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Top 13 project management certifications for 2020

No matter what your IT role, a project management certification can add value to your role. Here are the top project management certifications, their requirements and cost.

Behind every successful IT project, you'll find a highly skilled project manager. From hardware and software upgrades to ongoing security patches, to application development and the rollout of software itself, project managers keep your teams on task and productive.

Almost any IT pro can benefit from adding a project management certification to their list of IT credentials, showing you have the know-how to plan, schedule, budget, execute, deliver and then report on IT initiatives. Here, CIO.com outlines the most popular project management certifications that will add value and help you hone your skills this year.

Top project management certifications

  • Associate in Project Management
  • BVOP Certified Project Manager
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  • Certified Project Director
  • Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)
  • Certified Project Manager (CPM)
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • CompTIA Project+
  • Master Project Manager (MPM)
  • PRINCE2 Foundation/PRINCE2 Practitioner
  • Professional in Project Management (PPM)
  • Project Management in IT Security (PMITS)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

Associate in Project Management

The Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM), which administers the Associate in Project Management (APM) — as well as a Professional in Project Management and a Certified Project Director certification — is a global, not-for-profit certification body that offers credentials across a variety of IT specialties. The GAQM's project management certifications are focused on a broad knowledge base and emphasize effective resource allocation, clear direction, adaptability to change, effective communication and assurance of quality deliverables at minimal risk. The APM program is designed for the entry-level project manager, or for those who want to start a career in the field.

Organization: Global Association for Quality Management

Price: $300

Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; no formal education or experience requirements

BVOP Certified Project Manager

Business value-oriented principles (BVOP) is a newer, agile-based framework growing in popularity in the U.K. BVOP emphasizes business value in all project management activities and practices. The BVOP Certified Project Manager is for senior practitioners with experience in both project management and people management. The focus on a people-oriented culture sets it apart from other project management certification programs.

The BVOP approach helps to develop professionals’ collaboration skills, and candidates for certification gain not only project and product management skills, but also learn to become more people-focused leaders. The exam includes questions from the project management, program management, and product management sections of the course materials.

Organization: BVOP.org

Price: $130

Requirements: No previous professional project management experience required; free study guides and preparation materials available online

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

Administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Certified Associate in Project Management is the precursor to the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification (see below). For professionals without a college degree, or with only rudimentary project management experience or those who want to achieve their PMP certification in steps rather than all at once, the CAPM is a stepping-stone to the more rigorous PMP.

For more information, see "CAPM certification guide: Certified Associate in Project Management exam explained."

Organization: Project Management Institute

Price: $225 for PMI members; $300 nonmembers

Requirements: High-school diploma, associates degree or equivalent and at least 1,500 hours of project management experience or 23 hours of project management education

Certified Project Director

The GAQM's Certified Project Director certification is the credentialing body's highest-level project management certification. This designation is designed for experienced project managers who are involved in directing multiple, complex projects and programs. The program focuses on managing, budgeting and determining scope for multiple projects, multiple project teams, and assessing and mitigating interdependent risks to deliver projects successfully. The CDP program is only for those who have significant project management experience.

Organization: Global Association for Quality Management

Price: $300

Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; candidates must be familiar with principles and methodologies of project management and pass the Professional in Project Management (PPM) or equivalent exam (see below).

Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)

The EC-Council was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to address issues of cyberterrorism and the information security of nations at large. The EC-Council's Certified Project Management Practitioner course is for project managers who want to benchmark their skills through hands-on experience and across various management techniques and tools necessary to successfully manage complex projects efficiently. The objective of the CPMP course is to add value to management professionals by developing managerial, leadership and technical skills required to make any project, small or complex, a success.

Organization: EC-Council

Price: $199 for exam voucher

Requirements: No prerequisites, but it is recommended that candidates attend a three-day preparation course.

Certified Project Manager (CPM)

The International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) is a global professional association and certification body focused on the project management profession. There are four levels of certification within the IAPM, split into two disciplines, traditional project management and agile project management: Certified Junior Project Manager and Certified Junior Agile Project Manager; Certified Project Manager and Certified Agile Project Manager; Certified Senior Project Manager and Certified Senior Agile Project Manager; and Certified International Project Manager. IAPM’s Certified Project Manager certification is for candidates with a foundational knowledge of project management, including the basics of planning, organization and implementation of various projects. The exam covers both the hard and soft aspects of project management.

