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Which project management qualification?

26 Jul 2021 By

Choosing the right project management qualification is important for a successful project manager career.

This article explores the available knowledge-based project management certifications so you can choose the right one for you.

Project Management Qualifications

Types of project management qualifications

There are 2 types of project management qualifications: knowledge-based and competency-based.

Knowledge-based qualifications

Knowledge-based qualifications require a candidate to show their knowledge of project management - mainly by passing an examination.

Knowledge-based certifications are suited for people seeking entry to the project manager profession because they usually do not require any prior project management experience.

Competency-based qualifications

Competency-based qualifications require a candidate to show their abilities across a range of project manager competencies. This is done by observing a candidate working alone, working in a group and by interview.

They often require prior project management experience. They are suited to people who want to benchmark their skills against other project managers in the profession.

The rest of this article will only consider knowledge-based project management certification.

UK project management qualifications

In the UK, the main project management accreditation bodies are:

  • AXELOS
  • Association for Project Management (APM)
  • APMG International.

AXELOS qualifications

PRINCE2® is the main project management qualification from AXELOS. It has both introductory and intermediate qualifications. Over 1.6 million exams have been taken since 1996.

PRINCE2 certification is popular in the UK, Europe and Australia. It’s especially desirable in the UK public sector.

A big attraction of PRINCE2 is that certification is available without needing prior project management experience. This is especially useful for people wanting to move into a project management career.

PRINCE2 Foundation (introductory qualification)

Difficulty level: low.

Pre-requisites: none.

For: people wanting a basic introduction to project management best practices.

Covers: basic understanding of the PRINCE2 methodology.

Reference book: Managing Successful Projects Using PRINCE2 (400 pages).

Study duration: 2 days classroom course or 20 hours online.

Exam: 1 hour, 60 multiple-choice questions.

Course: PRINCE2 Foundation.

PRINCE2 Practitioner (intermediate qualification)

Difficulty level: medium.

Pre-requisites:

Any of:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation;
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)®;
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®;
  • IPMA: Levels A® to D®.

For: people wanting to learn how to apply best practices on projects.

Covers: application of the PRINCE2 methodology.

Reference book: Managing Successful Projects Using PRINCE2 (400 pages).

Study duration: 2 day classroom course or 15 hours online.

Exam: 2.5 hours, 68 multiple-choice questions.

Course: PRINCE2 Practitioner.

PRINCE2 Agile Foundation (introductory qualification)

Difficulty level: low.

Pre-requisites: none.

For: people wanting to learn how about project management best practices on Agile projects.

Covers: understanding of the PRINCE2 methodology in Agile environments.

Reference book: PRINCE2 Agile (360 pages).

Study duration: 2-day classroom course, or 20 hours online study.

Exam: 1 hour, 50 multiple-choice questions.

Course: PRINCE2 Agile Foundation.

PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner (intermediate qualification)

Difficulty level: medium.

Pre-requisites:

Any of:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation or PRINCE2 Agile Foundation;
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)®;
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®;
  • IPMA: Levels A® to D®.

For: people wanting to learn how to apply best practices on Agile projects.

Covers: application of the PRINCE2 methodology in Agile environments.

Reference book: PRINCE2 Agile (360 pages).

Study duration: 3-day classroom course.

Exam: 2.5 hours, 50 multiple-choice questions.

Course: PRINCE2 Practitioner

Association for Project Management (APM) qualifications

The UK-based Association for Project Management (APM) is an educational charity. It is the largest independent professional body of its kind in Europe. The APM has over 13,500 individual and 300 corporate members throughout the UK and abroad.

In 2017, APM was awarded a Royal Charter as part of its strategy to raise awareness and standards in the profession.

The APM qualifications are available at introductory to advanced levels. Only the introductory and intermediate qualifications are described below.

Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) (introduction qualification)

The APM worked with the UK Government's Department for Education and Skills to develop the APM PFQ certificate. The PFQ qualification used to be known as the APM Introductory Certificate.

Difficulty level: low.

Pre-requisites: none.

For: people looking to start a career in project management or those wanting to understand the principles of project management.

Covers: project management life-cycle and related knowledge areas from the APMBoK.

Reference book: APM Body of Knowledge 6th Edition (the APMBoK) (258 pages).

Study duration: 2-day classroom course or 25 hours online.

Exam: 1 hour, 60 multiple-choice questions.

Course: APM PFQ

.

Project Management Qualification (PMQ) (intermediate qualification)

The APM PMQ qualification used to be known as APMP.

Difficulty level: medium.

Pre-requisites: none although typically, candidates already have some existing project management experience.

For: people wanting to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in project management.

Covers: project management life-cycle and related knowledge areas from the APMBoK.

Reference book: APM Body of Knowledge 6th Edition (the APMBoK) (258 pages).

