, Moodle and Udemy.
While monetization of training is possible on some of these platforms, a MOOC is supposed to be free for the taking. Organizations or institutions that offer such free courses can still charge fees for testing, certificates of completion and other add-ons, but the basic course materials remain free to all interested parties.
Here’s a list of some of the best project management offerings.
Cybrary Course CYB-2010: Project Management Professional
Professional instructor Vincent McKeown delivers a 10-module series of video lectures, each of which maps to a domain in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) for the Project Management Institute Project Management Professional (PMI PMP) certification. At just over five hours, the course is neither incredibly detailed nor extensive, but it does provide a useful orientation for those just getting started on the subject.
ALISON: Diploma in Project Management
With more than 282,000 students having either taken or now taking this course, this MOOC has seen some serious traction to mostly positive reviews. The course contains three modules, covers 28 topics and takes 10 to 15 hours to complete. While it doesn’t map directly to the PMP or other project management credentials, it does provide a useful introduction to the subject matter.
Other ALISON courses on project management
As a full-fledged MOOC delivery platform, ALISON offers a project management page among its course listings. In addition to the previous diploma item, it has courses about project management fundamentals, skills, resource management and a host of other topics.
Udemy courses are not always or even often free, but many are inexpensive. A search for project management on Udemy produces hundreds of courses. Most cost between $20 and $50 each, although we found many as low as $10 and a few on the high end at $200. A search on PMP produces more than 2,600 free and paid courses. You’ll spend a lot of time fiddling with the search engine to find what you want, but there are plenty of choices here.
EdX gets many of its project management courses via Microsoft these days. As a result, despite a huge catalog of offerings, many of the project management courses relate to Microsoft Project and Microsoft Project Portfolio Management (PPM). We did find a few project management courses from institutions such as the University of Adelaide, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Australian National University and the University of Washington.
FYI: The best online project management software can help companies organize their work and monitor tasks big and small.
A search on MIT OpenCourseWare produces thousands of results for project management courses, many of which show a profound focus on engineering and business management topics. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of interesting stuff here that’s well worth trawling through for those seeking top-notch offerings.
ProjectManager.com has 30 guides designed to help you learn the basics of project management. Inside many of these guides are video tutorials that provide more information about their respective topics. You’ll need some time and willpower to stitch a curriculum together here, but there’s lots of good material available. The company also maintains a YouTube channel, where you can easily find training videos.
YouTube is rife with project management training videos. Searches on YouTube for “project management” or “PMP” produce hundreds of thousands of results.
The MOOC List allows you to execute a consolidated search for trainings available in the next 30 days. Most courses are offered with specific starting dates, so this database points only to relevant courses starting in the near term.
Oxford Home Study Short Course
The Oxford Home Study Centre offers several project management courses that introduce candidates to the many aspects of project management, project life cycles and project management roles. A certificate is issued at the end of each course.
Saylor Academy has two project management courses: one in the business field and the other in software engineering. The first course requires 62 hours and covers the key elements of project management and its more technical details. The software engineering course totals 41 hours and presents topics ranging from life cycle models to design quality assurance. Upon completing either course, you’ll receive a free certificate.
GoSkills pulls up 30 project management courses when searching for project management. These courses span basic frameworks, software programs and process control. Each course includes video tutorials along with tests and quizzes to help you prepare for project management exams and earn learning hours toward your certification.
Key takeaway: Various online platforms offer free training, lessons and certification prep for deeper dives into project management skills and practices. It’s just a matter of sorting through the available options to find the ones that appeal to you.
What are some low-cost project management training options?
If you’re willing to spend a small sum of money, there are some appealing low-cost project management training options. For example, most Coursera courses are $49, and multicourse bundles are also available (such as UC Irvine’s Introduction to Project Management Principles and Practices). The Master of Project Academy offers numerous free online training courses for project management certifications, such as the PMP, CAPM, Six Sigma and Prince 2. However, for $397 per month, you can purchase an all-course bundle that includes all Master of Project Academy courses.
Like UC Irvine, many colleges and universities offer courses aimed at the PMP and related PMI certifications, such as CAPM and PMP add-ons for portfolio and program management, as well as other credentials for risk management, scheduling and so forth. These courses cost the same as other college courses and are taught in a similar fashion. That puts them halfway between low-cost/no-cost options and short-term, higher-priced intensive courses from traditional training outlets such as Global Knowledge, New Horizons and Learning Tree.
What are some higher-priced project management training options?
Hundreds to thousands of other offerings for project management training at higher costs are readily available around the globe. For PMP or other PMI certifications, there’s a whole network of partners that teach an official curriculum. Some are in academia; others offer purely commercial courses. All the biggest training companies offer PMP and related certification training, as do the major online training players (such as LinkedIn Learning, Simplilearn and Pluralsight).
Did you know?: Our project management software buying guide is designed to help small businesses find the right product for managing their operations.
What skills do I need to become a project manager?
Project management software is at the heart of most IT activities, including system design and development, deployment, and maintenance. All of these routine activities can also be characterized as projects – some of massive scope and duration, others more quick and evanescent. Indeed, that’s why project management skills and knowledge are in high demand among IT professionals in nearly every specialty and area of technical focus in that field.