Organization: IAPM

Price: Fee depends on candidate’s nationality, as pricing is based on country-of-origin’s GDP; in the U.S., the exam cost is $650, with a 20 percent discount for students, job seekers and active aid organization personnel, according to the IAMP.

Requirements: None, but IAPM offers workshops through global training partners, or recommended literature for self-study. Candidates can also take a self-test to benchmark their knowledge.

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

The use of agile methodologies has become standard, so it's not surprising that IT practitioners uniquely qualified to manage projects in agile environments are in high demand. While there are different Scrum master certifications available, the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from Scrum Alliance is a great jumping-off point for project managers getting started as Scrum practitioners. The Scrum Alliance, which offers this credential, is a nonprofit organization that encourages the adoption of Scrum and agile practices, promotes user groups and learning events, and provides resources for professional development. The organization boasts more than 450,000 certified practitioners worldwide.

Organization: The Scrum Alliance

Price: Varies by training provider, but approximately $995 to $1,395

Requirements: General familiarity with Scrum; completion of two-day CSM training course

CompTIA Project+

This entry-level certification is roughly on par with PMI's CAPM credential (above), though the requirements are less stringent. CompTIA's Project+ solicits feedback from the computing industry, government representatives, research institutions, academia and independent experts to design the certification.

Organization: CompTIA

Price: $285

Requirements: One year of experience managing, directing or participating in small- to medium-size projects is recommended.

Master Project Manager (MPM)

The American Academy of Project Management (AAPM) has modeled the Master Project Manager (MPM) after the "professional licensure" model that many professions such as pilots, engineers, doctors and lawyers follow. The AAPM focuses on professional project managers, but also includes professionals with business and technical management responsibilities.

Organization: American Academy of Project Management

Price: $300 for application, review, processing, review, initiation and certification

Requirements: Three years of project management experience and training; waivers available for professionals holding a master's degree, with other qualified training and experience, the military or project management instructors

PRINCE2 Foundation/PRINCE2 Practitioner

Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE2) is most well-known outside the U.S., especially in the U.K. and its government entities. The PRINCE2 certifications are delivered by the ILX Group and focus on directing, managing and delivering projects across all phases, pre-project, initiation, delivery and final delivery.

There are two primary qualifications, PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner. The Foundation certification is an entry-level credential that tests basic project management terminology and methodology, whereas the Practitioner certification tests advanced project managers who have already achieved PRINCE2 Foundation.

Organization: ILX Group

Price: Foundation: $200; Practitioner: $340

Requirements: PRINCE2 Foundation: PRINCE2 Foundation course; PRINCE2 Practitioner: one of the following: PRINCE2 Foundation, Project Management Professional (PMP), CAPM, or an IPMA certification

Professional in Project Management (PPM)

The Professional in Project Management (PPM) is a mid-tier project management credential from the GAQM. The GAQM's project management certifications are focused on a broad knowledge base and emphasize effective resource allocation, clear direction, adaptability to change, effective communication and assurance of quality deliverables at minimal risk. The PPM is targeted towards intermediate to experienced project managers who are involved in risk and crisis management, and who are involved in the day-to-day management of projects.

Organization: Global Association for Quality Management

Price: $300

Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; no formal education or experience requirements, but candidates should have at least some project management experience to pass the exam.

Project Management in IT Security (PMITS)

The EC-Council’s Project Management in IT Security (PMITS) explores the complexities of managing an IT security project. The certification helps candidates reinforce their existing project management skills while tailoring them to the unique requirements of implementing and managing IT security within their organizations.

Organization: EC-Council

Price: $250 (PMITS courseware)

Requirements: At least two years of experience in information security and an educational background that shows a focus on security (bachelor's degree or higher preferred); candidates may also opt to attend an EC-Council training program before attempting an exam.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The gold standard in project management certifications, the Project Management Professional certification is a rigorous test that covers absolutely everything you need to prove your knowledge and skill in managing the "triple constraints": time, cost and scope. The PMI is this credential's parent organization, and works continuously with businesses and academia to ensure relevance for the certification.

For more about the PMP, and tips on how to pass it, see “PMP certification: How to ace the Project Management Professional exam.”

Organization: Project Management Institute

Price: Computer-based exams: $405 for PMI members, $555 for non-members; paper-based exams: $250 for PMI members, $400 for non-members

Requirements: Four-year secondary degree plus three years of project management experience, 4,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours project management education; or a high-school diploma, five years of project management experience, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education

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