Study duration: typically 5 days classroom course or 35 hours online.

Exam: 3 hours with 10 written questions or 2 hours and 6 questions (for PRINCE2 Practitioners only).

Course: APM PMQ.

APMG International qualifications

APMG offers the AgilePM® Agile Project Management qualifications. These are based upon the Agile Project Framework – the latest version of DSDM, one of the oldest Agile methods. There are both introductory and intermediate qualifications.

AgilePM certification has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011. More than 100,000 exams have been taken.

AgilePM qualifications are popular within the IT and software industries.

AgilePM Foundation (introductory qualification)

Difficulty level: low.

Pre-requisites: none.

For: people wanting to learn about managing agile projects.

Covers: basic understanding of the Agile Project Framework.

Reference book: Agile Project Management Handbook (240 pages).

Study duration: 3-day classroom coursecourse or 20 hours online.

Exam: 40 minutes, 50 multiple-choice questions.

Course: AgilePM Foundation.

AgilePM Practitioner (intermediate qualification)

Difficulty level: medium.

Pre-requisites: AgilePM Foundation.

For: people wanting to learn how to manage agile projects.

Covers: application of the Agile Project Framework.

Reference book: Agile Project Management Handbook (240 pages).

Study duration: 1-day classroom coursecourse or 15 hours online.

Exam: 2.5 hours, 80 multiple-choice questions.

Course: AgilePM Practitioner.

Non-UK qualifications

Outside the UK, the main project management accreditation bodies are:

  • Project Management Institute (PMI)®
  • IPMA®.

Project Management Institute (PMI)® qualifications

The most popular project management qualifications in the USA, Canada, Asia and Africa are those offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI)®. PMI® certifications requires prior experience, so they are harder to obtain than the other qualifications listed above.

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® (introductory qualification)

Difficulty level: low (for the exam).

Pre-requisites:

  • A secondary degree (high school diploma or global equivalent); and
  • At least 1,500 hours of experience on a project team, or 23 hours of project management education prior to sitting the exam.

For: people wanting a globally recognized project management qualification.

Covers: project management processes and terminology.

Reference book: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), 6th Edition (592 pages).

Study duration: 3-day classroom course or 35 hours online.

Exam: 3 hours, 150 multiple-choice questions.

Project Management Professional (PMP)® (intermediate qualification)

Difficulty level: medium to high.

Pre-requisites:

  • A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree, or the global equivalent) with a minimum of five years of project management experience, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education; or,
  • A four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent) and at least three years of project management experience, with a minimum of 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.

For: people wanting a globally recognized project management qualification.

Covers:the application of project management knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques.

Reference book: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), 6th Edition (592 pages).

Study duration: 5-day classroom course or 35 hours online.

Exam: 4 hours, 200 multiple-choice questions.

International Project Management Association (IPMA®) qualifications

The IPMA® is a Federation of over 55 Member Associations (MAs), each representing one country. The MAs develop project management competencies in their geographic areas.

The IPMA has a four-level certification program:

  • IPMA Level A®: for those managing complex project portfolios and programmes.
  • IPMA Level B®: for those managing complex projects. Minimum five years of experience.
  • IPMA Level C®: for those managing moderately complex projects. Minimum three years of experience.
  • IPMA Level D®: for those working on projects seeking project management knowledge.

Since 2004, the IPMA has certified more than 150,000 project managers in over 50 countries. One of the largest MAs is the UK-based Association for Project Management (APM).

Choosing a qualification

Employers like to choose candidates for a role based upon their experience. Without experience it’s unlikely you’ll find a job in project management.

However, evidence of a professional qualification can help you. Choose one of these scenarios to help you decide the best qualification.

I want to boost my CV/resume:

  • If you’re based in the UK, Australia or Europe, choose PRINCE2.
  • If you’re working for a US-based company, choose PMI.

I work on Agile projects:

  • Choose AgilePM if you don’t already have PRINCE2; or,
  • Choose PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner if you already have PRINCE2.

I already hold one qualification and want to gain more.

If you hold a qualification on the left, the recommended next one is shown on the right:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation - PRINCE2 Practitioner, or PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner.
  • PRINCE2 Practitioner – APM PMQ.
  • PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner – AgilePM Foundation/Practitioner.
  • AgilePM Foundation – AgilePM Practitioner.
  • AgilePM Practitioner – APM PMQ or PRINCE2 Foundation/Practitioner.
  • APM PFQ – APM PMQ.
  • APM PMQ – PRINCE2 Foundation/Practitioner.
  • PMI CAPM® – PMI PMP®.
  • PMI PMP® – PRINCE2 Foundation/Practitioner.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of different project management qualifications to choose from. It can be a tricky choice choosing the right one for you. If you follow this guide you’ll have a better chance of choosing the right one to meet your needs.