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Review: Project Management Specialization by Rice University

Reviewed By Product Expert and Coach
Elizabeth Hogue
February 25, 2024

Program Overview

Project management is a great way to break into a tech job (in fact, it's one of our top recommendations for best entry-level tech jobs) and what better way to get a handle other than a micro-certification. Rice's Project Management Specialization Program is a great way to sink your teeth into the concepts without feeling lost. The program is hosted by Coursera, and consists of 3 courses with a recommended 5-6 weeks of work each. This nets a total of 16 weeks, or 4 months for program completion.

The five courses to complete the specialization are:

The material is taught by real industry professionals (each holding PMPs, and some even holding PHDs!) and covers both the high-level and practical aspects of the digital project management profession. Some of our favorite concepts included stakeholder management, building effective project teams, and practical aspects like gantt creation. The curriculum is meant to be consumed over a 4-week period, but it can also be completed at your own pace.

After careful study of the material, we'd recommend this specialization for anyone interested in a fun and comprehensive way to learn project management. The program is targeted at individuals who are brand new to the concepts of project management and even a career as a whole, even if the course title says it's created for engineers. At our time of posting, almost then 50,000 people had completed the specialization. We’d tag it as a beginner-level class– they are self-titled, Project Management for Dummies! Quite endearing, huh?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to do all high-level project management activities. Learn things like prepping a project charter, creating a stakeholder engagement matrix, writing an effective Statement of Work (SOW), and brainstorming an efficient project schedule. We loved the practical activities and assignments, and noted they were very similar to real-world activities. Read our weekly breakdowns below for more in-depth analysis of each course's curriculums.

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Weekly Breakdowns

We’ve recapped the learning objectives from each week to set your expectations for course material. The great part about this program is that you can jump to any course, and any section if it’s interesting to you. For example, if you’re an established PM only looking for prioritization processes, jump to week 4. However, you only can get the certificate if you complete all 20 weeks of content.

To audit an individual week-- find the exact course (we've linked them individually here) and click "audit" to save it to your profile. Then open the desired week on the side panel.

Course 1: Initiating and Planning

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Course Intro

  • Basic intro, which includes meeting the professors and a pre-course survey. Takes only an hour or so!

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Project Organizations

  • Learn basic project management processes including initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing, manages the scope, schedule, cost, quality, resources, and stakeholders of a project.
  • Identify the main company organization structures and the pros and cons to each.
  • Showcase the primary roles of a project manager, as well as how they can be a leader in any organization.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Project Communications and Stakeholder Management

  • Identify the key roles of stakeholders, and how to manage their interests, and expectations.
  • Practice creating a stakeholder register, a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix and communication plans.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Project Integration Management

  • Practice using different project management processes and their role in defining, planning, executing, controlling, and closing a project.
  • Learn how to define prerequisites for a new project, including an evaluation and charter.

Learning Objectives from Week 5: Case Study and Deliverables

  • Apply your learnings to create a project plan.

Course 2: Scope, Time and Cost Management

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Course Intro

  • We like how Rice gives nice course intros. This also includes meeting the professors and a pre-course survey. Also only an hour or so!

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Project Schedule Management

  • Define and practice creating work breakdown structures and packages.
  • Learn terms relating to WBS dictionaries and control accounts.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Project Time Management

  • Define and create GANTT charts and critical path diagrams.
  • Learn how to calculate slack time and identify automation tools and scheduling tools.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Cost Estimation

  • Learn the different types of cost estimates and breakdowns: and what's better for when.
  • Describe the differences between top down and bottoms up estimates.
  • Practice creating parametric estimates and project budgets.

Learning Objectives from Week 5: Earned Value Management

  • Compare planned value, earned value and actual cost. Practice calculating each.
  • Develop techniques for cost and schedule analysis and for forecasting.

Learning Objectives from Week 6: Final Exam!

  • Don't be scared by the big words! The final will help you understand the material, and you'll be so relieved to be finished.

Course 3: Risk, Quality, Teams and Procurement

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Course Intro

  • We like how Rice gives nice course intros. This also includes meeting the professors and a pre-course survey. Also only an hour or so!

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Quality Assurance Plan

  • Define Quality and quality management in relation to Project Management.
  • Establish quality standards in relation to a project and perform quality assurance (QA).
  • Learn about QA tools and various control methods.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Human Resources (HR) Management

  • Learn how to develop and manage an effective team based on the needs of a particular project-- including role planning, communication methods and tools.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Project Procurement Management

  • Identify the conditions that would cause you to go outside the organization for goods and services and practice creating a procurement plan.
  • Identify different types of contracts and the associated risks with each type.
  • Review and compare Incentive and Award fees.

Learning Objectives from Week 5: Final Exam!

  • Show off what you've learned!

