Project management certifications have claimed a place in all of the top IT certification lists for years. That's because project managers are important to IT operations of all kinds. Whether you're interested in becoming an IT project manager or want to add project management to the list of your soft skills, these top five certifications will help you complement your technical skills, and in turn increase your value.
PMP: Project Management Professional
The Project Management Institute (PMI) not only stands behind the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, it works with academia and training companies to ensure proper coverage and currency in the various curricula that exist to support this and other PMI credentials. Boasting more than 440,000 professionals in 190 countries, PMI's PMP credential remains one of the most prestigious project management credentials available. (Note: The PMP's precursor, the CAPM cert, is covered in the next section.)
That's why you can obtain college- and university-based PMP training from so many institutions, and also why you may sometimes find PMP coverage integrated into some degree programs (often at the master's degree level).
The PMP credential is coveted by employers seeking the most highly skilled project management professionals. Developed by project managers, the PMP cert is the highest level credential offered by PMI. The certification is designed to ensure that credential holders possess the skills and qualifications necessary to successfully manage all phases of a project, including initiating, planning, scheduling, controlling and monitoring and closing out the project.
CAPM: Certified Associate in Project Management
The same organization that stands behind the PMP also backs the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification, and it is properly considered a stepping-stone credential for those who wish to attain PMP status by stages, rather than in a single step.
That's why the Project Management Institute describes the CAPM as a "valuable entry-level certification for project practitioners" that is "designed for those with little or no project experience."
In fact, the PMP requires three to five years of documented on-the-job project management experience, depending on the educational background of each applicant. On the other hand, the CAPM requires only a high school diploma and either 1,500 hours of documented on-the-job experience (about nine months of full-time work) or 23 hours of project management classroom training prior to taking the exam.
Nor does the CAPM require continuing education (which the PMI calls PDUs, short for professional development units) as does the PMP (60 PDUs every three years) to maintain this credential. To recertify, CAPM holders must re-take the exam once every five years.
CSM: Certified ScrumMaster
Scrum Alliance provides a support system for Scrum practitioners, including Scrum Gatherings, user groups, virtual communicates, coaching, online training and much more. In addition to community and advocacy activities, Scrum Alliance offers numerous Scrum-related certifications, including three entry- level credentials: the Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) and the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). At the next certification tier you’ll find the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), followed by the more advanced Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) and Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).
For project managers getting started as Scrum practitioners, the CSM is an excellent entry-level credential. Not only will candidates demonstrate an understanding of Scrum principles and values, but they’ll gain knowledge about how to implement and apply Scrum in practice. The Scrum Alliance provides CSMs with multiple resources as well as checklists and information about the "servant leader" role of the Scrum master.
CompTIA Project+ is another entry-level project management credential, roughly on par with PMI's CAPM (Project+ fills more or less the same niche that the CAPM does). Instead of emerging from a leading industry trade organization whose sole focus is project management and related activities, Project+ comes from a computing-industry-spanning organization that puts its credentials together based on input from IT industry players, representatives from government, academia, research institutions, subject matter experts and other interested parties who must pay to participate in credential design (training companies, publishers and so forth).
That said, Project+ functions as a workable stepping stone to the PMP, just as the CAPM does. Our gut feel is that either certification functions about the same on the way to the PMP, with the CAPM earning a slight edge thanks to its more stringent requirements. A quick check of job sites (see Table 1 on page 1) confirms that employers mention CAPM by name more often than Project+.
CPM: Certified Project Manager Certification
The Certified Project Manager (CPM) certification is a mid-tier certification from the International Association of Project and Program Management (IAPPM).
The CPM and other IAPPM certifications are best known and recognized in the Pacific Rim. The IAPPM Certification Framework is the work of the Hong Kong (China) chapter, which appears to set the tone and direction for the organization. It also clearly spells out each credential's eligibility requirements for academic background, project management experience, education and submission of written work for peer review and approval.
Billed by IAPPM as a "complementary" certification to the PMP credential, the CPM requires the CPP (or equivalent knowledge, training and experience) as a prerequisite and requires nearly the same experience, number of hours involved in project management tasks and so forth as the PMP. The CPM examination focuses on mastery of project management skills including project communications, finance, integration, information technology, marketing management, human resource management, risk and issue management and quality management.