What’s in PM Qualifications and Certifications and How will they Help Me?

project meeting
Photo: CC BY 2008 Robert Scoble

Many people are confused when they see all the products on the market for project management training – some are qualifications such as a Diploma are well regarded wherever you are, some are globally recognised certifications , again recognised and valued throughout the world of project management, while others are short courses, designed to further the participant’s knowledge and skills in a specific area.

I have lots of people interested in commencing a course on Project Management ask me which one is best? Now, that’s a loaded question and it is impossible to answer unless you know a little more about an individual’s skills and experience and the reason why they want to learn more about project management.
For example, if you have no experience in project management and have never worked in a project environment well, the certification programs are not going to be much, if any use to you.

Instead, you really need to go for a qualification like the Certificate IV in Project Management Practice to learn the basics of project management such as the project framework, the life-cycle and methodology of managing a project through its lifecycle. Once you have this basic skillset under your belt, well, you’re much more likely to pick up a job as a member of a project team.

Certifications such as PRINCE2, PMI, ITIL, Agile and so on are all valuable to have but they won’t help you get a job if you haven’t worked in project management before.

Photo CC-BY-2.0 2009 danisabella
Photo CC-BY-2.0 2009 danisabella

It makes little or no sense to gain a certification in a specific and quite complex methodology of PM if you’ve never worked in a project environment and, potential employers will be looking to see that experience before they place any value on the Certification you hold. In fact, you cannot even obtain PMI/PMP Certification without holding between 3 – 5 years of project experience that is the equivalent of between 4,500 – 7,500 hours on the job!

However, if you have some previous experience on the job as a project manager or a member of a project team and, you want to move to a company that operates in a PRINCE2, Agile or ITIL environment (and there are many such organisations throughout Australia) then, yes you should obtain the Certification without delay as this will most definitely assist you in your job hunting.

You can often find out what system an organisation is using either from the job description, or, if you’re only looking around well it will often be mentioned on the company website or you can checkout the company CIO details on LinkedIn. PRINCE2 also keep a register of organisations using their system so you can often find a summary of these organisations in a specific country or region.

Now, if you are an experienced project manager and thinking of trying your hand offshore with a multi-national company or a company in Singapore, Dubai, China or India (for example) then, it is well worth considering the PMI/PMP Certification as this is a globally recognised standard that provides potential employers with tangible evidence of your skills. After all, to hold this certification you must have demonstrated a significant number of hours of experience as a project manager!

Photo CC-BY-2.0 2009 SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations
Photo CC-BY-2.0 2009 SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations

A Diploma of Project Management is also very effective in the global environment – not so much for the technical skills you so obviously have, of course that’s important, but more so for the ability to obtain a Diploma level of study. This often sets you aside from those who don’t have a higher qualification. After all a Diploma level qualification implies a level of ability to communicate, make decisions, solve problems, manage one’s own personal productivity, handle technology as well as manage people – all critical yet underpinning skills necessary in the successful project manager.

A value-add with the Diploma of Project Management qualification offered by CAL is that, if you complete all the course content well, we guarantee that you’ll have the knowledge to sit the PMI/PMP exam without any further study!

Of course if you’re an experienced project manager without either a qualification or any certification, well, the very best option for you (at least as a starting point) is to have the skills and knowledge you’ve gathered over the years you’ve spent in project management recognised, and you can do this quite easily and with a minimum of fuss, by applying for a recognition of prior learning or RPL for the Diploma of Project Management.

I recently completed an RPL application for an experienced PM who was working in WA and who wanted to go back off shore to work. He felt he needed a formal qualification on his CV to secure the job he really wanted. So, he applied for RPL and, within the month he was done and dusted. But then, that’s just what you’d expect from an experienced project manager. After all managing self & time to gather together the paperwork he needed to demonstrate what he does and then explaining to me just how he does it is exactly the skills that underpin PM success. So he has his Diploma with literally a couple of days of effort!

Photo CC-BY-SA 2014 Garrett Coakley
Photo CC-BY-SA 2014 Garrett Coakley

Then, for those experienced project managers who already hold a qualification and any certification required to run specific methodologies on site and be recognised globally, well the next step up is, first off, to program management. So once you’ve mastered your own project you can move on to managing a number of programs and here the MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) is a useful Certification. Once you’ve mastered programmes or perhaps instead of well then the next step is on to Portfolio Management with the MoP® (Management of Portfolios- this is a great next step. Both these Certifications are valuable in the PMO as well and are perfect for entry into the PMO Manager role or, the next step up as a project sponsor. If you want to further your career in the PMO well you can’t go far wrong with the P30 training – that is the Portfolio, Programme and Project Office.

Of course if you want to specialise in an area you might like to consider Earned Value Management or Management of Value (MoV®).

You might even want to move across into talent management or organisational change. The PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report completed in Feb. 2014 has shown that organisations need to focus on the development and training of their talent in order to achieve superior project performance, successful strategic initiatives and become high performers. This is a real problem in knowledge transfer where two thirds of organisations report using outsourced or contract project managers and, furthermore, 26% of organisations plan to increase this in 2014. Yet the research tells us that there is a direct correlation between effective talent management and better project performance.

Similarly, change continues to be a challenge for the vast majority of organisations with two out of five organisations or 40% reporting in this same pulse report that their effectiveness at organisational change management is higher compared to a year ago. What is surprising, given these figures is the only one in five orgs report highly effective change management.

Photo CC-BY-2.0 2006 Alberto G.
Photo CC-BY-2.0 2006 Alberto G.

So, the time is right for those of you interested in (for example) talent or change management to specialist and become project managers specialising in talent management or change management. CAL offers two excellent units of study on both of these exciting and challenging areas and, you can also achieve credits either within a Diploma of Project Management or perhaps branch out and complete a Diploma of Management as well.

There are so many options available to those of you who are information savvy and pro-active career planners!

But I’ve left the most important to last and that’s the short courses in Project Leadership Mastery and CAL runs a number of these that focus on Leadership and People Management. It makes good sense to develop those interpersonal people management skills and also to ensure you are across the ever changing mine-field that is employment legislation and all that entails.

CAL provides a complete range of HRM programs from developing the employment contract to running the performance review meeting, managing conflict, settling disputes and terminating unsatisfactory employees.

Now this is a very brief explanation of some of the very many options available for you to choose from in project management but, the ones I’ve selected here today are certainly some of the most well-known.

If you would like to know more about all or any of these options you can access the FAQ’s on CAL’s PM Solutions pages or you can give us a call. We’d love to talk to you more about all these fabulous programs and how they can help you progress your career in project management!