Recently I was contacted by someone who wanted advice about which project management certification scheme to pursue. Should she take CAPM or the PRINCE2 Foundation? Is it possible to take CAPM and then PRINCE2 Practitioner or are the standards different? Are PMP and PRINCE2 seen as equivalent by employers in the UK?
I think these are quite common queries, and I’ve certainly been asked these questions a number of times.
Here’s my take on whether CAPM or PRINCE2 is the best route forward for an aspiring project manager.
The difference is experience
The main difference between CAPM/PMP and PRINCE2 Foundation/Practitioner is that the PMI qualifications require experience to even apply to take the exams and PRINCE2 doesn’t. Anyone can take PRINCE2 exams with no project experience at all (although it will be certainly easier to understand the concepts if you have spent at least some time working on projects).
Because PMI requires experience and PRINCE2 doesn’t, I don’t think they are seen as equivalent. Hiring a CAPM or a PMP guarantees me someone with project experience and the theory to back it up. Hiring someone with PRINCE2 means they have done a 5 day classroom based course.
The standards are different
One of the downsides with project management as a profession is that we haven’t yet standardised the jargon or agreed on one set of best practices. Project management bodies across the world have their own take on it, and while none of them seem radically different, they are all different enough to mean you need to learn their way before taking their exams.
So, you could take CAPM and then follow it up with the PRINCE2 Practitioner but the standards are different, with different jargon and you’d have to learn a whole different set of methods for the Practitioner exam. Frankly, I don’t think that is worth it in the early days of your career, especially if you don’t yet have a job role with ‘project’ in the title – pick one set or the other.
PRINCE2 Foundation: 365,000 in UK
PRINCE2 Practitioners: 215,000 in UK
CAPM: 20,933 in world
CAPM in the UK
PMI has a relatively low, but growing, penetration in the UK. I think the project management in schools programme and the excellent Synergy events are really helping to raise the profile of PMI here, even though the Chapter, which has around 3,000 members, has been around since 1995.
Employers may not know about CAPM, even though it was introduced in 2003 and there are 20,933 CAPM credential holders worldwide*. This is especially true if you are applying to firms where project management is relatively new to them or their project management department is small.
However, PRINCE2 has had a foothold as the standard certificate in the UK for years due to its background in civil service projects and being the de facto standard for all government initiatives. There are around 365,000 Foundation certificate holders and 215,000 Practitioners in the UK alone**.
Given the prevalence of PRINCE2 (and the fact it is easier to get) I would personally opt for that right now and then look at moving to CAPM (or the APM experience-based certificate, which is APMP) once you have had a project management job for a bit. These will show that you have practical project management experience as well as theoretical knowledge.
Study the job market
One of the best ways to find out what recruiters are looking for is to talk to agencies. Arras People and Wellington are two specialist project management recruitment firms so you could check their websites to see what job ads ask for in your sector. Make sure that you are spending time bolstering your CV with the right things.
Look at what sort of experience employers are asking for so you can build your CV to reflect what will make you employable. You will find many employers won’t care what credential you have as long as you have one, but some employers and industries will give preference to candidates with particular qualifications.
The certificate decision
Lots of people end up with multiple certificates from multiple bodies over time, so don’t think that you are taking a decision now that will stop you going for other credentials later in your career.
If you do opt to go for PRINCE2, then do the Practitioner as well if you can afford the extra 2 days and the cost. The first 3 days of the Practitioner and Foundation courses are identical. Everyone takes the Foundation exam on Day 3, then the Foundation candidates go home. Then the others do exam practice for a day and take the Practitioner exam on Day 5. You really don’t learn anything new except exam techniques, and you do get a extra day of revision. It is worth doing the extra 2 days and attempting the Practitioner exam if you can.
Whatever route you choose, you have to make the decision based on what you feel employers in your sector will be looking for, what you can afford and what experience you currently have.
Good luck with your choices!
* Figures from PMI Customer Care in an email to me, 31 May 2013
** Figures from APMG International in an email to me, 28 May 2013