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Choosing a project management course

The difficulty of choosing a project management course

How should one choose a continuing education course in project management?

A vast number of project management courses are available; shorter ones with durations from two to five days and more advanced, longer ones – typically two years for master’s degree courses (and of course longer for PhD programmes in project management). These courses come at a range of prices from free online courses to quite expensive courses with extensive residential blocks.

People often wonder whether they should opt for a generic project management course or for a specialized course such as an Agile project management course, an IT project management course, a construction management course or a course on project leadership. To add to this confusion, more specialized and advanced courses (e.g. critical chain project management courses) as well as course to prepare you for specific project management examinations also exist.

Courses are offered as fully online (distance education), partially online (blended) or presented in a classroom. The presenters are from a variety of organizations that include national and private universities, colleges, and other training providers, including individual trainers.

The courses are popular, both with project managers and with others wanting to follow careers in project management. So, how should you go about deciding which course is best for you?

Consider choosing a general project management course that develops a variety of practical skills in your workplace  

You want to make sure that the course you chose, relates to your workplace.  The first advice regarding the choice of a project management course should therefore be that developing of relevant, practical skills forms a central part of the curriculum. Therefore, make sure that practical assignments, done in the workplace, form an integral part of the course.  If such assignments form an important part of the course, a generic (or general) project management course normally suffice as your first project management course (instead of a more specialized one e.g. a construction project management course, IT project management course, engineering project management course or agile project management course, etc.)  Work performed in small groups or syndicates also contributes significantly to the development of project management skills.

Choose a project management course from a credible university of other institute 

A second, important consideration for people who want a course to improve their CVs is that the value of any certificate depends entirely on the credibility of the institute issuing the certificate. Said one well-informed advisor: “Rather have a certificate for successful completion of a short course from the most credible university than a PhD from some unknown institute.”  So, the general credibility of the university (or other institution) is essential. Normally universities are most credible.  In this regard one should however note that a high general rating of a university does not necessarily imply that they are leaders in project management. Therefore, (a) first check out their standing on a website such as https://www.topuniversities.com/qs-world-university-rankings to establish the general standing of a university. (b) Then inquire about undergraduate and more advanced postgraduate degree courses they offer in the field of project management, especially master’s degrees in project management and PhDs in project management.  Both these criteria – the general standing of the university and their credibility in project management are essential for the qualification to be worthwhile.  Furthermore, you don’t want to be a guinea pig, therefore ask how many years the university or other institute has been presenting the project management course you are interested in.  Also, what do people who already did the course, say about their course? 

Choose a project management course taught by a team of credible lecturers

A third consideration is the lecturers who present the course. Project management is a multi-disciplinary field and no single person can claim to be an expert on the wide range of dissimilar aspects – from interpersonal aspects such as teamwork and leadership to ‘technical’ aspects such as cost management, scheduling, risk management, information systems, quality management and commercial aspects such as project feasibility and project procurement management.  While a single presenter is generally acceptable for a basic course with a duration of a few days only, any more substantial course should be presented by several lecturers, each specializing in a specific aspect of project management. Lecturers should have both practical project management experience and solid academic credentials.

Consider a generic project management course

Finally, it is normally good to start off with a generic project management course that covers the basics of project management, including several knowledge areas e.g. procurement, risk, quality, etc. Admission criteria for more advanced courses e.g. to prepare you to write professional certification exams often include such prior learning.

The development of project management courses

The nature of project management courses evolved very significantly over the years: in the 1980s most project management courses focused merely on project scheduling, project budgeting and project control. From the mid-1990s most training providers offer courses with a much wider scope. While project cost management, project scheduling and control still makes much of the backbone of most courses, they nowadays typically include aspects such as managing projects in stages (with stage-gates in between), project stakeholder management, scope management, project risk management, project resource management (including human resource management), project procurement management, project quality management and communications management. In the year 2000 several courses taught people how to select the best project management software, but currently only a few dominant software providers offer courses on their specific project management software such as MSProject or Primavera.  

Therefore: make sure the institution you select is actively involved in project management research and stays abreast of new developments.

Modes of presentation of project management courses online, blended or classroom

Courses that are presented fully online have become popular and are often cheaper than those that require attendance of seminars, classes or workshops, especially if time away from the workplace and costs related to travel and accommodation are taken into account. Many however agree that, especially in a field where skills need to be developed, such as in project management, contact with the presenter and work within small groups are key. In an attempt to get the best of both, hybrid project management courses are becoming common.

Several project management courses are presented in-house for specific companies while other courses are open to the public. A credible service provider will be able to offer both types of courses. 

Generic project management courses versus courses based on specific standards or methodologies

Some project management courses are based on a specific project management framework or methodology such as PRINCE2, or a specific project management standard such as that of the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK or the IPMA (International Project Management Association) ICB4. Standard. Others draw on principles from a variety of standards, methodologies and textbooks.

Some courses aim at developing skills while others prepare candidates specifically for the PMI’s CAPM or PMP certification, or for IPMA certification. Experience has shown that people who have done a generic project management course that includes for example scheduling, cost management, procurement, risk, quality management, etc. before attempting an exam prep course, find the exam prep courses easier. They therefore also have a better chance to pass an international certification examination.

While most project management courses target project managers and project management contenders, a few more advanced courses focus on business-related aspects of project management such as project feasibility studies, business cases, project selection, programme and portfolio management, benefits realization management or value management.  These courses normally require a basic understanding of project management principles as well as financial / business principles as prior knowledge.

In conclusion: a good starting point is a generic project management course from a credible institution

Unless you already have extensive knowledge of project management, it is wise to start with a general project management course, offered by a credible university that specializes in project management. The institution should have a team of lecturers with practical project management experience, each specializing in a specific project management knowledge area. 

Such a course provides a solid base for managing projects more successfully, as well as for further education and international certifications. Advanced courses and specialized course will build on the knowledge and skills taught on such as course.



M L Barry, Herman Steyn, Alan C Brent

The supply of sustainable energy is crucial for sustainable development in Africa. The aim of the study summarised in this paper is the identification, and prioritisation, of the factors that must be taken into account when selecting the most sustainable technological systems in the African context, by applying the Delphi technique. The questionnaire of the first round was based on factors already identified during a focus group exercise with energy experts. The Delphi participants were required to comment on the factors, add new factors, and rate all the factors. The results were fed back during the second round where respondents were again asked to rate the factors for feasibility, desirability, and importance. The outcome is the identification of the most important factors that can be used by decision makers to ensure better selection of sustainable energy technologies and projects. The top five prioritised factors are: Ease of maintenance and support over the lifecycle of the technology; Suitable site readily available for pilot studies; Project management; Economic development; and Access to secured suitable sites for deployment.

Full paper: http://sajie.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/758

Project Management Course - FAQ

Why should I choose the project management course?

Listed as part of the top 500 universities in the world. The University of Pretoria is listed as one of the top three universities in South Africa. The Graduate School of Engineering and Technology Management  (GSTM) is the only place that offers a master's degree in project management. The master's degree is accredited by the Global Accreditation Center (GAC) in the United States of America. Earn CDP points when registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ESCA). GSTM is a platinum status education and training provider.

How credible is the project management course?

The Programme in Project Management (PPM) is a recognized certificate by the Project Management Institute (PMI) of the United States of America, Engineering Council of South Africa (ESCA), South African Council for the Project and Construction (SACPCMP) and Project Management of South Africa (PMSA). The University of Pretoria is an accredited higher education institution according to Act 101 of 1997. 

What certificate would I receive and of what value would it be?

You will receive a highly valuable certificate as the University of Pretoria offers the project management course for more than 30 years. The certificate is recognized nationally and internationally. Most of our lectures have industrial experience and extensive knowledge about the project management field. After your project management qualification, you qualify for a master's degree in project management at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The master's degree is a one of a kind qualification at the University of Pretoria and is accredited by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the United States of America. 

What is the (CAPM) and how does it relate to project management?

Become a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) through attending our workshop at the University of Pretoria. The certification will make you stand out in the job market and give you more credibility to work on various projects. Project management is a fast-growing industry and the CAPM certificate will give you access to even more creative and exciting career opportunities.

How credible are the project management certificate and short courses?

The University of Pretoria is an accredited public higher education institution on Act 101 of 1997 and the Council on Higher Education (CHE) accredited the university as a multi-purpose training provider in higher education and training. The certificate and short courses for project management are funded through the Counting Education (CE) at the University of Pretoria Trust. The trust takes full responsibility for all the activities related to completing the necessary qualification at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

What is the PMP and how does it relate to the project management course?

The Project Management Professional (PMP) is a certificate offered by the American Project Management Institute (PMI). The University of Pretoria is registered at the American Project Management Institute (PMI). All project management qualifications are recognized by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The Programme in Project Management (PPM) gives background on the Project Management Professional (PMP) examination. You need a certain amount of Professional Development Units (PDU's) that can be obtained through the Programme in Management (PPM) course.

What further qualifications can I obtain after the PPM course?

After your Programme in Management (PPM) qualification you qualify to study for the Advanced Programme in Project Management (APPM) course. After completing your Advanced Programme in Project Management (APPM) course you will gain an extra 120 credits. A further relevant qualification to study after the Programme in Management (PPM) qualification is BTech. degree.


J.T. Labuschagne, H. Steyn


This paper describes the characteristics of a project management methodology that is currently used in the consulting engineering industry in South Africa. Based on currently-used methodologies in other industries, and on a Delphi survey conducted in several consulting engineering companies, guidelines for a project management methodology for the consulting engineering industry are proposed. Respondents of the survey were in full agreement on typical project life cycle phases. They were also in agreement that a lack of project management knowledge and maturity prevents the successful implementation of such a methodology in a company. Lastly, the respondents agree that, by applying a project management methodology in the South African consulting engineering industry, more consistent results regarding time, cost, and quality could be achieved.

Full paper:  http://sajie.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/67


Delegates who successfully complete the PPM and comply with the related assessment criteria are awarded by the University of Pretoria (at a certificate ceremony) certificates of successful completion. In addition to the certificate, the PPM is recognized by the following:

PMI (Project Management Institute) – USA

ECSA (Engineering Council of SA)

SACPCMP (South African Council for the Project and Construction. Management Professions)

PMSA (Project Management South Africa)


Contact Information

Client Information Centre Client Information Centre 012 4342500 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Nadine Scott Nadine Scott 082 6513594 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Professor Herman Steyn Professor Herman Steyn This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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