A Guide to Becoming a Certified Project Manager (And Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project management is an exciting career path for individuals passionate about leading and implementing projects. Earning a certification can be an effective way to validate your expertise in this field and might make you a more competitive candidate during your job search. By learning about certified project management, you can understand how to seek opportunities to become one and know what skills you require. In this article, we explain what a certified project manager is, outline the benefits of earning project management certifications, discuss essential skills to develop, and highlight five certifications and their requirements.

What is a certified project manager?

A certified project manager shows proficiency in project management by earning an industry credential. They typically have experience handling all stages of a project's life cycle, following standard practices and principles. Earning a credential from a certifying organization, these project managers are valuable leaders in the workplace. If you're looking for a new role or currently work as a project manager, pursuing certifications can offer you a competitive advantage and career advancement opportunities.

Related: Why Project Management Is Important (And Tips for Success)

What are the benefits of a project management certification?

Here are various reasons to consider earning a project management certification:

Qualifies you for more job opportunities

Pursuing project management certifications can help you advance your career. For example, hiring organizations might require these credentials from you when applying for a senior project manager or director position. Showcasing your certifications on your application documents and during interviews can help you get the job you want.

Increases your earning potential

Earning project management certifications can help improve your contributions to an organization's goals and negotiate higher pay. With credentials from a reputable organization, you can expect to receive more than the national average salary of a project manager, which is $75,827 per year. Learning to negotiate a salary that aligns with your value can help you reach your financial goals in project management.

Offers international recognition

Certifications from credible organizations can help you become an effective project manager and industry leader. Many international organizations accept these credentials as evidence of project management experience. While earning them, you may also connect with international project managers with similar professional goals. For example, many certifying organizations require you to take part in continuing education, which may involve networking events.

Expands your knowledge and skills

Becoming certified in project management can show your commitment to learning and developing your skills. Because project management is always changing and developing, hiring managers may prefer candidates that are passionate about new project management technologies, methodologies, and trends. For example, you might discover a software program for efficient project tracking or learn about artificial intelligence in project management.

What skills do certified project managers use at work?

Here's a list of skills to develop if you want to become a certified project manager:

Communication

From project initiation to deliverable submission, project managers typically communicate with clients, team members, and stakeholders. Communication is the ability to exchange information with others. It involves clearly defining a project's goal, actively listening to client feedback, establishing positive relationships, and presenting project ideas to business managers. While written communication skills can help project managers create reports, verbal communication skills may be beneficial for presenting project updates.

Negotiation

Managing a project generally requires negotiation skills to handle resources efficiently, engage with suppliers, and resolve occasional team conflicts. Negotiation is a discussion conducted to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. It involves examining a situation to determine the most suitable negotiation style to apply.

Time management

Projects typically have delivery timeframes, making time management skills crucial for project managers. Time management is the ability to use time well. It involves scheduling tasks to ensure prompt deliverable submission and monitoring each task's deadline. By developing this skill, project managers can support their team's work-life balance. For example, they may schedule tasks to allow resting periods and avoid burnout.

Leadership

Demonstrating excellent leadership skills is crucial for project success. Leadership is the ability to coordinate and oversee team members toward a shared goal. It involves motivating a team and encouraging a more productive work environment. Effective project managers typically choose a leadership style that best suits their team. For example, they may use a coaching style to show support or apply a visionary style to lead through changes.

Technical skills

Effective project managers typically apply their soft skills and technical expertise to ensure project completion. Technical skills are qualities learned through education, practice, or training. Developing these abilities can help project managers better communicate with their team members and understand potential risks and opportunities. For example, if a project manager has technical knowledge of construction activities, they might offer valuable insights about safety concerns.

Related: Essential Project Manager Technical Skills

Risk management

Risks are uncertain events that can impact a project's activities. Because they're crucial project constraints, a project manager is typically responsible for anticipating, assessing, managing, and mitigating them. By developing and applying their risk management skills, effective managers can ensure projects progress as planned. For example, if there's a health and safety risk, a project manager may use their risk management skills to ensure their team's safety.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is an objective analysis and evaluation of a situation to develop a solution or find answers to a problem. Throughout a project's life cycle, project managers require these skills to make informed decisions. For example, they may analyze a market condition to make an effective decision, ensuring successful project completion.

Read more: 22 Essential Project Management Skills

5 project management certifications to consider

Here are five popular certifications you can explore, including their requirements:

1. Project Management Professional (PMP) certification

The PMP certification is an internationally recognized credential for project managers. It can help validate your expertise in managing people, processes, and business environments. Pursuing it can also show you have the project leadership skills that companies value. The PMP certification typically covers all aspects of project management, including resource planning, scheduling, and risk management.

Completing a four-year degree, 36 months of project leadership experience and 35 hours of project management education are the typical requirements to become a PMP. Alternatively, you can earn this certification after completing high school, leading projects for 60 months, and receiving project management training for 35 hours.

Read more:

  • How To Get a PMP Certification (With Benefits and FAQs)

  • The 10 Most Valuable Certifications Today

2. PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification

This certification can help demonstrate your knowledge of agile principles and experience applying agile techniques. Agile project management is an iterative approach to delivering a project throughout its life cycle. By pursuing this certification, you can also learn other project management methodologies, such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, extreme programming (XP), and test-driven development (TDD).

Earning a secondary degree and completing 21 contact hours of training in agile practices are the typical requirements to earn this certification. You also require 12 months of general project experience within the last five years and eight months of agile project experience within the last three years.

Read more: What Is an Agile Project Manager? (With Crucial Skills)

3. CompTIA Project+ certification

If you work in information technology (IT), you can consider earning this project management certification. The CompTIA Project+ certification can showcase your ability to manage small- to medium-size technology projects. It covers essential project management concepts and aspects, including effective communication and project documentation. While the CompTIA Project+ certification has no requirements, the certifying organization recommends 12 months of project management experience. You can expect to take a paid exam evaluating your understanding of project management concepts.

4. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification

The CAPM certification is another project management credential you can consider. Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), this entry-level certification can validate your ability to manage large projects. You may also consider it if you're looking to improve your project management skills or gain more responsibilities at work. Earning a high school diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to become a CAPM. You also require 23 hours of project management education to take the paid exam.

Related: Project Lead vs. Project Manager: What's the Difference?

5. Certified Project Manager (IAPM) certification

Offered by the International Association of Project Managers (IAPM), this certification focuses on the basics of project management. Pursuing it can help validate your hard and soft project management skills. Because this certification targets project managers starting their careers, there are no requirements to take the paid exam. Upon achieving a pass rate of 65%, you can expect an IAPM certificate by email.

Please note that none of the companies, organizations, and institutions mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on a hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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