Project Management Certifications

Successful project manager at work after getting a certification

Employers are anticipating the need to fill nearly 2.2 million new project-oriented roles over the course of the next decade, so qualified project managers are in high demand. If you are interested in a career in project management, it is important to consider earning an industry-recognized certification. Such credentials communicate to your organization or potential future employer that you possess comprehensive knowledge on how to execute project work. Because certifications are often difficult and time-consuming to earn, certified individuals are oftentimes considered more qualified for competitive roles. Holding certification can also convey your dedication to the field. 

There are a number of different certifications relevant to project managers, each with a particular framework behind it. However, those awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI) are the most highly recognized and sought after. PMI is “the world's leading professional association for a growing community of millions of project professionals and change makers worldwide.”

For those with little project management experience, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is a good place to start. Earning this credential demonstrates that you know the basics of project management and how to be effective in the field. 

In order to be eligible to sit for the qualifying exam, you must meet the following prerequisites:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • 23 hours of project management education completed by the time you sit for the exam

The Project Management Professional (PMP) is designed for those with significant project management knowledge and skills. It validates your work and experience, showing you have what it takes to be a strong project manager ready to lead projects and teams. In order to qualify for the exam, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • 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

There are different ways in which you can satisfy the required hours of project management education for both the CAPM and PMP. The first is to enroll in an academic certificate or degree through a college or university. Please note that an entire degree or certificate is not required to work in project management. It can help bring you into the industry, but is not necessary. Some institutions may offer less formal prep courses through their divisions of continuing education.

If you go the formal education route, be sure to look for a program that has earned the Project Management Institute’s seal of approval. This comes in the form of official recognition by the Global Accrediting Center (GAC). This accreditation is important because it shows the program has been recognized to meet the comprehensive standards PMI has set in place.

If you are looking for a quicker option, consider fulfilling the required hours through providers recognized as PMI authorized training partners. This ensures the materials presented have been approved and vetted and are aligned with what is included on the certifying exams. There are numerous companies out there who provide training and prep courses. Oftentimes these classes are held as accelerated “boot camps.” They can also be longer in duration and spread out over the course of several months. Be sure to choose the format that best accommodates your learning style and schedule.

The question I hear all the time as an academic coach working with employees interested in careers in project management is how to pursue the PMP when they don’t have the required experience and education hours. For these employees, I suggest starting with the CAPM. The CAPM does not require experience and serves to validate the skills needed to get started in the field. Acquiring the requisite education is a great start. It allows for time to develop proficiencies important to success in the field like leadership, communication, and decision-making. I also suggest looking at your current responsibilities and job experience. You might be surprised at how many related skills you have already mastered. Focus on presenting those skills on your resume when applying for project-related positions or certifications.

Written by: Joanna Williams

June 29, 2021

About the Author

Joanna Williams head shot

Joanna has been with the Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions academic coaching team since 2019. She approaches her work with adult learners full of positivity and encouragement to help them reach their academic and professional goals. Joanna has a master’s degree in Public Administration.