Project management training is a complex undertaking. After all, you’re learning how to manage projects from inception through planning and execution. That means you need to learn the intricacies of managing tasks, setting timelines, making assignments, and leading teams—and that’s in addition to understanding the project’s underlying technology.
In other words, it’s an intense combination of technical and soft skills, especially if you want to unlock the upper ranges of seniority and compensation. So what’s the best way to launch your project management training? For answers, we spoke to Waikit Lau, co-founder and CEO of remote collaboration platform developer RemoteHQ, and Shravan Goli, Chief Product Officer at Coursera, on the benefits and challenges of such training.
What are some good resources to find about IT project management courses and training?
Lau noted that, while a lot can be learned by online classes or real-world classes, what drives project management is interpersonal dynamics.
“That’s the day-to-day team dynamics, and a lot of that is really hard to teach, and a dimension that isn’t there theoretically,” he said. “Based on my experiences, I find the best training ground is actually not any of the certification programs, because nothing beats learning by doing.”
That being said, many project managers find certifications (more on those below) and formal training a necessary part of their project-management journey. Goli said Coursera offers quite a few resources on its platform for IT project management training, including the Introduction to Project Management Guided Project (for the true novice), as well as professional certificates such as the UCI Project Management Professional Certificate.
Many schools and universities offer in-class and online project management training—including Project Management and Other Tools from the University of California, Irvine, and Managing an Agile Team from the University of Virginia. The Project Management Institute (which offers big-in-industry certifications such as the PMP) also has classes and resources.
What qualifications does one need to get a project management job?
As Goli pointed out, the necessary project manager qualifications may differ from employer to employer. No matter what the job or industry, however, a project manager must be well-rounded in both the technical and human-relations aspects of leading a team.
“Because the job duties are so far-reaching, and diverse, project managers need expertise not only in their industry or management techniques, but also in communicating and building relationships,” Goli said. “Some employers may require certification in project management, either as a substitute for a degree in project management, or as an additional credential—there is some flexibility.”
That being said, he added, almost all potential employers want to select the most educated and experienced members of staff to lead projects, so ongoing development is key for a successful career in this space. You need to stay constantly informed about the latest technologies that support your projects, for starters.
Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes job-posting data from across the country, has a breakdown of the requested skills that pop up most frequently in project manager job postings. Based on these, it’s clear that emphasizing management skills during your training, as well as the job interview process, can help you land the position you want:
What are good project management certifications to get?
The pandemic is having a devastating impact around the world, and this is affecting how teams work and communicate very acutely. If you want to become a project manager in the short-term, you’ll need to optimize how you interact with teams remotely.
“This increases project risk, as multiple teams in separate locations strive to work together 24/7, thus requiring the best skills possible to handle this,” Goli said. “In fact, it invites a welcomed reality check by magnifying small issues and inefficiencies that we usually tolerated in our daily work in the office.”
Teams that adapt quickly to these challenges have a better chance of growing more successfully and efficiently, particularly as remote working becomes the new normal.
Lau also noted that within larger companies—as opposed to startups—there’s more structure to rolling out large, complicated tech initiatives: “If you don’t have the training, it’s hard for people making the jump to the enterprise to be successful, because they’re now in the belly of the beast, it’s mission critical software, but it’s moving slow by definition.”
For folks who are interested in managing and working in these sorts of large-scale environments, there’s a lot of opportunity out there. “For the larger companies that are more and more IT-backed, I think demand for project managers will certainly rise,” Lau added. “There’s a whole sphere of things companies need to think about, big projects that need to be carefully rolled out—for them it’s like flying at 100 mph and rebuilding the wing in flight.”
With that in mind, here are some key project management certifications that many project managers obtain as part of their training:
Project Management Professional (PMP)
This ultra-popular certification, offered by the Project Management Institute, has some strong requirements, including a four-year degree and 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM certification. You’ll also need three years’ experience in leading projects. Not for beginners, in other words.
Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
CAPM (also managed by the Project Management Institute) is for beginners who haven’t racked up quite enough experience to land their PMP.
Certified Project Director
A certification devoted to the more complicated aspects of project management, such as budgeting for large projects. It is overseen by the Global Association for Quality Management.
Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)
This certification, overseen by the EC-Council, indexes management skills, including technical abilities.
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
This Scrum Alliance, certification deals with project managers’ knowledge of Agile, Scrum, and so on. Some project managers consider it an essential certification for team management.
Professional Scrum Master (PSM)
Produced by Scrum.org, this certification covers the skills and knowledge of Agile, Scrum, and the role of the Scrum Master. There are three levels of certifications for PSM.