Project management certification is one of the best ways to get ahead in your career. Certification gets you started on ladder to success, and the next rungs are promotions and salary increases. Although the first step is the most important, wise builders must make sure the ladder is positioned in the right place so that the destination is the right one.
That’s why it’s important to consider your options carefully. Here are 16 project management certifications that ensure you get to the top.
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
The PMP is the flagship of the Project Management Institute, and the go-to certification in most parts of the world. As of this writing, there are 833,000 PMP certifications worldwide. Its primary competitor, the PRINCE2 Practitioner certification, has about the same number of certifications but is more specialized geographically, and the IPMA level B and C certifications are significantly smaller. PMP is well recognized anywhere in the world, and is the safest way to get certified. The primary manual is the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), and a series of “practice standards” define the technical project management theory.
- PRINCE2 Practitioner
The other main project management certification has about one million certifications, of which 44% are in the UK. PRINCE2 was developed by the UK government and remains a prerequisite for bidding some UK government work. Growth in other regions of the world are in the double digits, however, and global growth is the main focus of Axelos, the UK government-owned (partially) organization that administers PRINCE2. PRINCE2 is significantly easier to obtain than PMP, as it has no other requirements than studying the official manual, and passing the exam. Unlike PMP, PRINCE2 is a specific project delivery method that presents a method for managing stakeholders, communication, risk, and so forth, not project management theory like the critical path method, earned value management, and risk analysis.
- IPMA Level B
The International Project Management Association (IPMA) administers a certification scheme that spans from level A to level D. Level B is for large or complex projects where the successful implementation of project management methods are integral to project success. In order to achieve level B, the project manager must demonstrate their knowledge of project management practices, and outline their implementation on a specific project or projects. All of the IPMA certifications are managed through member associations in each country, for example, the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK.
- IPMA Level C
Both IPMA levels B and C are equivalent to the PMP and PRINCE2 Practitioner certifications. Unlike level B, level C is for smaller, simpler projects where customer relationships often constitute a bigger factor in project success than strict adherence to project management principles. To put it another way, professional project managers are level B and project managers who are technical managers within another field of expertise are level C.
- PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
The PMI’s fastest growing certification, PMI-ACP represents certification in Agile project management. Agile is an extremely popular new form of project management which values the speed of project change implementation more than highly detailed project plans. To put it another way, instead of charting the most efficient path to the destination, it focuses on adjusting to a new path quickly. Agile is ideal to R&D or software projects, or projects where the end result is not well defined. It was developed for software projects, and the PMI’s Agile Certified Practitioner is one of the best ways to get certified for Agile.
- PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner
The PRINCE2 system’s equivalent to the PMI-ACP is the Agile Practitioner certification. The PRINCE2 Agile method has its own manual separate from the main PRINCE2 method, but the agile method does not represent a major deviation from the main method. The division of the project into “stages” which are project phases that have no explicitly defined technical content, was inherently agile-friendly even before agile became prominent. As with the other PRINCE2 certifications, the Agile Practitioner certification demonstrates knowledge of the PRINCE2 system rather than general project management knowledge.
- PRINCE2 Agile Foundation
The PRINCE2 Agile Foundation certification is the associate level certification for Agile Practitioner. It requires a lesser knowledge of the PRINCE2 Agile method and the exam does not require an extensive application of the method.
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
The Project Management Institute’s associate level certification, the “baby PMP” requires no prior project management experience or post secondary education. The CAPM is the ideal way for technical professionals to be recognized for project management expertise without the onerous requirements of a full certification (either already a project manager or wanting to become one). As with the other associate project manager certifications, the CAPM is a great way for a technical person to enter into project management.
- PRINCE2 Foundation
The associate level certification of the PRINCE2 system requires a slightly lesser knowledge and application of the PRINCE2 method. As with the PRINCE2 Practitioner certification, it tests your knowledge of the PRINCE2 method, not project management theory in general.
- IPMA Level D
The IPMA’s level D associate level certification also requires no prior project management experience. It is the entry level certification for folks who want to move into project management but don’t have the necessary experience.
The PMI’s Risk Management Practitioner certification is a specialty certification related to project risk management. Risk identification, analysis of severity and probability, prioritization and response planning are integral to this subject. The PMI’s Practice Standard for Project Risk Management is the technical guide for this certification.
The PMI’s Scheduling Practitioner certification focuses on the definition of project activities and project schedule management. Estimating activity duration and managing task dependencies are the focus of the PMI’s Practice Standard in Project Scheduling, which forms the foundation for this certification.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge’s Collect Requirements process is the focus of this specialty certification, the PMI Project Business Analyst. The business case, organizational goals and project returns on investment are the key knowledge components of the PMI-PBA, and it is considered one of the bigger drivers of future project management certification for the PMI.
The PMI’s Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification is not technically for project management, but since its administered by the PMI, I will include it here. A program is a series of projects that is temporary in nature, for example an oil refinery where feasibility, environmental monitoring, and construction are separate projects. Proper allocation of funding and selection of priorities are an important component of programs.
The PMI’s Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP) is also not strictly a project management certification, but I include it here again because it’s administered by the PMI. A portfolio is an ongoing series of projects, like a series of highway paving projects for a State Department of Transportation. Unlike a program, it has no defined end point, but like a program, it includes components on prioritizing components, funding, and strategy.
- IPMA Level A
The IPMA’s program and portfolio certification is called level A, and once again it is included here only because it is administered by the IPMA. Both programs and portfolios are included in level A, hence it is equivalent to PgMP and PfMP. The Individual Competence Baseline which governs project management competence, also governs programs and portfolios. The only difference is that there is one more competence element (the 29th) which is called “Selection.”
Climbing the ladder of success requires discipline and hard work. Each step must be taken carefully and the ladder must be positioned for success. Good luck on your climb!