Dallas — As an information systems coordinator for Dallas County, LeeAnn Clark has been working with project managers throughout her career. After she was assigned to manage a large project, she felt she was “shooting from the hip” as a project manager, so she decided that formal training would help enhance her skills.
Clark, who has 27 years of experience in information technology, said some of her colleagues had completed the project management program at Richland College, and they had found the program very beneficial. She enrolled at the college and completed the first two segments, fundamentals of project management and the simulation course which follows. In addition, she is taking a software class now, Microsoft Visio, which is a diagramming application.
“The program opened my eyes to a lot of things that I could be doing that aren’t part of what we have been doing as a team,” Clark said.
The program – which includes the fundamentals and simulation courses, plus Microsoft software applications MS Project and MS Visio – takes about 14 weeks to complete. Students earn a certificate from each class; however, if they take the full suite of courses, they receive a project management certificate from Richland, which positions them be more competitive in the job market or to advance in their company.
The program also can help students prepare for an internationally-recognized credential, project management professional (PMP) certification, after they have a few years of work experience. Employees with little or no experience in project management and who have completed Richland’s program can apply to test for the Certified Associate in Project Management. CAPM certification is offered by the Project Management Institute, a professional association in the project management industry.
A program for all industries
Jim Bates, project management instructor at Richland, said many of his students already are employed and want to enhance their skills. Others, he said, may be unemployed and are retooling for today’s job environment. Bates added that the principles of project management can be used in almost any industry.
Bates explained that project management is “industry-agnostic” because the core concepts are the same regardless of industry or domain; as a result, it can be used in manufacturing, construction or software development, for example.
“We give students core training so they understand the lexicon of project management, the core concepts, tools and techniques,” Bates added.
Bates said the certifications that Richland offers puts students on a path toward better options for the future.
“If they currently practice project management but never had formal training, this course also sets them up to achieve what they need to sit for the PMP exam,” Bates said. “Having a certification positions them to be more competitive when they talk to potential employers.”
Bates said, for example, that when a company needs to make a change, it assigns a project manager. Then it forms a team which can include people with multiple disciplines and who can create risk for the company.
“That is the value of a project manager,” Bates added. “A project manager is someone who can appreciate the concept of risk and how to manage that risk so that they can help the enterprise achieve its goals.”
Higher pay and a “leg up” for advancement
Bates said that an entry-level project manager in the Dallas-Fort Worth region can make up to $35 to $40 per hour. A project manager with three to five years of experience can make closer to $55 per hour, he added. In addition, specialized project managers, particularly in the technology industry, can make $90 per hour.
Heather Young, coordinator of continuing education at the Dallas County Community College District, said the project management certifications help workers advance within a company because they show that the worker has the knowledge and knows the strategies.
“Project managers ensure that product development and production are aligned,” Young said. “They keep a company on time and within budget on projects. That keeps the company successful.”
Cherilynn Bates, who is a paralegal at a law firm and who has completed the fundamentals and simulations classes, said she already has applied the skills she learned in her office.
“The principles of project management have helped me to think outside the box,” Bates said. “They have helped me streamline how to assign resources and to delegate, so projects get done on time.”
Bates said one of her favorite parts about the program was the simulation class.
“It allowed everyone in class to get a real-world sense of what it’s like to work as part of a team,” Bates added. “The team members were expected to fulfill their own responsibilities and coordinate with others. We had to pull together and become a cohesive unit.”