Why is everyone obsessed with Project Management Certification

Project Management

Do I need a formal certification in Project Management?


This is the quintessential question we hear constantly from new entrants or those seeking to make Project Management their chosen profession (refer to article: how I become a Project Manager). If you ask people who have been in this field for more than30 years, most of them would have learned project management in the old-fashioned way, essentially, on-the-job training, word-of-mouth and using a common-sense approach to project delivery. Experience was given more weight than any given framework as they were few and far between.

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However, as the demand for project managers has increased during the last 10+ years (refer to article “5 reasons why project management is a great career choice”) this discipline has evolved into the highly skilled profession it is today, where there are a range of methodologies or frameworks that can be used to successfully deliver projects.

The choice of methodology selected to deliver projects will typically depend on the organisation, its culture and business needs and objectives, and the nature of the projects it delivers. It is therefore important for Project Managers to be knowledgeable in more than one methodology as they move across organisations, industries, and project types. Project Managers need a wide range of skills and tools to ensure their projects can be delivered on time and within budget or satisfy their customers.

Here we will look at the need for a formal accredited Project Management certification by answering some of the commonly raised questions that can provide the context to help you answer that question:

Where do projects fit in organisations today?

  1. What does a Project Manager need to know?
  2. What are the commonly used Project Management methodologies?
  3. What is certification Project Management?
  4. Is certification different to training?
  5. Who needs a certification?
  6. How does certification help an experienced Project Manager?
  7. How does a Project Manager use their certification day-to-day?

1. Where do projects fit in organisations today?

Every organisation has several broad layers.

Most people who work in an organisation are involved in the day-to-day operation of that organisation, providing the organisation’s products or services to its clients or customers, or supporting those who do this. Some of these people will be in management roles, coordinating those working in their business units. All of these people comprise the business-as-usual layer of the organisation.

Every organisation also has a smaller number of people who oversee the business-as-usual layer and think about the future direction of the organisation. These people comprise the strategic layer of the organisation.

Those in the strategic layer will identify changes that need to be made in the business-as-usual layer to achieve the organisation’s strategic objectives, and may commission projects to deliver these changes. Those in the business-as-usual layer may identify the need to change the way they deliver business-as-usual and may commission projects to deliver these changes.

The link between the strategic and business-as-usual layers is through a change layer, which is where projects are run. The change layer develops and delivers change into the business-as-usual layer, in alignment with the direction set by those in the strategic layer.

Each of these three layers requires a different form of management that reflects the specific nature of the work being performed by managers in that layer. Managers in the business-as-usual layer will apply various forms of general management or operational management. Managers in the strategic layer apply strategic thinking or executive management.

Managing projects is sufficiently different to strategic thinking, general management, and the day-to-day operations of an organisation, as to justify the need for its own style of management. This is what we know as project management.

2. What does a project manager need to know?


A pen on a sheet of paper Description automatically generated with low confidence The core delivery skills that every project manager needs include:
  • How to establish and manage the scope of the project, including requirements, quality, specifications, configuration management and change control, benefits profiling and management.
  • How to define the work to be done in a schedule, estimate effort and duration, identify dependencies between elements of the work, establish milestones, and identify the critical path through the work.
  • How to estimate the cost of doing the work, conduct investment appraisals, establish budgets, seek funding, and control costs as the work progresses
  • How to identify and assess risks, plan, and implement responses, and conduct ongoing monitoring or risk
  • How to procure the materials and skilled people the project will need, how to establish and manage contracts, how to mobilise and control these resources.
  • Every project manager needs critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They must be able to weigh up the pros and cons of alternative solutions to problems before choosing the right way forward and defend their decisions.

There is also an integrative aspect to the project manager role. This involves planning, coordination, business justification, control, information management, organisation, stakeholders, assurance, and progress reporting.

In addition to the core delivery skills, there are a range of other skills that a project manager should at least be aware of, including:

Business analysis skills, including requirements elicitation, capture, analysis, and establishing traceability.

