Jordan Smith is ambitious. Already working as a foreman at a large Seattle construction company, he wanted even more for his career. And he knew the best way to make that happen.
“If you want to advance your career, continue to get promotions and move up the ladder, you’ve got to go back to school,” Jordan said. “So that's what I did.”
His ambitious streak also meant he was looking for a program that would allow him to move as fast as he could through his studies — and he found it in the self-paced Certificate in Project Management from UW Professional & Continuing Education.
Programs for a High-Velocity World
Jordan is like many professionals today — dealing with a demanding work schedule and a busy personal life. How does continuing education fit into the mix?
That's where the online, self-paced format comes in: It allows students to work at their own speed through the course material and assignments rather than following a pre-set schedule.
“I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, and I figured the self-paced version would allow me to pound out the assignments as fast as I could,” Jordan said. “And that was exactly what happened.”
Jordan graduated in June 2018, completing his certificate in a little over seven months — quicker than the eight to nine months that the regular classroom or group-paced online formats typically take for the project management program. And he was able to set his own schedule the entire time.
Staying on Track
Although flexible learning is growing in popularity, it’s not for everyone. With a maximum of four months to complete each course, starting at the time of registration and payment, self-paced students must be disciplined and self-directed.
Certificate programs contain multiple courses, and students have up to two years to complete all the courses in that program. All assignments and course materials in the self-paced program are the same as in the classroom and standard online formats.
I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, and I figured the self-paced version would allow me to pound out the assignments as fast as I could. And that was exactly what happened.
Jordan Smith, Certificate in Project Management
Instructors recommend that students plan to spend 10 to 15 hours a week over four months to complete each course. If they want to finish faster, they should budget even more time.
Jordan set a firm study schedule, making sure he set aside enough time to make steady progress in each course.
“I made it a priority and I set goals, both long-term and short-term,” he said. “I made a goal of a course session a week, at minimum. I would also put in time goals, like I’m going to work on it one hour a day and four hours on Saturday morning.”
Timely Teacher Assistance
While students set their own schedule and can study on their own, whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them, they also have the option of getting expert help when they need it.
Every course has an instructor and an instructional assistant who monitor the Water Cooler, an online message board. Students can post questions for discussion and review past discussions to get tips and insights.
“The Water Coolers were really helpful,” Jordan said. “If you asked a question, it was almost always answered within a day.” Self-paced students can also take advantage of online office hours if they need real-time assistance.
“We got a lot more attention from instructors than I expected,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised by that.”
Hard Work Pays Off
Completing the self-paced Certificate in Project Management was a great career move, according to Jordan.
“Right when I finished the class, I applied for and landed a job at another company that was a huge step up,” he said. “It was a 12.5 percent raise with just as good a benefits package and a huge title increase. I directly attribute that to the University of Washington online project management self-paced program.”
When asked what he would tell others who are contemplating the self-paced format, Jordan didn’t mince words.
"They should know going in that you need to be self-motivated. You need to be able to prioritize your goals and your everyday life,” he said. “It's pretty hard to work an eight- or nine-hour day, come home and then do school afterward.”
But ultimately, it was all worth it for Jordan.
“You need to know that what you get at the end can make immediate impacts on your career,” he stated. “It did for me."
Self-Paced Certificate Offerings
In addition to Project Management, here are some other popular certificate programs that offer the self-paced format: