Behind every successful IT project, you’ll find a highly skilled project manager. From hardware and software upgrades to ongoing security patches, to application development and the rollout of software itself, project managers keep your teams on task and productive.
Almost any IT pro can benefit from adding a project management certification to their list of IT credentials, showing you have the know-how to plan, schedule, budget, execute, deliver, and report on IT initiatives. Here, CIO.com outlines the most popular project management certifications that will add value and help you hone your skills this year, whether you are just starting out your project management journey or are a seasoned PM pro.
Project management certifications for beginners
If you’re just starting out on your project management career or are looking to make the switch to project management, there are certification designed for entry-level candidates. These certifications require little to no experience and have few, if any, prerequisites for taking the exams. They’re designed to certify your entry-level project management skills, while also teaching you more about project management in the process.
Associate in Project Management (APM)
The Associate in Project Management (APM) certification offered by The Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM) is an entry-level project management certification to validate your fundamental knowledge of the Project Management Framework. It’s aimed at those with little to no experience in project management and includes an online course that you will be required to complete before taking the certification exam. The course covers topics such as project management fundamentals, project management training, and all the basics of the project management role that you will need to be successful in the role. It’s targeted at managers and project team members, students at the graduate or undergraduate level, entry-level practitioners, and anyone with an interest in project management as a career.
Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; no formal education or experience requirements
Certified Project Manager (CPM-IAPM)
The Certified Project Manager certification is offered by the International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) as an entry-level certification for those with a basic understanding of project management. It covers the necessary knowledge to “theoretically plan, organize, and implement a project effectively,” according to the IAPM. It’s designed for those who aspire to have a career in project management and doesn’t require prior experience in the field. The exam covers a range of topics, including project check, project environment, steering committees and core teams, creation of the Phase Model, creation of the WBS, cost breakdown and budget, risk analysis, project review, and more. The certification includes a combination of hard and soft skills that are relevant to the role of project manager. For novices, the IAPM offers a Certified Junior Project Manager certification and for those with extensive experience, they offer the Certified Senior Project Manager certification.
Price: Fee depends on candidate’s nationality, as pricing is based on country-of-origin’s GDP; in the US, the exam cost is $514
Requirements: None, but IAPM offers workshops through global training partners, or recommended literature for self-study. Candidates can also take a self-test to benchmark their knowledge.
The CompTIA Project+ certification is an entry-level credential for IT professionals charged with managing smaller, less complex projects as part of their job duties. Candidates for this certification should have knowledge and experience with managing project life cycles, maintaining project documentation, managing resources and stakeholders, and ensuring appropriate communication. The exam covers project basics, project constraints, communication and change management, and project tools and documentation. It’s best suited for IT project coordinators or managers, IT project team members, business analysts, managers, directors, or team leaders.
Requirements: At least 12 months of cumulative project management experience or equivalent education
PMI Project Management Ready
The PMI Project Management Ready certification is an entry-level exam for those who have zero to three years of experience in project or change management. The certification covers project management fundamentals and core concepts, traditional plan-based methodologies, agile frameworks, and business analyst frameworks, among other topics. Students can “immerse themselves in the project management industry and connect with a passionate community of professionals while gaining a competitive edge,” according to PMI. The certification is aimed to set students up with the foundational knowledge they need for a career in project management, while certifying their skills and abilities as a project manager.
Requirements: None, but it’s recommended that candidates read at a ninth-grade level and have a fundamental understanding of computer literacy
PRINCE2 Agile Foundation
The PRINCE2 Agile Foundation certification offered by Axelos is designed for those working in agile environments to validate your knowledge of PRINCE2 governance requirements, agile concepts, and techniques. The Foundation certification covers the fundamentals of the PRINCE2 method and covers governance requirements and agile concepts such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean Start-up, and Cynefin.
Price: Price varies based on location
Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE2) is most well-known outside the US, especially in the UK and its government entities. The PRINCE2 certifications are delivered by Axelos and focus on directing, managing, and delivering projects across all phases, pre-project, initiation, delivery, and final delivery. The PRINCE2 Foundation certification is an entry-level credential that tests basic project management terminology and methodology, and is targeted at aspiring project managers, project board members, team managers, project assurance professionals, project support professionals, and operational line managers or staff.
