Are Certifications Worth It for Project Managers?

Are Certifications Worth It for Project Managers?
  • Certifications aren’t compulsory but handy to have as they can earn you more money, boost confidence and credibility.
  • There are 3 popular project management certifications: PMP, CAPM and the Prince Foundation.
  • Apart from professional organisations, universities and colleges may offer them on top of short courses.​

Project managers are people who take the helm in all five phases of a project life cycle: preparation, implementing, checking, controlling and closing. They are responsible for everything in the project – the team, the resources, and eventually, the success or the failure of the project.

Needless to say, being a project manager is a very challenging job because, in addition to being a subject matter expert in their field, they need knowledge in areas such as integration, time, communication, risk procurement, integration and stakeholder management.

Granted, these skill sets are paramount to survive in the project management world, but another criterion that’s often asked is the need for certification. Should you get certified as a project manager? And what kind of certifications are out there? Let’s find out.

Certification versus degree

Certification is not a degree. Degrees are given by universities and governments and take longer to finish. Degrees also require the students to take other general courses in addition to their main study.

On the other hand, certifications are awarded to students by professional organisations and focus only on one area of study. A certificate doesn’t mean that you’re able to legally work and practice in a specific profession. You may need a license for that.

What type of project management certification should you take?

There are all sorts of project management certificates you can take. There are certifications that cover entry-level jobs and are just there to explain what to expect in the project management environment.  There are more sophisticated ones like IPMA for certified projects director.

Choosing which type of certificate can be difficult, and the best thing to do when in doubt is to just look at which certificate your co-workers have and start from there. If you don’t want to do that, you can also look at job advertisements from your industry to see what type of certificate they are looking for.

With this said, here are some of the popular general project management certifications that you might want to consider. Although these are not industry-specific and might not answer industry-specific questions such as, “what is a punch list manager in construction?”, these certainly are a good place to start.

1. Project Management Professional (PMP)

This certificate is one of the most popular choices for a project manager because it's not limited to just one industry. To be eligible for enrolment, you must have the following qualifications:

  • Have finished a four-year secondary degree
  • Three or more years’ experience in project management
  • 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education

In lieu of a secondary degree, you can also take it if you have a high school diploma and the following:

  • Five years or more PM (project management) experience
  • 7,500 hours of leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education

2. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

This course is also administered by the PMI, and the CAPM is recommended for professionals who don’t have a university degree or with basic project management experience. You can think of the CAPM as the starting point for the PMP course.

CAPM requires the participants to have the following:

  • High school diploma/ Associates degree or an equivalent
  • 1500 hours of project management experience or 23 hours of education on project management

3. PRINCE Foundation /PRINCE2 Practitioner

PRINCE, which stands for Projects in Controlled Environment, is a well-known project management certificate in the UK and is brought by the ILX Group. This certificate focuses on the directing, managing, and delivering any kind of projects throughout the 5 phases – from its preparation to its completion.

The Prince2 Foundation is an entry-level certification that focuses more on the basics of project management which includes terminology and methods. The Practitioner certificate is for advanced project managers who have already passed the Foundation.

There are many more project management certifications that you can take, and some are industry specific. Also, it might be a good idea to mention that often, colleges also offer project management certification and short courses. If you are interested, it might be a good idea to check out your local college to see what they offer.

Do you need a project management certification?

Well, technically no one really needs a certification. It's not a fundamental need like air or water, but, certainly, it's nice to have.  At the very least it will show your company that you are serious about your career in project management because it takes a lot of time, effort, and money to go through the whole nine yards of applying, studying and taking an exam.

Furthermore, study shows that certification can get you a higher salary compared to people in the same position without it. If earning a higher salary is something important to you, then it's certainly worthwhile to get certified.

Having certificates can also boost your confidence and make you more self-assured when talking to investors, which can also contribute to making sure that the project is a success.

However, there is one important thing that certificates can't give you – the skills to be a good project manager. You may know all the theories behind project management but being a successful project manager goes beyond any theory, and this is something that just can't be taught in any classroom. It can only be learned by experience.