The State of Project Management annual report provides a useful reference when discussing project management qualifications in the UK. Bear in mind the typical contributor to this research works in a large organisation and has 11 or more years’ experience. Understanding which qualifications they have provides a good benchmark.

The response has been very consistent over the years with 1,000’s of participants.  The data shows:

The Wellingtone APM Accredited PMO Practitioner (17%) and APM Accredited Assurance (3%) also featured in the list amongst others.

What project management qualifications are available and well recognised in the UK?

There are several awarding bodies, some more legitimate than others. APM; The Chartered Body for the Project Profession is the largest project management member-based body in the UK and itself a member of the IMPA. The US-based PMI also has a presence and an equally well-recognised suite of qualifications, including PMP. AXELOS is the awarding body for PRINCE2, MSP, P3O as well as others such as ITIL, M_o_R (Management of Risk).  AXELOS themselves is a joint venture between the UK Govt. Cabinet Office and Capita.  This article will focus on these three awarding bodies.

Which project qualification is best for me?

First of all, this depends on your role & experience. Understandably many of these qualifications focus on the role of the Project Manager. There are many other PPM Professional roles beyond this staple. The lack of qualifications for the PMO was one driver for us at Wellingtone to develop our PMO Practitioner course, itself subsequently being Accredited by the APM as a professional course.

The APM Project Fundamentals Qualification

If you are relatively new to project management then the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) provides an excellent well-rounded starting point. This (typically) 2-day course concludes with a multiple-choice exam that tests your knowledge of most of the APM Body of Knowledge (now in version 7). A link to download a sample exam paper from the APM is included at the end of this article.

This first qualification provides a clear start point for a route of qualifications from the APM as your career develops. You can move up to the APM PMQ, PPQ and then in parallel look to achieve recognition through the Chartered Project Professional (ChPP).  It would be extremely thorough to complete all of these qualifications and most people are happy with PMQ as this demonstrates a full understanding of the APM Body of Knowledge.

PRINCE2

This is by far the most “popular” project management qualification. I think the word should be “most common” rather than popular.  Many people who have attained PRINCE2 really struggle to apply this methodology in their own environment. You are learning the PRINCE2 structured method, not how to manage a team or build a project schedule. The qualification comes in two levels; Foundation and Practitioner.  Most people take a 5-day course to achieve the Practitioner level.  Frustratingly this qualification is most quoted by hiring managers, perhaps not fully aware of the wider pool of industry qualifications.  I often suggest this is a good CV tick box, but of less practical value on a day to day basis.

Similar to the APM, the PMI provides a range of qualifications with Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and Project Management Professional (PMP) being the primary options.  They also have qualifications in scheduling, risk and portfolio management.

Both AXELOS and the PMI look for you to renew your qualifications every 5 years or so.  I look at this with some cynicism and it feels like an opportunity to take more money from you.  I have a degree from a university and I am not expected to go back every few years to re-take it, so why am I required to do this for PRINCE2 and CAPM (you retake the exam every 5 years!).

We should talk about Agile

These qualifications do not consider Agile. Remember Agile is a philosophy or suite of principles rather than a precise method. There are courses and qualifications that focus on a particular methodology such as Scrum as an example. Interestingly you can now combine the opposite worlds of oil & water and achieve the relatively new PRINCE2 Agile qualification. This combines the rigour of corporate governance with the flexibility of Agile. I think this is worth considering if this sounds like familiar territory for you. I would suggest investing in Agile learning IF your organisation is looking to embrace a more iterative approach to development.

Project management soft skill and tools

PPM Practitioners need leadership & communications skills as much as any other. So, let’s look beyond formal Project Management qualifications and recognise the value in investing in skills such as team leadership, presentation, negotiation & communication. Be honest with yourself and think about which of these soft skills could do with some attention. Undertaking training in these areas demonstrates your awareness of the wider role of a PPM Practitioner beyond the industry knowledge.

Like soft skills, I must mention tools. How many people use Microsoft Project without any formal training? The ability to plan is a fundamental of project management yet so many people struggle to develop useful coherent and practical plans that add value. A good plan (schedule) should provide critical input into the weekly/fortnightly project team progress meeting. If you have not been on an Microsoft Project course, then you should.  Until you understand how this tool can really be used you are using an electric drill to hammer in nails.

So where should I invest my project management training budget?

Some of these qualifications require a significant investment of both time and money. Training budgets have been trimmed and classroom courses are currently not an option. Self-study, eLearning or blended remote learning are more cost-effective routes, but require more discipline and personal motivation.

If you are undertaking a course for the sake of ticking the box for the qualification, then you are doing the wrong course. If you are not interested in the subject, then is this really the right career for you? As a trainer, I see people who are passionate about their career who want to learn how they can become better. These are the people that will thrive, grow and succeed. There are so many ways to grow & learn beyond formal qualifications too. I hope you actively engage in our industry and invest time in yourself on a regular basis to read articles, watch webinars, and benefit from all the free content that’s out there.

Some useful links: