5 practical project management certifications

“Do you have what it takes to be a project manager” looked at the pros and cons of project management as a career choice. This field is fast-paced, hectic, filled with ambiguity and challenging, yet highly rewarding at the same time.

If you’ve decided this is the right career choice for you, the next step is determining which project management certification will work best and offer you not only practical and real-world utilitarianism, but promising job prospects to boot.

Many organizations offer project management certifications and weeding through them can be daunting. A few of the more well-known project management associations are the Project Management Institute (PMI), the International Project Management Association (IPMA), the American Society for Advanced Project Management (ASAPM), the International Association of Project and Program Management (IAPPM) and the American Academy of Project Management (AAPM).

With so many to choose from, where to begin Here are some of the PM certifications that provide you with knowledge and skills applicable in real business and enterprise situations. The fact that they could also help advance your career doesn’t hurt, either.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a not-for-profit membership-based association that has been around since 1969 and is at the top of the list. PMI is the most recognized project management organization, and currently offers eight PM-related certifications.

[Related: The 7 best project management mobile apps of 2015]

PMI offers the Project Management Professional (PMP) as one of the most respected and recognized project management certifications in the industry and is considered the gold standard. Quite simply, it demonstrates expert-level PM knowledge.

This certification is recognized globally and spans across any industry – with a PMP a person can work in virtually any field from software to construction, and within organizations of any size. The PMP certification is comprehensive and covers 10 knowledge areas in depth:

1.      Integration Management

2.      Scope Management

3.      Time Management

4.      Cost Management

5.      Quality Management

6.      Human Resource Management

7.      Communications Management

8.      Risk Management

9.      Procurement Management

10.   Stakeholders Management

PMPs have the capacity to become project, program or portfolio managers and lead teams, or they can also choose to just specialize in any of the 10 knowledge areas mentioned.

Salaries/compensation: According to PMI survey results, as of 2013 the average total compensation in the United States for a formally certified Project Manager I was $102,000, Project Manager II was $108,700, Project Manager III was $120,400.

Obtaining the PMP credential is a rigorous process and requires a combination of education and work experience prior to writing the rigorous exam.

Prerequisites for the PMP:


The cost to obtain the PMP credential is $405 for members and $555 for non-members.

The PMP is the most highly sought after project management credential (regardless of company size or industry), making the potential and career opportunities for someone with this certification almost limitless, and rather dependent on the work ethic and interest of the credential holder.

PMI also offers the CAPM (Certified Associate Project Manager) certification as an entry point in the field of project management. Having it demonstrates foundational and fundamental knowledge in the area of project management. The certification is suitable for those that do not yet have the required prerequisites for the PMP credential, yet want to enter the field at entry-level, and can serve as a stepping stone towards the PMP.

The CAPM allows employees or contractors to enter the field of project management at a more junior level, gain experience in general project management, or any of the 10 specific knowledge areas and work on developing project leadership skills. Knowledge and skill sets within this role can be applied in small, midmarket or large organizations with CAPMs leading smaller projects, or participating as team members in larger projects.

Opportunities for growth and development are abundant, and dependent more on available opportunities, interest and work ethic. Many organizations may offer the more senior PMPs the opportunity to mentor employees with CAPM certifications, with the goal of CAPMs expanding their responsibilities in the future and creating career advancement prospects. CAPMs can use this foundational credential to increase and solidify their project management experience and knowledge to meet the requirements for the PMP, and progress towards leading larger projects.

Prerequisites for the CAPM:


The cost to obtain the CAPM credential is $225 for members and $300 for Non-members.

PMI also offers the following certifications:

General PMI Membership is $129 to join (plus USD $10 application fee), USD $129 to renew as a professional; USD $32 to join and USD $32 to renew for students and USD $65 to renew for retirees.

The International Association of Project and Program Management (IAPPM) has been around since 2003 and is a global project management organization. IAPPM offers the Certified Project Manager credential (CPM) aimed at senior level, experienced project and program managers who already experienced in leading medium to large complex projects.  This certification is similar to PMI’s PMP and also has fairly stringent prerequisites to ensure applicants can demonstrate expert level Project management knowledge prior to writing the CPM examination.

Prerequisites for the CPM:

The cost is $370 for the certification, a $70 annual fee, and a $70 annual renewal fee (for fellows, members or associate levels).

IAPPM also offers a Certified Project Professional (CPP) which costs $400, aimed at entry-level project managers or team members and students. This would be similar to PMI’s CAPM. Individuals could obtain the CPP credentials and leverage it towards the CPM certification.

The American Academy of Project Management (AAPM), founded in 1996, is a Global Board of Standards and Accreditation Council for project management industry professionals. The AAPM has developed the Master Project Manager (MPM) certification similar to PMI’s PMP certification. This certification is for senior business professionals, project and program managers who are looking to fortify their project management knowledge in the business world through professional certification. Similar to PMI and IAPPM, there are prerequisites that provide some assurances that the applicant has demonstrated some level of knowledge and experience before obtaining the certification, although not as rigorous. 

Prerequisites for the MPM:

The cost for the application is $300, no exam fee is required.

AAPM also offers a Certified International Project Manager (CIPM) and a Project Manager E-Business (PME) certification.

CompTIA is a not-for-profit trade organization that developed its first certification back in 1993. The CompTIA Project+ certification belongs to its professional series of certifications and is very similar in nature to PMI’s CAPM in that it is an entry-level, vendor neutral, project management credential developed through input from external industry experts.

Prerequisites for the CompTIA Project+:

[Related: Top 10 project management certifications]

The benefit in obtaining the certification is the absence of education and experience prerequisites, yet the drawback also may be the absence of these prerequisites, which demonstrate a rudimentary level of knowledge acquired prior to certification. This is a great option for students and candidates seeking project management knowledge without the process of meeting demanding requirements.  

The cost to write the exam for the CompTIA Project+ is $277.

CompTIA also offers several other technology certifications.

Regardless of which certification you choose, the entry level credentials can lead to career options such as junior project manages, project analysts, project schedulers or project coordinators, with the more senior level certifications opening up additional advanced career options that can be fairly limitless in project management as well as related fields.


Moira Alexander

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