What is the best project management certification?
All officially recognized project management certifications are equally valid, but it can be confusing knowing where to start with so many certifications on the market such as PRINCE2, PMI Project Management Professional (PMP)® and AgilePM to name just a few.
While any project management certification is good to have, some are more specialized than others. It pays to know which project manager certification can be applied to your work, and which are tailored to suit specific industries or work environments. A PRINCE2 Agile certification for example, is aimed at those who already have a PRINCE2 certification and what to adapt what they know to suit an Agile environment.
Every certification has a different purpose, different prerequisites, and tests different criteria. So, what you really must ask is: “What project management certification is best for me?”
What is the best project management certification for me?
A project manager certification can be put into one of three categories: beginner certification, intermediate certification and expert certification.
A beginner certification is one that has no prerequisites (i.e. it requires no previous experience or knowledge). If you’re new to project management, or if you don’t have any other accreditation, you’ll want to start here.
An intermediate certification is a bit of a mixed bag. Some are just extensions of beginner certifications, while others are aimed at working professionals with at least a few months of project management experience. For this article, we’ll consider intermediate certifications as those that have some entry requirements but don’t require you to be an expert in project management.
Expert certifications are still rare. There are only a handful, and those that do exist are less of a learning opportunity and more a badge of excellence rewarded to project managers who take a keen interest in project management theory.
Beginner project management certifications
Like we said, this category will include only those courses that have no entry requirements and are suitable for new project managers or those who have some prior experience in project management and want to gain their first certification.
The Association for Project Management offers the excellent Project Fundamentals Qualification. The APM PFQ certification is for newcomers to project management.
Most candidates gain this certificate by taking an APM PFQ course which teaches basic project management concepts and terminology which will help you make a positive contribution towards any project.
This certificate is becoming very popular in the UK because it comes from the APM, the Chartered Institute for Project Management.
If you want to gain your APM PFQ certificate, the typical learning path is to take an APM PFQ course which takes 2 days, or 25 hours if studying online.
In the UK, a PRINCE2 certification is considered the industry standard in project management. The PRINCE2 Foundation certification tests your knowledge of the PRINCE2 principles, practices, processes, and terminology of the PRINCE2 methodology.
The course content is ideal for anyone who is new to project management making it a popular choice for employers and new project managers alike.
The PRINCE2 Foundation certificate is by far the most common project management certification in the UK.
If you want to gain your PRINCE2 Foundation certificate, the typical learning path is to take a PRINCE2 Foundation course which takes 2 days, or 20 hours if studying online.
PRINCE2 Agile Foundation
In the UK, PRINCE2 Agile certifications are becoming increasingly popular as more projects operate within an agile environment.
PRINCE2 Agile Foundation certification is like PRINCE2 Foundation, except that it is aimed at people working in agile environments. The exam tests you on your knowledge of the core PRINCE2 methodology and agile concepts and terminology.
If you want to gain your PRINCE2 Foundation certification, the typical learning path is to take a PRINCE2 Agile Foundation course which takes 2 days, or 12 hours if studying online.
Another UK certification which is suitable if you are working primarily in an agile environment is the AgilePM Foundation certification from the Agile Business Consortium. This is the most popular agile project management certification in the world, not just in the UK.
AgilePM is based upon DSDM, one of the first agile methodologies, and for this certification you are assessed on your knowledge of the underlying agile project framework.
To gain your AgilePM Foundation certification, the typical learning path is to take a AgilePM Foundation course which takes 3 days, or 20 hours if studying online.
The Project Management Institute offers the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification. This certificate tests your knowledge of the fundamentals of project management and common project terminology.
Eligibility for this certification requires that you already possess a secondary degree and requires that you attain at least 23 hours of project management education completed before the exam. This certificate needs to be renewed every 5 years.
It should be noted that the CAPM certification is mostly popular in the USA, Canada, Africa, and Asia, rather than the UK.
If you want to gain your CAPM certificate, a typical learning path is to take a CAPM course which takes 35 hours of online study.
Intermediate project management certifications
Intermediate project certifications usually have some entry requirements. We’ll start with the easiest and make our way up to the hardest.
Intermediate certifications require that you have a more detailed understanding of what project management is all about. These certifications test you on your ability to apply project management principles, practices, and techniques to life-like project scenarios.
The Association for Project Management offers the Project Management Qualification which tests whether you have a deeper understanding of project management. The APM PMQ certification is usually taken by students having a few years’ experience of project management.