Price: Price varies based on location
Requirements: PRINCE2 Foundation course
Top project management certifications
For project managers who already have experience under their belt, there are plenty of well-regarded certifications that can validate intermediate to advanced project management skills. These certifications cover project management at a higher level, and often cover specific areas of project management, such as risk and IT security. Typically, these certifications require a stronger background in project management — often requiring several years and hundreds of hours of experience and education to qualify for the exam.
Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP)
Offered by the PMI, the Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) certification is designed to validate your knowledge of agile principles and skills with agile techniques. The exam covers topics such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, extreme programming (XP), and test-driven development (TDD). It’s aimed at those who work on agile teams or in agile organizations and focuses on seven main domains of knowledge, including agile principles and mindset, value-driven delivery, stakeholder engagement, team performance, adaptive planning, problem detection and resolution, and continuous improvement.
Price: $435 for members; $495 for nonmembers
Requirements: Candidates for the exam must have a secondary degree, 21 contact hours of training in agile practices, 12 months of project experience within the past five years or eight months of agile project experience within the past three years; a current PMP or PgMP certification (see below) can satisfy the requirement for 12 months of experience but is not required
BVOP Certified Project Manager
Business value-oriented principles (BVOP) is an agile-based framework that has grown in popularity in the UK. BVOP emphasizes business value in all project management activities and practices. The BVOP Certified Project Manager is for senior practitioners with experience in both project management and people management. The focus on a people-oriented culture sets it apart from other project management certification programs. It’s a certification aimed at senior project managers, agile professionals, product managers and owners, Scrum masters, and business analysts. The BVOP approach helps to develop professionals’ collaboration skills, and candidates for certification not only gain project and product management skills, but also learn to become more people-focused leaders. The exam includes questions from the project management, program management, and product management sections of the course materials.
Requirements: No previous professional project management experience required; free study guides and preparation materials available online
Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
Administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Certified Associate in Project Management certification is the precursor to the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification (see below). For professionals without a college degree, or with only rudimentary project management experience or those who want to achieve their PMP certification in steps rather than all at once, the CAPM is a stepping-stone to the more rigorous PMP.
For more information, see “CAPM certification guide: Certified Associate in Project Management exam explained.”
Price: $225 for PMI members; $300 nonmembers
Requirements: High-school diploma, associate degree or equivalent, and at least 1,500 hours of project management experience or 23 hours of project management education.
Certified Project Director
The GAQM’s Certified Project Director certification is the credentialing body’s highest-level project management certification. This designation is designed for experienced project managers who are involved in directing multiple complex projects and programs. The certification focuses on managing, budgeting, and determining scope for multiple projects, multiple project teams, and assessing and mitigating interdependent risks to deliver projects successfully. The CDP program is only for those who have significant project management experience.
Requirements: Qualified candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate degree or global equivalent and must hold one of the following certifications: a PPM certification from GAQM; a PMP certification from PMI; a PRINCE2 Practitioner certification from APMG; or a CPM certification from GIAC
Certified Project Management (CPM)
The EC-Council was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to address issues of cyberterrorism and the information security of nations at large. The EC-Council’s Certified Project Management certification course is for project managers who want to benchmark their skills through hands-on experience and across various management techniques and tools necessary to successfully manage complex projects efficiently. The course includes on-demand instructor-led training videos, online CyberQ Labs, a continuing education video subscription, and live instructor-led training in-person or online. You can select from three course options: The basic package includes a single video course, labs, e-courseware and the certification exam; the midtier package adds on the CodeRed continuing education video subscription and live instructor training; and the top-tier package includes an additional certification course, exam insurance, and online exam prep.
Price: $999 for the single video course package; $2,999 for the unlimited video courses; or $3,499 for the full live-course bundle
Requirements: No prerequisites
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
The use of agile methodologies has become standard, so it’s not surprising that IT practitioners uniquely qualified to manage projects in agile environments are in high demand. While there are different Scrum master certifications available, the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from Scrum Alliance is a great jumping-off point for project managers getting started as Scrum practitioners. The Scrum Alliance, which offers this credential, is a nonprofit organization that encourages the adoption of Scrum and agile practices, promotes user groups and learning events, and provides resources for professional development. The organization boasts more than 450,000 certified practitioners worldwide.
