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What is Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project, a powerful tool that has been a standard in project management for decades, is a critical skill for aspiring Project Managers. Comprehensive understanding of this software can lead to a lucrative career in project management, with an average salary of around $116,000 annually.

Key Insights

  • Microsoft Project, first released in 1984, currently holds a 66% share of the project management software market.
  • The Project Management Institute predicts over 22 million new Project Manager jobs will be created by 2027, making project management a hot career path.
  • As a Project Manager, mastery of Microsoft Project is essential. This software offers robust features for managing complex or multiple projects.
  • Microsoft Project is available as part of Microsoft Office suite or as a separate program. It is offered on different subscription plans, with pricing based on the number of users.
  • The average annual salary of a Project Manager is $116,000, which is more than double the national average across all occupations.
  • Noble Desktop offers various learning options for Microsoft Project, including live classes, on-demand classes, and free online resources.

Microsoft Project is the world’s most popular project management software. Released in 1984 as part of the Microsoft Office family of products, Microsoft Project still maintains a 66% share of the project management software market. 

Mastery of Microsoft Project is a required skill for aspiring Project Managers. In this overview, you’ll learn more about what Microsoft Project is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn how to add this skill to your professional toolbox.

What Can You Do with Microsoft Project?

Project management is a hot career path: the Project Management Institute (PMI) predicts that over 22 million new Project Manager jobs will be created by 2027. Even without this 33% increase in job positions, there is already a significant talent gap in project management, with more companies seeking Project Managers than qualified candidates. 

Another perk of a career in project management is a high salary: the average salary for a Project Manager is around $116,000 annually. That is more than double the national average of approximately $50,000 across all occupations. Training in project management could lead to a lucrative career. 

Project Managers need to have many skills, including soft skills such as communication, leadership, and time management. Project Managers will also need to have advanced skills using Microsoft Project, the world’s most widely-used project management software tool, for decades. 

Microsoft Project is the industry standard for managing complex and multiple projects. Its powerful project management features include interactive dashboards for project monitoring, integrated project timeline, task prioritization and delegation, team dashboard, report generation, resource tracking and management, and the Master Project Plan for managing multiple projects.

How Do You Download Microsoft Project? How Much Does it Cost?

Microsoft Project is part of the Microsoft Office suite of software programs. Microsoft Office is the world’s most popular productivity software, including the iconic Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Although initially released as software-only programs, Microsoft launched a cloud-based subscription version of Office called Microsoft 365 to compete with Google’s web-based apps, such as Google Docs and Google Sheets. Enterprise versions of Microsoft 365 include Microsoft Project; otherwise, you must acquire the program separately. 

Cloud-based Microsoft Project is on monthly subscription plans with three access levels with pricing based on the number of users. Microsoft offers a free one-month trial for all Project cloud subscription services. 

The basic plan, Project Plan 1, is a web-based-only subscription for $10 per user per month. Project Plan 1 has the basic features of Project, including project timeline, grid view, board view, collaboration and communication tools using Microsoft Teams, project planning and scheduling, reporting, and timesheets. 

Microsoft’s Project Plan 3 is the cheapest plan that includes a desktop client for up to 5 users, although users can still opt for the web browser version of Project. In addition to the features listed in Project Plan 1, Project Plan 3 includes resource management and road mapping tools. This plan is available for $30 per user per month. 

Project Plan 5 is Microsoft’s most expensive subscription plan for Microsoft Project. This plan includes all of the features of the previous two plans and some additional advanced features, including a desktop client, portfolio selection and optimization, demand management, and enterprise-level resource planning and management. 

The professional version has increased collaborative features and integration with Microsoft Project Online. There is also a downloadable desktop application version of Project If you’d prefer a downloaded software application on your computer over cloud-based subscription services. The cost for these versions is around $700 for the standard version and approximately $1,100 for the professional version.

What Are the Benefits of Learning Microsoft Project?

