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What is the difference between Agile and PMP?

Agile and PMP are two popular approaches to project management. A project manager might choose either path to help them bring a project from start to finish. But how do they know which one would be best suited to their project? To understand the difference between Agile and PMP, let’s take a look at each one in more detail.

PMP

PMP stands for Project Management Professional. It is a widely recognized certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), with CIO.com labeling it the “gold standard in project management certifications.” It provides information on how to become a project manager, including the skills and processes required. 

PMP is rooted in the principles of Waterfall, a traditional project management framework that relies on a structured, linear path. PMP is also associated with the PMBOK Guide, a PMI publication that outlines the best practices of project management. As this book is often referred to as the “bible of project management,” many students will read it to prepare for their PMP exam.

To qualify for the PMP, students must have attained a four-year degree or high school diploma, a minimum of 36 months of experience in leading projects, and a CAPM certification or 35 hours of training/education in project management.

Agile

The Agile methodology is based on the values and principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto, which was written in 2001. There are many different frameworks in the Agile family, including Scrum, Kanban, and Feature-Driven Development (FDD).

Similar to PMP, you can also be certified in Agile. However, PMP is a single certification, whereas the PMI offers a number of Agile certifications, including those with a focus on coaching and the Scrum framework. Most of these require a prior certification, but the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) course can be taken if the candidate has a secondary degree and the appropriate Agile experience and training.

Embracing Agile in PMP

The main difference between PMP and Agile is that the former is based on a prescriptive mindset, while the latter certifications are more flexible and focused on change management. However, project management experts have begun fusing traditional frameworks such as PMP with Agile, recognizing the value of an integrated approach that combines the benefits of both. 

In fact, as the Agile methodology has skyrocketed in popularity, the PMP has been updated to respond to the growing demand. The course now incorporates Agile and hybrid project management alongside the predictive Waterfall practices. This new Agile PMP aligns with the addition of the Agile Practice Guide to PMBOK, proving that the two seemingly opposing project management styles can be complementary.

In this way, it’s not a case of choosing Agile over PMP — project managers can embrace a combined PMP-Agile approach for more holistic education.