By Dr. Michael Shick, MSPM, PMP, CSM
November 29, 2023
Are you looking to change careers or grab hold of the ever-evolving world of project management? As 2024 unfolds, certifications beckon with more promise and potential. With –many paths, selecting the proper project management certification can be your game-changer–the difference between searching for a job and landing that dream position!
This article is a curated list of the top certifications. It reviews each of the key offerings, from the globally acclaimed Project Management Professional (PMP®) and PRINCE2®, to the more agile-minded certifications like ScrumMaster and Product Owner. The aim is to help you understand and highlight each of the offering’s focus and highlight your skills in the competitive job market.
Envision the doors that could be open with a highest-demand certification on your resume. Not only will you stand out in a sea of professionals, but you will also have the skills and proven qualifications to apply for in-demand jobs. The perfect certification can propel you toward your goals, whether you’re aiming for a salary boost, a role upgrade, or even a career switch.
Check out this recommended list and navigate the most sought-after Project Management Certifications of 2024. Whether you want to be a program manager, certified project director, or project coordinator, your journey to demonstrate your expertise is here. Choose your certification, embrace the learning curve, and prepare to see your career soar!
What Are the Best Project Management Certifications?
Choosing the proper project management certification can significantly impact your career trajectory, marketability, and salary. With numerous methodologies and frameworks, it’s essential to pick a path that aligns with your career goals, industry requirements, and the future of project management. Below is a comparative overview of the top project management certifications that stand out in 2024. Leveraging Indeed, this list is based on the level of demand within the job market and the value they add to your professional skill set.
It’s important to note that each certification brings with it tremendous value in demonstrating your knowledge and understanding. This list is in descending order based on market demand, not necessarily quality or rigor.
9. PRINCE2® Practitioner
PRINCE2® Practitioner certification is designed for project managers, aspiring project managers (i.e., PRINCE2® Foundation certification), and professionals who want to demonstrate their ability to manage projects in a structured and efficient manner. This certification delves deep into the PRINCE2® methodology, providing practitioners with the expertise to apply these principles to any project.
- Globally recognized certification, though notably more prevalent within the United Kingdom and Europe.
- Provides a comprehensive project management methodology that can be applied to any project, regardless of size or complexity.
- A disciplined and systematic approach focusing on efficiency and effectiveness.
- Compatible with other project management methodologies.
- Clear, structured learning path with defined certification levels, from Foundation to Practitioner.
Pros & Cons
- Internationally recognized and respected.
- Applicable to a wide range of industries.
- Encourages a systematic, process-driven approach.
- Costs can vary, depending on the provider.
- Some practitioners find the methodology complex, and rigid compared to more flexible approaches like Agile (not including PRINCE2® Agile).
- Equips candidates with the ability to facilitate Agile events and support SAFe® adoption in organizations.
- Instills servant leadership qualities, which are essential for creating high-performing teams.
- Certified professionals are well-prepared to support end-to-end value delivery in a Lean-Agile enterprise.
Pros & Cons
- In-demand skills for Scrum Masters in SAFe® enterprises.
- Rich training resources and practical tools.
- Cost variability may affect affordability.
- Primarily beneficial within SAFe®-adopting organizations.
7. Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) Product Owner
- Specializes within a SAFe® Agile team.
- Prioritize work to maximize value delivery.
- Covers the comprehensive role of a Product Owner, including customer and stakeholder engagement.
Pros & Cons
- Offers in-depth knowledge and training for efficiently managing and prioritizing team backlogs within a SAFe® environment.
- Trains individuals to maximize value delivery and maintain alignment with customer and stakeholder needs.
- The SAFe® framework supports organizational scaling to meet customer demands.
- The cost of training and certification can be variable.
- The certification is tailored to the SAFe® framework, which may be less widely applicable.
6. Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO®)
- Recognized as the industry standard for product owners.
- Practical skills for managing and prioritizing product backlogs for multiple projects and individual projects.
- Access to an extensive network for support and continuous learning.
Pros & Cons
- Enhanced understanding of the Scrum framework.
- Increases marketability and career opportunities.
- Variable costs and a commitment to continuous education.
5. PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP®)
- Validates real-world, hands-on experience and expertise in Agile Project Management.
- Covers a broad spectrum of agile methodologies, not just Scrum.
- Aligns with current industry trends favoring Agile Project Management.
Pros & Cons
- Globally recognized by employers and peers.
- Relevant to a variety of agile methodologies.
- The cost could be a barrier for some individuals.
4. Program Management Professional (PgMP®)
- Advanced skills in doing business and managing complex projects.
- Associated with higher earning potential.
- Indicative of a leadership role.
Pros & Cons
- PgMP® certification often commands higher salaries.
- More significant job opportunities, advanced positions, and increased organizational responsibilities.
- Allows for better alignment with business strategy, thus providing considerable value to employers
- The examination and certification fees are relatively high.
- Demands substantial program and project management experience, which is not feasible for professionals early in their careers.
- Attainment is stringent (e.g., a thorough application process, a panel evaluation, and a comprehensive exam).
3. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®)
- Sets the foundation for those interested in a career within project management.
- A steppingstone towards the PMP certification.
- Globally recognized.
Pros & Cons
- A solid foundation for project management.