The best project managers possess a great eye for detail and are highly organized. Masters of soft skills, they are clear, concise and effective communicators in both speaking and writing. These professionals are excellent problem-solvers and negotiators. It’s also helpful if they have an understanding of cross-functional areas – such as supply chain, HR and resource constraints; procurement; finance; and change orders – which may impact overall project outcomes.
What are some popular project management methodologies?
As a project management professional, you’ll find no shortage of methodologies. There is no one “right” methodology, and the one you choose to practice will be influenced by factors like the type of project, industry sector and your business’s preference. When choosing project management training materials, look for courses that complement the methodology you want to practice.
These are some of the most popular project management styles and frameworks:
- Waterfall is a traditional project management methodology with a linear downward process flow. Design changes are difficult to implement. Project phases include system and software requirements, analysis, design, coding, testing, and operations. It’s often used with large projects where defined schedules are required and few changes are expected.
- Six Sigma project managers (usually referred to as Black, Green or Yellow belts) focus on improving quality and efficiency by identifying what doesn’t work and removing it from the process. A Six Sigma Black Belt, for example, would define the problem, measure the current process, analyze data, improve the process and then control the future process.
- Agile was introduced in 2001 as a response to the Agile Manifesto and originally geared toward software development. In the Agile framework, teams are collaborative and self-organizing. Projects are incremental and iterative, enabling team members to move quickly and respond to change.
- Scrum, a type of Agile framework, focuses on five core values – courage, commitment, openness, respect and focus. As with Agile, teams are collaborative. Iterations are organized into short blocks of time called “sprints,” which enable great flexibility to respond to design change. A Scrum master (a servant-leader) holds daily meetings where team members discuss what they did the day before and what they plan to accomplish each day. [Related article: What Is Agile Scrum Methodology?]
- Kanban, another type of Agile framework, is popular in manufacturing environments. Teams are collaborative and self-managing. Kanban practices include visualization, limiting work in progress, flow management, making policies explicit, feedback and collaborative evolution.
- PMI PMBOK (the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge), while not strictly a project management methodology, is a well-known and respected standard for project management practices. PMI’s certifications, especially its PMP credential, are among the most coveted project management credentials. PMBOK practices focus on five primary process areas: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing.
FYI: While project management is all about managing workflow, project resource management is about ensuring resources are being used efficiently.
How long does it take to get a project management certification?
Requirements to earn a project management certification are set by the individual certification provider and may include a combination of exams, specific training courses, and minimum education level or experience. The requirements to earn advanced certifications are generally more than those for entry-level credentials. For example, the Project Management Professional is one of the most highly prized certifications available. In addition to passing a rigorous exam, candidates must also possess a combination of education, project management education and experience.
CompTIA’s Project+, an entry-level certification, recommends that candidates have 12 months’ experience before attempting the exam. However, since this is a recommendation only, candidates can obtain this certification by sitting for the exam regardless, which makes it the only one we found that is available without requiring additional training, education or experience.
In the table below, you’ll find information on obtaining five popular project management certifications. For more details, see our roundup of the best project management certifications.
|CompTIA Project+||Entry||1||12 months’ experience recommended|
|Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)||Entry||1||High school diploma and 1,500 hours of project experience or 23 hours of project management education|
|Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)||Entry||1||Two-day, fee-based training course|
|Project Management Professional (PMP)||Advanced||1||Four-year college degree, 4,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education or CAPM certification or High school or associate’s degree, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education or CAPM certification|
|Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB)||Advanced||1||Three years of experience in one or more of the Six Sigma Body of Knowledge areas, plus one completed project with signed affidavit or two completed projects with signed affidavits and three years of work experience|
Key takeaway: There are several types of project management certifications. Some are more difficult than others, and each one has its own requirements for candidates.
Are IT certifications necessary?
You don’t necessarily need an IT certification to lead projects in the field. However, obtaining an IT certification can help you gain more knowledge and skills for effectively managing projects and leading your team. Getting an IT certification can also result in a salary increase and make your résumé more appealing to employers.
If you believe an IT certification could be a good addition to your career, the first step is to choose the area in which you want to receive a certification; project management is hardly the only option. Below are more than a dozen of the best certification areas for IT professionals.
- Big data
- Business continuity and disaster recovery
- Cloud IT
- Computer forensics
- Computer hardware
- Computer networking
- Data center
- Enterprise architect
- Healthcare IT
- Help desk
- Information security
- IT governance
- IT trainer
- Mobile app development
- Project management
- System administrator
- Unified communications
- Virtualization certifications
- VoIP and telephony
- Wireless networking
How should I get started with project management training?
Start digging into the outlets and offerings that interest you most. When training is free, the only thing you have to lose is your time and energy. Thus, you can try things out and stop at any time if they don’t work for you. When it comes to paid training, we recommend looking at online reviews, seeking personal recommendations from people you know and trust, and requesting feedback from former course attendees or materials users to help steer you toward the right choice.
Shayna Waltower contributed to the writing and research in this article.