Learning Microsoft Project is required for aspiring Project Managers. Project has been the world's most popular project management software for decades. Harnessing Project’s advanced features for managing complex or multiple projects is a must-have skill for those pursuing project management as a career. 

When most people think of Microsoft Office, they think of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft’s popular suite of productivity applications also includes a project management program, Microsoft Project. One of the reasons that Microsoft Project is so powerful is that it is fully integrated with Office’s more well-known programs. 

To manage projects professionally, you’ll need advanced skills in Microsoft Project. Many Project Managers report that training in Microsoft Project improved their project management skills and ability to manage complex projects. Some of Microsoft Project’s powerful project management tools include creating schedules and plans, task delegation, budget creation and financial management, progress tracking, resource management, and project analysis. 

Read more about why you should learn Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project Careers

The history of project management goes back to the “megaprojects” of the post-war era, including NASA’s Apollo moon missions, the development of nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project, and the building of the U.S. Interstate Highway System. Project management originates in the defense and engineering industries, and Microsoft Project is still widely used in the engineering and defense industries. 

The Project Management Institute (PMI) predicts that over 22 million new Project Manager jobs will be created by 2027: a 33% increase over the next five years. The industries that are expected to add the most project management jobs include Manufacturing and Construction (9.7 million jobs), Information Services (5.5 million jobs), Finance and Insurance (4.6 million jobs), and Management and Professional Services (1.7 million new jobs). Anyone working in these fields would be wise to pursue project management and Microsoft Project training.

How to Learn Microsoft Project

If you’re an aspiring Project Manager, you’ll need to learn Microsoft Project. Thanks to the internet, there are multiple options for how you can learn Microsoft Project, including live classes, on-demand classes, and free online resources.

Live classes can happen in person and live online. Because these classes are happening live, you’ll be able to ask questions and interact with your instructor and classmates in real-time. If you’re someone who likes the interaction of a traditional course, you’ll want to choose a live option. Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool will show you in-person and live online Microsoft Project classes

A second option for training in Microsoft Project is on-demand and self-paced courses. These courses are typically more structured than teaching yourself but lack a live course's interaction, camaraderie, and mentoring. Linkedin and Udemy offer on-demand Microsoft Project courses which cover the basics, but you won’t be able to ask questions. 

On-demand and self-paced courses are ideal for visual learners who are self-disciplined enough to complete the course independently. While on-demand courses offer greater flexibility, the lack of accountability can cause some students to finish more slowly or not at all. 

If you want to stick with free resources, Noble Desktop offers free online seminars on various topics, including Microsoft Office. In their free online Excel Tutorials, students are guided through developing more advanced skills in Excel, including data validation, creating and formatting charts, projects, PivotTables, array formulas, functions, and beginner macros. Or, you can browse the entire list of free tutorials Noble Desktop offers on their YouTube page

Read the full guide on how to learn Microsoft Project.

A Brief History of Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project began as an in-house project management program developed for Microsoft employees. It was released to the public in 1984 and was one of the market's first project management software programs. Project quickly became the most popular project management software for a generation of Project Managers accustomed to paper and pen. 

Microsoft Project is part of the Microsoft Office family of products but is not included in the program suite. Interface features from Microsoft’s other popular programs were integrated into Project later to make its appearance more compatible with the more famous programs. Project is currently available as a standard or professional software application program. Or, you can access Project through Microsoft’s cloud-based subscription services for a monthly fee per user.

Microsoft Project has recently undergone a redesign to modernize its approach to project management. Microsoft surveyed Project users to uncover features and frustrations that needed to be improved. Users longed for a more intuitive workflow, so Microsoft incorporated a default Project Home space for easy access and diverse view options, including Grid, Gantt, and Agile boards. 

