Project Management Tracks

Northwestern University School of Professional Studies offers a variety of project management courses that meet the professional education needs of today’s project managers, including those seeking professional development units (PDUs) and education hours for certification or recertification. Students will learn from industry expert practicing project managers the best practices to manage predictive (waterfall), hybrid (Disciplined Agile), or agile projects.

The goal of our program is to make our students best-in-class project managers, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and tools to meet the challenges of the role. We have designed our three certificate tracks to align with different career goals and project types so that you will find a project management certification program that is a match. We offer weekday, weeknight, and online project management training to fit your needs so you can improve your project management skill set.

Which program is right for me?

Project management skills are in high demand, and our courses offer the options and flexibility that allow you to tailor your learning experience to fit your needs. The courses you choose will depend on your level of experience and professional goals.

This page details the differences between our Essentials of Project Management and Applied Project Management courses. Looking to gain skills in Agile methodologies? View our Agile course offerings.

You can also contact our Enrollment Advisers if you need help making a decision.

How much project management experience do you have?


I have 0 to 3 years of experience in project management.

Our eight-week Essentials of Project Management course will give you both a solid foundation in the fundamentals of project management and a set of techniques you can apply immediately. This course is intended for people who have never managed projects or are new to project management. Students who take this class are looking to fill gaps in their skills, change careers, or introduce formal project management techniques into their current role.

Follow Essentials of Project Management with two elective courses to both expand your skill set and earn the Essentials of Project Management Certificate.

I have more than 3 years of experience in project management.

Our ten-week Applied Project Management course will take your skills to the next level. This course is intended for people who have already mastered the fundamentals of project management and are now managing projects as a significant part of their job. Students who take this class are looking for practical solutions to address the challenges related to more complex projects.

Students who successfully complete this course earn the Applied Project Management Certificate.

I am looking to deepen my skills in specific areas.

We have a number of courses focused on single topics. Choose the courses that best align with your interests to broaden and deepen your project management skills.

What are your project management certification goals?


I am not interested in certification.

Our courses are not focused on certification preparation, so choose your courses based on your experience level and interests.

I want to sit for a certification exam.

All of our project management courses are aligned with industry best practices and standards, as reflected in the most current version of the Project Management Body of Knowledge® and other highly regarded texts. Successful completion of our courses provides professional education hours that can be used to meet the education requirements for the CAPM® or PMP® exams from the Project Management Institute.

There is not a one-to-one correlation between our courses and specific certification exams. For example, many students complete our Essentials of Project Management class and pass the PMP exam after studying on their own and achieving the attaining the necessary work requirements. If earning a certification from PMI is your end goal, you should let your experience level guide which course you take.

Please note: our courses are not test preparation courses. We want you to build the skills to be an excellent project manager. These skills will help you prepare for the CAPM® and PMP® certification exams, but you will need to spend additional time outside of our courses studying for those exams. You can study on your own or through a number of other resources. The hours you spend in test preparation may also count towards the certification education requirements. Eligibility criteria for each examination are listed on the PMI® website; be sure to confirm your eligibility before you apply to take the exam.

I want to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) to maintain my certification

All our project management courses provide professional educations hours that can be used towards maintaining your certification. Many of our elective courses and Agile courses can be completed in four weeks or fewer. Each elective course provides a deep dive into a specific topic — choose the courses that best align with your interests.

How does the content differ between Essentials and Applied?

If you are still unsure if Essentials of Project Management or Applied Project Management is the right path for you, review the topics covered in each course below. If you can confidently check the boxes next to each of the topics listed under Essentials of Project Management, you may be ready for Applied. Applied Project Management is an advanced level course. Remember, you can always take Essentials of Project Management first to establish a strong foundation and take Applied Project Management at a later time.

Essentials of Project Management

8 weeks, offered remotely and online
  • Overview of the project management terminology and general process
  • Defining scope and boundaries
  • Completing a project charter
  • Identifying stakeholders and establishing project governance
  • Assigning roles and responsibilities
  • Building the project schedule: tasks, milestones, dependencies, estimating effort and duration
  • Completing a simple project budget
  • Creating a simple communication plan
  • Preparing for a project ick-off
  • Gathering and sharing status using basic dashboards and reports
  • Defining and managing project quality requirements
  • Responding to scope changes, team member changes, and other common project disruptions
  • Defining and managing project risks
  • Communication process and components
  • Principles of project leadership
  • Critical project leadership skills
  • Team-building model and its application in a project setting
  • Motivational theories and their application for a project leader
  • Addressing common project team challenges
  • Conducting project reviews and capturing process improvements
  • Closing the project
More about the essentials track

Applied Project Management

10 weeks, offered remotely and online
  • Advanced project selection techniques
  • Considerations for determining delivery methods
  • Stakeholder analysis techniques and methods for managing complex stakeholder relationships
  • Techniques for establishing current state baselines, future state goals, and measurement methods
  • Overview of change management and critical change management activities
  • Advanced scheduling techniques: forward/backward pass, PERT, critical chain, hybrid delivery
  • Aligning project dependencies and resources across the organization
  • Anticipating and addressing challenges related to the procurement process
  • Communications planning for complex organizations and stakeholder relationships
  • Scheduling techniques for hybrid and predictive projects
  • Advanced budget techniques: cash flow, multi-currency, profitability targets
  • Advanced risk management techniques: semi-quantitative and quantitative approaches, communicating risks to senior leadership
  • Responding to significant project disruptions
  • Addressing changes in priorities
  • Addressing changes due to major scope re-direction
  • Leading change as a project manager
  • Addressing ethics in project management
  • Assessing project health on complex projects
  • Cost and Earned Value Management
  • Communicating status and issues to senior leadership
  • Negotiating organizational dynamics and differences in priorities
  • Supporting continuous improvement throughout the project
  • Transitioning the project to its operational state
More about the applied track
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