  • Quality skills, including quality planning and control, verification, validation and acceptance.
  • Configuration management skills concerned with tracking and protecting project assets.
  • Finance management skills
  • Business justification skills, including business case writing skills, and investment appraisal skills.
  • Procurement and contract management, and resource management skills
  • Technical skills, including design, engineering, and product development.
  • Human resources and sometimes industrial relations skills
  • Occupational health, safety, and environment skills
  • Organisational change skills, how to assess readiness for change and levels of support and resistance, how to establish a vision for the change and communicate it effectively, how to plan and enact transition of outputs and capabilities into live use. There may also be a need for some personal and organisational psychology skills.
  • Legal skills

Finally, since project management is mostly about working with people, and helping them to work together effectively, every project manager needs a range of interpersonal skills, including:



  • Communication
  • Leading others
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Delegation skills
  • Influencing others
  • Negotiation skills
  • Teamwork
  • Facilitation.

With tongue firmly in cheek, sometimes project managers may feel the need for a degree in counselling or psychology and sometimes psychiatry!

3. What are the most used project management methods?

There are many project management methods. We’ll discuss the most widely used ones here.

PRINCE2, which stands for Projects in Controlled Environments version 2, is a structured project management method that provides advice to everyone involved in a project. It can be tailored to support both predictive (planned in advance) or adaptive (learn as you go) approaches. PRINCE2 is a project management method that will benefitProjects in Controlled Environments

all types and sizes of projects in any domain. Designed to facilitate effective organisational control of projects, it consists of 3 integrated elements – 7 Principles, 7 Themes, 7 Processes – with supporting advice on governance and tailoring the method to meet organisational and project needs. PRINCE2 is becoming the most widely used project management method in the world, and now includes an Agile extension.


EzyskillsAgilePM is a method that supports agility within an adaptive project management framework. The rationale for use of predictive approaches that apply detailed planning to project management is clearly flawed in domains where the client can’t tell you what they want until after they see it, and where delivery of a workable solution on time and budget is more important than delivering a perfect solution. Agile Project Management supports the concepts of iteration and incremental development that are necessary for agility.


Ezyskills The Praxis Framework is a free, community-driven framework which can help you and your organisation realise the intended benefits of projects, programmes and portfolios (P3). It leverages many of the concepts used in other methods, and ensures consistency of approach at all levels. The Praxis Framework integrates P3 management approaches in a single consistent vertically integrated guide. The Praxis Framework is a combination of four types of best practice guidance: Knowledge; Method; Competency; and Capability, supported by a library of resources and an encyclopaedia that are being continually added to by practitioners.


The Project Management Institute, based in the US and with chapters around the world, publishes its PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), a set of standard terminology and guidelines for project managers. The PMBoK is targeted at project managers, and so is not particularly useful for other members of a project team.
A project manager trained in the PMBoK would have no problem using an organisational project management method based on one or more of PRINCE2, AgilePM or the Praxis Framework.

Each of these methods can be adapted to use a wide range of estimating, planning and product development techniques, including methods such as Scrum, Kanban or Lean Startup.

4. What is certification in project management?

A picture containing text Description automatically generated A credible organisation may establish a certification scheme based on one of the project management methods. A certification scheme would specify a minimum acceptable level of knowledge of a project management method. A person would take an accredited course to learn the core elements of the method and would then take a certification exam. If they pass the exam, they will receive a certificate as proof that they have achieved the required minimum standard of knowledge of the method.

Generally, certification is at two levels:

Foundation: This indicates that a person understands the core elements of the method

Practitioner: This indicates that a person understands how to apply the method in a real-world situation.

For many of the certifications we offer, the credible organisation that established the original certification schemes was the Government of the United Kingdom, which engaged the APM Group (APMG) to manage the schemes. In 2012, management of some of these schemes was transferred to Axelos, which is 49% owned by the UK Government.

5. Is certification different to training?

Many training organisations offer courses in project management. However, if a person completes a course, it does not mean that they have been certified. As well, there may not be any guarantee as to the quality of the course, the courseware, the trainer or the level of understanding achieved by participants.

Certification can only be provided by an independent certification body, not by the training organisation. Where a training organisation delivers a training course associated with a certification scheme, the certification body also ensures the quality of the courseware and the performance of the trainer.

