Project management (PM) and information technology (IT) have a complicated relationship. While it's not exactly a core subject for related academic curricula such as computer science, management information systems (MIS) and so forth, PM is something that touches deeply and directly on most IT activities. That probably explains why PM certifications like the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) Project Management Professional (PMP) certification comes out amidst the top 10 top-paying certifications of interest to IT professionals over the past decade.
Project management sits at the heart of most IT activities, including system design and development, deployment or even maintenance. All these routine activities can also be characterized as projects — some of massive scope and duration, others more quick and evanescent. And 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.
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 does not mean there aren't good choices available for free training, too.
We scoured the internet to bring you the best free options around. Here, you'll also get pointers to some outstanding low-cost offerings as well. Don't forget, many colleges and universities offer courses aimed at the PMP and related PMI certifications (such as Certified Associate in Project Management, or CAPM, PMP add-ons for portfolio and program management, plus other credentials for Agile, risk management, scheduling and so forth). These courses cost the same as other college courses and are taught in similar fashion. That puts them halfway between low-cost/no-cost options, and short-term intensive courses from traditional training outlets (such as Global Knowledge, New Horizons and Learning Tree, for example).
The Best of Free PMP Training: MOOCs and More
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 based on open, high-volume, high-capacity cloud-based training platforms such as edX, moodle, COURSEsites, Udemy and versal, among others. 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 ask for fees for testing, certificates of completion, and other add-ons or nice-to-haves, but the basic course material remains free to all interested parties. Here's a short list of some of the best of those 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 PMI PMP certification. At 5:16 in length, 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 392,416 students having either taken or now taking this course (from XSIQ), this MOOC has seen some serious traction to mostly positive reviews. With 27 modules, including about a dozen case studies for analysis and review, it takes from 6 to 10 hours to complete. While it does not 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 page called Project Management among its Courses listings. In addition to the previous diploma item, it lists additional offerings from XSIQ (two fundamentals in English and Arabic), the Saylor Foundation (five courses, including another diploma sequence, an introduction (in French), and topics on working with clients and project teams, managing project start-up, scheduling and budgeting, and quality, risk, procurement and project closeout), and OpenLearn (PM – Project feasibility and life cycle). Enrollments for these courses range from a high of 63,818 (XSIQ intro) to a low of 2,687 (fundamentals in Arabic).
- Udemy courses are not always or even often free, but they're very close. A search on project management at udemy.com produces almost 2,000 courses, of which perhaps 500 are truly relevant to people interested in some facet of PM. 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 200 free and paid courses; narrowing the scope to PMP '35 contact hours' (the PMI's requirement to meet minimum classroom time requirements for authorized PMP training) produces about 80 free offerings and 1,000+ fee-based courses. You'll spend a lot time fiddling with their search engine to find what you want, but there are plenty of choices here.
- edX.org gets many of its project management courses via Microsoft these days. Thus, despite a huge catalog of offerings many of the project management courses relate to Microsoft Project and Microsoft Project Portfolio Management (PPM). I did find a few project management courses from such institutions such as the University of Adelaide, RIT, ANU (Australian National University), and the University of Washington.
- MIT Open Courseware pops up 34 hits on project management but none for PMP. The results show a profound focus on engineering and business management topics. Nevertheless, there's a lot of interesting stuff here, well worth trolling through for those seeking top-notch offerings.
- ProjectManager.com offers more than 100 training videos on all kinds of project management topics. You'll need some time and will power to stitch a curriculum together here, but there's lots of good material available. ProjectManager.com also maintains a YouTube channel where you can easily find training videos.
- YouTube is rife with project management training videos, too. Probably the best of these is Dr. Jimmie Flores' massive free PMP Certification Training Program, though somewhat dated with a 2011 release. Searches at YouTube for project management or PMP produce hundreds of thousands of hits.
- The MOOC List is a website that offers consolidated search for offerings available in the next 30 days (most courses are offered with specific starting dates, so this engine points only to relevant courses starting in the near term). Here, a search on project management produces more than 3,800 hits, including listings for a variety of MOOC platforms such as Open2Study and ApnaCourse.
- The Oxford Home Study Short Course (OHSC) In Project Management is an 80-hour, free online course that introduces candidates to project management, examines the project life cycle and explores the project management role. A certificate is issued at the end of the course.
Low-Cost Stuff Also Offers Some Gems, Too
Most Coursera courses go for $49, and multi-course bundles are also available (such as UC Irvine's Introduction to Project Management Principles and Practices). The Master of Project Academy offers an appealing $125 per month deal for materials that cover the following raft of project management certifications: PMI CAPM and PMP, Agile Scrum, ITIL Foundation, Cisco CCNA and Microsoft Project. The quicker you finish up, the less you pay.
What About Higher-Priced Offerings?
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 who 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 (Lynda.com, Simplilearn, Pluralsight and so forth).
Where to Go From Here?
Start digging into the outlets and offerings that interest you most. When training is free, the only thing you must lose is your time and energy. Thus, you can try things out and pull the plug at any time if they don't work for you. When it comes to for-a-fee training, I recommend looking for online reviews and feedback to help steer you toward the cream of the crop.