In many ways, our society has gone certification crazy. We demand certifications as though they were a substitute for the ability to think. A guarantee of suitable skills and abilities to do the job. Or as if they were a guarantee that our experience was real.
But there is a place for the right types of certification — even for project managers.
So what certifications actually work for project managers? When can we trust them? What do they say about the people who have them?
Project management is both an art and a science. The science part consists of the tools and knowledge that every PM needs to perform their job. The art consists of how those tools are applied and in the management of people and resources. While the science can be taught and therefore examined for, the art can only be learned by experience. It is for this reason that any major certification for PMs requires experience as one of its qualifications.
There is currently only one qualification of project management that really matters. The Project Management Professional or PMP designation which is administered by the Project Management Institute.
The PMP qualification consists of three separate sections. In order to qualify you must have five (full time) years of project management. If you have a bachelor’s degree then the experience requirement reduces by two years. In addition, you require 35 hours of education in a PM related course. If you qualify then you are able to write an exam. Upon successful completion you are granted the PMP certification.
The PMP qualification — indeed the entire PMI line of certifications — is based on the PMBoK or Project Management Book of Knowledge. This is a major standard or framework for PM produced by the PMI.
The second major set of standards is the PRINCE2 standards. These are based on the standards originally developed for the government of the UK by BSI.
Currently the certification to PRINCE2 and the Australia equivalent is under flux as the organizations switch to a certification process similar to that of ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) in which certification is outsourced to certification bodies. This is the same structure that currently exists for quality management certifications. Although two different certifications exist, in both cases these are stepped certifications allowing the holder to progress. For example the PRINCE2 certification consists of a Foundations level and a Practicioner’s level.
In addition to these major certifications there are a number of lesser certifications of value which can be attained.
1. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) from PMI is an entry level certification for PMs without the experience. This is a short-term certification and is a stepping stone towards the PMP.
2. Program Management Professional (PgMP) from PMI certifies the abilities of a manager responsible for multiple projects. A PMP is required in order to achieve this.
3. PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) and PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) are both from PMI and unlike the CAPM are subset certifications.
4. The Master’s Degree in Project Management is available from a limited number of universities. Generally, they are a form of MBA and are intended to prove advanced education rather than experience.
5. Master’s Certificate in Project Management (MCPM) degrees are available from a number of universities and educational groups. Like the MPM/MBA-PM they are intended to be a Masters level education rather than a certification. However, unlike degrees they are not as closely regulated. The quality varies considerably and the source of the certificate must be considered.