Are Project Management Certifications Worth Your Time & Money?

Why would thousands of people have chosen to have one, two, and even more project management certifications? Learn in our recent article looking at the pros and cons of PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, and PRINCE2.
Marcos Ortiz

Let's be completely honest from the start. If having any or many project management certifications would guarantee a job, we wouldn't be asking this question.

However, why would several thousands of people and I have chosen to have one, two, and even more certifications for project management?

Are these certifications worth it? Which certification is the best to get?

First of all, project management has been increasing in popularity, with it the necessity to standardize different practices to have repetitive and predictable processes. Project management is not going away; instead, it seems to be gaining popularity every year, according to the PMI (Project Management Institute).

Estimated growth of project management roles in 2030

 

Also, the gap between project management oriented jobs and project management trained individuals seems to be increasing.

What are project management certifications?

First, a certification is a standardized formal process that validates and guarantees that a person or institution has the minimum level of competence to handle the day-to-day challenges of trade (such as project management) of any type or industry.

Typically, certifications are awarded by private institutions that spend thousands of dollars in resources and time to structure a robust and depurated process to ensure the quality and preparation of the individuals who undergo certification processes. 

In other words, think of institutions that provide the certifications, such as the PMI, as third-party auditors that are not interested in the company's financial results but in the value of the individuals they certify.

For this reason, certifications are on the rise and are getting traction and recognition.

A project management certification focuses on validating basic knowledge on the tools, techniques, and best practices that a good manager shall implement to increase the likelihood of a project being successful (on time, cost and quality).

Which project management certifications are worth it? 

Every project management certification will take preparation time and may cost a lot. Here is a list of the most common project management certifications and their benefits.

PMP - Project Management Professional

Organization: Project Management Institute

Price: Computer-based exams: $405 for PMI members, $555 for non-members; paper-based exams: $250 for PMI members, $400 for non-members.

Requirements: Four-year secondary degree plus three years of project management experience, 4,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours project management education; or a high-school diploma, five years of project management experience, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education.

Also, PMP certification is one of the most rigorous certifications in the world right now. It guarantees that its members have enough practices and fundamental knowledge to award the certification.

Is this certification worth it? YES, according to statistics from the PMI itself, a certified PMP could experience a 20% paycheck increase. That is also my personal experience when I got certified. Other project managers have also admitted that the ROI you get after getting a PMP certification makes it worthwhile. You'll find a few tips to prep for the PMP here.

Average salary after a person gets a project management certification

Credits: pmi.org 

PMI ACP - Agile Certified Practitioner

Certifying Organization: Project Management Institute

Price: $435 for PMI members; $495 non-members.

Requirements: High-school diploma, associates degree or equivalent, and at least 1,500 hours of project management experience or 23 hours of project management education.

As we mentioned before, the PMI is the most renowned institution behind project management certifications.

Is this certification worth it? Yes. Agile Project Management has been getting traction the past decade, the need for skillful, agile management is at its peak. PMI - ACP will be the most valuable for project managers involved in software development or technology business. 

On the other hand, any professional looking to get variable knowledge on Agile practices will be able to gain value from this certification.

This certification is worth every penny and time you invest in it; it has the potential to reshape your career.  

Increasing trend of PMI credential holders

Credits: wcpconsulting

CSM - Certified Scrum Master

Organization: The Scrum Alliance.

Price: Varies by the training provider, but approximately $995 to $1,395.

Requirements: General familiarity with Scrum; completion of two-day CSM training course.

Is this certification worth it? It depends. First of all, consider why you want to obtain CSM. If you're going to pursue Agile roles further down the line in your career, CSM is definitely worth it. If Agile is not your cup of tea, then there's no need to invest time and money.

PRINCE2 Foundation

Organization: ILX Group

Price: Foundation: $200; Practitioner: $340.

Requirements: PRINCE2 Foundation: You only need to have a PRINCE2 Foundation course; no previous experience in the project is necessary. 

Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE 2) is vastly used in countries like Europe, Australia, and the U.K. You can find many companies in Europe hunting down PRINCE practitioners.

In my opinion, PRINCE2 is an excellent certification for people with no experience since it does not need hours of project management experience as a prerequisite in PMP, for example.

For this reason, it might not be as valuable as a PMI certification, but you would most likely experience a pay increase and have a stronger CV. 

Is this certification worth it? It depends. PRINCE2 is a very specific methodology focusing on top to bottom management. If your company is not already using this methodology or you are planning to apply for a job that doesn't require it, it might not be of as much use. In addition, the knowledge you get with this certification is not general enough to take it across industries.

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What to consider before getting a project management certification

Time

In order to get a project management certification, you will need to invest a considerable amount of time.

In my experience, I spent 2 to 3 months studying around 2 to 4 hours daily in order to pass on the first try.

Before you get on the endeavor of getting certified, first plan your study time and study materials. Here are some tips for studying for the PMP exam

Cost

Even though the ROI of getting a certification is worth it, the initial investment (cost) is considerable. 

Prices ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars between exams fees and study materials can stack.

As a good project manager, you will need to budget your expenses efficiently to opt for a certification. 

However, after your certification, it is possible to get back your investments if you can negotiate a pay raise or change jobs after obtaining your credentials.

Experience

Most certifications require you to have some experience in project management. 

Furthermore, if you are entertaining the thoughts of a career in project management and are unsure, my recommendation would be to volunteer some hours a week to a project in your organization to have your feet wet. 

Another way to get some experience is to apply to roles that do not require such experiences at the beginning and climb the ladder slowly. 

After you have the required hours of experience, you will tell if you want to get certified or not. 

Project management certifications: Final thoughts 

Most project management certifications are worth it. Project talent demand is constantly increasing. 

Average annual number of project managers hired since 2017 and projection to 2027

Having the proper certification for your job could help you get: 

  • More trust from management regarding challenging projects
  • Better compensations
  • Better value for your persona on the job market
  • More clarity of what you want for your professional development

Should you get a certification? The short answer is - I highly recommend getting certified. 

Also, if you are already involved in project management, it would add value and structure to your knowledge.

Moreover, it will separate you from the competition and make you a skillful leader in your organization. 

If you are starting a project management career, I recommend you get some experience first (no certifications). Afterward, if you are still attracted to the profession, I would recommend you to pursue a certification.

Marcos is a Project Management Consultant for Telecoms and Technology companies with several certifications and 7+ years of experience. He enjoys blogging about project management and online business tips and tricks. 

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