Deciding which project management qualifications to aim for is a big concern to many new and experienced project managers. Which credentials are best? Which will help me progress in my career? If I choose the wrong one will that prevent me from getting a job in certain organisations?
Whilst it is true that some organisations favour certain qualifications over others, and that certain examining bodies place greater emphasis on, say, theoretical knowledge than others, it is also true that a project manager with solid experience of running complex projects will be in demand whatever their PM qualifications. What is important is that you have well-recognised PM qualifications because some employees will not consider non-accredited candidates for some project manager roles.
Experience is undoubtedly essential but so too are qualifications specific to the role you are undertaking or plan to undertake – they not only show you are capable of doing a good job but they are also an indication of how committed you are to being the best you can and continually developing as a professional. PM qualifications are one of the most valuable investments you can make in your career as a project manager.
The project management profession is a growing and developing profession and there is always plenty to learn about the latest techniques and approaches best suited to particular projects. That said, choosing “the best” project management accreditation route is not easy and, in many ways, you are fortunate if the decision is made for you by your industry or by your current firm – even more fortunate if they are willing to pay for your training.
But what if your company is not offering training opportunities or you are a PM consultant wanting to improve your career prospects – how do you make the right choice?
What are the main PM approaches to choose from?
There are a number of major, internationally recognised methodologies to consider for project management accreditation:
- 1. The Association for Project Management (APM)
- 2. PRINCE2
- 3. The Project Management Institute (PMI)
- 4. Agile
All of these approaches are well proven and highly regarded around the world and across different industries. Strictly speaking the APM and PMI approaches, with their Body of Knowledge documentation, are guides to the skills a project manager requires to manage projects successfully, whereas PRINCE2 is a formal methodology that uses templates, processes and roles & responsibilities. However, APM, PRINCE2 and PMI have a significant amount of overlap (hence training courses aimed at practitioners of one discipline converting to another). However, they also have significant differences.
Agile, on the other hand, is a completely different approach to managing projects and yet many projects are successfully completed using a combination of both traditional and Agile approaches.
So let’s have a look at the main features of these different methodologies.
The Association for Project Management (APM) is the largest not-for-profit professional organisation of its kind in Europe. The APM approach to project management is suitable for project managers in any industry sector and it is based on the APM’s own Body of Project Management Knowledge (APM BoK). It offers a range of qualifications suitable for individuals at all levels of responsibility within a project offering a defined professional development route for project managers.
The APM promotes project management through its “Five Dimensions of Professionalism“:
- Breadth the detailed knowledge within the APM Body of Knowledge
- Depth PM excellence requires both knowledge and hands-on experience.
- Achievement gaining professional qualifications and credentials.
- Commitment career enhancement via Continuing Professional Development.
- Accountability committing to the APM Code of Professional Conduct .
The PRINCE2 methodology uses a series of well-defined (some might say rigid) techniques and processes originally devised by the UK government but now commonly employed in many large companies as well as government organisations around the world and within the United Nations. Software tools that support the methodology, user groups and forums can be found in a variety of languages reflecting it’s international usage.
It’s ethos is that projects can be delivered more reliably and successfully when managed in a controlled way. Whilst originally used for IT projects, like many other methodologies, it is now used widely across many industries and sectors. Whilst it is a process-driven method it has relatively few parts, comprising of 8 processes, 8 components and 3 techniques. Prince2 processes include processes such as Initiating a Project, Controlling a Stage and Closing a Project. The components include the Business Case, Plans, Quality and Change Control and the 3 techniques are:
- Product Based Planning to ensure emphasis is placed on completed products not completed tasks.
- Change Control to document, analyse and approve all change requests.
- Quality Reviews to ensure each deliverable meets the pre-defined quality guidelines.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) in the US developed the PMP qualification and it is now the most widely held credential by project managers in North America. The PMI and PMP are very well-recognised internationally, so if you expect to be working in the US or for an international organisation the PMP Certification could be the right choice for you.
