Career Development

7 of the Best Online Project Management Certification Programs

March 14, 2021

Access to online certification programs in project management has grown with the recent popularization of virtual learning. Whether you are already working in a project management position or are an aspiring professional looking to expand your portfolio of skills, an online certificate program could be a great fit for you.

Both brick-and-mortar schools and web-based platforms offer programs to help you gain the foundational project management training you need to flourish in your career. In this article, we outline seven of the best online certification programs and discuss factors to consider when choosing a program.

What are online project management certificate programs?

Online project management certificate programs are courses you can take from home to learn the basics of project management, including skills and processes that can help you work as a project manager. In nearly every field, project managers play a vital role in helping organizations succeed by planning and directing the completion of specific projects.

Online certification programs in project management can help professionals who are working full time maximize their potential by teaching them the skills they need to effectively plan, schedule, budget and execute projects.

Most commonly, programs prepare candidates with at least 35 educational hours to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Exam, an internationally acknowledged professional designation offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Depending on the program, professionals can also earn degrees, diplomas or additional globally recognized certifications offered by PMI. These include PMI's Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) credential and industry-specific certifications, such as the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) for those who serve in an IT role.

Related: What Is Project Management? Everything You Need To Know

Who is eligible for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification?

Professionals with a four-year bachelor's degree, 36 months of project management experience and 4,500 hours spent directing projects are eligible to earn their Project Management Professional certification. If you don't have a four-year degree, you should have at least a secondary degree (a high school diploma, associate degree or global equivalent), 60 months of project management experience and 7,500 hours spent leading projects.

After achieving one of those two eligibility standards, professionals must earn at least 35 educational hours through PMP certification training. Each of the online programs below either prepares learners for the PMP certification exam or offers training to help professionals strengthen their skills.

Best online project management certificate programs

Here are seven of the top online project management programs, including certificate programs and PMP exam preparation programs, in addition to some pointers for selecting the best course to meet your needs:

1. Colorado State University's M.S. in Project Management

The online master's program in project management at Colorado State University (CSU) is an asynchronous option with a mid-level cost for professionals seeking certification through a degree program from an accredited university or college. CSU's 36-credit program, which prepares students to take the PMP certification exam, offers the opportunity for specialization in numerous fields, ranging from healthcare administration to criminal justice leadership.

2. eCornell's Project Management Certificate Program

Cornell University's online Project Management Certificate Program is a hands-on, instructor-led course with small class sizes (typically less than 35 students). This means that, as a student, you can receive individualized attention from your course instructor, which is unique among online certification programs because they are typically asynchronous and self-guided.

As a whole, this 50-hour program seeks to prepare students for both tangible project management work experiences and the PMP certification exam. While Cornell's program is a little pricier than some alternatives on this list, the interaction and engaged learning experiences that come from having a smaller class size are extremely beneficial.

3. Simplilearn's PMP Certification Training Course

Simplilearn, unlike some traditional project management certificate programs, is a fully-online platform that provides a highly intensive preparation course for the PMP certification exam. Simplilearn's curriculum calls upon the expertise of real-life project managers who have experience working in the field. With a combination of live online classes and self-guided materials, Simplilearn presents a hybrid option for independent learners who have a desire to interface with peers and instructors. This affordable program offers 90 days of flexible access to classes, which is ideal for full-time professionals.

4. Brain Sensei's PMP Exam Prep Course

Brain Sensei is currently one of the most highly recommended online PMP certificate courses. Like Simplilearn, Brain Sensei's e-learning program is a training course that mainly focuses on helping professionals get ready to pass their PMP certificate exams. Brain Sensei offers this training at a lower rate than some other platforms.

Rather than helping professionals achieve an additional degree, Brain Sensei's program provides learners with nine multi-assessment modules and over 800 practice exam questions over the span of six months. This type of exam prep course is most suitable for experienced professionals looking to advance their careers while working.

5. Coursera's Applied Project Management Certificate Program

Coursera offers the Applied Project Management Certificate Program through the University of California, Irvine. The six-month program is divided into four different modules that cover a variety of project management topics, such as interfacing with stakeholders, delegating tasks and forming excellent communication plans. Even further, students will gain experience with Scrum and Agile project management techniques.

As a platform, Coursera offers members the additional benefit of accessing a plethora of supplemental prerecorded lectures uploaded by companies and schools worldwide. This program is designed for current project managers with three to five years of professional experience, and it satisfies the education requirements you need to take the PMP certification exam.

Related: 9 Agile Certifications for IT Project Management

6. Pace University's Practical Project Management Certificate Program

Pace University's two-week Practical Project Management Certificate Program is an excellent short-term option for professionals of all levels. The course seeks to cover the fundamentals of project management, including effective tools and methodologies proven for success.

By establishing a foundation of project management skills, students in Pace's program graduate with the competency to oversee a project from start to finish. While Pace's program does not explicitly set out to prepare learners for the PMP certification exam or others, it offers a broad focus suitable for many fields.

7. Alison's Diploma in Project Management Program

Alison is a highly accessible, free learning platform that offers over 1,000 online courses. Their Diploma in Project Management Program, which you can complete in 10 hours, is a useful option for professionals who are just starting out in the project management field. Alison helps learners apply project management theories and skills to real-world situations they may encounter in their careers.

Alison's course is shorter and isn't designed to help prep for the PMP certification exam, but it is a worthwhile venture for professionals looking to learn about best practices. Alison's program is particularly useful in establishing student knowledge of specific methodologies, such as Scrum and Agile, and tools, such as Gantt charts.

Related: 6 Certifications You Can Get Online to Help Advance Your Career

Factors to take into consideration when choosing a program

With so many options to choose from, selecting an online certification program that best fits your needs can be challenging. It is important to examine all aspects of a program prior to deciding which would most benefit your career. After all, it is crucial to optimize your time and effort as a project manager.

Here are some key factors to take into consideration when choosing which certificate program to pursue:

Cost

Online project management certificate programs are an investment in your future as a professional. While some companies offer employees professional development stipends to fund their supplemental education, others rely on employees to self-fund such ventures. Therefore, cost is a major factor to consider when selecting a project management certificate program. The courses listed above vary in cost—for instance, Alison's program is completely free, whereas CSU's program has a higher price.

Length of program

While most online project management certificate programs are asynchronous, meaning learners can complete them whenever it is most convenient, some programs take longer than others. Programs offered by accredited brick-and-mortar universities, in which graduates are awarded degrees, may take longer to complete. In contrast, other programs that simply aim to prep students for the PMP certificate exam are shorter and can be completed alongside a full-time work schedule.

Where you are in your career

What program you choose will largely depend on where you are situated in your career and what goals you have for the future. If you are a current project manager without certification looking to bolster your skill set and credibility, a short-term course that focuses on prepping students for the PMP certification exam may be best for you.

Conversely, if you are an entry-level employee or recent graduate seeking to build a foundation of skills, a longer-term degree program that helps with professionalization may be beneficial. It is similarly important to seek programs that focus on industry-specific certifications and skills.

Former student testimonies

Most of the information found online about different project management certification programs comes from schools themselves or affiliates. This can make it challenging to find impartial information regarding the success of specific programs. Because of this, it can be advantageous to speak with current or former students of the programs you are interested in.

This can help you better understand what a program is like from an unbiased student perspective and provide you with essential insight on factors like workload, access to instructors, differing levels of peer collaboration, specialized curriculum and more. Former students may even give you a better idea of how different project management certificates have helped professionals in their current roles.

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