What certifications—if any—should project managers get?

Drive-thru:

  • Construction project management certifications can improve your chances with employers and increase your pay.
  • On the other hand, certifications cost money, both for prep classes and testing.
  • The need for project managers across several industries will continue to grow over the next ten years. Obtaining certification may be your ticket to a lucrative career that will never be boring.

Whether you wanted to be a construction project manager all along or just fell into the position accidentally, the question of whether certification is worth it has probably crossed your mind. One thing most will agree on: construction project management is not for the faint of heart, so if you have embraced this profession, hat’s off.

Here are some of the pros and cons of certification and, in case you didn’t realize what’s available, a few different types of certification you can pursue.

What is certification, anyway?

Obtaining a certificate in any realm is a way to show the world that you know your stuff. In today’s world of employers looking for associates or college degrees, and/or a laundry list of skills, the ability to put a certification on your resume can help employers create a shortlist of top candidates with your name on it.

Larger GCs are moving toward requiring as least a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management.

A certificate in project management is proof that you have hours of project management experience and the persistence to devote enough time to studying the ins and outs of the profession to pass a rigorous exam.

There are several certifications available, depending on how much experience you have and the type of industry you want to join.

  • CCM – The Certified Construction Manager certification is the “gold standard in personnel credentials for the Construction Management profession,” according to the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). To become a certified construction manager, you must be considered eligible by the certifying body, make application, submit your candidacy, and pass an examination. Eligibility is determined based on 48 non-overlapping months of acceptable Responsibility-in-Charge (recognized during project execution as a key part of a project delivery team).
  • PMC – The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) offer the Construction Project Manager course. The week-long course offers all critical areas of project management essential to construction management. Attendees earn credit hours toward licensing and other professional designations.
  • The Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM) offers three tiers of certification — Associate in Project Management (APM), Professional in Project Management (PPM), and Certified Project Director (CPD). The APM requires no experience; each level thereafter requires increasing amounts of experience.

Why should you pursue project management certification?

It’s getting quite competitive out there. Larger GCs are moving toward requiring as least a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management. An Associate’s degree plus certification may be an acceptable alternative if you have the required field experience and responsibility.

Project managers are needed in multiple industries: manufacturing and construction, information services and publishing, finance and insurance, management and professional services, utilities, and oil and gas are leading sectors looking for qualified project managers. The employment outlook in the U.S. alone is projected to grow from 6.47 million in 2017 to 8.8 million in 2027.

You can be a competent, even gifted, project manager whether you go through the certification process or not. Click To Tweet

Another important stat: Project managers with certificates out-earn non-certified practitioners by 20 percent.

To sum up, certified project managers are needed, they can work in a wide range of industries, and they get paid more than non-certified colleagues.

Certification is not required

You can be a competent, even a gifted, project manager whether you go through the certification process or not—and unless an employer requires certification for a particular role or title, you don’t have to have it.

Plus, having a certificate doesn’t indicate if you are any good at what you’re doing. For all your potential employer knows, all your project management hours went into projects that failed due to mismanagement.

You may not be eligible for specific certifications. For every certification level, you need a particular number of documented hours of experience plus education hours.

Finally, most professional certifications are not cheap—and the more advanced they are, the more expensive they are. At the least, you will have to pay for the exam. If you choose to take prep courses or an entire class on project management, then you must add the tuition to the exam cost.

If you take the GAQM test, it is $300 for each tier. The CMAA charges $425 for certification for non-members plus additional fees for exam registration or re-takes. The week-long course from the AGC will set non-members back about $5,000 to $5,500.

The upshot is that you don’t have to be certified as a project manager. However, if you want higher pay and more opportunities, you might want to consider adding some letters behind your name.

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