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What Certification is Considered the Optimal Choice for Project Management?

Posted by Marbenz Antonio on November 22, 2023

The global landscape is shifting from a focus on operational efficiency and productivity as the primary concerns of most organizations to a new era centered around transformative projects. This involves a heightened frequency of product innovation, application and technology deployment, and the introduction of novel ideas.

Currently, projects contribute to 20-25% of the GDP, amounting to $25 trillion. If you are not already engaged in a project management role, it’s highly likely that you will be in the next few years.

Now, the question arises: Do you need a Project Management certification?

While not mandatory, obtaining a Project Management certification is highly beneficial if you aspire to become part of the expanding global community of project management professionals. If your goal is to actively contribute to multiple projects and add significant value to your organization, acquiring this certification is a prudent choice. After all, being prepared is preferable to being left behind. Moreover, you’ll be in good company, as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a 6 percent growth in employment for project management specialists from 2022 to 2032. This growth rate surpasses the average for all occupations, with an estimated 68,100 annual job openings for project management specialists over the decade.

Project Managers are the Professional Managers of the Project Economy

Research findings from a nationwide study on the state of management and leadership in the UK conducted by the UK Chartered Management Institute and YouGov reveal the following:

  • A substantial 82% of managers taking on management roles have not received any formal management and leadership training, earning them the label of “accidental managers.”
  • Trained managers demonstrate higher comfort levels in handling change initiatives (87%, compared to 77%) and leveraging emerging technology to enhance efficiency (66% vs. 50%).

Relying on accidental project managers poses significant risks. In the absence of a community of program and project management professionals, organizations may face challenges in competing globally. For those aspiring to build a career in project management, obtaining a professional project management certification might soon become indispensable.

Which Project Management Certification is right for you?

We won’t overwhelm you with every conceivable project management certification. Instead, we will concentrate on entry-level qualifications, as obtaining one of these certifications is typically a prerequisite for launching your project management career. Around four million individuals have undergone a project management education program to secure their project management jobs and currently hold a valid project management certification.

Further details on variations and advanced levels can be obtained from the organizations listed below.

Mainstream Project Management membership organizations:

Project Management Institute (PMI)

In most countries, there is a professional body or association dedicated to project management. The largest among them is the Project Management Institute (PMI), headquartered in the United States. This US-based organization played a pioneering role in project management certifications and the development of a project management body of knowledge (PMBoK) in the 1990s. During that era, there was minimal competition, and PMI established chapters worldwide. It’s likely that there is a PMI Chapter in your country.

PMI has introduced various Project Management Certifications, but their original PMP (Project Management Professional) remains the most popular and successful.

To qualify for the PMP certification, you must fulfill the following prerequisites related to your education, training, and on-the-job experience:

  1. If you possess a Four-Year College/University Degree, you must demonstrate:
    • 36 months of experience in leading projects within the past eight years
    • 35 hours of project management education/training or possess the CAPM® certification

    — or —

  1. If you hold a High School or Secondary School Diploma:
    • 60 months of experience in leading projects within the past eight years
    • 35 hours of project management education/training or possess the CAPM® certification.

Project Management Training can be pursued through registered educational providers if necessary and if you have the required experience.

Why should you earn the PMP?

Obtaining the PMP certification is advisable for the following reasons:

  1. It is a widely recognized Project Management Certification, making it a safe choice for certification seekers.
  2. Particularly relevant if you work in the US, as it is the certification most recruiters and employers are familiar with.

However, it’s important to note that significant experience in Project Management is a prerequisite for taking the PMP professional certification. PMI also provides an entry-level project management certification for those who are starting their project management journey.

PMI’s CAPM® – Certified Associate in Project Management

The CAPM® certification doesn’t necessitate prior project management experience. It evaluates understanding of fundamental knowledge, processes, and terminology essential for effective project management performance, as outlined in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Acquiring this knowledge, combined with on-the-job project management experience, contributes to developing competence in the professional practice of project management.

To be eligible for the exam, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Possess a secondary degree, such as a high school diploma, GED (general educational development), or global equivalent.
  • Have completed at least 23 hours of project management education before taking the exam.

International Project Management Association (IPMA)

IPMA, headquartered in The Netherlands, functions as an umbrella organization with about 70 member associations. Similar to PMI, IPMA has established a Body of Knowledge called the International Competency Baseline (ICB). Certification programs based on IPMA standards have been developed by its members and associations.

