Project management techniques are used in nearly all fields—and we make it easier than ever to learn them

Over the next six years, US employers will need nearly 90 million people with skills to manage projects, according to Project Management Institute research. Essentially, whether we call ourselves project managers or not, professionals should all be able to manage projects.

“We all do projects—whether in our professional or personal lives,” says Dick DeBlieck, a 30-year project management trainer and instructor for the U’s Project Management Certificate. “Your title may not be ‘Project Manager.’ The fact is, the majority of project managers do not have that title. Yet, even with a title like ‘Engineer’ or ‘Software Developer,’ most of that work involves planning and managing projects.”

How Three Non-Project Managers Use Their PM Skills

Char Voight, director of faculty initiatives at the University of Minnesota Graduate School, became interested in project management courses when she recognized that she was missing some skills that could help her do her job better. 

“The courses in the Project Management Certificate program align with my professional goals and are generally applicable,” says Voight. “They offer practical skills I could use immediately, such as presenting and decision-making. They helped me understand the different stages of a project and what people you need to have at the table to launch a project. The majority of those in the program with me were project managers, and it was interesting to learn from their experience. I’ve taken almost all of the courses in the certificate and I’ve even tried to sell colleagues on taking the courses.”

“After going through the program, I could more efficiently design a timeline to show how long an experiment would take or show how we're meeting, or failing to meet, the various requirements."

“I’m a chemist, not a project manager,” says Emma Cherney, who coordinates multiple experiments with scientists around the world for global coatings company Sherwin Williams. Her job requires project management skills that are not necessarily taught in a lot of the technical courses she took as an undergrad, she says. 

“This certificate program taught me so much. Where the program really helped was organizing the steps and stages for product development, specifically, which should go first and which should come next,” says Cherney. “After going through the program, I could more efficiently design a timeline to show how long an experiment would take or show how we're meeting, or failing to meet, the various requirements. The instructors also provided a lot of templates and they really helped me get organized.” Read more about how Emma Cherney uses her PM skills in "Painting Project."

Katie Boardman is a program manager and recovery specialist with Recovery Corps, whose team augments small organizations that don’t have the resources or staff to follow up with the alumni of their opioid recovery programs. She says she relies on a project management course from the U to deliver real-life planning and reporting tools. 

”The members have to be able to take charge,” says Boardman. “The program provides them a framework for how to plan and conduct follow-ups. The instructor gives them a step-by-step process for how to build a work plan, how to take notes, how to keep track, and how to report on quantifiable outcomes.”

Any Work with a Beginning, Middle, and End is a Project

“Think of that “other duties as assigned” part of your job description,” says DeBlieck. “Those are projects—some large, some small. In your personal life, things like planning a wedding or a vacation or getting the kids off to school, those are projects too. They have a beginning, middle, and end and require both planning and execution skills.

“Of course large projects in the professional realm often involve a large team of people,” says DeBlieck. “In that case, in addition to classic project management skills such as planning, scheduling, and estimating, you will be required to exercise leadership. That means developing skills in leadership, teamwork, motivation, communication, and more.”

DeBlieck says there are a number of tools and techniques shared in the Project Management Certificate program that professionals in practically any field can use to be more efficient and productive at work. Here’s a short list, with the corresponding course in which you can acquire those skills.

Top Project Management Tools for Non-PMs and Where to Get Them

  • Planning, scheduling, estimating, and managing multiple projects
    Course: Project Planning
  • Tracking and reporting progress, scope control, and reducing project duration:
    CourseProject Execution, Monitoring, and Control
  • Managing without positional authority, communicating, managing team performance and motivation, and developing effective leadership styles
    Course: Project Leadership
  • Negotiating for project resources, understanding when to negotiate and when not to, distinguishing interests from positions, and negotiating through conflict
    CourseNegotiate for Agreement.

Visit the Project Management Certificate website for more information and to register.