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Project Management Beginner’s Course: How to Get Started in PM

Project Management Beginner’s Course: How to Get Started in PM

If you want to get started in Project Management, you first need to learn the basics. And there are two ways. You can learn your Project Management skills on the job. And you can learn from a basic Project Management beginner’s course.

Ideally, you’ll have a chance to use both of them. You would get a job role or take a volunteer role that involves Project Management. And, you can take a good project management beginner’s course.

When I started out, my boss told me that the company did not run Project Management training. And there was no budget for me to get any. At that time, there was no ‘online’. Courses cost many hundreds of pounds and often meant travel and accommodation.

Now, there are so many more opportunities for Project Managers. And there are vast numbers of online Project Management courses – at very affordable prices.

Project Management Beginner’s Course: How to Get Started in PM

This Article

In this article, we’ll tackle the most important questions about a Project Management Beginner’s Course:

Let’s start at the beginning, with the most obvious question…

Why Should You go for a Project Management Beginner’s Course?

Most of us can muddle our way through our first project and do a respectable job. Much of Project Management is little more than organized common sense. However, that common sense is organized. And that makes a difference.

Learning how to manage a project will give better results and make you more effective and efficient as a Project Manager. There are three principal things that a good, basic Project Management beginner’s course will give you:

  1. How to structure your project
    The stages that it will go through and how to organize your work
  2. What tools you can use
    Tools and techniques add to both your efficiency and the reliability of your process
  3. An understanding of the language
    Project Management is packed with jargon and terminology. None of it is very hard, but if you don’t speak the lingo, you’ll feel like an outsider

Understanding the Jargon of Project Management

If there are terms and ideas you have come across but just don’t know what they mean, don’t worry. It’s not a failing in you: it’s just a simple lack of knowledge. And it’s one you can quickly remedy.

We have two ways to help you:

  1. First, there is our free PDF eBook, ‘Be on the Inside: Decode the Jargon of Project Management’Get it by clicking here.
  2. Second, we have 140 videos at time of writing, in our PM Dictionary YouTube video playlist. Each one answers the question ‘What is…’ or ‘What are…’ for basic Project Management concepts.

A basic Project Management beginner’s course will not necessarily make you a good Project Manager. But it will give you the basic knowledge to:

  • Know how to start your first project
  • Use the most important Project Management tools
  • Build your skills from a firm foundation

What Should be in a Project Management Beginner’s Course?

Every course creator will have their own ideas about what should go into a basic Project Management beginner’s course. And the needs of different Project Managers in different organizations, set in different cultures will vary.

So, I shall start with what I believe is the biggest need, by volume…

This is for either:

  1. New Project Managers to make an effective start on their first, small, simple project.
  2. Established managers or supervisors to deliver a business project as part of their managerial or supervisory role.

The Key Implication of My Starting Position

The main implication of this is that I will be focusing on traditional, predictive (or planned) project management – sometimes referred to as ‘waterfall’ project management. These scenarios will rarely be well suited to a wholly agile approach. However, it is reasonable to expect that some aspects of incremental implementation and iterative working will be useful. 

So, I would not necessarily expect a basic course to be agile in outlook, nor even explicitly about hybrid project management. But, I would expect that the course would deliver some measure of hybrid thinking in the way it describes basic project management processes. After all, all project management is hybrid project management.

A Basic Syllabus to Expect

I would expect a basic Project Management beginner’s course to cover:

  • What projects are and what project management is
  • The basic lifecycle of a project
  • How to define what your project is about and set the scope
  • The need for a business justification and the concept of value
  • Why stakeholders are so important and the basics of stakeholder engagement
  • Creating a basic plan and some of the most useful tools
  • The resources (people, materials, and equipment) you will need and how to build them into your plan
  • An understanding of project risk and how to manage it
  • Monitoring and controlling a project during the delivery stages
  • How to close your project down in an orderly way

What Else Should You Expect?

That content is enough. But there are other things that would make valuable add-ons. However, it’s a long list, and what is most useful will depend very much on the learner’s situation.

So, there is nothing in this possible list that I would consider essential. If none of these things appear, that would be fine. However, you may want a course that can address some of these:

  • How projects fit into a strategic context (Projects, Programs, Portfolios)
  • An introduction to Agile Project Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • The range of Project Management career options
  • Team leadership and management
  • Fundamental communication skills for Project Managers
  • Managing multiple projects
  • Personal effectiveness for Project Managers

What Should You Look for in a Project Management Beginner’s Course?

I’ve covered the content you should look for in a basic Project Management beginner’s course. But what else?

At the end of the day, you want a course that works for you. Here are six vital considerations.

1: Suits your learning style and personality

I can’t emphasize this enough. A great course that you don’t get along with because of the style of delivery is useless to you. You won’t learn well from it.

2: Is authoritative and rigorous

You of course want to know that the person developing and delivering your course has the experience and expertise to know what they are talking about and answer all of your reasonable questions with authority.

