Online courses play a unique role within project management careers because of the continual training requirements set forth by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Namely, to earn or maintain your status as a certified project manager, PMI requires you to earn a set amount of Professional Development Units (PDUs), with 1 PDU roughly equalling 1 hour of education.
- Before you can earn your status as a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), you need to complete 23 hours of training in project management from a PMI-authorized training partner.
- Before you can earn your status as a Project Management Professional (PMP), you need to complete 35 hours of training, among other requirements.
- After being certified as either of the two: a CAPM or PMP, you need a minimum of 15 hours of training every three years to retain your status.
Thus, as a professional working in this field, sooner or later you will have to get used to taking project management courses. While physical classroom lectures can also earn you PDUs, they tend to be more expensive and time-intensive, which is why going the online route is usually the most efficient method of acquiring PDUs.
There will be a course on this list to suit your needs, whether you’re someone completely new to leading projects or already a certified expert looking to go deeper into the nitty-gritty of Agile development.
Keep in mind, though, that not all online project management courses on the Internet are led by PMI-registered education providers. If you want to earn PDUs from your project management courses, you will need to go with a registered education provider.
By going with any of the course picks from this article, you have nothing to worry about as they are all led by PMI-authorized organizations.
These are the five best online project management courses.
Best Project Management Courses
1. Google Project Management Certificate (Coursera x Google)
Our pick for the very best online project management course is the “Google Project Management Certificate,” led by Google and offered on Coursera. This course costs $39 per month and has a duration of 137 hours.
This is one of Coursera’s specialization courses, meaning that it consists of multiple individual shorter courses. In the case of this program, that number is six. To earn the full certificate, you’ll have to complete all six of the courses, but you can also take any individual course separately if you wish to do so.
These are the courses covered within this specialization, together with the number of PDUs you get for each of them:
- Foundations of Project Management. This course takes 15 hours to complete and awards 10 PDUs.
- Project Initiation: Starting a Successful Project. This course takes 19 hours to complete and awards 18 PDUs.
- Project Planning: Putting It All Together. This course takes 25 hours to complete and awards 20 PDUs.
- Project Execution: Running the Project. This course takes 23 hours to complete and awards 23 PDUs (including 2 Leadership PDUs).
- Agile Project Management. This course takes 22 hours to complete and awards 23 PDUs.
- Capstone: Applying Project Management in the Real World. This course takes 33 hours to complete and awards 23 PDUs.
If you’re aiming for the Google Career Certificate, you’ll want to complete all of the six courses above. However, if your aim is to simply take the CAPM certification exam, another viable route to take would be taking a single course to get the 23 required PDUs.
Considering that this full line-up of courses can be completed for as little as $100 when studying full-time, you’re getting the best possible price point out of any project management course I’ve ever seen. Coupled with the fact that it’s led by industry experts from Google, it becomes a deal that’s hard to ignore.
Throughout the course curriculum, you’ll learn about:
- Popular project management methodologies such as the Agile methodology.
- Various project collaboration techniques practiced by Google employees.
- Optimized resource allocation within a project lifecycle.
- Risk management and stakeholder management.
- Roles and responsibilities of a successful project manager.
In truth, the list of topics covered in this course goes far beyond these bullet points. With nearly 140 hours of instruction, you can expect to learn all the fundamentals of project management and then some.
Then, after you’ve managed to go through the first five courses, you’ll apply this knowledge to a series of hands-on projects that put your newly acquired skills to the test, finishing off with a capstone project.
Students who have taken Coursera specializations before will instantly know what I’m referring to. These capstone projects are large-scale, real-world, and force you to apply all the knowledge you have. All the capstone project submissions are peer-reviewed and are meant to measure your abilities to successfully apply the project management skills acquired throughout the curriculum.
Whether you’re looking to kickstart your career and need an introduction to project management or you’re already an experienced project manager who wants to take a deep dive into the Agile methodology, the courses in this program can be a valuable addition to any project manager’s resume. Plus, it’s one of the quickest and most efficient ways to earn your CAPM. This is a course you simply can’t miss, and that is why we ranked it as the very best project management course on the market.
2. Project Management Principles and Practices Specialization (Coursera x University of California, Irvine)
At a close second place, “Project Management Principles and Practices Specialization” on Coursera is another excellent project management course. This course costs $49 per month, has a duration of 26 hours, and is led by the University of California, Irvine (UCI). UCI ranks #86 in global university rankings, and the program is taught by university faculty Margaret Meloni.
In addition to her work at the University of California, Irvine, Margaret Meloni is the founder of her own project management coaching company, and she has extensive experience in both IT project management and project management office (PMO) leadership.
Now, as for the course, expect to find a wealth of information related to project managers:
- Initiating, planning, and scheduling successful projects.
- Establishing realistic budgets for your projects and understanding cost management.
- Identifying, managing, and prioritizing project risks.
The list of topics goes on and on, and the syllabus finishes off with a large capstone project, similarly to Google’s course listed at #1. While the syllabus is not nearly as comprehensive as in Google’s course, this class still provides a great overview of the fundamentals of managing projects successfully. And, the course provides exactly 35 PDUs, which is exactly enough for the PMP and more than enough for the CAPM exam.