For the entry-level IPMA Qualification at Level D, prior project management experience is not required. To attain Level D certification, you must follow these steps:

  1. Stage One: Submit your completed application form and self-assessment form.
  2. Stage Two: In this stage, you are required to complete two exams. The first is a one-hour multiple-choice exam with 60 questions covering 50% of the syllabus. The second is a two-hour exam consisting of 14 short-answer questions, of which you must answer 12.

Apart from IPMA Certification, many larger National Associations, such as the Association of Project Management in the UK (APM) and the German Project Management Association (GPM), have their own programs.

The UK’s Association for Project Management (APM) is the only chartered membership organization for the project profession globally. APM offers various project management qualifications, and the entry-level certification is the PFQ. This qualification does not require prior knowledge or experience in project management and covers knowledge areas from the APM Body of Knowledge.

Why would you want an IPMA National Association qualification?

  • If you work in a country where your employer supports the National Standard.
  • If you work for a European company and you have the opportunity to take a certification in a language other than English.
  • If you prefer the IPMA approach, which has more of a focus on competence than on process.

The IPMA Qualifications Digital Badge

Other Project Management Certifications

PM2

PM2, developed by the European Commission, offers a straightforward approach to project management. Originally designed to meet the project management needs of European Union institutions, PM2 has proven suitable for a broad spectrum of projects due to its coverage of general project management principles. The guidance is freely available for download from the Publications Office of the European Union.

While it is gaining adoption in some European countries, it’s important to note that project management training associated with PM2 is available from various vendors, but these are not officially endorsed by the European Union. PM2 is a public resource that aids organizations in building project management capabilities within their teams, without incurring the costs associated with some other project management methodologies.

You might consider obtaining the PM2 certification if:

  • Budget constraints are a concern, and you’re comfortable with self-study.
  • Your employer adopts PM2 as a company standard.

The PM2 Qualifications Digital Badge

Agile Project Management

There are various agile project management approaches, many originating from the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, which aimed to refocus software development. Several organizations incorporate agile elements into their project management certifications, such as PMI and PRINCE2®. However, the Agile Business Consortium, a non-profit organization solely dedicated to business agility, offers Agile Project Management Certifications. These qualifications are widely acknowledged in several countries.

The Agile Project Management Foundation exam is suitable for:

  • Practicing or aspiring project managers
  • Agile team members aiming to become Agile Project Managers
  • Individuals pursuing the AgilePM Practitioner Certificate.

There are several reasons why you might want to pursue the Agile Project Management certification:

  • You may already hold another project management certification and wish to enhance your knowledge in Agile delivery.
  • Your employer is implementing an agile approach to project management, and obtaining this certification aligns with organizational requirements.
  • If you are new to project management and prefer working in an agile manner, this certification provides a solid foundation in agile principles and practices.

Agile Project Management Digital Badge

Project Management Methodologies

There are a couple of reasons why you might consider obtaining a PRINCE2 certification:

  • If you already hold a project management certification, obtaining PRINCE2 certification could deepen your understanding of project management processes, providing a complementary perspective.
  • If your organization’s corporate or governance standards specifically reference PRINCE2, acquiring this certification would align with those standards and contribute to your overall project management expertise.

The Best Project Management Certifications

The prevailing consensus suggests that the overall success rate of projects has remained largely unchanged over the past 50 years. While obtaining precise data can be challenging, the general agreement is that around 70% of projects fail to achieve their initial objectives. Martin Cobb, in 1995, encapsulated this sentiment in what is now referred to as Cobb’s paradox: “We know why projects fail, we know how to prevent their failure – so why do they still fail?” – Martin Cobb, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Ottawa, Canada.

If you’re interested in learning about project management and pursuing a certification that deviates from the traditional approach to project management, you may want to explore the following options:

Half Double Institute

The Half Double Institute, initiated by the Danish Foundation for Industry, assembled a team of academics and industry experts to revamp project management for a substantial improvement in project success rates. Their strategic objective was to deliver twice the value in half the time. Collaborating with various Danish companies over the past 7-8 years, they researched, piloted, and formulated a new project management approach now known as the Half Double Methodology.

Led by Aarhus University, the research involved a team and output-oriented perspective, aiming to deliver benefits to organizations. The Half Double Methodology focuses on achieving greater value creation and a proven increase in project success rates. The institute has published several research findings as part of their work.

To achieve the Half Double Foundation certification, individuals must participate in an Ignite Training session and successfully pass the accompanying exam. The training course and exam are centered around three core principles: Flow, Leadership, and Impact. Emphasizing these principles aims to foster greater value creation and demonstrate a proven increase in project success rates. The certification program imparts candidates with straightforward tools and practices applicable to their organizations, empowering them to enhance the impact of their projects in a shorter timeframe.

Why would you want to gain a Half Double Certification?

