Six Hot Project Management Certifications for 2021

Boost your IT project management standing with one of these certs.

As both a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP), I can't tell you enough that having a solid framework of project management skill will do wonders for your career. Any employer who sees these or similar credentials on your r�sum� will jump at the chance to hire you.


When it comes to career development, I like to tell people to start small and get a "win" under your belt. Besides wanting individuals with project management skill, most employers want someone who is confident. Getting certifications will keep you on track, stoke your ego, and fill the reservoir of knowledge that employers crave.


My first recommendation is that you huddle up with the Project Management Institute (PMI), but not for it's best-known credential. (We'll get there in a bit.) Rather, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is a great first step for anyone who is new to project management and wants to establish competency before really digging in.


For professionals without a college degree, or with only rudimentary project management experience — or those who want to progress in steps, rather than all at once — the CAPM is a solid stepping-stone to PMI's considerably more rigorous Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. This one is an easy way to get a "win."


Employers seek out CAPM because they know, like I do, that anyone who has it is on the path to a great career in project management. CAPM certification for those who are not PMI members costs $300. The requirements are not too steep: You need an associate's degree and 1,500 hours of project management experience, plus 23 hours of project management education.


Next up is Certified Project Director (CPD) from the Global Association for Quality Management. This is a bit of a lesser known certification than any of the PMI credentials, but it's still a high-caliber choice. Employers will look for this when they want an individual who can run projects that are rooted in Quality Control and employ waterfall methodology.


Certified Project Director certification is the GAQM's highest-level project management certification. This one 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. Your out-of-pocket cost will be $300. Consider it money well spent, as you will be held in high regard by any employer who comes across you on the market.


Boost your IT project management standing with one of these certs.

If we skip across the Atlantic, you can gain a strong degree of international credibility by locking in the PRINCE2 Practitioner credential from AXELOS. The ITIL certifications managed by AXELOS are both familiar and popular in the United States, and the PRINCE2 (or PRojects In Controlled Environments) is gaining traction here as well.


The PRINCE2 exam has a 2.5 hour time limit and includes 68 questions, of which you must answer 38 or more correctly in the time allotted. PRINCE2 certification expires after three years, but can be maintained either by recertification or through following the AXELOS continuing professional development (CPD) regimen.


PRINCE2 Practitioner is more advanced than the introductory Foundation credential, which could also enhance your professional project management standing.


Do you like agile and standups? Perhaps your company wants to move away from a traditional waterfall approach. Companies are moving more and more in that direction. The use of agile methodologies has become standard, so it is not surprising that IT practitioners uniquely qualified to manage projects in agile environments are in high demand.


While there are different Scrum 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.


Scrum Alliance boasts more than 450,000 certified practitioners worldwide. This entry-level certification is roughly on par with PMI's CAPM credential, though the requirements are less stringent.


Boost your IT project management standing with one of these certs.

The Project+ certification offered by tech industry association CompTIA was designed using feedback from the computing industry, government representatives, research institutions, academia and independent experts. Employers will flock to you to guide them from their traditional waterfall to the pinnacle of success in agile.


Project+ is one of the relatively rare "good for life" certs in the IT industry. Once you've earned the credential, you do not need to recertify or deal with CPE requirements. CompTIA offers a variety of training options and recommends 12 month of project management experience (or equivalent education) before attempting the exam, but there are no hard prerequisites.


Finally, you did not think I would close without leashing the biggest of the big dogs, did you? Every employer with an interest in project management will want to know if you have this certification. The exam alone will set you back $555, and you need to accumulate 7,500 hours leading and directing projects before you can sit for it.


I am, of course, referring to the gold standard in project management certifications, Project Management Professional (PMP) from PMI. This certification requires passage of a rigorous exam that covers absolutely everything you need to prove your knowledge and skill in managing the "triple constraints:" time, cost and scope.


You can expect the exam to be both challenging and current. PMI works continuously with businesses and academia to ensure PMP's continued relevance.


If you go down the path of project management, and I hope you do, then you will want to pick up one or more of these certifications. Your prospects with your current employer and for any future employers will blossom, and your future will lead to new and exciting workplace adventures. As always, I wish you well and happy certifying.


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About the Author
Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive.

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.