Are Certifications in Project Management Still Useful?
People who want to demonstrate that they have the abilities and experience necessary to oversee a project can choose from a wide variety of project management certifications. But given the global changes we are witnessing and the fundamental shifts towards a project economy (as PMI calls it), with an increasing amount of work being done in a project environment, should certification still be something we aim for?
1) The case for experience.
Experience is important; if I were a hiring manager, among other things, I would consider experience when shortlisting candidates. If you want a new job, I contend that having a certificate alone is insufficient; you also need to demonstrate that you have real-world experience managing projects. This could have been volunteer work, work in a different industry, or a position in which you weren’t a project manager.
However, unless you are applying for an entry-level position, you should anticipate having to provide evidence that you can perform the job in practice in addition to on paper.
2) There are a lot of options.
Astoundingly many certificates are also present. Even certification organizations like PMI now offer a variety of credentials that cover both general project management and niche areas. I can well imagine that it may be challenging for a hiring manager who is not familiar with the family of project management certifications to understand the differences between each one’s meanings. And it’s even less likely that they are aware of each certificate’s prerequisites and the requirements the candidate had to meet in order to obtain it.
The more certifications you have—at the moment, I’m thinking about the new Disciplined Agile certifications from PMI and the project management certificate from Google—the more your resume may resemble a tick-box exercise. You already have one, so why not get another after some time has passed to demonstrate that you still care about professional development and succeeding in this field.
However, if you have a certification from a professional organization, you shouldn’t need to do that because their members must adhere to their continuous development program. By documenting your ongoing education and keeping track of your hours spent on professional development, you will be able to demonstrate your dedication to the job each year.
It gets harder to distinguish one certification as the gold standard the more certifications there are, is where I’m going with this. The more candidates there are, the more difficult it is for employers to choose between them (since hiring the applicant with the highest number of exam passes is unquestionably not the best strategy).
3) The advantages of a environment with multiple certificates.
But since I believe this is a trend that will only continue to grow, we should also consider the advantages of holding multiple project management certifications. It is to be expected that there will be more options in more niche fields and industries to enable employees to have their skills formally acknowledged as project management becomes an increasingly significant component of how businesses operate.
One could argue that certifications in specialized fields, such as scheduling or risk management, are even more important today as a differentiator. Your employer might be willing to pay for additional study for you if you can show how it relates to your position. I am a lifelong learner who is always looking for ways to increase my knowledge and apply new concepts to my work, so I unquestionably support further education. If nothing else, being able to keep up with trends and incorporate various disciplines into your projects makes the workplace more interesting.
Every approach, every flavor of project management is catered for, whether you want to establish yourself as an authority in a specific methodology or in the broadest sense possible. This is because there are so many project management certifications available.
4) Remaining relevant.
Although the world is changing, I believe certification programs are still important for project managers. There are now a vast array of options rather than a small number of certificates that were simple to explain to employers. To help our managers and project teams understand the value of project management education and how that adds a layer of expertise to the organization and our work, we need to be ready to explain what they mean and why we have them as candidates and employees.
We will have to navigate multiple certifications and possibly higher employer expectations as we advance. We will need to act as a link between what it means to obtain a certification and how it can be applied in the workplace. That entails describing why one certification is pertinent and why another one might not be.
This means that we must demonstrate the continued value of our project management certifications to employers. That entails using them to demonstrate why we are better at our jobs.
Finally, take into account how you can affect the types of certificates that are valued and recognized in your workplace. I generally advise job seekers to look at job adverts in their desired industry and area and take note of what certifications employers are asking for – then work towards achieving those as they are obviously valued in the domain. Is there a case for lobbying for greater diversity of certification to bring more ideas and knowledge into the team?
But after you’ve been hired, it might be worthwhile to suggest to the hiring managers that they broaden their selection criteria and think about adding people to the team with diverse backgrounds because that will increase the team’s overall knowledge base. Diverse certifications will undoubtedly offer a platform from which to do that. It is always beneficial for coworkers to share insights and learn from one another.
What do you think about the future of project management certification? Do you believe that the exams you have taken or plan to take will help you achieve your professional objectives and satisfy the needs of your employer?