Top 4 project management qualifications in the UK and the US
By María Cobano-Conde, Content Development Manager, TSO
Most companies are involved in an ever-growing portfolio of projects, which are to be delivered on time and to the highest standards. This puts project managers in a pivotal position to make sure that projects run smoothly. As their role is so central in the companies they work in, it is relevant to ask what project managers want for their careers and their futures.
According to a 2021 report by Elizabeth Harrin, the top career goal for project managers is getting certified. For this, we have compared the top four project management qualifications in the UK and US to offer project managers a wide view of their options to get qualified and achieve their goals.
Project management qualifications in the UK
How can PRINCE2 help you in your career?
PRINCE2 (short for PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a project management method. It was developed by the UK Government in the 1980s to manage IT projects and was reviewed in 1996 to suit a wider variety of industries (hence PRINCE2). It is the world's most practised method for project management with one million certified professionals worldwide. With PRINCE2 you will:
- acquire the skills to manage projects effectively and successfully from start to finish
- learn how to plan projects before initiating them, structuring each stage and learning lessons for the future after completion
- understand how to use the method, based on seven themes ('what?'), seven principles ('why?') and seven processes ('why?') to deliver projects
- compatibility with Agile ways of working
- manage projects of any size and industry, as it is completely scalable and tailorable.
Who is PRINCE2 for?
Project managers, those who work closely with them (project board members and team managers, for example) and anyone interested in learning to manage projects.
How do I get qualified?
PRINCE2 has two levels of qualification: PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner. There is no previous experience or education required for the Foundation certification. Exams are open-book (you can take your book with you) and certifications must be renewed every three years. To get qualified, you can take PRINCE2 training courses via one of the Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs) (1-7 days) or self-study and take your exam 100% online. If you decide to do the latter, check out the official guide and app for Apple and Android. PRINCE2 is a trademark of AXELOS, which develops the official guidance and exams.
2. Association for Project Management (APM)
How can APM help you in your career?
APM is an educational charity and the only chartered body for the project management profession. Rather than a single method, they offer a series of qualifications to learn the key elements of the project management life cycle and the knowledge areas in project management (such as communication, budgeting and effective governance). APM offers:
- a progressive structure of qualifications
- a route to the Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) standard
- the chance to learn a mix of tools, techniques, processes and skills in project management
- shorter exam for PRINCE2® Registered Practitioners in the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ)
Who is APM for?
The APM qualifications are designed for those wishing to acquire an understanding and knowledge of project management, for project managers looking to progress in their careers and for those looking to achieve the Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) standard, depending on previous education and experience.
How do I get qualified?
APM has three levels of qualification: APM Project Fundamentals (PFQ), APM Project Management (PMQ) and APM Project Professional (PPQ). To get qualified, you can take a course and exam delivered by APM's accredited training providers, both online and face-to-face. Otherwise, you can self-study and take an online exam via their website. The syllabuses for the qualifications are aligned to the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition.
Project Management qualifications in the USA
3. Project Management Institute (PMI)
How can PMI help you in your career?
Created in 1969, PMI is a not-for-profit professional membership association for project managers. Their best-known creation is the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), which is not a method but an industry framework that gathers best practices in project management, and it is widely adopted in the US. It collates processes, terminologies and guidelines that set the standard in project management, which is constantly updated as the project management practice evolves. All the knowledge is captured in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, commonly known as the PMBOK Guide (6th Edition). PMI provides:
- compatibility with predictive, agile and hybrid approaches
- emphasis on people, processes and business environment
- a certification suited for high school and post-secondary students
- fundamental knowledge, terminology, and processes of effective project management.
Who is PMI for?
PMI offers certifications for professionals looking to work in predictive, agile and hybrid approaches, project managements ready to manage larger projects and gain more responsibility or students wanting to acquire project management skills from an early stage.
How do I get qualified?
PMP offers three certifications in project management, which are PMP®: Project Management Professional, CAPM®: Certified Associate in Project Management and MI Project Management Ready™. For all qualifications, previous education and/or previous experience working on projects is required. You also take online training and exams for all of them.
4. The American Academy of Project Management (AAPM)
How can AAPM help you in your career?
The AAPM ® American Academy of Project Management ™ is a Global Board of Standards and Accreditation Council targeted at industry professionals and related institutions. The AAPM delivers:
- a project management job board
- research, publications and web tools
- possibility to earn further AAPM ® graduate certifications or charter in quality, service/process, HR, marketing, and planning
- ability to become a committee member of International Project Management Congress
Who is AAPM for?
Professional project managers and specialists with business and technical management responsibilities. AAPM aims at training project managers the same way licensed professionals do in the US.
How do I get qualified?
The AAPM offers the MPM ® Master Project Manager certification. Candidates must be qualified professionals who meet APPM's graduate professional criteria and standards of specialized graduate education, industry training and experience, industry knowledge, ethics and continuing education. It is required to have at least three years of project management experience and project management training, but waivers are available to master's degree graduates, the military, and project management instructors via resume assessment.
Where does PRINCE2 fit in the US market?
PRINCE2 is widely adopted both in the UK and in the US. It is a method that will teach you the steps to manage projects of any size or complexity from beginning to end, working on your skills and learning lessons along the way. For this, AXELOS has created a US adaptation of PRINCE2, tending to the needs of project managers working in a North American environment. It is called Effective Project Management: PRINCE2® Method and is the official guide for the PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner exams in the US.
Other qualifications in the US, such as the PMBOK and the AAPM certifications, are also widely adopted in the country. To choose the best qualification for you, you would have to assess your needs. While PRINCE2 is a method, the PMBOK is a collection of best practices, similar to a reference guide. The AAPM qualification is targeted at project management professionals with previous management experience. On the other hand, PRINCE2 does not require previous experience or education, making a perfect starting springboard to empower you in your career change or promotion progression.