Which Project Management Training Option Is Right for You?

5 Training Options to Boost Your Career

Group of businesspeople at lecture in auditorium
Group of businesspeople at lecture in auditorium. Klaus Vedfelt/Taxi/Getty Images

Many people leading projects today haven’t got there through a concerted effort to be a project manager. I’ve never met anyone who will confess to having wanted to be a project manager as a child — most of us didn’t even know the role existed.

Then we get into the workplace and suddenly there are projects that need to be done. Just like that you’re a project manager, whether you have the job title or not.

Whether you fell into project management like this, or took another route — perhaps a project management degree — and made it a definitive career choice (like me), training is always a good thing.

Why Attend Project Management Training?

Project management training helps you enhance your skills, be more successful at work and build your reputation as a great project manager.

Project management training can significantly boost your income. The most recent PMI Salary Survey research shows that those project managers with the PMP® credential specifically can earn on average around 20% more than those without. Employers recognize that training and qualifications have an impact on your professionalism and success rates and are prepared to pay for that.

Project management training can give you skills in areas that you would benefit from developing. There are courses covering every single one of the project management knowledge areas and soft skills as well.

So whatever it is that you feel you want to improve, there will be a course out there to support you.

There are literally hundreds of project management training courses out there and it can be daunting to start the selection process of choosing which is best for you.

The best place to begin is to work out what sort of training you want.

Do you learn best with other people around? How much time have you got to study?

5 Learning Options for Project Management Training

This guide will help you decide which option for project management training is best for you. We’ll look at 5 learning options: classroom study, online study (with and without an instructor), self-study and blended learning.

Option 1: Classroom Training

Classroom courses can be full-time or part-time and last for almost any duration. It’s common to see PRINCE2 courses and PMP® bootcamp-style courses lasting a week. The APMP, a predominantly UK project management qualification is also marketed as a week-long classroom course.

However, if you sign up for a Master’s degree in Project Management, you could easily be in a university classroom environment for a year on a full-time basis, more if you choose to study part-time.

Classroom courses are available all over the world, in every major city and cover a multitude of topics. As well as the certificate-based preparatory courses, classroom learning lends itself well to soft skills, such as leadership or project communication. You will also find courses dedicated to niche or expert subjects such as scope management or managing change on projects.

What to Expect: In the classroom for a short course you can expect to be with a small group of normally around 15 delegates. If you are part of a degree course, you may be with dozens of fellow students in your intake, depending on your university and how the modules of your degree are structured.

What happens in a classroom course is highly dependent on the trainer. You may find yourself sitting through 8 hours of slide presentations for a week. Or you may find that your trainer has a program of interactive exercises, case studies and activities to break up the theory. This also depends on the content: it’s far easier to build exercises around the things that could derail your project than it is on something like how to hold a lessons learned meeting.

You should also expect some of the material to be things you already know, unless you are a very beginner.

As the trainer has to address the learning needs of everyone in the room, and you’ll all be at different levels, they will necessarily cover subjects that you are more confident in.

Best for: People who can afford to pay the high cost of classroom training. People who enjoy studying with others in a sociable environment. People who would lack the motivation otherwise to complete their training and who would benefit from having structured content and someone leading them through it.

Option 2: Online Training With Instructor

Courses with a defined curriculum lend themselves to online training. Many project management training courses endorsed by professional bodies fall into this category because they have been around a long time and can be licensed to professional training firms who deliver the content to an industry standard. Qualifications like the PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® fall into this category.

What to Expect: Online training with an instructor is where you work through course material online via a web interface. It may include:

  • Reading materials
  • Quizzes or other assessments
  • Podcasts
  • Videos.

You then have scheduled time with your instructor, normally live through webinars, audio conferences or facilitated chats in the virtual learning environment. This is your time to ask questions, get clarification on the materials and concepts, and network with other course delegates.

Best for: People who need someone to keep them motivated with regular check-in points. People who can be self-motivated enough to complete the rest of their work with a tutor standing over them. People who would benefit from having the accountability of a group but who cannot make it to a classroom course.

Option 3: Online Training Without Instructor

Online training is a huge growth area for project management (and other business sectors) and you’ll find there are plenty of self-paced courses that you can use at your leisure. Online training is practical for those who are short of time or who need the flexibility of being able to study anywhere.

What to Expect: Online training without an instructor relies on you working within the virtual learning environment to access and review the course materials alone. The downside of not having time with a ‘live’ instructor is that you may lose the motivation to continue. Online study can be quite lonely if you don’t have a group of people going through it with you, helping you on the way.

It can also be quite tricky to work out concepts that you don’t understand because you are limited to the materials you have purchased. If you don’t understand them, there is nowhere to go, except to materials outside of your course, to get more information or the same information explained in ways that make it ‘click’.

As for the online training with an instructor your virtual classroom will include a mix of video, screenshots, audio content, articles to download or workbooks and most likely quizzes to test your knowledge. You may also find that your course gives you access to sample exam papers if it is designed to help you prepare for and pass a certification.

Best for: People on limited budgets. People with strong self-motivation. People with limited time to study who want to make use of downloadable materials on, for example, their commute.

Option 4: Self-Study

Self-study is exactly what it says: you build a training program that suits your particular needs, outside of purchasing any formal course. It relies on you first knowing what your training needs are, and then being able to source resources to help you develop professionally.

You can self-study your way to qualifications and simply pay the exam fee, but you have to be sure that you can commit to the study to make it worth your while. There’s a big risk with self-study for exam courses that you haven’t covered all the material or understood the concepts correctly and that can knock you confidence. In certain situations, it could even cause you to fail the exam.

Having said that, self-study is cost-effective. If you are highly motivated, have plenty of time and are prepared to research what it is you need to know, it is a good way of making sure that your development activity is completely focused on what you need to learn.

What to Expect: A lot of hard work! Sourcing books or organizing mentoring sessions can be time-consuming. You may still need to buy online courses or learning materials such as access to sample exam papers. You’ll need to build a study timetable if you have a hard deadline like an exam coming up.

And you probably won’t get as much employer support either. Your manager will possibly pay for training courses and give you time away from work to attend them. You might not get that if you explain that you are self-studying.

At the other end of the scale, something like reading a book is professional development, and self-study, and isn’t that hard. It really depends on what you want to achieve. For shorter, targeted pieces of continuous education, self-study is perfect.

Best for: People who are highly motivated. People who are extremely clear on their end goals and their learning requirements. People who can hold themselves accountable and who can make time for their professional development.

Option 5: Blended Learning

More and more we’re seeing blended learning taking off in the project management arena. Blended learning is a combination of online and classroom, with elements of self-study thrown in. In fact, it’s all the learning options mixed together.

For that reason, it appeals to lots of people because it offers the best of multiple environments.

What to Expect: You’ll get access to an online training environment with course material, and access to your tutor through forums or scheduled office hours. You will also get time in the classroom with your cohort and your tutors. The idea is that you can kick-start your learning in person and then continue your development in your own time, checking in with the class every so often.

This works best for long courses like degree courses or other certification programs offered by further learning institutes that run over a period of months.

Best for: People who want the best of all training options, or who aren’t clear what sort of learner they are. People who want flexibility to fit around their existing commitments but who still want the personal touch from a trainer and a cohort of fellow delegates.

Read Next: How to Choose a Project Management Course. The guide to helping you pick the right location, price, content and duration for your needs.

With so many training options available, you are sure to be able to find one to meet your needs.