3: Allows you to ask questions

Yes, a good course will answer most of your questions. But you may want to know something a little beyond its boundaries. Or the terminology may not match your experience. Or, you may want to know how to apply an idea in your circumstances. A good project management beginner’s course will allow you to ask your questions and get clarity.

4: Uses skilled training practices

In principle, there are four types of project management trainers. Guess which one you should seek out:

  1. An experienced Project Manager, with no training in how to design and deliver a good training course. There are plenty of these.
  2. An experienced trainer, with no real experience of delivering projects. Yes, there are plenty of these too.
  3. An experienced Project Manager, with training and experience in how to design and deliver a good training course.
  4. A ‘trainer’ who hasn’t learned how to train, with little or no real project management experience. Shockingly, there are some!

5: Uses a format that suits your lifestyle and learning preferences

Do you like to learn with others or alone? Do you want to learn in a live environment, or online? Maybe you want a rigid timetable or a self-paced experience? Do you prefer the information drip-fed, or do you like to binge and rest?

6: Offers the right value proposition

All these options have value. And some courses bundle in extras too. And all of this comes at a cost. So, compare that cost to the value you can get. How do the two match up?

How Can You Take a Project Management Beginner’s Course? (Formats)

Let’s have a look at the basic formats you can find, for a Project Management Beginner’s Course. I have listed six primary approaches and the option for another, hybrid approach.

1: Live Classroom-based Training

Most of my time as a project management trainer over the last 25 years has been spent delivering training to groups of participants (usually in the range of 6 to 15 – most trainers share my feeling that 12 is the sweet spot).

This gives maximum interactivity between learners and between a learner and the trainer. There are often a range of different types of exercise and discussion as well as delivery of learning content.

The main disadvantage is cost. One trainer to a few people and the need for a suitable venue (often with travel to reach it and accommodation needs) make this expensive.

2: Live Conference-style Training

I have probably trained over 5,000 people in this format. With audiences between 50 and 250, I have led training sessions that deliver a lot of content in between 90 minutes and a day. 

Interactivity is in small table-groups, with the ability for learners to ask questions in session and between sessions. There are economies of scale that make this more economical than small group training, but the immersion is less. 

I love doing these, but unfortunately, the two promotors for whom I worked most are no longer operating.

3: One-on-One Tutoring or Mentoring

Whether you do this in person, face-to-face, or online via Zoom or similar, this is the best way to gain contextualized learning support. That is, to have an experienced Project Manager guide you through the process and the tools, in the context of what you need for your specific project challenge.

I have done this from time to time, though rarely (2 or 3 times) covered the whole breadth of a project in one go. This is ideal if you need to get started tomorrow and have access to someone with the right knowledge and experience, coupled with the skills and patience to impart it effectively.

4: Live Online Group Training

This approach mimics live classroom-based training. In this training model, a small group interacts among themselves and with the tutor. Tools like Zoom, Google Meet, or Teams allow breakouts and use of whiteboards alongside presentations of content on the host’s and participants’ computers. 

This has been an excellent model throughout the two years of Covid from 2020 to 2022. It offers reduced costs and greater access. It has also allowed me to train teams in countries I would never have had the chance to visit in person.

5: Live Online Broadcast Training

This approach mimics live conference-style training. The learners don’t interact with one another and have limited interaction with the tutor. However, the scale makes this a very economic approach. And this style should still allow you to ask your questions and get an answer.

Often these sessions are recorded for participants who either:

  • Need to miss a session
  • Want to replay a session

6: Pre-recorded Video Training

This pre-recorded content has become hugely popular over the last 10 years and is the basis for the OnlinePMCourses model. There are many platforms offering these types of courses, which I’ll discuss in the next main section. 

The explosion in platforms has also spawned a huge industry in people who will sell you courses on ‘how to get rich by making and selling an online course’. I don’t say this to either aggrandize myself, nor to suggest you could never do this. Rather, I say it as a warning. Remember above that I mentioned that trainers can be skilled in either Project Management, Training, both, or neither.  Here is where you will find people that fit all four descriptions. So, beware.

There are three pairs of alternatives to be aware of, in the way these online courses are constructed. And, of course, some combine both.

  1. Full video vs Voice-over-Images/Slides
    Some courses show the tutor and make full use of the video format. Others are mostly an audio track with either still images of PowerPoint-style slides. Most f my content (well over 90%) is full video. It’s like a recording of me live, but with animated text and graphics in support.
  2. Drip vs On-demand 
    Most video courses allow you to access all the content as and when you want it, as often as you like, and in any order that suits you. That’s how my courses are. 
    Other do impose constraints. Some ‘drip’ the content to you at specific intervals. Others force you to complete a section before moving on. And some allow you to watch only once. I would never do that.
  3. With or without easy access to tutor
    While many courses advertise an ability for you to ask questions, you need to test out both how easy it is and who will prepare the answers. With my courses, it is and will always me (until I pass, that is!). It’s easy to contact me and, unless I am ill and on holiday, I answer withing 24 business hours – usually far quicker. With some models, you get employees of the company, agents of the tutor, or someone from fiverr.com!

