What’s in a PM Certification?

October 6, 2020
Birgit Fleming
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When it comes to a project management certification (pm certification), there is no one-size-fits-all. Depending on your industry, project or even location, the project management certifications differ significantly.

In today’s environment, there are three different types of PM certifications that stand out above the rest:

  • PMP a Project Management Professional
  • Prince2 a Projects in controlled environments
  • CSM a Certified ScrumMaster
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PMP Certification

The Project Management Professional Certification was released in 1996 and is offered by PMI (Project Management Institute) in the United States. In order to be able to sit for the exam, there’s certain qualifications an aspiring project manager has to meet. If you have a Bachelor’s degree (or higher), you also need 4500 hours of project management experience, as well as 35 contact hours of training. The certification can be renewed every 3 years by completing 60 PDUs (Professional Development Units).

A PMP focuses on a knowledge-based approach to project management. The descriptive framework has 10 knowledge areas and 5 process groups that encompass a total of 49 processes. Each topic and/ or knowledge area can be referred to in isolation, meaning a plug-and-play approach can be used, depending on what’s needed for a given project. The PMP certification is largely focused on the project managers role.   

The PMP certification is recognized worldwide, however there are regional preferences. In the USA and Canada, PMP is preferred.

Prince2 Certification

The Prince2 certification was also released in 1996 and is offered by AXELOS in the United Kingdom. Unlike the PMP certification, Prince2 doesn’t have any mandatory requirements in order to sit for the exam. The exam has to be retaken every 5 years.

Prince2 is a process-based project management methodology which utilizes a prescriptive framework. This framework captures best practices and lays out the processes, so the project manager knows what to do. Utilizing 7 themes, this framework is highly scalable and flexible due to its tailoring approach. Prince2 clearly defines all project roles, not just focusing on the project manager. Prince2 is also recognized worldwide, but is preferred in the UK, Europe and Australia.

Certified Scrum Master

This certification differs from PMP and Prince2 significantly. Whereas PMP and Prince2 are knowledge and process-based approaches to project management, Scrum is a framework for agile project management.

Scrum was introduced in 1993 by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland and has become commonplace in almost every organization in the world. To In order to get certified, applicants have to take a course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) or a Certified Agile Coach (CAC), complete 16 hours with their CST or 25 hours with their CAC and then successfully pass the exam. The CSM certification can be renewed every 2 years by earning Scrum Education Units (SEUs).

The Scrum framework enables teams to successfully incorporate agile practices. The Certified Scrum Master is the scrum team leader who takes charge of handling the project, team and the communication between the product owner, business, team, and other individuals involved. The CSM works behind the scenes and is not involved in product ideation or strategy. The CSM is an expert of Scrum values, principles and practices and protects the team from internal and external distractions and helps them perform at the highest level.


Now that we’ve explored all three certifications, let’s highlight some of the differences. As you can see, PMP and Prince2 are somewhat similar (but different) in their approach to project management:

Knowledge-based approachProcess-based approach
Descriptive FrameworkPrescriptive Framework
Each topic or knowledge area can be referred to in isolation – “plug-and-play”Integrated set of principles, processes, and themes
Focuses on project manager’s roleAll project roles are clearly defined
Focused on knowledge areas and is somewhat rigidFramework is highly scalable and flexible due to it’s tailoring approach

Both of these certifications are industry neutral standards, meaning they can work in any kind of environment.

So, which one should you choose? The answer: it depends! If your company is heavily utilizing agile practices, a CSM will be the right fit for you. If you’re working on large projects in the US or Canada, a PMP will be the right choice. Similarly, if you’re located in Europe, a Prince2 certified project manager will be the ideal candidate. It all depends on your company’s values and practices.

Here at CoApt Projects, we can help you decide who will be the right fit for your project. Contact us today so we can get the conversation started!

Author: Birgit Fleming, PMP
Birgit Fleming
Author: Birgit Fleming

Birgit Fleming is a certified project manager and engineer. After earning her B.S. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, she went on to work as an Engineer, managing engineering projects among other things. Birgit then received her PMP certification and joined CoApt Projects. She is one of our senior project managers and is dedicated to helping you execute your projects while meeting and exceeding requirements.

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