Comparable Applications

Microsoft Project is one of the market's oldest project management software programs. Recently, more companies have released web-based and desktop-application project management programs, including Asana, Basecamp, Trello, and Jira. Many of these programs market themselves as easier to use than Microsoft Project, although they lack powerful features for complex project management. 

Asana is a project visualization tool with an easy-to-use and easy-to-learn interface. It integrates with popular productivity tools, including Slack, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams. Asana is excellent for collaborative projects but lacks other programs' powerful project monitoring tools. It also lacks team delegation tools, meaning you can only assign tasks to one person at a time. Premium plans cost around $11 per user per month. 

Basecamp is a fully functional but user-friendly project management tool that allows you to create multiple projects with individualized to-do lists, calendars, and group chats. Basecamp has excellent team communication features, such as automated reminders to submit progress reports to streamline remote monitoring. Basecamp offers a 30-day free trial and a flat fee of around $100 monthly. 

Trello is a browser-based project management program preferred by startups. Although Trello is excellent for individuals or small businesses, it lacks the features to manage more complex projects. Trello does an excellent job with deadlines, and most features are available in the free version. 

Microsoft Project’s biggest competitor is Jira, a fellow heavyweight project management program. Jira is preferred by organizations that use the Agile and Scrum framework for project management. Jira has excellent real-time collaboration tools, features designed for software development teams, and excellent team organization tools. Unlike Microsoft Project, Jira has no built-in risk and cost management features. Jira also lacks an in-program messaging tool. Jira costs around $7 per user per month for teams larger than 10. 

Learn Microsoft Project with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

If you’re an aspiring Project Manager, you’ll need to train in Microsoft Project. NYIM is a business, design, and coding school based in NYC. They offer tech courses and bootcamps both live online or at their state-of-the-art campus in Midtown Manhattan

All of NYIM’s courses have guaranteed small class sizes and are taught by instructors who are experts in their industry. NYIM uses a unique hands-on approach in which instructors give a “micro-lecture” and then immediately guide students through applying what they learned using real-world projects. Graduates can take advantage of NYIM’s “free retake” option, which allows them to retake the course for free for up to one year to refresh or further develop skills. 

Live online courses are a great option if you don’t live in the NYC area. Because the class is happening live, it works exactly like an in-person class: you’ll be able to ask questions, interact with your instructor and classmates in real-time, and even receive direct feedback on your work using screen-sharing software. 

NYIM offers many options for learning Microsoft Project and the other programs in the Microsoft Office suite. In their Microsoft Project Level I course, students learn essential project management concepts and the fundamentals of using Microsoft Project to manage projects. Some of the Project skills that graduates will develop include defining projects, creating and organizing tasks, analyzing task relationships, creating a work breakdown structure, creating a resource calendar, resource management, creating baselines, sharing project plans, and finalizing project plans. Graduates earn a Certificate of Completion, which is sharable on Linkedin and your Project Manager Resume. 

NYIM’s Microsoft Project Level II covers more advanced techniques, including managing multiple projects. Instructors guide students through hands-on projects to develop skills using Microsoft Project to execute a project, monitor progress, control a project plan, create progress reports, and use advanced customized features. Graduates earn a Certificate of Completion to share on their Project Manager resume or Linkedin. 

If you want to study project management or pursue project management education hours toward CAPM Certification, you should consider a course like Noble Desktop’s Project Management Bootcamp. A PMP-Certified instructor trains students in project management theories and methodologies to help them launch a new career as Project Managers. Topics covered include the Project Management LifeCycle, project scope, project planning, resource management, risk management, financial management, team management, and becoming a professional Project Manager.

Key Insights

  • Microsoft Project was developed as an in-house project management tool until its debut on the market in 1984. 
  • Since its release, Microsoft Project has become the world’s most widely used project management software tool.
  • Microsoft offers both downloadable client and cloud-based subscription versions of Microsoft Project.
  • Many of Project’s competitors advertise that they are easier to use. However, they lack Project’s power to manage complex projects.
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