Project Manager Certification

project manager at desk

Project manager certifications: Potential for professional advancement.

A variety of project manager certifications are available for different areas of professional knowledge. They officially prove that recipients have acquired knowledge in project management specialties, ranging from project scope management and cost management to risk management.

These certifications also help project managers negotiate for premium salaries, ranging from $93,000 to more than $160,000 (and sometimes much higher), depending on experience and the area of specialty. Project management certifications also serve to: 

  • Establish credibility: Project manager certification proves that you meet specific, very strict guidelines that gauge your experience, education, and professional knowledge. You can use certification to spruce up your resume and make your LinkedIn profile shine.

  • Teach you important skills: With many project managers on the market, certification helps you stand out and may help you acquire skills that lead to new career opportunities.

  • Provide industry recognition: The right certification can get you recognition across different industries globally. If you are starting your career, certification can help make up for lack of practical experience.

  • Make you more employable: Project manager certifications can make you more appealing to prospective employers and help you earn higher salaries. Some certified project managers earn 20% more than uncertified colleagues.

There are many project manager certifications out there, so it is important to find the one(s) that best serve your professional needs and career advancement.

Project manager certifications that matter.

Typically, you achieve project manager certifications with paid-for exams, with different levels of practical and/or educational experience required. Many certifications require ongoing professional development and renewals to stay current.

Some certifications target experienced project managers, while others may attract professionals looking to break into the field or update their credentials. Specialty courses even include the Agile project management methodology.

Project Management Professional (PMP).

The PMP certification exam, offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), claims that it is the “gold standard of project management certification” with more than 1 million certificate holders worldwide. The certification exam is rigorous, requiring that you know everything about the time, cost, and scope constraints of project management. Refer to the website for examination content updates

Current performance domains of the exam include:

To maintain PMP certification, you need to complete 60 professional development units (PDUs) every three years. 

Requirements for this project manager certification:

  • A four-year degree

  • 36 hours of leading projects

  • 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM certification

Or:

  • A high school diploma or an associate degree (or global equivalent)

  • 60 months of leading projects

  • 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM certification

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).

Also offered by the PMI, CAPM certification “demonstrates your understanding of the fundamental knowledge, terminology, and processes of effective project management.” The certification is for students wanting to break into the profession and working project managers aiming to “manage larger projects and gain more responsibility or add project management skills into [their] current role.”

The certification exam can be done online and has 150 questions that take three hours to complete. CAPM certificate holders need to earn 15 PDUs every three years to maintain the certification. 

Requirements for this project manager certification:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree, or the global equivalent)

  • 23 hours of project management education completed by the time you sit for the exam (The PMI Project Management Basics online course takes care of this educational prerequisite.)

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM).

With the rising importance of Agile methodologies, IT practitioners qualified to lead Scrum projects are in high demand. The nonprofit Scrum Alliance offers the CSM for project managers getting their start looking after Scrum projects. 

Through the certification process, “you’ll learn the Scrum framework and gain an understanding of team roles, events, and artifacts. As the expert of Scrum values, principles, and practices, the ScrumMaster protects the team from both internal and external distractions.” You maintain CSM certification by earning 20 Scrum Education Units (SEUs) and renewing your certification every two years.

Requirements for this project manager certification:

  • Attend a face-to-face course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) or receive private coaching from a Certified Agile Coach (CAC)

  • Have 14 hours of live online or 16 hours of in-person training with your CST or 25 hours of face-to-face interaction with your CAC

  • After completing the course, you must accept the License Agreement to take the 50-question CSM test available in 13 languages

  • Answer at least 37 questions on the exam correctly within a one-hour time limit

Master Project Manager (MPM).

The American Academy of Project Management (AAPM) uses the licensing model of professions such as pilots, engineers, doctors, and lawyers for its MPM certification. You can apply for the MPM, Certified International Project Manager (CIPM), Project Manager E-Business (PME), or the Certified Planning Engineer (CPE).

The 22-question project management exam takes 55 minutes to complete. If you get at least 70% and have the necessary credentials, you can apply for board certification.

Requirements for this project manager certification:

  • Three years of project management experience and training

  • If you have a master’s degree or qualified project management training or experience, you can apply now for an executive waiver

  • Graduates of approved project management training programs can apply for a waiver for the MPM designation

Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB).

The internationally recognized ASQ certifications confirm candidate expertise, how well they know industry and regulation standards, and mastery of the ASQ Body of Knowledge. Currently, it offers three project management certifications, the top one being CSSBB. It is for PMs with experience who understand Six Sigma methodologies, tools, systems, and philosophies. 

The CSSBB computer-delivered examination is a one-part, 165-question exam offered in English only, with 150 questions scored and 15 unscored. The total exam appointment time is 4.5 hours. Paper-and-pencil exams are in English, Spanish, and Mandarin in certain locations. Each participant must bring their own reference materials in the open-book exams.

Requirements for this project manager certification:

  • Three years of on-the-job experience in one or more of the areas of the CSSBB Body of Knowledge and one completed project with a signed affidavit

Or:

  • Two completed projects with signed affidavits

CompTIA Project+.

CompTIA Project+ is a good certification for entry-level professionals “who need to manage smaller, less complex projects as part of their other job duties but still have foundational project management skills.” It covers important project management concepts that go beyond just one methodology or framework.

The examination involves 95 multiple questions answered in a 90-minute time limit online or at a testing center. The exam “certifies the knowledge and skills required to manage the project life cycle, ensure appropriate communication, manage resources, manage stakeholders, and maintain project documentation.” The CompTIA Project+ certification is good for life and does not require renewal.

Recommended for this project manager certification:

  • At least 12 months of cumulative project management experience or equivalent education

Certified Project Manager (CPM).

The International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) is a professional association for project management in different countries. It offers four levels of certification, divided into two disciplines, traditional project management and Agile project management:

  • Certified Junior Project Manager and Certified Junior Agile Project Manager

  • Certified Project Manager and Certified Agile Project Manager

  • Certified Senior Project Manager and Certified Senior Agile Project Manager

  • Certified International Project Manager

The CPM certification is a level for candidates with a basic knowledge of project management, showing that they can “theoretically plan, organize, and implement a project effectively.” 

Requirements for this project manager certification:

  • To prepare candidates for the exam, IAPM offers workshops through global training partners or recommended literature for self-study

  • Clients can take an optional self-test to benchmark their knowledge

  • Certification as a Senior Project Manager requires submission of a project history (maximum five projects), scored using a mathematical formula

Mastering management: Training and tools.

A project management certification can help you get a better job, increase your salary, and provide networking opportunities. But it is equally valuable to acquire important new skills and knowledge that can deepen your project management expertise and be part of your continuous quest for professional development.

The certifications reviewed here are a significant first step in your quest to carve out a rewarding niche for yourself as a project manager with recognized skills.

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