The Top UK Project Management Certifications in 2019

One of the top questions we have answered from our inception back in 2002 has been about project management certification. Back then there were fewer choices and the breadth of topics covered was much narrower, but the question remains as relevant today as it was back then.

Taking data from the 2019 PMBR (Project Management Benchmark Report) dataset we were able to construct the table below which shows the take up (or not) of PM certifications in the UK. For subtle differences we have cut the data by All, Employees, Freelancers and those identifying as Unemployed.

PRINCE2 – Top of the Pile:

Love it or otherwise, the PRINCE2 certification still retains its position as the most common amongst UK based project management practitioners; with roughly two-thirds of the pool saying they have the Practitioner level of achievement. Interestingly, for those who identified as currently unemployed just 56% (-10%) said they had this level of certification.

MSP – A Broader Perspective:

After the PRINCE2 certifications we have Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) which 29% of the respondents identified as being part of their learning. Interestingly this has a broader appeal than just Programme Managers and we see many Project Managers with this certification either in advance of looking for promotion or as a way of broadening their learning and perspective about the broader field of project management.

APM PMQ – One for the Employees:

Over the years the APM series of certifications has slowly increased its numbers to the point this year that it arrives in 3rd place with 21% of respondents saying they have this certificate. The interesting split is between employees (24%) and freelancers (20%) which further reinforces the perception that organisations rather than individuals adopt this certificate path. This is further reinforced by our own experiences in recruiting, where outside of certain sectors there is a very low recognition/demand for practitioners with this certificate.

For more information about the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification.

ITIL – A Framework of Best Practice:

Some may be surprised to see ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) in a list of project management certifications but like its stable mate PRINCE2 as a framework, it offers a broad insight into service delivery. From the early days of producing the PMBR, we have seen a steady take-up of this knowledge base.

None – Makes the top 5:

Most top lists will not have NONE as they are trying to sell product, but as we have nothing to sell here it is important to point out the realities of the UK project management domain. An immediate story would be that 18% of the unemployed practitioners have no PM certification compared to the average of 12%. So maybe there is some value in taking the necessary steps to achieving some PM Certification if you want a job in the domain.

Considering that project management is now being sold as a profession, the 12% figure should be very concerning as it suggests there are no barriers to entry within the domain. We continue to see practitioners at all levels continuing to earn well and find work without any certification which suggests that some employers are looking for something more than just a certificate. With no right or wrong it shows that certification is just one aspect of a practitioner and it does not fill a critical part of their being.

PMI – Still niche after all these years:

Whilst our data and that of others tell us that the PMI (Project Management Institute) is the biggest project management organisation in the world, they are not doing the business here in the UK. Historically they have taken a significantly smaller piece of the pie amongst practitioners and for many are associated with multi-national organisations who are looking to establish global standards amongst their project management capability. Like the APM, outside of their users they suffer from a lack of market penetration and awareness amongst both individual practitioners and employing organisations.

Agile – Is it really that Hot:

Agile certifications (highlighted in green in the table) are still surprisingly low considering the noise that surrounds the Agile space. But then again, is this because practitioners who migrate into the Agile space no longer associate themselves with the more traditional project management domain? New role, new title and a different approach to delivery may mean that they have moved on from our sphere rather than not being there.

PMO – P3O :

PMO certifications (highlighted in yellow in the table) are very healthy given the fact that this is a subset of the project management domain. Once again we see an AXELOS product topping the scales with P3O Foundation at 10% and the Practitioner at 8%. The BCS (British Computer Society) Programme and Project Support Office (PPSO) certificates are still on the scale though they must be due for a refresh? For more PMO related certificates see here

Do times change?

To get a feel of how times do and don’t change we took a look back to the first PMBR published in 2006 which is available here

As can be seen in the snippets PRINCE2 was top of the pile back then, though uptake was somewhat lower and practitioners with no certifications were at number 2!

The arguments and frustrations were just as clear, oh, happy days.

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