  • If your organization is reassessing its strategic program management.
  • If your current project management approach is not yielding the expected benefits, and you are open to trying a different approach to enhance your project success rate.
  • If you are open to being convinced by substantial evidence that a new approach is effective.
  • If you already hold a Project Management Certification and are interested in broadening your knowledge of alternative Project Management approaches.

The Half Double's Certification Digital Badge

Praxis Framework

Praxis Framework, launched around five years ago, presents one of the most comprehensive approaches to Project Management. It is a community-driven, web-based product that consolidates guidance from Project Management Membership Bodies and various sources, offering a strategic program management approach encompassing people, teams, tools, processes, and project management maturity. The content, available under a Creative Commons License, can be customized to create a Project Management playbook tailored to an organization’s specific needs.

Why would you want a Praxis Framework Certification?

  • The Praxis Framework courses and certifications consolidate content suitable for both projects and programs, offering a straightforward and cost-effective solution for many organizations.
  • If you are part of a global company with project managers holding various project management certifications, Praxis Framework could serve as an option for establishing a global standard without the need to retrain your project professionals.
  • If you value the importance of people and team dynamics in project management as much as, or even more than, the tools and processes, Praxis Framework provides continuous improvement tools for reviewing team performance that aligns well with your corporate culture.

Praxis Framework Digital Badge

Project Canvas

One of the early advocates for the concept of the project economy is Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, as discussed in his recent Harvard Business Review Project Management Handbook: How to Launch, Lead, and Sponsor Successful Projects (HBR Handbooks). In this handbook, he introduces the Project Canvas.

Drawing inspiration from the highly successful business model canvas by Alexander Osterwalder, Project Canvas outlines fourteen components of project management that should be considered and addressed during the planning and scoping phases. While it serves as an excellent tool for thinking and planning, it does not delve into detailed tools and techniques. The Project Canvas is particularly suitable for senior management and sponsors aiming to grasp the essential elements needed for the successful delivery of projects within their strategic portfolios. Training courses and a certification program are available, including a course on LinkedIn Learning.

Why would you want a Certification in Project Canvas?

You already possess a project management certification but are keen to explore new ideas and approaches. You believe project managers should operate at a strategic level and are seeking a tool to engage senior management effectively. You want a tool that can streamline early discussions with your project sponsor and team. If you already use Business Canvas and wish to apply a similar approach to your portfolio of projects, Project Canvas might be the right fit for you.

Project Canvas Digital Badge

Project Management Offices (PMO)

We are already in the project economy, but not everyone aspires to be a Project Manager or work on complex projects. Some individuals may be averse to the uncertain nature of working on projects where future opportunities are unclear. For those seeking a fulfilling career without direct project involvement, a Project Management Office (PMO) offers an excellent option.

The House of PMO has formulated a formal career path for Project Offices, often acting as the cohesive force that binds elements together. The PMO serves as the bridge between an organization’s strategy, project portfolio execution, and the delivery of benefits to the organization.

This career path is an ideal choice if you acknowledge the shift towards a project economy and aspire to contribute to strategic portfolio management. The House of PMO recognizes Praxis as an excellent source of information on project management but places a specific emphasis on delineating the key roles and responsibilities of individuals within the PMO.

The House of PMO Essentials provides a suite of four training courses designed to cater to various stages in a PMO practitioner’s career, focusing on enhancing day-to-day performance in these roles.

  • Essentials for PMO Administrators – is designed for beginners, with no prerequisite knowledge or qualifications required.
  • Essentials for PMO Analysts – The course is intended for individuals who have a grasp of the fundamentals of project, program, or portfolio management. Therefore, a formally recognized professional Project Management certification at the Foundation level or above is a prerequisite.
  • For both Essentials for PMO Managers and Essentials for PMO Directors, participants are expected to have practitioner-level expertise in managing projects, programs, or portfolios. Eligibility for these courses requires holding a formally recognized professional Project Management certification at the practitioner level or having a minimum of three years of relevant hands-on experience.

Certification in all four qualifications is achieved through training participation and successfully completing an exam. The training enables you to leverage your own experiences, learn, and apply the competencies and best practices to develop your career.

Essentials for PMO Digital Badge

Conclusion

You will likely be involved in projects in the coming years, and organizations will seek individuals to lead and deliver those projects successfully. Having a certification demonstrates that you possess a fundamental understanding of project management. The ideal scenario involves pairing a certification with practical experience.

Considering the insights from the CMI report and the shift towards a project economy, it’s reasonable to anticipate that a Project Management Certification could become a requirement for management roles across various industries in the near future.

 


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