Project Management guide
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What Is the Best Project Management Certification?

The need for project managers is skyrocketing. The 2017 Project Management Institute Job Growth and Talent Gap report found that global employers will need to fill nearly 2.2 million new project-oriented roles each year through 2027. That will mean that in the next decade, organizations around the world will need nearly 88 million people working in project management roles.

Clearly, project management skills are in high demand. And one of the best ways to signal that you have the skills and experience these organizations are looking for is by obtaining a project management certification. And as an added bonus, certifications can also help boost your salary. But with so many options out there — and with many exams requiring a significant financial investment — how do you determine what project management certification is best?

Top project management certifications

Several global organizations offer project management certificates, with the Project Management Institute (PMI) typically considered the leading institution in the industry. The Scrum Alliance, American Academy of Project Management, and ILX Group are 3 more organizations that offer well-known certifications in the industry.

Determining which project management certification is best for you requires that you first determine what kind of project manager you are — or want to be. Then factor in what experience you have, if any, as well as your future career goals and any skill gaps within your organization or industry that you could help fill.

PMI offers 8 different types of project management certifications, with the first 4 covering more generalized project management capabilities (listed in increasing levels of expertise), and the latter 4 qualifying a more specialized skill set:

Arguably the most well-known certification from PMI is the PMP, which the organization dubs the “gold standard” of project management certifications. A PMP signals to employers that you have the project management skills and expertise they need to succeed in the coming decade. A PMP designation can apparently pay off, too: The 10th edition of PMI’s Project Management Salary Survey found that salaries for those with a PMP averaged 23% higher, globally, than for those without the designation. The report also found that for more than two thirds of respondents, salaries had increased in the past year, with 26% of respondents reporting increases of at least 5% during that time.Meanwhile, PMI’s CAPM designation, often considered the next level up from the PMP, carries an average annual salary of over $100,000, according to some outlets. It’s similarly recognized as a stamp of approval from one of the world’s leading project management organizations.Outside of PMI, many professional organizations offer project management certifications.

A few popular ones are:

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM): Qualifies individuals in the agile methodology and is offered by The Scrum Alliance.
  • PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner: Administered by the ILX Group and well known in the United Kingdom.
  • CompTIA Project+: Is sometimes considered an alternative to the CAPM and is offered by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

If you wish to signal to employers that you are an expert in agile methodology, which was originally developed for the software industry but which more and more fields are adopting, the CSM might be a good fit for you. PRINCE2 is another popular methodology for managing projects, particularly in the U.K., Europe, and Australia; it might be the right certification for you if your industry or geography is primed for this particular methodology. Meanwhile, an advantage of the CompTIA Project+ certification is that the certificate holder does not need to renew their credentials periodically. Once earned, the CompTIA Project+ cert is for life. This certification is great for true beginners in the field, who may not yet meet the requirements of the PMP or CAPM but want to expand their knowledge and expertise and increase their job prospects.

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