Graduate Certificate Programs in Project Management
Graduate certificate programs in project management offer college graduates and mid-career professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree with opportunities to study the principles and practices of project management, cultivate applied project management skills, and earn graduate credits without having to enroll in a full graduate degree program. These programs are offered by accredited colleges and universities typically through academic departments or divisions that have master’s and/or doctoral programs in one or more business-oriented fields, such as operations management, supply-chain management, organizational leadership, and project management.
These programs are designed for students who have completed their undergraduate studies and are interested in adding advanced proficiencies that have real-world applications in managing projects for businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and other organizations and enterprises throughout the economy, without committing the time and money required to earn a master’s degree. Indeed, one of the primary advantages of project management graduate certificate programs is that they allow qualified students to specialize in project management and add valuable skills they can directly use in their current place of employment in less time than it takes to earn a master’s degree.
Project Management Explained
Project management refers to a set of clearly articulated processes that are used to oversee the effective completion of distinct operations that have set budgets and timeframes. In the parlance of project management, projects are discrete, goal-oriented endeavors and complex, purposeful activities that involve allocations of human, physical, and financial resources, require coordinated cooperative action, and that thus compel advanced planning, group management, and well-defined decision-making protocols.
Project management professionals rely on theoretical frameworks and evidence-based models grounded in research and case studies in organizational management and behavioral science. They use this body of knowledge to define a project’s scope, allocate sufficient resources, anticipate potential problems, ensure quality control, and set practical goals in order to bring projects to successful completion on time and on budget. While project management is often thought of as a business function and is indeed offered as a specialization in many Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs, the knowledge, principles, and practices of project management have applications throughout the private and public sectors, in research and development, manufacturing, engineering, information technology, media and communication, healthcare and medicine, education, human and social services, government, and many other areas.
Identifying and Classifying Graduate Certificate Program in Project Management
There are several key characteristics that can be used to identify project management graduate certificate programs. Most graduate certificate programs with a project management curriculum are designated as graduate or post-baccalaureate certificate programs in project management. These programs consist of a relatively small cluster of courses that focus exclusively on project management knowledge, skills, principles, and practices and that align with the ideas articulated in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and its companion guide published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a global nonprofit project management professional organization.
While the number of required courses and credits varies by program, graduate certificate programs in project management generally consist of four, five, or six graduate courses that can be completed in less than one year by part-time students. Finally, because graduate certificate programs are comprised of master’s-level courses that confer graduate credits, these programs require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although students who have completed a master’s or doctoral program are also eligible for graduate certificate programs.
Note: In addition to post-baccalaureate graduate certificate programs, there are post-master’s or post-graduate certificate programs that require students to hold a master’s degree prior to enrollment. While these types of programs are not common in the field of project management, some project management graduate certificate programs may require students to have one or more years of relevant professional experience to be considered for admission.
Project Management Graduate Certificate Coursework
As noted in the section above, project management graduate certificate programs generally aim to provide coursework and instruction that aligns with core elements of the body of knowledge outlined and detailed in the PMI’s PMBOK. While individual programs may each take their own approach to covering core project management proficiencies, a typical project management graduate certificate program includes the following types of courses:
- Foundations of Project Management
- Project Communications Management
- Leading Project Teams
- Quantitative Analysis and Decision-Making
- Risk Management for Project Managers
- Project Time and Quality Management
- Case Studies in Effective Project Management
Among the topics covered in project management graduate certificate courses are strategies for initiation, planning, resourcing, tracking, and closing projects, as well as tools for budgeting, personnel management, scheduling, conflict resolution, performance assessment, and quality control. In addition, many graduate certificate programs offer courses in coaching and mentoring, diversity and inclusion, project management technologies, and professional communication for project managers.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Project Management
In an effort to provide students a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based graduate certificate programs, many schools offer online programs in many fields, including project management. Online instruction has the additional advantage of expanding the reach of academic programs to students who do not live or work within comfortable commuting range of a school’s campus. However, there are several key variations in online programs that students should consider when exploring their options for earning a graduate certificate in project management online.