There is no prerequisite for this certification, so you do not need to hold the APM PFQ certificate already.
If you want to gain your APM PMQ certificate, the typical learning path is to take an APM PMQ course which takes 5 days, or 35 hours if studying online.
A PRINCE2 Practitioner certification requires that you first hold the PRINCE2 Foundation certificate. The Practitioner certification tests you on your ability to apply PRINCE2 to life-like project scenarios. More particularly, it tests whether you can apply the PRINCE2 principles, practices, and processes to a fictional project scenario.
After PRINCE2 Foundation, the PRINCE2 Practitioner certification is probably the top project management certification in the UK.
If you want to gain your PRINCE2 Practitioner certificate, the typical learning path is to take a PRINCE2 Practitioner course which takes 2 days, or 15 hours if studying online. Training can also be combined with the Foundation certification course. In this case, training takes 4 days, or 35 hours if studying online.
It should be noted that since the release of PRINCE2 7th edition, the prerequisites for the Practitioner certification have changed. You must now hold one of the following certificates:
- PRINCE2 Foundation or PRINCE2 Practitioner (6th edition)
- APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ)
- APM Project Professional Qualification (PPQ)
- PMI® Certified Associate in Project Management
- PMI® Project Management Professional (PMP)®
- IPMA® Levels A, B, C or D.
IPMA® is a registered trademark of IPMA in Switzerland and other countries.
PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner
PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner certification requires that you first hold either a PRINCE2 Foundation or PRINCE2 Agile Foundation certificate. It is only suitable if you work in an agile environment and want to apply the PRINCE2 framework. The exam tests you on your ability to apply PRINCE2 appropriately in an agile context.
To gain your PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner certification, the typical learning path is to take a PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner course which takes 2 days, or 21 hours if studying online. Training can also be combined with the PRINCE2 Agile Foundation. In this case, training takes 4 days, or 33 hours if studying online.
AgilePM Practitioner certification requires that you hold an AgilePM Foundation certificate. It is suitable if you want to apply the agile project framework on projects. AgilePM Practitioner is a popular choice for project managers working in an agile context.
To gain your AgilePM Practitioner certification, the typical learning path is to take a AgilePM Practitioner course which takes 1 day, or 15 hours if studying online. Training can also be combined with the AgilePM Foundation in which case, it takes 4 days, or 35 hours if studying online.
CompTIA offers some of the leading IT qualifications in the world. CompTIA Project+® focuses on managing smaller, less complex projects within the IT industry. This certification tests student’s knowledge of the specific industry tools used for documentation and requirements analysis.
This course has no prerequisites, but without the recommended 135 hours of IT project development experience, you might find yourself a bit lost.
PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is the most challenging one on this list. To be eligible for this certification you must have 3 years of project management experience and a 4-year college/university degree. Without a degree you require 5 years of project management experience. In both cases you also need at least 35 hours of project management education completed before the exam.
The PMI PMP® exam covers every aspect of project management from your ability to plan projects to monitoring and controlling project tasks.
Maintaining your PMI PMP® qualification requires you continuously accumulate Professional Development Units (PDUs), which are one-hour blocks of time that you spend learning, teaching others, or volunteering.
If you want to gain your PMP certificate, a typical learning path is to take a PMP course which takes 35 hours of online study.
Expert project management certifications
There aren’t a lot of certifications more difficult than those already mentioned. If you want to work as a project manager or are already employed in a project manager, an intermediate certificate will be all you’ll ever need.
The following certification tests your in-depth knowledge of project management but is really only valuable if you are already an expert with many years’ experience.
The APM’s own Project Management Chartered Standard (ChPP) examination similarly takes place over 3 days. In the first 2 days you’ll be given coaching by a ChPP professional and get your paperwork in order. On the final day, interviewed a board and will have to provide comprehensive documentation of your work over the past several years.
The board will be looking to see that you’ve not only encountered several setbacks in your project management career, but that you’ve also overcome these challenges with a little ingenuity and out-the-box thinking.
This list of the top project management certifications is by no means complete. There are other project management accreditations out there, these just happen to be the most widely recognized certifications in the UK and EU.
No matter how much experience you have, or what you’re looking for a project management certification, there’s likely a certificate out there.
Most of the certifications listed in this article are available as courses, so if you you’d like to begin learning, why not look at some of the project management courses offered by Knowledge Train.