BLUF: [b]How important are project management qualifications / certifications in project management?[/b]

Hi all,

In the long term, one of my career objectives is to get into project management.

I am only starting out on my career – 1 year down.
I lead some minor site-wide initiatives along with my day-to-day functional duties.

While I’m sure this may vary by industry, are PM academic qualifications a benefit in getting into PM roles?

How about recognised certification from the PMI or IPMA?

Your comments are much appreciated as I am trying to put together a road map to travel in that direction & it’s all relatively new to me. Thanks.

pmoriarty's picture
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Dina, creator of the Controlling Chaos podcasts which focus around project management, used to be a frequent visitor to these boards, but I haven't seen her in a while.

In my experience it is becoming more and more common to see PMI certifications as a job requirement for people in the project management profession.

James Gutherson's picture

BLUF - Different companies place different values on the piece of paper - but having the knowledge, experience and ongoing development needed to get (and keep) the piece of paper are very important

Cornelius Fitchner of 'The PM Podcast' always askes guests at the end of his cast "What is more important Project Management Expertise or Subject Matter Expertise?" and the answers pretty much are split down the middle from my listening.

pmpodcast's picture


If you are just at the beginning of your career then having a project management certification is definitely beneficial. First of all, the certification forces you personally to get involved in the profession and "learn the lingo". From my own experience on becoming a PMP I can tell you that even after having managed projects for 14 years, without a recognized certification, I had to do a lot of lingo catchup. Second, the certification is an indicator to your current and future employer that you are serious about this. You are not just saying "I'd like to become a project manager", you are supporting this career choice by having taken a certification.

Paul already mentioned, that "PMP certification" is nowadays a standard requirement for PM positions in job ads. What I have seen is also that it changed from a "desirable" to a "required" item on the list.

I agree with Jim that in the end, it is just a piece of paper, but I would have to stress that (at least) a certification documents that you have been able to show a certain level of PM understanding and passed a test. (One of my former colleagues was a PMP and I still wonder how he managed to pass... ;-)

There are several certifications that you can take. If you are in the USA you should look at CAPM or PMP. From what I read in your post, the CAPM is probably more applicable at this time. I think that you will not yet be able to cover the IPMA certification requirements at this time. If you are in England, then Prince2 is a must. And of course, there are always the local universities that offer PM training. The choices are endless...

Now... I am not sure if what I am going to do here is appropriate and I would appreciate it if the moderator would close both eyes on this one... because I did an interview with Thomas Cutting on The Project Management Podcast titled "How can I become a project manager?". So if you are interested in listening to this (free of course) then surf over to The Project Management Podcast and check out Episode #62.

James Gutherson's picture

Sorry for not spelling your name correctly Cornelius. I never meant to say that PMP certification was just a piece of paper - I believe the process and learning that underpins certification is very valuable and something that Martin or anyone else starting down this career path should pursue - it is just not my observation that the actual certification is a standard requirement (yet) in all fields. Gaining and maintianing the certification is an additional expense that Martin and others need to make a value judgment about - the skills, experience and ongoing professional development are essential to maitaining a professional standing in the field.

thaGUma's picture

Martin, as stated by Cornelius, if you are new you need the paper. It isn't a substiture for experience but it shows a level of competance that will get you more opportunities.
PM is a relatively new field and it takes some time for business to accept accreditation it doesn't understand. This phase has passed and qualifications and membership are important.

I have gone back to school to get my accreditation as my job changed from Architect to PM it opens a lot more doors.

Good luck in your career. Chris.

ccleveland's picture

Management-tools philsophy says that past results are the best predictor of future perfomance. Getting a certification is a step at getting good results; however, by itself, it doesn't represent much.

I suggest focussing on how any particular certification would make [u]you[/u] more effective at delivering better results, not about what doors the paper itself can open. In the long run, results make a much better impression.

Craig, PMP

martinoriordan's picture

Hi all,

[b]Update[/b]: I had a meeting with my manager to discuss my PM development in line with this discussion on qualifications / certification / experience. I distilled this forum post into a few high-level points & discussed them at length, along with the current role & future of the organisation… increasing projectization of org… etc…

[b]End result[/b]: My manager has agreed to put me on a PM course in a local university in January. This course is run in association with the national PM institute. After successful completion of this course, I’ll start looking at certification. Also, future roles will have increased PM activity involved...

So thank for all the great information / advice.

[b]Craig[/b]: I’m in full agreement. Now all I have to do is continue to get the right results…

bflynn's picture

[quote="JimGutherson"]Cornelius Fitchner of 'The PM Podcast' always askes guests at the end of his cast "What is more important Project Management Expertise or Subject Matter Expertise?" and the answers pretty much are split down the middle from my listening.[/quote]

Answers split down the middle probably means that both are important. A PM without SME is hobbled to conduct only business functions. A SME without PM knowledge is hobbled to be ineffective. Both are needed for a person to be really effective.

On the other hand, both can be developed, so the overall importance is not that big.


rjholohan's picture

I agree with Cornelius... I waited until I had over 13 years of PM experience before getting PMP certified because it was never required by my place of employment. However, for me preparing to take the PMP broadened my horizons and experience through the study of best practices. I am the only person in my division with a PMP certification and I think it has definitely helped me gain the trust of team members and collegues with less experience.


smasche's picture

I agree with Cornelius, too.