Hybrid Approach

All Project Management is hybrid. And so too, essentially, is all PM training! By its nature, a hybrid approach mixes two or more of the approaches I have covered above. 

For example, over the covid lockdown, I developed a range of hybrid models that merged an element of self-study of pre-recorded video content, with live group sessions using Zoom or Teams.

Likewise, I have often combined pre-recorded video content and live groups sessions with some one-to-one work.

If you are buying a Project Management Beginner’s Course for a work team, or as a Training Manager, then this offers the opportunity to design a bespoke program that perfectly meets the needs of the learners you are commissioning it for.

Where you should look for a Project Management Beginner’s Course

I’m not here to promote competing course content. There is a lot of good stuff around. So, I will highlight the types of places to look, while focusing on my own Project Management beginner’s course offerings.

Classroom Learning

Most of my own live classroom-based Project Management beginner’s courses have been commissioned directly by the company I delivered the training for. And there are plenty of freelance trainers in most countries. 

I also delivered on behalf of training companies and professional associations. They would sell open courses, which I would design (to their spec) and deliver. I rarely do this now.

Conference-room Learning

Likewise, I have delivered conference-style training both for:

  • large organizations who want me to train their people at their conference, and
  • organizers of open conference and conference-format training

Whilst I am still open to training for individual organizations, I don’t know of any open-event organizers currently operating where I live.

One-on-One Learning

If you want one-to-one tutoring or mentoring from me, that is what I designed the Leader tier of my Membership Program to offer.

Live Online Group Learning

I have done a lot of this since the start of the Covid pandemic and have really enjoyed it. Just drop me a line if you want to discuss what program is right for your team.

Live Online Broadcast Learning

As I write this, I am also preparing for my first open live learning program. It starts on 23 April 2022.

Introduction to Project Management

Learn the Basics of Project Management

…with me. Live!

Introduction to Project Management.

It’s designed for people that want a structured primer to all the basics, spread over five 1-hour workshops. 

I want it to be totally accessible. So, the whole 5-hour course is US$35 – just $7 per 1-hour workshop. And, to make it accessible to people who work, I’ve scheduled the course for Saturdays. And to allow for a global audience, I am running it twice in parallel:

  • 8am UTC for UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia – 9am BST, 10am CET, 13:30 IST
  • 4pm UTC for UK, Europe, North, Central, and South America – 5pm BST, 6pm CET, noon EDT, 9am PDT

PLUS: If you need to miss a session… Don’t Worry.

I have you covered. The platform will store a full recording that you can access whenever and as often as you wish.

You will Get 5 Modules

  1. Get the Fundamentals Right
  2. Then get the Value Right
  3. Now get the Planning Right
  4. Finally get the Delivery Right
  5. The Big Trends in Project Management

To Register

Select carefully from the two timing options, according to which time slot suits you best:

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Pre-Recorded Video Training

This is what OnlinePMCourses specializes in. I have three Core Course programs. The Project Manager’s Fast Start Program is very much a basic Project Management beginner’s course, with 3 /2 hours of content that matches closely to the core syllabus I listed above.

Project Manager's Fast Start Program

Learn the Basics of Project Management

…with me. At your own pace and in your own time.

Project Manager’s Fast Start Program

Accelerate your was to Project Management success

Equivalent to 1 day of live training

This is right for you if you are…
a manager or professional who wants to feel confident taking on a small to mid-size project.

You will Get:

  • 3 hours of PM education
  • 3 PMI PDUs – estimated – self-certification
  • Over 25 videos
  • 2.5 hours of video
  • Online Q&A with your trainer, Dr Mike Clayton
  • Downloadable podcast / audio versions of videos
  • 30+ downloadable worksheets
  • 10+ downloadable templates
  • 5 downloadable articles
  • CPD resources
  • Full project glossary
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There are three commercial models by which course providers offer video training programs:

  1. Their own platform
    The provider uses their own or a proprietary platform to host their own content, which they market and sell, directly to their own students. This is how OnlinePMCourses works. You won’t find our core programs anywhere else. 
    This is like a brand outlet store to the learner.
    OnlinePMCourses and all of the providers we recommend use this model.
  2. A Marketing Platform
    Many course creators host their content on an aggregated platform. The platform owner hosts content from a wide range of course creators and take the lead on marketing and selling to users. The platform owner holds the relationship with the you, the student: not the tutor. Tutors get a percentage of each sale.
    This is like a department store to the learner.
    The best-known example is Udemy.
  3. A Membership Platform
    Like a marketing platform, the course creators host their content on a platform that markets and sells to the learners and owns the relationship. But, instead of selling a course at a time to the learners, the platform offers a regular subscription that allows users to consume any and all content. Tutors get a fee based on consumption of their content.
    This is like Netflix to the learner.
    The best-known examples are SkillShare and LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda).

What is Your Experience of a Project Management Beginner’s Course?

Please do share your experiences or questions in the comments below.

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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