If you’re serious about a career as a project manager, earning the right qualifications will be high on your list of priorities. After completing a project management bootcamp, one of your best options is to earn a certification from a reputable institute like the Project Management Institute (PMI).
While earning a certification may seem like an expensive and time-consuming exercise, there’s no question they can be a huge boost to your resume. Since most of them require some level of work experience, a valid certificate confirms your long-term commitment to the field. And that’s exactly what employers look for in a candidate.
Of course one of the biggest advantages of getting certified is the higher earning potential. According to a recent PMI survey, the average median income for a certified project manager ranges from $115,000 to over $150,000, depending upon the application field, while a non-certified project manager typically earns $80,000 to $90,000. Organizations in just about every sector are crying out for certified project managers, with demand swelling by over 500% worldwide in the past decade.
Types of Project Management Certifications
We've put together a list below of some of the most popular certifications in project management. Any one of the certificates below will significantly boost your chances of landing a well-paying job in a top-notch organization—even if you’re just starting out.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
The most valued certification in the field of project management is a Project Management Professional Certification (PMP), offered by PMI. Clearing the certification exam requires in-depth knowledge of all aspects of project management, including scope, time, budget, strategic planning, risk management, and communication. The PMP certification validates your credibility and competency to lead and direct project teams. The average income of a PMP certified professional is around $110,000 per year.
As a globally accepted credential, the Project Management Professional Certification will even prepare you for a career abroad. Another benefit of getting certified is it gives you the option of becoming a PMI member. The PMI network has over 750,000 active certification holders across the world. The institute hosts regular events in major cities around the world, which can be highly beneficial for networking.
The minimum prerequisites for PMP are:
- A four-year degree, 36 months of project management experience over the past eight years, and 35 hours of project management education or CAPM certification; or
- A secondary degree (an associate’s degree or equivalent, or a high school diploma), at least 60 months of project management experience, and a minimum of 35 hours of project management education or CAPM certification.
If you've decided to earn your PMP, you've got plenty of resources at your disposal. The PMI offers a list of training materials, sample questions, and exam handbook for prospective candidates. The standard textbook to prepare for the PMP certification is the sixth edition of the PMBOK (Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge). The book is technical and can be a tough read, but it covers all the topics related to project management in detail. A stripped-down, easier-to-read version of the PMBOK guide for relatively new professionals is Project Management: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide, by Greg Horine. This book covers the entire project management cycle and also has tips on how to use the MS Project Software. PMP Exam Prep: Accelerated Learning to Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, by Rita Mulcahy; and CAPM/PMP Project Management Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, by Joseph Phillips, are other valuable reference books for this exam.
The certification exam is priced at $405 (retake $275) for PMI members and at $555 (retake $375) for non-PMI members.
Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
In contrast to PMP, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is an entry-level PM certification (again by PMI), and is designed for candidates with little or no project management experience. While PMP mandates three to five years of documented project management experience, CAPM requires only a high school diploma and either 1,500 hours of documented on-the-job experience (around nine months of full-time work) or 23 hours of PM classroom training before attempting the exam.
Like PMP, the PMI exam guidance webpage hosts a CAPM handbook and sample exam questions for candidates. In addition to PMBOK Guide and CAPM / PMP Project Management Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, CAPM Exam Prep, by Rita Mulcahy, is another good self-study book.
CAPM holders need to get re-certified every five years. This is considered a stepping stone towards the more reputable PMP. The average income for a CAPM certified individual is around $100,000 per year. The certification exam fee is $225 (retake $150) for PMI members and $300 (retake $200) for non-PMI members.
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
Due to the rising popularity of Agile methodology in IT, there’s an increasing need for project managers skilled in the Agile framework. There are many Scrum Master certifications available, but Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from Scrum Alliance is a great starting point. The fact that there are over 500,000 CSM certified professionals worldwide certainly backs this up.
Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization that aims to encourage Scrum and Agile practices in companies and institutions. It promotes user groups and learning events for Agile and Scrum, and also provides resources for professional development. The Scrum Alliance provides a network and support system for Scrum practitioners, like Scrum Gatherings, user groups, coaching, online training and virtual communications.
Prerequisites for this certification include a general familiarity with Scrum and the completion of a two-day CSM training course, priced between $900 and $1400. There are also several blogs, articles, reports, and study materials provided by Scrum Alliance that will help you prepare for the certification exam.
In addition to CSM, Scrum Alliance also offers a range of other Scrum-related certifications at various levels, including foundation, advanced, professional, elevated (guide), and leadership levels. Their certifications are designed for candidates working as Scrum masters, product owners, and developers.
This entry-level certification offered by CompTIA is roughly equivalent to the CAPM offered by PMI, although the requirements are less stringent. You can enroll with just one year of experience managing, directing, or participating in small-to-medium-sized projects. The certification focuses on developing skills in communication and business to prepare you for leading and completing projects on time, within the budget constraints, and with the expected quality.
CompTIA's Project+ is suited for both IT and non-IT professionals. To design and improve the certification, the organization often takes feedback from:
- The computing industry
- Research institutions
- Government representatives
- Academia and independent experts
The certification exam is priced at $285.
Certified Project Manager (CPM)
Certified Project Manager (CPM) is a mid-level certification offered by the International Association of Project Managers (IAPM). It’s internationally recognized and focuses on developing well-rounded project managers with skills including IT, finance, communications, HR, and marketing. IAPM lies between the Master Project Manager (MPM) and Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications in terms of experience and hours, as well as international rankings. Professional experience is not mandatory to sit for the exam, and being a one-time exam, CPM doesn’t require re-certification.
Master Project Manager (MPM)
This certification is offered by the American Academy of Project Management (AAPM), and acts as a professional license to practice project management. On top of the essential skills, MPM also focuses on business and technical management skills. To appear for an MPM, a candidate must have completed at least three years in the project management domain. This is similar to the requirements for PMP, but it's is relatively less expensive, priced at $300.
Professional in Project Management (PPM)
Professional in Project Management (PPM) is a mid-level certification offered by the Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM). This exam covers a broad knowledge base in project management methodologies, but specifically on resource allocation, clarity in direction, adaptability to change, assurance of quality, minimizing risk, and clear and effective communication practices. PPM is suitable for intermediate to experienced project managers, especially those involved in risk and crisis management on top of the day-to-day management of projects. All the course material is available on the GAQM website, and the certification is priced at $300.
Certified Project Director (CPD)
CPD is the highest level of certification offered by GAQM. The designation is for significantly experienced project managers, who direct multiple, complex projects and programs. The main focus areas of the certification are:
- determining scope for multiple projects with multiple teams, and
- understanding and mitigating interdependent risks for the successful completion of all the projects.
Candidates going for this certification need to have cleared the Professional in Project Management (PPM) or an equivalent exam. The certification fee is $300 and all course material is available to registered candidates on the GAQM website.
Learn Project Management with Thinkful
Our Technical Project Management bootcamp is one of the fastest ways to launch into a project management career. As a student, you’ll have opportunities to gain skills and tools used by top employers throughout this project-based course. The program is backed by industry experts, a rigorous curriculum, and paired workshops. We hope the article helps you make an informed decision on which project management certification is suitable for you. You can read more about other tech certification programs on our blog.