Deciding to become certified is both a big investment… and a big decision. There are conflicting opinions about whether certification is necessary, or worth the cost, as well as decisions on which type of certification you should obtain.
There are plenty of options, everything from short courses requiring no experience to full-time Masters-level courses in project management. You can get certificates tailored to your industry, or generic accreditation that marks you out as a project manager who can manage virtually any project.
Being certified can be an obvious advantage if you’re pursuing a new position or looking to advance. A credential demonstrates that you’ve invested time and money, that you’re serious about your career, and that you are willing to go the extra-length to stand out from the crowd.
So which credential should you choose? Here’s our breakdown of the top 4 credentials that you might consider.
The Certified Associate in Project Management credential from PMI is an entry-level qualification that is suitable for people working in a project environment. Even if you don’t have project experience, you can still apply to take the exam. The idea behind this qualification is to provide individuals with the knowledge, terminology and processes they need to successfully operate on a project team.
You need to meet the eligibility criteria before you can apply. That means that you have to have a high school diploma or equivalent and 1,500 hours of project experience, or 23 hours of project management education by the time you sit the exam.
You can gain this education in a number of ways, including boot camps from an approved training provider that are designed for CAPM students.
The Project Management Professional credential from PMI is the next level up from CAPM. It’s designed for people who already have experience leading and managing project teams and is recognized worldwide as the mark of a project professional. Many employers specify PMP when recruiting for project management positions.
It also has eligibility criteria. You need either a high school diploma (or equivalent) plus 5 years of experience on projects including 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, or a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) with 3 years of project management experience and 4,500 hours leading and directing projects. Whichever of these criteria fits you, you still need 35 hours of project management education, which is the equivalent of a week’s training course. You don’t have to do it as a week-long block and there are plenty of providers who can give you accredited lessons online if you prefer to study that way.
Once you have achieved your PMP, you’ll have to earn professional development units (PDUs) in order to keep it current, so if you go down this route make sure you are happy to sign up to a continuing professional development scheme, otherwise you’ll lose your credential.
The International Project Management Association (IPMA) is a federation of over 50 membership organizations. If your country has a local project management association, the chances are that it is affiliated to IPMA.
The qualification you sit for will depend on what is on offer in your local area, but regardless of where you are in the world the certificates are categorized into 4 levels:
- IPMA Level A: Certified Projects Director (for someone who manages complex project portfolios and programs.)
- IPMA Level B: Certified Senior Project Manager (ideal if you manage complex projects. You need a minimum five years of experience.)
- IPMA Level C: Certified Project Manager (designed for people who manage projects of moderate complexity. It requires a minimum of three years of experienc.e)
- IPMA Level D: Certified Project Management Associate (if you are new to projects, look for a qualification at this level as this will show that you can apply project management knowledge when working on projects)
Your credential will be recognized in your country and will also map to the equivalent level in any other country where IPMA operates, so it is a global scheme. You can find out more at http://ipma.ch.
PRojects IN a Controlled Environment (version 2) is a qualification scheme run by the UK government. Despite this, it is widely used in Europe and beyond, and has become the de facto standard for government and public sector projects in many countries.
There are no eligibility criteria, but it is useful to have worked in a project environment as this will help you make sense of the course material. You can study alone and just turn up for the exam, or take a training course. Normally, a course lasts 5 days with the exam on the final day, although your local training providers can confirm exactly how their training programs run. In Australia for example, Project Laneways runs a 3-day foundation course followed by a 2-day practitioner course. Other companies offer online courses.
There is no ongoing continuous education requirement – once you’ve got the qualification, you’ve got it. However, it does only last for 5 years and after this time you have to take a refresher exam.
Don’t forget that there are likely to be project management certificates, credentials and courses specific to your country, aside from the ones mentioned here. Check out your local project management associations and see what they have to offer. There are a myriad of options for online and classroom courses designed to suit your budget and experience.
Beyond certification, you need to know the tools of the trade. With ProjectManager.com, you can manage your projects through the entire project lifecycle. You can even try it to track your progress towards certification. Start your free trial today.