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Project Management Certification Roundup

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Unlike most areas of the IT industry, becoming certified in project management (PM) requires more than purely technical knowledge or hands-on skills. A number of project management certifications are offered by leading organizations in the field, each with varied areas of focus and depth of knowledge tested. In this article, IT expert Emmett Dulaney walks us through today's industry standard PM titles.
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Unlike most areas of the IT industry, becoming certified in project management requires more than purely technical knowledge or hands-on skills. Candidates must also be proficient in overseeing and coordinating the use of team members, finances, and other resources to efficiently and effectively implement and carry out company projects. A number of project management certifications are offered by leading organizations in the field, each with varied areas of focus and depth of knowledge tested.

CompTIA Project+

In the field of project management, CompTIA offers one of the most well recognized entry-level certifications with Project+ (formally named IT Project+). The certification assesses the candidate’s ability to see a project from initiation to completion while upholding time constraints and budget restrictions. The primary objectives covered in the exam’s 100 questions are project planning, execution and delivery, and control and communication. Pre-project setup and project closure are also covered, although less heavily. Along with technical know-how and expertise, the candidate’s knowledge must also extend into interpersonal skills such as conflict avoidance and time management.

While there are no prerequisites or experience requirements, the Project+ exam is recommended for individuals with at least one year of experience organizing and managing small and mid-sized projects. The current exam consists of 100 questions and lasts 90 minutes. This version of the exam tests familiarity with CompTIA’s 2009 objectives. For individuals studying the requirements of the Project+ exam covering 2003 objectives, the previous version (which consists of 80 questions and lasts 90 minutes) will be available to candidates until March 31, 2011. Both versions of the exam cost $239.

For more on CompTIA’s Project+ certification, check out http://www.comptia.org/certifications/listed/project.aspx.

Project Management Institute

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the leading non-profit association for project management professionals. In addition to providing research and professional development opportunities to its members, PMI also offers five levels of project management certification. The foremost certification in this catalog is Project Management Professional (PMP).

In order to qualify for the PMP exam, candidates must either possess a four-year degree with an additional 4,500 hours of hands-on project management experience or a high school diploma with an additional 7,500 hours of experience. All candidates must also have acquired 35 hours of project management education. The exam is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions and costs $555, with a $150 discount for PMI members.

For candidates unable to meet the experience requirements for PMP certification, PMI offers the entry-level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification. The CAPM tests candidates with 150 multiple-choice questions and is designed for professionals new to project management or looking to validate the foundational skills needed in the field. While prerequisites are less extensive, CAPM candidates are still required to possess a secondary education diploma and a minimum of 1,500 hours of work experience. Twenty-three hours of project management education may be substituted for these experience hours. The CAPM exam costs $225 for PMI members and $300 for non-members.

Beyond the CAPM and PMP, PMI’s Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification extends its subject matter to the management of multiple, simultaneous projects and the accomplishment of strategic initiatives related to the projects. A typical question on the PgMP exam might quiz a candidate on the best method of incorporating new projects into existing company programs. After passing the exam, PgMP candidates must also undergo a multi-rater assessment from a panel of 12 individuals they personally select. The panel of supervisors, peers, direct reports, and professional references assess the candidate’s project management abilities and performance. These assessments are reviewed by PMI before certification is awarded.

The last two certifications in PMI’s catalog are PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) and PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP). These specialty certifications are designed for professionals looking to fill scheduling or risk management roles within project management teams or to supplement existing project management credentials.

To see detailed information and requirements for all PMI certifications, go to http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Which-PMI-Certification-is-Right-for-You.aspx.

After receiving any PMI credentials, individuals must complete a set number of Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three years to keep their certification in good standing. Attending seminars, volunteering services, and completing approved courses are all ways to obtain PDUs. For a full list of ways to complete PMI-approved Professional Development Units, visit http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Twelve-Ways-to-Earn-PDUs.aspx.

Stanford Advanced Project Management Certificate Program

Through Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development, the Stanford Certified Project Manager (SCPM) certification is offered to professionals wanting to acquire and confirm knowledge of advanced project management skills. In lieu of traditional certification exams, SCPM candidates must complete six courses offered through the program. Three courses—Converting Strategy Into Action, Leadership for Strategic Execution, and Mastering the Project Portfolio—are required, while the remaining three are selected by the candidate from a list of elective courses.

Classes may be taken online, on Stanford’s campus, or at other approved training centers. When taken on Stanford’s campus, fees total $2,600 per course. Online tuition is reduced to $950 per course. On top of being required for SCPM certification, every project management course offered by the Center for Professional Development is approved as Professional Development Units for PMI certifications. To see a list of elective courses and learn more about the requirements of becoming a SCPM, head over to http://apm.stanford.edu/certificateProgram.htm.

IAPPM Certified Project Manager

The International Association of Project and Program Management provides the Certified Project Manager (CPM) designation for solidifying foundational and practical skills for project management professionals. The CPM is designed to supplement existing project certifications or serve as a starting point of a professional’s certification path. To find out more about IAPPM’s certifications, head over to http://www.iappm.org/cpm.htm.

AAPM Master Project Manager

Master Project Manager (MPM) certification from the American Academy of Project Management can be achieved through a simple application process for individuals possessing an accredited project management degree, a Master’s degree with one year of project management experience, or an undergraduate degree with three years of experience. Resumes are reviewed and approved for certification by the AAPM Board. Candidates lacking these requirements are eligible to take AAPM’s free Project Management Exam online to supplement their resumes. Learn more about AAPM certifications at http://www.projectmanagementcertification.org/certification.html.


As we’ve recommended earlier in this series for other certification paths, CompTIA certification is a smart starting place for project management professionals beginning their certification track. Project+ has no prerequisites, and the foundational material covered in its exam solidifies the knowledge base needed to move on to more extensive certifications. After becoming Project+ certified, moving through PMI’s certification program is a logical choice. Whether beginning with CAPM or heading straight for the PMP, acquiring PMI certification gives you the most recognized confirmation of project management knowledge and skills in the industry. As more hands-on experience is acquired in the workplace, PMI’s specialty certifications can be obtained to produce a well-rounded and extensive certification portfolio.

When maintaining PMI certification by acquiring PDUs, make sure to explore other certification paths (such as Stanford’s Certified Project Manager) that can both meet your PDU requirements and add new certifications to your repertoire.

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