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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. In the next decade, organizations worldwide will need almost 88 million people working in project management roles.

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 a bonus, certifications can 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

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

Determining which project management certification is best for you depends on the kind of project manager you are — or want to be. Factor in the 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 eight 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 four 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 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 those without the designation. The report found that more than two-thirds of respondents’ salaries had increased in the past year, with 26% of respondents reporting increases of at least 5%. 

According to some, PMI’s CAPM designation (often considered the next level up from the PMP) carries an average annual salary of over $100,000. 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 ScrumMaster (CSM): Qualifies individuals in the Agile methodology and is offered by Scrum Alliance.
  • PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner: Administered by the ILX Group and well known in the United Kingdom.
  • CompTIA Project+: This certification 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, 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 location embraces this particular methodology.  

With the CompTIA Project+ certification, 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 PMP or CAPM requirements but want to expand their knowledge and expertise and increase their job prospects.

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