Project Management Certification: Do you need it? Which One?

Project management certification, and everything around it, is the topic I get the most questions about. By far. Consequently, this is the most popular page of this website, so no wonder: it contains links sponsored by some of the world's top training companies that may also help you in your certification quest.

But some people are concerned even with the question should they get certified at all. In most cases the answer is: yes. Why, you ask? We'll address that in another article, so for now just take my word for it. Yes, you should get certified.

And what is the easiest way to become certified? In most cases the answer is: get yourself a mentor. Well, you asked for the easiest, not the cheapest, right? (Sign up here to receive my updates via email) 

There is also a question of which certification should you go for, as there are several options here. In most cases the answer is: PMP or CAPM.

But first...

Do you REALLY need it?

My PMP certificate issued in 2004

Do you just want to learn more about project management? You don't need the project management certification then. It requires a significant amount of time, effort and money. Just go and spend it on something more meaningful and valuable to you.

If you DO need it...

On the other hand, if you strive to get a new (or a better) job as a project manager, then you have to get a certification. As simple as that. It distinguishes you from those other candidates that do not have a certification. And it brings you up to the level of those candidates that already do have a certification.

For some time now employers have been using the project management certification as an important criterion when evaluating the candidates. And more and more employers are doing it.

For insightful comments submitted by other visitors of this site please look also at the links below the article.

Several years ago, when I was a project manager in a big IT corporation, my boss asked me to help him select the best person to fill the vacant project manager position. After all the preliminary filtering that was already done by the HR department, there were about a dozen candidates left. Some of them were certified project managers, some of them were not.

I put together a simple comparison table. For each candidate, I evaluated the information provided in their CVs. If you were in my place, would you use their certification level as one of the criteria?

My PMP certificate issued in 2014

I sure did, and I can tell you, it was a relatively highly-valued criterion as well. Other criteria included the candidate's industry experience, project management experience, experience in projects similar to those we were delivering, formal education, and similar.

At the end I filtered the top three candidates according to all the criteria, and reported it to my boss, together with the criteria and my detailed evaluation. He then invited those three to come to an interview.

All three candidates were certified, by the way. None of those without the certification even made it to the interview.

I know, it's anecdotal evidence, but it's a common scenario. With all other criteria being equal, certified candidates have the advantage. Period.

But there are so many project management certifications!

On the point of selecting the right project management certification to go for, this is a topic that occasionally spurs debates and discussions. I don't have any hard data to support this (not yet, anyway), but PMI's (Project Management Institute) most popular credential PMP (Project Management Professional) seems to give the best return of investment:

My PMP certificate issued in 2007
  • it is recognized worldwide,
  • it is valued, as it is not that easy to get,
  • it is somewhat less expensive,
  • it is tightly connected to the PMBOK® Guide,
  • it remains relevant because it needs to be renewed every 3 years,
  • the exam is standardized (it is exactly the same anywhere in the world), and
  • the exam is objective (executed and evaluated by third party -- testing specialist company Prometric, upon strictly defined objective criteria, and NOT upon subjective opinions of people sitting in accreditation committees).

Please note that I am probably being very biased here because of my heavy involvement with PMI, but these points still remain valid and true.

PMI also issues other certifications:

  • CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management),
  • PgMP (Program Management Professional),
  • PfMP (Portfolio Management Professional),
  • PMI-SP (PMI Scheduling Professional),
  • PMI-RMP (PMI Risk Management Professional),
  • PMI-ACP (PMI Agile Certified Practitioner),
  • PMI-PBA (PMI Professional in Business Analysis), and
  • OPM3 Professional Certification

But they are not nearly as popular as PMP.

My PMP certificate issued in 2011

Other organizations, like IPMA (International Project Management Association) or UK Government (PRINCE2), also issue project management certificates. However, I am not familiar enough with those and they seem to be somewhat less recognized by the worldwide market anyway.

In conclusion, since you are considering pursuing project management certification (otherwise you wouldn't have read this far, now would you?), my recommendation is to go for PMP, and your very next action should be to find out if you are eligible for PMP. If you don't have enough experience, you might also want to check out some ideas how to gather it as quickly as possible.

Your Thoughts on PM Certifications?

I am interested in your questions and experiences with project management certifications, please feel free to share them here.

Read Other Comments on The Best Project Management Certification

Click on the links below to see some great comments about the best project management certifications. They were all written by other visitors to this page.

I have my BA in business administration but a lot of jobs require project management experience. Since I don't have any I am considering getting a PM certificate. …

Am I Eligible? 
I am interviewing for a Project Manager position and I have a BS in Business as well as I worked as a Regional and General Manager in the Recreation and …

Difference between PMP & PRINCE2  
This article also provides a good overview of the differences in PMP & PRINCE2 and helps you see which certification is the best for you: …

DAWIA & FAC Level III Program Management 
Under the Department of Defense Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level III in Program Management is King! In fact, credit is only given to DAWIA Level …

Can an undergraduate take part in project management certification? 
I am an undergraduate in 400 level mechanical engineering and I would like to take a project management certification exam. An advice will do a lot. Thank …

I am in sales and marketing. Will this certification help me grow my career? 
I am in sales and marketing. Am I eligible to get project management certification? If yes then how does it help me grow my career? project-management-mentor …

Certified Project Director (CPD) 
Certified Project Director (CPD) Certification from Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM) is the best specially for those who are involved in …

CAPM® or PMP® certification? 
To be a "card-carrying" project manager it is important to take a certification exam in project management. The credential will show your qualification, …

PMP Certification is robust 
The PMP certification is recognized as an international certification which confirms your capability to deliver projects successfully. The design concept …

Choose certification appropriate for your methodology 
In choosing the project management certification, choosing the methodology itself is very important. You choose the one which is the best for your type …

Being widely known as a PMP and why not an Agile PMP?! 
As a PMP, I do consider this certification as the basic certification any project manager should have. Beyond being tightly connected to PMBOK Guide …

My own view on credentials/certification 
Many folks will want to enhance their career prospects by bolting on a professional credential or certification. There are many reasons for this, for …

PMI Certifications are globally recognized 
It is a topical debate to identify the best project management certification. We spend so much and effort in gaining them, we want to be sure that it is …

PMI certifications are more worth it 
In terms of value, I found the following differences between PMI, Prince2 and IPMA. Prince2 is interesting and fully compliant with PMI (PMBOK). It …

PMP is the best project management certification 
Each of the five E’s stand for an aspect of PMP certification model. This is why I consider that this certification is highly valuable. Education for …

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