Fully online graduate certificate programs offer all of their coursework via distance learning technologies and do not require students to attend any campus visits. Many online graduate certificate programs in project management are structured this way. However, some online programs require students to attend a limited number of campus-based in-person sessions that are typically short in duration and are designed to accommodate students who are traveling from out-of-state. For example, an online program may hold an on-campus orientation session over a long weekend at the start of the program and an additional campus-based intensive or immersion session at which students attend workshops and seminars later in the program for four or five consecutive days so that students who are working full-time can use allotted vacation time and/or personal time off in order to attend.
Programs that offer some online instruction but which require students to attend more than three campus visits per year are classified by GraduateCertificates.com as hybrid/blended programs. While hybrid programs can be a good option for students who are located within commuting range of the school offering the program, they may be impractical for students who do not live near a school’s campus.
Another factor that students may want to consider when exploring online graduate certificate programs is the primary mode of instruction used by the program. Some programs deliver all of their online coursework using asynchronous instruction, a mode of online instruction that allows students to access pre-recorded lectures, readings and instruction materials, and interactive learning modules at their convenience, 24-7, by logging on to a program’s learning management system (LMS). While all online programs have readings and other course materials that students are expected to complete on their own time, and therefore technically have asynchronous elements in their curriculum, programs that use only asynchronous instruction are distinctive in that they enable students to self-pace their course of study, as long as they abide by assignment deadlines.
In contrast, some programs utilize synchronous instruction, which is online instruction that takes place in real time and requires students to log on to a program’s LMS at specific times in order to view live lectures and/or participate in virtual class sessions using web conferencing software. Synchronous instruction more closely resembles traditional on-campus lectures, which may be preferred by some students. However, these live sessions can cause scheduling conflicts and may not be convenient for all students, especially those with professional or personal obligations that require them to work late into the evening when lectures are usually scheduled.
To summarize, asynchronous instruction affords greater flexibility and convenience but does so at the expense of the structure that synchronous instruction provides. While both modes of online instruction have been found to be effective, students are generally encouraged to seek out programs that utilize a mode of instruction that best aligns with their personal learning preferences.
Examples of Online Project Management Graduate Certificate Programs
The schools listed below offer project management graduate certificate programs in a fully online format. These programs are meant to provide a representative overview of the types of graduate certificate programs in project management that are currently available online.
The University of Arkansas (U of A) offers an online Graduate Certificate in Project Management through its College of Engineering and U of A Online. The 12-credit program is fully online and consists of four courses that can be completed in two semesters without any campus visits. Students in the program are required to take three core project management courses and can choose one elective from among several online courses in project management offered by U of A Online. Admission to the program is open to students who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field or discipline. Upon completion of the Graduate Certificate in Project Management program, students who are interested in pursuing the Master of Science (MS) in Engineering or MS in Operations Management degree offered by U of A Online are eligible transfer into either program with their graduate certificate credits intact. For more information on the program, visit U of A Online at online.uark.edu.
The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) offers an online Project Management Graduate Certificate program that does not require students to attend any campus-based sessions. The 15-credit program consists of an uncredited orientation to graduate studies at UMGC and five master’s-level courses that can be completed in one year. Students who hold a bachelor’s degree are eligible for the UMGC program, although the school recommends that students entering the program have prior college-level coursework in statistics, finance, and accounting. For more information of the program, visit UMGC at www.umgc.edu.
Georgetown University offers an online Graduate Certificate in Project Management program through its School of Continuing Studies (SCS). The program is designed for bachelor’s program graduates and consists of six master’s-level courses, including four core project management requirements and two electives that may be selected from among online graduate courses in topics like negotiation and conflict management, business strategy, program management, and project risk management. The Georgetown SCS program is fully online and does not require any campus visits. For more information, visit Georgetown University’s SCS at scs.georgetown.edu.
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