This means that a certificate provided by an independent certification authority is much more credible in the workplace than a simple attendance or completion certificate from a training organisation.


6. Who needs a certification?


There are two broad classes of people who need certification:

Those who have little experience of project management, and who need to learn a credible project management framework. This could include:

    • A graduate just out of school who realises that they want to become a project manager
    • Someone currently unemployed, perhaps laid off due to the pandemic, with some work experience behind them, who wants to boost the employment chances
    • A technical person or a manager looking to learn a formal project management method as they are now managing a variety of projects
    • Someone looking for a career change into project management.
  • Those with a lot of project management experience, but who are not certified in a formal method. This could include:
    • An experienced but uncertified project manager competing for roles with other people who have relevant certifications.
    • An experienced project manager who is looking for a transferable certification that will open up many more roles for them in other organisations or industries.
    • An experienced person looking to become a programme or portfolio manager or looking to move into a specialist role such as a risk manager or a change manager.


7. How does certification help an experienced project manager?

A project manager needs to apply two broad types of ‘intelligence”:

  • Every project manager will need to solve complex problems, requiring them to reason clearly about issues, to learn new things, and to think abstractly to solve problems. These elements could be described as reflecting the project manager’s fluid or native intelligence.
  • Another form of intelligence can be called crystallised intelligence. This is based on the project manager’s past learnings and experience in their past projects. This crystallised intelligence normally increases with age and experience.

So where does project management certification fit in?

The accumulated project management body of knowledge built into one of the globally recognised methods is like an encyclopaedia reflecting the experience of many hundreds of thousands of people over a timeframe of more than a century, derived from hard lessons learned in tens of thousands of projects. A smart project manager would want to “stand on the shoulders of giants” when approaching a new project, rather than starting with a clean slate every time. Receiving training in the body of knowledge behind project management will significantly improve a project manager’s crystallised intelligence and represents a massive additional resource on which the project manager’s fluid intelligence can operate.


8. How does a project manager use their certification day-to-day?

Each of the globally recognised project management methods encapsulates the lessons derived from hundreds of thousands of projects of all levels of complexity in all industries over more than a century. No individual project manager will ever achieve this level of experience in their entire career. By learning one of these methods, as well as how to tailor the method to suit the needs of your organisation and your project, you will be bringing to your projects all of this experience, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ in other words. This doesn’t prevent an experienced project manager from tailoring a method, or combining elements from several methods, to better meet the needs of their projects.

Methods such as PRINCE2 and the Praxis Framework work out of the box for any type of project in any environment and are expected to be tailored to ensure an optimal balance between rigour and agility. However, in our experience, we’ve found that even accomplished project managers can get into trouble if they ‘tailor’ one of these standard methods to such an extent that they have broken the checks and balances built into the methods.

Another benefit of certification is that when a project manager is given a novel project to establish and run, they may not have the necessary experience to do this well for this particular project. But they can simply refresh their understanding of elements of the project management method that they may never have had to use in the past, and follow its guidance.

In summary, having collectively managed and delivered hundreds of projects over the years and recruited many project managers to work on them, we believe that certification by itself is not a predictor of successful project management or the quality of delivery. However, organisations who successfully deliver projects prioritise recruitment of certified project managers, as this ensures that the person recruited for the role can hit the ground running with the necessary knowledge and experience to drive successful project delivery – thus minimising the cost of training and induction. We believe that the more certifications you get across different project management methodologies, will increase your “employability” across diverse industries depending on the methodology being used.

We can help you to Learn, Upskill and Get Certified. We offer a range of accredited Project Management Courses and certifications.

Email us to find out more how one of our highly experienced project managers or accredited trainers today can help you along your journey. We are happy to help.

Geoff Rankins (FAIPM, CPPD, Bsc (Hons), MapplSci, MBA)

About the Author

Geoff is a business focused professional with over 43 years of experience in a variety of industries. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Project Management, a Certified Practising Project Director, and a Certified Scrum Master. He is also an Approved Trainer in PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile, MSP, MoP, P3O, MoR, MoV, Agile Project Management, Managing Benefits, Change Management, Praxis Framework, BBC, ABC Scrum Master.

© EZY Skills 2021



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