Cost and Auditing

The program is only $49/month, and comes with a Linkedin Certificate on behalf of Rice University, which is a very prestigious credential. If you complete the curriculum on the proposed timeline, it should take about 16 weeks, or 4 months. While that seems steep, compared to a degree or bootcamp this micro-certification is a steal!

If you can afford it and know in your heart that project management is for you– we recommend completing the program and getting the shareable certificate. This will help make your Linkedin more searchable to recruiters who may be looking for specific keywords and programs. If you're looking for other ways to beef up your skills, check out our other recommended materials to learn about PMP and CSM certifications.

Here’s the real kicker though– to audit the program and simply learn the material, this program is completely free! We recommend auditing the first course (Planning) for those who might be unsure of the project management career path and are curious about the high-level concepts. To audit, simply click "Enroll for Free" and click "Audit" on the bottom of the second step. Voila, you're in!

Student Reviews

The course is fairly new, but the first class boasts more than 3,000 reviews and the following two averaging about 1,100 each. The ratings on each course average around 4.8, which makes the Rice Project Management Program one of the highest rated specializations we've seen on Coursera so far!

Some of our favorite positive review points:

  • Project management can be applied not only in various fields of work; but also in life and family, I think. This course makes me more confident to live a better life and apply project management knowledge to make my work more successful in the future after I'll have had a job.  Professor Tom Phalen and Professor Kazimir Karwowski's teaching is meaningful and valuable.
    -Hua L.
  • It is a good solid course in project management. Some of the materials might seem a bit obvious, but it is all part of a basic framework that slowly builds up to very effective and complex tools. I would definitely recommend it! My only comment is that some of the course materials are presented a bit slowly, I often set the video speed to 1.25 ;-)
    -Laura S.
  • Hands-on real-life experience because you produce all of the work products for a project.  It's a very thorough well done, professionally produced series of courses!
    -Lynne V.

Aggregations of negative review points:

  • Good introduction and refresher course for obtaining and maintaining PMP certification.  Aligns well with the PMI - but based on PMBOK Version 6.  As we are now at PMBOK Version 7 there may be some subtle updates that will be required if you are using the course as part of your preparation for taking the PMP Exam until the course is refreshed to PMBOK 7.
  • Not enough real-life examples (though this is tricky because data is often confidential)

... and our favorite overall review:

Really good course! It gives you I impressive load of information about Project Planning. It is simple, so even someone like me who never had a class about this subject can understand and learn a lot in the Course. Furthermore, despite the simplicity, the course is really detailed and deep about the knowledge!!  
-Lucas Y.

Supplemental Materials

For devoted project management fans: PMP Exam Prep Seminar

There are two primary certifications you can get if you're looking to stand out as a a project manager-- the PMP and CSM (certified scrum master). The PMI requires 35 "contact hours" before allowing candidates to be eligible to take the PMP certification-- which is almost impossible to achieve if you're an entry-level candidate looking to enter the market.

Enter this PMP course! Upon completion, the course provides the 35 exam contact hours as required by PMI-- allowing you to take the examination and get the PMP. This is a highly regarded certification, and will help land interviews if on your resume. At only $110, we highly recommend doing this if you enjoyed Rice's intro class and wish to pursue project management as a career!

For aspiring agile learners: Agile Crash Course: Agile Project Management; Agile Delivery

Agile is the second type of project management, often utilized in software engineering companies and modern tech companies. This course has named itself "Agile for Dummies" and covers all basic principles of tech project management.

We'd recommend giving both options--PMP & CSM-- a try and deciding which is a better fit. Then complete your job search experience by looking for those requirements in job listings and prioritizing the ones that match your preference.

Best Alternative Project Management Specializations

Another generalized project management course: University of Colorado's Project Management Specialization

LinkedIn Learning is free with a LinkedIn Premium subscription ($30/month). This class is great for beginners who want to learn more about product management basics to see if they're interested.LinkedIn Learning subscriptions are great for exploring many options with one cost.

Agile, but make it Google: Google Project Management: Professional Certificate

Google runs a program through Coursera to train users in traditional project management. Courses are taught by Google professionals, and a stamp of Google-approval is great for resumes. It's 6 courses and only $39/month to complete.

The best part: upon completion of the program, you can directly apply for jobs with Google and over 150 U.S. employers, including Walmart and Best Buy.


Rice's Project Management Program is a great way to quickly learn and develop a project management skillset without breaking the bank with an additional college degree or bootcamp. It's a great toe-dip into the field, and we recommend starting with it to decide if PM work is right for you. If it is, we recommend picking either the PMP or CSM to pursue as a certification to stand out for recruiters and hiring managers alike.

Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. This program could be one notch in your arsenal to really kick your technical expertise into gear!

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