Project Management Course Prepares Students for Professional Certification


After taking a project management course just before graduation, Nash Phillips had no trouble passing his project management certification exam.

“That class prepared me for the entire exam,” said Phillips, a 2017 graduate of Dalton State who majored in management and management information systems. “The foundation I received in that class – and in the Wright School of Business – prepared me for my career.”

Project management certifications are not required but are highly valued in the business world, said Dr. Fernando Garcia, assistant professor of management in the C. Lamar and Ann Wright School of Business. Garcia’s project management class teaches material that would prepare a student to earn the Certified Associate in Project Management certification through the Project Management Institute.

“This course isn’t a certification preparation course,” he said. “But the course covers most of the PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge guide. So when students completely my class, they are largely ready to sit for the CAPM exam.”

The certification, which requires passing a three-hour exam, should open doors for job opportunities as well as other, higher professional certifications.

“Such certifications are important for differentiating our Wright School of Business students in the job market,” said Dr. Marilyn Helms, dean of the school. “We have much success too with our accounting students acquiring the certified public accountant credentials. We are researching additional certifications in each of our six functional business areas.”

The project management course begins with the conception of a project and students must follow that idea through all the planning and execution and closing.

“They see a project through from start to finish and then take it back to the client,” Garcia said. “We revise all aspects of the project management lifecycle. Students in this class develop qualitative skills to be effective project leaders, project managers, and project team leaders. On the other hand, we develop skills that will help them estimate project costs and times, manage a project schedule, assess risks, and control a project using progress and performance indicators.”

Students learn Microsoft Project software, as well as Excel and learn to manually calculate budgets dealing with finances and time.

“It’s really an advanced class,” Garcia said. “Most students in this class are in their last year, ready to graduate. The class is intense and time consuming. It is structured in a way to cover project management principals in the first three-fourths of the class. Then in the last quarter, students work on their capstone projects where they are required to apply project management principles learned in the class.”

Project management skills can be applied to numerous fields, not just business, including nonprofits, corporations, health care, the arts, military, and scientific research, he said.

“The skills learned here are transferable to any field,” Garcia said. “Students often do well in accounting and government work. The principals learned are universal.”

Even those already working in the field that may already have a degree would benefit from auditing the class, he said.

“We are using the latest software,” Garcia said. “So even someone who went to school three to five years ago will learn new skills. We are bringing into the class project managers to speak to our students about their work in the field.”

Phillips recently accepted a new position with a company where he will be working primarily in sales and inventory management, but will be involved in project management as well.

“I can say first-hand, everything I’ve learned has and will contribute to my career in some way,” he said. “I worked full-time in the business field while completing my degrees, and I feel as though everything I learned in the Wright School of Business has helped in some way.”