- Globally recognized and respected.
- Low barrier to entry.
- More beneficial for those at the beginning of their career, rather than mid-career and beyond.
- Widely acknowledged as a comprehensive introduction to Scrum methodology.
- Focuses on practical, real-world application of Agile practices.
- Offers a broad array of career opportunities.
Pros & Cons
- Internationally recognized.
- Broad application across industries.
- Focused on Scrum and does not support a traditional understanding of project management.
1. Project Management Professional (PMP®)
The Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is widely recognized as a premier credential offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). In fact, it’s argued to be the global gold standard in project management. It demonstrates a project manager’s experience, education, skill, and competency required to lead and direct projects.
- PMP® is a universally recognized symbol of excellence in project management.
- PMP® certification holders typically earn a salary premium over non-certified individuals.
- Often, it is a requirement for senior project management roles.
Pros & Cons
- It can significantly boost your career and salary prospects.
- Certification is recognized across industries.
- The certification process is rigorous and requires significant time and financial investment.
Each certification offers unique benefits and considerations, but all are designed to enhance career prospects and promote professional standards.
What is a Project Management Certification, and How Can it Benefit You?
Project management certifications are essential for professionals in project management. It serves as a testament to an individual’s project management knowledge, expertise, dedication, and capability to manage projects efficiently. Depending on the credentials, it reflects a deep understanding of the methodologies and best practices.
Key insights critical to understanding the value of these certifications include their impact on career development and the expansion of one’s professional toolkit. Furthermore, depending on the certification, such as the PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, or PgMP®, an individual is positioned for higher-level roles, which command a higher salary and act as a competitive edge in the job market.
Another important aspect is that certified professionals are not necessarily limited by geography. Their credentials are often acknowledged worldwide, making a project manager highly mobile and versatile in the global job market.
How the Review was Conducted
To compile our rankings, a data-driven approach centered around market demand. This was done by drawing job postings on Indeed.com. The author started with 25 different certifications that fit within the project, program, or portfolio management sphere from organizations across the globe. Next, the review consisted of the following:
Job Market Analysis: This analysis was selected to measure the market demand for certified project managers.
To determine the number of job listings that preferred or required each project management certification, a Boolean search using the complete certification name or the acronym (e.g., “Project Management Professional” OR “PMP”) was used. Then, the list was reduced to nine based on the requirement for 300-plus job postings on the data collection date. This number was chosen because there was a significant drop in the number of job postings after 300.
Ranking by Demand: Ranking the certifications was based solely on the number of job postings, with the most in-demand certification positioned at number one and the least in-demand at number nine. This ranking suggests the current market value, project management skills and capabilities, and employer preference for each certification and not necessarily the quality of the certificate.
Validation of Popularity: To ensure the accuracy of our rankings, we cross-referenced the job posting data with other job market databases (e.g., Dice, Simply Hired, etc.), ensuring consistency in demand trends across multiple sources.
Industry Relevance: The relevance of each certification was scoped to include project management, program management, and portfolio management practices and methodologies. This was because of the discipline overlap and applicability to today’s project management challenges. Additionally, the author validated that the certification was within the job posting through random selection per each executed search. Note: Some job announcements had overlapping certifications requirements or preferences (e.g., PMP® and CSM®, or PMP® and PRINCE2®).
This review delves into the most in-demand project management certifications, which are expected to continue through 2024 and beyond, as determined by the actual job market data from Indeed. Focusing on real-world demand provides an objective, data-driven measure of which certifications may offer the most significant career benefit based on demand. From the globally recognized PMP® to the specialized roles of SAFe® Product Owners, each certification offers a unique advantage to those seeking employment in the project management industry.
The approach is grounded in market demand and practical applicability, ensuring that the insights and recommendations you’ve read are relevant and actionable. As professionals in project management and career development, the aim is to empower you with information that guides your career choices, helping you to go forth confidently within the project management landscape.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which project management certification is the best?
The “best” certification depends on your career goals, industry, and organization’s specific methodologies. That said, the PMP® is generally considered the most universally recognized and comprehensive.
Is getting a project management certification worth it?
Yes. Depending on the certification, it can lead to higher salaries, better job opportunities, and recognition in the field.
How do I choose the right risk management certification?
Consider factors such as your current skill level, the methodologies used in your industry, and what certifications employers most demand, such as the PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) as job postings indicate.
Can a project management certification help me change careers?
Absolutely. There are entry-level certifications, such as the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®), which can provide the foundational knowledge needed for those with limited experience. There are also more advanced certifications, like PMI’s Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP), for those wanting to validate their expertise to move into more strategic-type roles.
How long does it take to get a project management certification?
The time varies depending on the certification. For example, the PMP® requires 35 hours of project management training and significant work experience, while others may only require a short course and a basic examination to earn the credential.
Dr. Michael J. Shick, MSPM, PMP, CSM, founder of ROSEMET, is a combat-wounded warrior and retired senior military officer turned esteemed academic and project management expert. Holding a doctorate from Creighton University and serving as an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University, Dr. Shick’s dedication goes beyond credentials, as he commits to empowering individuals and organizations toward project excellence. With an extensive military, academic, and project leadership background, he epitomizes resilience, expertise, and a steadfast devotion to fostering growth and success in others.
Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.