It focuses on developing the skills and knowledge required to successfully manage a range of projects and is based on the PMI Body of Knowledge (BoK). The fourth edition of the BoK is based on five process groups:
- 1. Initiating
- 2. Planning
- 3. Executing
- 4. Monitoring and Controlling
- 5. Closing
And nine knowledge areas:
- 1. Integration management
- 2. Scope management
- 3. Time management
- 4. Cost management
- 5. Quality management
- 6. Human resource management
- 7. Communications management
- 8. Risk management
- 9. Procurement management
The PMI BoK is hugely detailed guide to project management and, whilst some would argue that it is best suited to large or complex projects, the approach can be tailored for small and simple projects.
Agile Project Management is suited to business projects which are aiming for high speed innovation. They focus on rapid delivery of products at frequent stages and reduce the bureaucracy typical of some more traditional project management methods. In many situations an agile approach will deliver greater value at lower cost.
The recognised Agile qualifications aim to provide standards and rigour in the project management process but at the same time encourage rapid delivery of benefits throughout the project ifecycle.
Project Management Qualifications at a Glance
APM Project Fundamentals
(formerly APM IC)
Covers the fundamental principles of project management for those with no previous knowledge or experience. Includes planning and scheduling, communication, teamwork, resource management, project risk management and project reviews.
APM Project Management
|Covers all aspects of project management including wider strategic and commercial aspects. Includes basic principles as well as budgeting and cost management, communication, conflict management, leadership and negotiation.
PRINCE2® Registered Practitioners may take a shorter version of the exam in recognition of their prior learning.
APM Practitioner Qualification
|APM PQ is for project managers with previous experience on non-complex projects and either the APMP qualification or equivalent experience. It includes risk management, responding to change and post-project evaluations.
APM Risk Management Certificates (2 levels)
Aimed at project managers with an APMP qualification or equivalent enabling themto contribute or to lead the project risk management process.
APM Registered Project Professional (RPP)
|APM RPP is for project managers who can demonstrate that they have competently managed complex projects with the appropriate tools, processes and techniques. Submission of a portfolio of previous project work and a proven commitment to continuing professional development is required.
Aimed at project team members working in a PRINCE2 environment to give them an understanding of the principles and terminology of the method.
Aimed at Project Managers to equip them with the skills they need to apply the PRINCE2 methodology and tailor it to a project’s needs, where necessary.
Certified Associate in Project Management
CAPM® is designed for project team members and new project managers.
Project Management Professional
PMP® is aimed at experienced project managers with the pre-requisite education, experience and training.
Agile PM Foundation
Covers the core principles of successful project management, while enabling agility in order to focus on project productivity. Aimed at all competency levels from highly experienced project managers to those new to the industry.
Agile PM Practitioner
Delivers in-depth knowledge of agile principles and how to apply them on a daily basis. Prerequisites are AgilePM Foundation Certificate or equivalent.
What factors may influence your choice?
The prerequisites of each qualification will, obviously, play a major part in your decision making. For instance, there are no pre-requisites for taking a PRINCE2 training course but, conversely, there are very rigid pre-requisites for a PMI certification so these would be more appropriate for people who have some prior experience in a project management environment.
The PMI requires project managers without a university degree, to have a minimum of five years of project management experience, including at least 7,500 hours managing projects. In addition you must have some form of further education (e.g. ‘A’ Levels) to qualify.
Those with a degree require three years of project management experience for PMI qualifications, including 4,500 hours leading projects. All work experience must have been gained within the past 8 years.
Similarly, where in the world you are likely to spend most of your working life will also influence your decision. Project managers planning to work mainly in the UK or Europe might do well to choose the APM or PRINCE2 qualifications whereas those based in the US may be better suited to taking the PMI qualifications.
Agile qualifications are relevant anywhere in the world.
Since 2007 the APM has been working towards achieving Chartered status for the project management profession to raise professional standards. Following a recommendation in 2013 to grant a Royal Charter to APM this was challenged by the PMI at the High Court in London. Although the challenge was dismissed, PMI sought leave to appeal. A decision on whether PMI can proceed with its challenge is expected late in 2014.
If the APM is granted chartered status this could, clearly, influence your choice of qualifications to aim for.
Other course offered
Depending on how you see your career developing both the APM and the PMI offered a range of other professional qualifications such as;
• PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)®
• AMP Registered Project Professional (APM RPP)