You should be sure that your employer will give you a chance to manage little projects to learn, otherwise you have to change your job after getting this certificate.
Another way could be starting with little projects in your company, learning from scratch. You should ask your chef about the possibilities....
In my opinion personal experiences have more value than a certificate. But if you dont get a chance, than it could be a good start to get a certificate.

Greetings, Stephan.

tcomeau's picture
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[quote="martinoriordan"]How important are project management qualifications / certifications in project management?

It depends.

For some positions a credential is required to even be in the running. A program manager I know won't even talk to people without a PMP certification, regardless of experience. Much of his work is on government contracts, so knowing the PMI language is part of his screening criteria. And frankly, if you're doing a good job of project management, passing the PMP exam isn't all that difficult.

For my organization, having the credential turns out to be a black mark in some cases. Being a PMP is associated with "too much process" and "stifling innovation." Other parts of the organization recognize that the credential requires both knowledge and experience, and some success.

So it's a "nice to have" unless the hiring manager requires it. :)

jtepsic's picture
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I started out at the technican level in my field, then moved on to task manager and eventually project manager; all ithout any exposure to formal PM trainging, and I like to believe that I was at least reasonably sucessful without it. After 15 years in the profession, I went thru the training and certification. I can honestly say I learned alot and it has improved my skills, focusing on standard processes, common terminology and continued learning and collaboration with other professional project managers. It's made a big difference in the way I approach and manage projects. Having the credential is NOT a requirement in my hiring process, however I do pay attention to it as do many of the clients I serve.

All the Best!
Jeff Tepsic, PMP

martinoriordan's picture

Hi all,

[b]Training[/b] - I’ve started a post-graduate diploma course in Applied Project Management in a local university, which has very strong links with the national PM institute. Trainers appear to be seasoned project managers with some great experience. Plenty of course work. Intense at times. I’m enjoying the course & learning a lot in the mean time – both practical & theoretical. I plan to complete this in the next 6 months.
(Also, it’s a great opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals).

[b]Certification[/b] - With the courses links to the national PM institute, I plan to get IPMA (International Project Management Association) certified through the course. After that, I’m considering working towards a PMP certification – I work for a US multinational, so PMP is preferred (from what I gather).

[b]Experience[/b] - I’ve already been green belt certified in Six Sigma. In my current engineering role, I’m gaining experience managing multiple small technical projects. Not much of an opportunity to use the formal structured approach. In addition, I’ve been trained in lean manufacturing & hope to complete my green belt certification in the coming months. In 6 months time, I’ll be moving into supply chain & working on projects of a significant size & importance to the company. & I will get some great exposure to project management at that level. I’m sure the more structured PM approach will be more beneficial with those projects.

As I am only starting out on my career, I really appreciated that you have taken the time to share your knowledge and experience on the forum. It has really helped me develop more focused & detailed personal development plans to achieve my career ambitions… Again thank you for your continued advice / information.

tcomeau's picture
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It seems like you're doing the right things. Good plan!

...Not much of an opportunity to use the formal structured approach. [/quote]

One of the things you'll hear as you learn more about PMI and PMBOK is that the project planning should be tailored to the project environment.

Having a Communication Plan, for example, need not mean that you have a MS Word document that describes in detail how you will have daily progress emails and weekly variance reports with charts and graphs. Rather, your communication plan could be a list of tasks on a whiteboard in the team's workspace with notes when people need help.

One of my ex-bosses was a fan of the TV series [i]Homicide: Life on the Streets[/i] and showed tasks as a simple list: Assignment date, assignee name and description. Open tasks were in red, closed in black. He'd walk through the office like Gi (the Captain in the series) saying "Red to black, fellas. Red to black." That was his Communication Plan.

The point of walking through the PMBOK planning and execution processes is to assure you've thought about how you'll do things. In grad school I did some work on mapping the Extreme Programming practices to both PMBOK and CMMI, and found they mapped very well. If a team has good discipline, they can do all the right things with very little overhead, regardless of team size.


iandstanley's picture

[quote]While I’m sure this may vary by industry, are PM academic qualifications a benefit in getting into PM roles? [/quote]

Academic qualifications apart from PMI or the UK's Prince2 (and MSP) are of limited value.

They might tip the balance on the interview if you are equal top choice but only at the lower end of the experience scale.

Once in a job, building your experience is vital. Try to get a variety of projects under your belt - but do them in a structured manner

I would recommend getting a Prince2 or PMI book to understand the concepts

[quote]How about recognised certification from the PMI or IPMA?[/quote]

Over in the UK the preferred qualifications are peculiar:

Generally, you will be expected to be a Prince2 Practitioner in most fields for senior positions. But in banking they seem to prefer PMI

The Prince2 Practitioner exam is experience based and you will struggle unless you have around 4-5 years of PM experience as 50%+ of the marks are based upon your experiences. Yes if you are good and with less experience you may beat it - however your CV will not back it up. Most companies expect 7-10 years or more experience from a Prince2 Practitioner

It is also becoming very popular in the IT industry to get the ITIL Foundation course after Prince2.

Normally your company will be prepared to pay for the training if you are in a PM role (even a junior PM role)

pmq50's picture

Check out for a wide choice of global certification options.