The market for project managers is booming. According to Project Management Institute (PMI), over 2 million roles are expected to become available in the next 5 years alone. Companies are looking for candidates with a specific skillset in planning, organizing, and managing projects within a defined scope and timeframe.
With now being the time to transition into a project management role, you may be wondering: Is a PMP certification worth it? While certifications do add value, the decision to enroll in a certificate program depends on your unique situation.
When obtaining a certification you’ll learn the skills like management, technical processes, and how to effectively communicate the strategy to team members and stakeholders. A certification tends to result in a higher salary and provides a credential for your knowledge.
How does project management certification work?
There are a variety of project management certificate programs available. Certain certificates have prerequisites and education requirements such as a bachelor’s degree, while others require a certain amount of hours of project management education and experience. More advanced certifications require education, training and real-world experience.
All project management certifications require the candidate to pass a certification exam, and some of them require continuing education or professional development units (PDUs) to maintain the certification.
How do you get a PMP certification? To obtain this highly sought certification, you must meet a set of prerequisites (we’ll discuss it later in this article), apply to take the exam, and pass. It is easier said than done, but online courses and training provide the education to go into the exam with confidence.
If you don’t have a four-year degree or previous project management training, You can learn the fundamentals of project management through certification courses, college programs, and self-study materials.
What are the Benefits of Obtaining a Project Management Certification?
There is no doubt that obtaining certification from a widely recognized organization can bolster your resume for this high-demand role. Enrollment in professional certification coursework will bolster your:
risk management understanding
project planning methods
general management skills
A certification will help you excel in your new role, and you can expect a higher salary with a highly regarded certification. Information technology professionals that hold certifications from globally recognized organizations reportedly earn up to 20% more than those without a certification.
What to Consider When Selecting a Program
When choosing a certification program, consider your current project management experience and preferred software or methodologies. Also think about whether you’re better at learning in-person or taking online courses, and how rigorous a project management program you are looking to tackle.
Keep your goals and learning criteria in mind as you shop for the right program for you career.
1. Project Management Professional (PMP) from PMI
The Project Management Institute, PMI, is a global not-for-profit organization working to advance the science and practice of project management. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the leading certification in the field. Universities, online bootcamps, and training centers partner with PMI to offer courses in this exam’s material.
Best for: Project Leaders and Senior Level Professionals
A four-year degree
36 months leading projects
35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM® Certification
— OR —
A high school diploma or an associate’s degree (or global equivalent)
60 months leading projects
35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM® Certification
Cost: For PMI Members: $405.00 and Non-member: $555.00
Is the PMP exam hard? Yes. This exam will test your competencies. PMI does not release the statistics of the pass/fail rate of the test, but an estimated 40-50% of candidates fail on the first attempt. However, keep in mind that this certificate is considered the gold standard for a reason, and geared toward highly experienced professionals.
2. Certified Associate in Project Management from PMI
The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is created for folks looking to advance their careers in project management, but don’t have the experience or education required for the PMP. It is considered a stepping stone in your career development and can launch your career in the right direction.
Best for: Entry-Level Project Managers
23 hours of project management education completed by the time you sit for the exam.
Cost: For PMI Members: $225.00 and Non-member: $300.00
PMI Agile Certified Practitioner
The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification emphasizes the Agile project management methodology. Agile focuses on short sprints throughout the project life cycle and is known for its adaptability.
Best for: Professionals who are currently working in or have experience working in an Agile environment and are looking for advancement.
Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
21 contact hours of training in agile practices
12 months of general project experience within the last 5 years. A current PMP® or PgMP® will satisfy this requirement but is not required to apply for the PMI-ACP.
8 months of agile project experience within the last 3 years
Cost: For PMI Members: $435.00 and Non-member: $495.00
Project Management Ready from PMI
This certification is unique in that it is geared toward students who desire to make their futures in project management. Students will learn fundamental concepts and tools, adding value to their resumes as they enter the job market.
Best for: Students or anyone interested in the basics
Read at a seventh grade level
Possess fundamental computer literacy
Be able to participate in training and take exams
Google Project Management Certification
If you are new to project management, and enjoy self-paced online learning, Google offers a learning option of courses and certification through Coursera. No experience is required to enroll, and Google has developed these courses to teach project management topics from procurement to roles like scrum master. Best of all, these courses qualify as hours of project management education for future PMI certifications.
Best for: People looking to jump into product and project management
Cost: $39/month (the courses are self-paced and estimated to take about 6 months to complete)
Opting to enroll in a university program to obtain a project management certification may be better suited to your learning needs and potentially have avenues to apply for financial aid for the program. University project management courses are split into classes, more structured, and have the benefit of an industry expert and/or professor for guidance and questions.
University programs tend to have required courses in the curriculum as well as the elective courses of your choosing. These electives allow you to create a focus for certain project management career paths such as quality management or project risk management.
Here are some examples of what to expect from university courses.
California State University - East Bay
This 10 week, in-person course is designed to give students a formal education aligned with PMI’s PMP credential exam. You will get hands-on experience observing and leading a project. This course will give students an essential understanding of, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide).
Best for: Professionals looking for CEUs to obtain their PMP certification
Cost: $2,295 for CEU credit, 10% discount for PMI® members. Cal State East Bay alumni may be eligible for a 15% discount on tuition.
The certificate program at UC Berkeley is unique in that trains participants to be project managers across different industries, including healthcare, design, and product management. This is a seven course program, three of which are electives to tailor the learning experience for your desired career path.
Best for: Students with a Bachelor’s degree looking to specialize their skills
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites, but a Bachelor’s is recommended
Cost: The program is priced per class and varies based on the classes selected. The estimated cost is $6,900.
There are three different project management certification tracks at Northwestern University, Essentials of Project Management, Applied Project Management, and Agile for Practitioners. Industry experts here teach best practices for waterfall projects, hybrid (Disciplined Agile), or agile project methodologies. Students learn to address risk, lead their project team, and maintain project schedules. Northwestern also has options for financial aid for their programs.
Best for: Each track caters to a different experience level and PMI certification (CAPM, PMP, and PMI-ACP)
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites, but the tracks are geared for entry-level project management, managers with 3+ years of experience, and those with agile experience.
The program is priced per track:
Applied Project Management: $1,940
Essentials of Project Management: $1,285
Agile for Practitioners: $1,285
Support for Project Managers Looking to Freelance
There are plenty of options when it comes to project management certifications. They all center around education and real world experience. The certification you choose depends on where you are in your career, the methodologies you use most, and your desired career path. While this has not been an exhaustive list, we believe these are solid choices to advance your professional career.
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