All in all, this Coursera specialization is an excellent choice for beginner project managers who are looking to build a solid foundation of skills, as well as for project managers wanting to get enough PDUs to retain their status as certified project managers. It’s not as detailed as Google’s course, but for those of you in search of a shorter project management course, this one is definitely worth checking out.
On a final note, consider subscribing to Coursera Plus to get access not only to this course but also Google’s course listed at #1 and 3000 others all within a single subscription of $59 per month ($33.25 per month if paid annually). For active MOOC students, this deal offers one of the best bangs for the buck in the entire industry.
3. MicroMasters Program in Project Management (edX x Rochester Institute of Technology)
At spot number three, we have the “RITx MicroMasters Program in Project Management“, available on edX. This course is led by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), ranking #653 in world university rankings, and is taught by university faculty Leonie Fernandes and Celine Gullace. This program costs $1213 and takes between 240 and 360 hours to complete.
This MicroMasters program works in a similar way to the aforementioned Coursera specializations in that it consists of a selection of individual courses:
- Project Management Life Cycle. This course takes 80-120 hours to complete and awards 35 PDUs.
- Best Practices for Project Management Success. This course takes 88 to 132 hours to complete and awards 35 PDUs.
- International Project Management. This course takes 72 to 108 hours to complete and awards 35 PDUs.
You can take any single course separately, or you can take all three and earn the full MicroMasters certificate of completion.
All the courses in this program provide exactly 35 PDUs, which is good for you if you are an experienced project manager undertaking the PMP certification exam (it requires either 35 PDUs or completion of the CAPM exam).
And, it’s also good for you if you’re new to project management and you’re simply trying to take the CAPM which requires 23 PDUs. Any of the three courses included in this program will provide you with more than enough units to take the exam.
Compared to the other institutions featured in this list of the best project management courses, however, The Rochester Institute of Technology does not rank as highly. As of the writing of this article, it ranks #935 in the world university rankings.
All in all, though, this training course is worth checking out. It’s comprehensive and provides you with university-level knowledge of project management principles.
4. Project Management Foundations (GetSmarter x University of Cape Town)
The next course that’s deserving of a spot among the best project management courses is “Project Management Foundations,” led by the University of Cape Town and offered on the GetSmarter online learning platform. This program costs $986 and has a duration of 70 to 100 hours.
This course is beginner-level and provides a comprehensive overview of the key concepts you would expect from a project management course, such as effective project management techniques, stakeholder management, leadership skills, project integration management, and more.
Similar to the aforementioned courses, this course is eligible for professional development units: 68.25 PDUs to be exact. This is more than enough PDUs to cover the hours needed for both the CAPM and PMP certification exams, and considering the price point, it’s not a bad deal. The University of Cape Town scores a respectable #109 in world university rankings and the course is taught by senior lecturers at the university.
However, for those trying to optimize their training hours for the purpose of taking PMI exams, the 68.25 PDUs awarded from this course are not exactly ideal. This is worsened by the fact that you have no option to split the course into smaller chunks similar to the previous courses. You either have to fully commit to the massive 68.25 PDUs, or you’re not getting anything. For a higher spot in this ranking of the best project management courses, I would expect to see an option to pick and choose units from within the full-length syllabus.
All in all, though, if you’re looking for an in-depth introduction to project management at a reasonable price point, consider enrolling in this online project management course.
5. Oxford Leading Strategic Projects Programme (GetSmarter x Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford)
Next up in this list of the best project management courses, we have the “Oxford Leading Strategic Projects Programme” on GetSmarter, costing $2982 and taking 42 to 60 hours to complete. This class is led by the Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford, ranking #5 in global university rankings, and is taught by university faculty Harvey Maylor and Alexander Budzier.
While the instructors of this project management class are renowned professors, the pricing will cause many to raise their eyebrows. With a price tag of $2,982 and a course duration of up to 60 hours (depending on your self-paced learning speed), the price per academic hour is one of the steepest I’ve seen in project management courses. Plus, as the course only awards a total of 21.50 PDUs, it does not even cover the required project management education to take the CAPM exam.
However, those who can afford it and who are willing to substitute this course with another before taking the CAPM will find a good introductory project management course here. Here’s what you’ll learn by taking the Oxford Leading Strategic Projects Programme:
- Analyzing project risks.
- Adapting to geopolitical and sociopolitical project complexities.
- Responding to project scope challenges arising from structural complexities.
- Understanding project stakeholder expectations and gaining trust with partnering.
- Negotiating and cooperating with project stakeholders.
- Managing conflict resolution across your project team.
Much of the syllabus is centered around dealing with various challenges that project managers have to deal with on a daily basis. Not as much emphasis is placed on comparing traditional project planning methods to the newcomers such as Agile, and relatively little focus is also placed on specific project management tools.
Despite that, though, this course is a good choice for students who can afford the hefty price tag. It is a course led by the University of Oxford, after all.
In conclusion, there is a multitude of excellent project management courses to choose from. Some are better optimized for PMI certification exams than others, and the prices tend to vary by quite a large percentage. For value seekers, we recommend the top two courses on this list, and for the very best value, you can subscribe to Coursera Plus and get access to all three top picks on this list, plus a ton of others without having to pay for each one separately.