6 Paths to Project Manager Stardom

Qualifications against city scene in a room

Project management certification can give your career a big boost this year, but which direction should you pursue? This handy primer will inform your decision.

As we talked about in the last post, PM certifications increase your earning potential and differentiate you on the job market. The Project Management Institute offers six certifications, and here are some details about each so you can assess which one is most applicable.

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The CAPM certification recognizes a demonstrated understanding of the fundamental knowledge, processes and terminology that are needed for effective project management performance. It is designed for project team members who provide subject matter expertise (e.g., marketing, finance, customer care, processing, fulfillment) and serve as project sponsors, facilitators, liaisons or coordinators.

The CAPM requires a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent, as well as 23 hours of PM education (without work experience) or 1,500 hours of professional experience on a project team (without project management education). You will need to take a three-hour, 150-question, multiple-choice examination and the cost for non-PMI members is $300 (discounted for PMI members).

If you can answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you might want to pursue the CAPM certification.

  • Have you been in project management for less than two years or are you new to project management?
  • Do you participate on a project team?

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The PMP certification recognizes competence of an individual to perform in the role of a project manager, specifically experience in leading and directing projects. It is meant for those who are responsible for all aspects of a project for the life of a project, and who lead and direct cross-functional teams to deliver projects within the constraints of time, budget and scope.

The PMP requires a high school degree, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree – or their global equivalents. You must have 35 hours of PM education, and if you have obtained a bachelor’s degree within the last eight years, you must have a minimum of three years of non-overlapping professional experience, during which at least 4500 hours were spent leading and directing projects.

If you have obtained only a high school degree within the last eight years, you must have a minimum of five years of non-overlapping professional experience, during which at least 7500 hours were spent leading and directing projects.

You will need to take a four-hour, 200-question multiple-choice examination and the cost for non-PMI members is $465 (discounted for PMI members).

If you can answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you might want to pursue the PMP certification.

  • Are you responsible for all aspects of a project for the life of the project?
  • Do you lead and direct cross-functional teams to deliver projects within the constraints of schedule, budget and scope?
  • Do you demonstrate sufficient knowledge and experience to appropriately apply a methodology to projects that have reasonably well-defined requirements and deliverables?

Program Management Professional (PgMP)

The PgMP certification recognizes demonstrated experience, skill and performance in the oversight of multiple, related projects that are aligned with organizational objectives. It is designed for those who manage programs that contain complex activities spanning functions, organizations, geographic regions and cultures, who build credibility, who establish rapport and maintain communication with stakeholders at multiple levels (including those external to the organization), and who possess advanced skills in finance, cross-cultural awareness, leadership, communication, influence, negotiation and conflict resolution.

The PgMP requires a high school degree, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree – or their global equivalents. If you have obtained a bachelor’s degree within the last 15 years, you must have a minimum of four years (6000 hours) of project management experience and four years (6000 hours) of program management experience.

If you have obtained only a high school degree within the last 15 years, you must have a minimum of four years (6000 hours) of project management experience and seven years (10500 hours) of program management experience.

The evaluation for the PgMP takes place in three parts. The first evaluation is a panel review, the second is a four-hour, 170-question multiple-choice examination, and the third is an online, multi-rater assessment. The fee is $1800 for non-PMI members (PMI members are discounted).

If you can answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you might want to pursue the PgMP certification.

  • Do you manage multiple, related projects directed toward a strategic business objective?
  • Do the programs you manage contain complex activities that span functions, organizations, geographic regions and cultures?
  • Are you responsible for defining and initiating projects and assigning project managers to manage the cost, schedule and performance of component projects, while working to ensure the ultimate success and acceptance of the program?
  • Do you maintain continuous alignment of the program scope with strategic business objectives and make recommendations to modify the program to enhance effectiveness toward the business result or strategic intent?
  • Do you have advanced skills in finance, cross-cultural awareness, leadership, communication, influence, negotiation and conflict resolution?

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

The PMI-ACP certification validates a practitioner’s ability to understand and apply agile principles and practices on basic projects. The PMI-ACP carries a high level of credibility as it requires a combination of agile training, experience working on agile projects and examination on agile practices of project management.

The PMI-ACP requires a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or a high school degree – or their global equivalent – as well as a minimum of 23 hours in agile practices. All applicants need to have spent at least 1500 hours in the last three years working on agile project teams, and those who do not already hold a PMP or a PgMP will also need to demonstrate that they have spent 2000 hours working on project teams.

You will need to take a three-hour, 120-question multiple-choice examination and the cost for non-PMI members is $495 (discounted for PMI members).

If you can answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you might want to pursue the PMI-ACP certification.

  • Do you work on project teams that utilize agile practices?
  • Can you demonstrate proficiency in using agile tools and techniques?

PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)

The PMI-RMP certification recognizes demonstrated knowledge and expertise in the specialized area of assessing and identifying project risks along with plans to mitigate threats and capitalize on opportunities.

The PMI-RMP requires a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or a high school degree – or their global equivalent – as well as a minimum of 30 hours in project risk management with a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 40 hours in project risk management with an associate’s or high school degree.

All applicants who received a bachelor’s degree within the last five years need to have 3000 hours of project risk management experience, while applicants who received an associate’s or high school degree within the last five years need to have 4500 hours of project risk management experience.

You will need to take a 3.5-hour, 170-question multiple-choice examination and the cost for non-PMI members is $670 (discounted for PMI members).

If you can answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you might want to pursue the PMI-RMP certification.

  • Can you demonstrate increased knowledge and skill in the specialized area of project risk management?
  • Are you responsible for assessing and identifying project risks?
  • Are you responsible for preparing mitigation plans and capitalizing on opportunities?

PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)

The PMI-SP certification recognizes demonstrated knowledge and expertise in the specialized area of developing and maintaining the project schedule.

The PMI-SP requires a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or a high school degree – or their global equivalent – as well as a minimum of 30 hours in project scheduling with a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 40 hours in project scheduling with an associate’s or high school degree.

All applicants who received a bachelor’s degree within the last five years need to have 3500 hours of project scheduling experience, while applicants who received an associate’s or high school degree within the last five years need to have 5000 hours of project scheduling experience.

You will need to take a 3.5-hour, 170-question multiple-choice examination and the cost for non-PMI members is $670 (discounted for PMI members).

If you can answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you might want to pursue the PMI-SP certification.

  • Can you demonstrate knowledge and skill in the specialized area of project scheduling?
  • Are you responsible for creating and maintaining the project schedule?
  • Are you responsible for reporting status and updates for project schedules?

Hidden Costs of Spreadsheets for Managing Projects

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  • Hi Alexandra,

    Great post – comprehensive summary of what’s available in terms of PM certification.

    Can I ask about PRINCE2 though, and where it would sit in the mix? I’m a PRINCE2-certified practitioner based in the UK and that would be the predominant certification in this part of the world.

    I appreciate you’re based in the US, and just wanted to clarify if PRINCE2 is used at all there, or is it only PMI-led certifications?

    Thanks for sharing this info – really good stuff!

    Aidan