For a deeper look at the CSM, see “CSM certification guide: Certified ScrumMaster exam explained.”
Price: Varies by training provider, but approximately $995 to $1,395
Requirements: General familiarity with Scrum; completion of two-day CSM training course
Master Project Manager (MPM)
The American Academy of Project Management (AAPM) has modeled the Master Project Manager (MPM) after the “professional licensure” model that many professions such as pilots, engineers, doctors, and lawyers follow. The AAPM focuses on professional project managers, but also includes professionals with business and technical management responsibilities. The MPM certification is aimed at senior project managers and project directors who have an undergraduate or master’s degree.
Price: $300 for application, review, processing, review, initiation, and certification
Requirements: Three years of project management experience and training; waivers available for professionals holding a master’s degree, with other qualified training and experience, the military or project management instructors
PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner
Building on the PRINCE2 Agile Foundation certification, the PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner certification takes the foundational knowledge covered in the first exam and validates your ability to apply it in real-world management examples.
Price: Price varies based on location
Requirements: Agile Foundation certification
In addition to its entry-level Foundation certification (see above), PRINCE2 offers the PRINCE2 Practitioner certification, which tests advanced project managers who have already achieved PRINCE2 Foundation. The certification is targeted at experienced project managers, project board members, team managers, project assurance professionals, project support professionals, and operational line managers or staff.
Price: Price varies based on location
Requirements: One of the following: PRINCE2 Foundation, Project Management Professional (PMP), CAPM, or an IPMA certification
Professional in Project Management (PPM)
The Professional in Project Management (PPM) is a midtier project management credential from the GAQM. The GAQM’s project management certifications are focused on a broad knowledge base and emphasize effective resource allocation, clear direction, adaptability to change, effective communication, and assurance of quality deliverables at minimal risk. The certification covers how to plan, execute, control, and complete project schedules and how to develop project measures, approach project control, and lead project teams. It focuses on project management fundamentals, project management training, effective planning and scheduling, team building, risk management, crisis management, time management, leadership skills, communication strategies, and knowledge management. The PPM is targeted towards intermediate to experienced project managers who are involved in risk and crisis management, and who are involved in the day-to-day management of projects.
Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; no formal education or experience requirements, but candidates should have at least some project management experience to pass the exam
Project Management in IT security (PMITS)
The Project Management in IT Security (PMITS) certification from the EC-Council focuses on how to manage IT security projects and how to enhance the success rate for organizations and IT managers. The course associated with the certification guides students through an operational framework for designing IT security projects, providing a roadmap for how to enhance and implement IT security in an organization, and outlining global best practices followed by other experts in the field. It’s specifically designed for federal employees.
Requirements: Must be over 18 years old to complete the exam; candidates are recommended to have an intermediate proficiency level
Project Management Professional (PMP)
The gold standard in project management certifications, the Project Management Professional certification offered by the PMI is a rigorous test that covers absolutely everything you need to prove your knowledge and skill in managing the “triple constraints”: time, cost, and scope. The certification validates your project leadership experience and expertise and demonstrates your capabilities to help organizations work more efficiently and perform better. The exam covers topics such as managing conflict, leading teams, building effective teams, training and empowering team members and stakeholders, executing projects to deliver business value, assess and manage risks, engage stakeholders, plan and manage budgets and resources, among other topics.
For more about the PMP, and tips on how to pass it, see “PMP certification: How to ace the Project Management Professional exam.”
Price: $405 for PMI members, $575 for nonmembers
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 CAPM certification; 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
Program Management Professional (PgMP)
The Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification offered by the PMI is designed for program managers who are senior-level practitioners who are responsible for advancing the organization’s strategic goals. Candidates for this exam should have extensive experience managing multiple, related projects and navigating complex environments across various departments, job functions, regions, or cultures to align results with organizational goals. The exam covers topics such as strategic program management, program life cycles, benefits management, stakeholder management, and governance.
Price: $800 for members; $1,000 for nonmembers
Requirements: A secondary degree or global equivalent, 48 months of project management experience or a PMP certification and 84 months of program management experience within the past 15 years; those with a four-year degree will need 48 months of project management experience or a PMP certification and 48 months oof program management experience within the past 15 years