There is a common query between individuals aspiring to become project managers: which project management certification should I pursue? Should I work towards a PMP, IPMA or PRINCE2? These certifications are fundamentally different from each and moreover, they are affiliated with different accreditation boards. A serious applicant should know the differences between each certification and must plan their next step keeping their career goals in mind.


PMP stands for Project Management Professional and is arguably the most widely accepted and reputed certification for project managers in the world. Many companies in varied industries use PMP as a standardized requirement for project managers and the processes and knowledge areas that are taught in preparation for the exam have been integrated into the work that is done by the project managers in these companies. The PMP has an even more illustrious reputation in the IT sector. The certification body for PMP is the PMI (Project Management Institute) which is the world’s leading professional membership association for the project management profession. Although the PMP is recognized all over the world, it is mainly seen as a North American certification for two reasons: all the test prep material and exams are in English and it is advantageous when working with/for North American partners. There is however, a drawback of sorts to pursuing this certification; PMP is considered to be more knowledge-based where there is a higher focus on theoretical knowledge than on methodology. This is also reflected in the amount of material that an applicant is required to go through in order to prepare for this exam.

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IPMA stands for the International Project Management Association and similar to PMP is an internationally recognized certification. There are two types of exams that come under this certification- Level C and Level D. Level C requires 3 years prior experience in project management as well a university degree (like PMP). Level D only requires the University degree so there is a level of choice and flexibility. It is a competence-based certification that is applicable to all sectors. This certification is all the more advantageous when working with European Partners. As opposed to PMP and PRINCE2, IPMA’s exams and preparation materials are in Bulgarian as the governing body is the Bulgarian Project Management Association. Applicants must apply to the BPMA and then take a paper-based exam in Sofia, Bulgaria. The major inconveniences in opting for IPMA are a) The exam is in Bulgarian and b) the lack of available self-study materials, making it a less desirable option. All things considered, IPMA is actually predicted to grow in popularity as the certification trends move from knowledge-based to competence based certifications.

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Projects In Controlled Environments is a standard used extensively in the UK and other European markets and Australia (there is rapid worldwide growth as well) under the governing body known as the APM Group. PRINCE2 requires no preliminary project management experience to apply, unlike the PMP and IPMA (which both require at least 3 years of prior project management experience). It is also entirely in English and this includes exam prep materials, study guides and the actual exam itself. One important difference and probably a point in favor of the exam is that PRINCE2 as a certification is entirely methodology-based (PMP is knowledge based and IPMA is competence-based) and is therefore easier to apply when working as a project manager. On the flipside, PRINCE2 (like its counterparts) cannot escape the vast amount of effort and preparation required to sit for its rendition of the project management exam.

This is a brief summary of the differences in ideology and philosophy between these certifications and applicants must do a great deal of personal research on aspects such as exam structure, cost of the training plus exam fee and the preferred certification that their target company is looking for before making a decision on which type suits them the best. 

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Author : Lisa Findlay

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Lisa Findlay