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PMP vs. PRINCE2: Which Is Right For You?

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If you want to be a lawyer, you need to pass the bar. And if you want to be a doctor, you need to make it through medical school. (Or at least find a reasonably convincing doctor’s Halloween costume.)

But what kind of qualifications do you need if you want to be a project manager?

For starters, it helps to have a bachelor’s degree, or at the very least, an associate degree. According to the most recent PMI Project Management Salary Survey, 91% of responding project managers in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

But let’s assume you’ve already done that, and you’ve found a job as a project manager (Congratulations!) You may be wondering what steps you can take to become a better project manager and possibly earn more money, get promoted, or set yourself up to be hired for more desirable positions in the future.

Good for you.

pmp vs prince2

La Forge approved

There are a lot of great project management (PM) tools out there to make you more productive at your job. And while those tools can make your workday go smoother, an advanced project management certification can be a big boost to your professional development.

PMP and PRINCE2 are the two biggest names in project management certification, so let’s take a closer look.

What is PMP?

PMP, or Project Management Professional, is a professional certification offered by the Project Management Institute.

According to the 2015 Project Management Salary Survey, U.S. project managers with a PMP certification made, on average, 20% more than those without a PMP certification.

The PMI suggests that good candidates for PMP certification should already have experience in project management (35 hours of PM education, and 4,500 hours of PM leadership experience for college grads). Candidates should also be “responsible for all aspects of project delivery, leading, and directing cross-functional teams.”

The multiple-choice, 200-question exam costs $555 (or $405 for PMI members), with a four-hour time limit for completion.

To prepare for the exam, there are many helpful online courses available.

Once earned, PMPs can maintain their certification by earning 60 professional development units every three years.

What is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is not an alternate name of the late, great pop-funk-fusion artist.

pmp vs prince2

PRINCE2 is an acronym for Projects In Controlled Environments.

The original PRINCE (sans 2) was established in 1989 to standardize guidelines for IT projects by the British Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency. Its British roots explain why PRINCE2 is the standard project management certification for the U.K. and Australia.

In 1996, PRINCE2 was released with the combined input of about 150 European organizations. PRINCE2 methodology is public domain, though many private companies provide training for the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam, which is 80 questions long and allows 150 minutes and open use of the PRINCE2 manual. It costs 349 British pounds (about US$435) to register.

AXELOS, a joint venture of the U.K. Government and public company Capita, was established in 2014 to manage a handful of best practice qualifications, including PRINCE2, and to promote those best practices internationally.

A 2016 AXELOS report found that about 90% of PRINCE2 practitioners in the U.K. feel the certification is at least partly valuable to their career.

What’s the difference?

Analysis in Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Project and Portfolio Management (full content available to Gartner clients) called PMP and PRINCE2 “the ‘gold standard’ certifications, with no serious competitors.”

That’s a pretty solid endorsement. But which certification should you focus your resources on? Or, does it pay to earn both?

PMP has been around since 1984, while PRINCE2 has been around since 1989, so both certifications have proven the test of time.

Because of the location of their governing bodies, you will find more PMPs in North America and more PRINCE2 practitioners across the pond, but there is plenty of crossover, and neither is without merit regardless of region.

Without getting too bogged down in the pages of the training manuals, a good way to differentiate between PMP and PRINCE2 comes from Project Management Stack Exchange, a Q&A site for project managers.

There, a project manager familiar with both certifications describes PMP as a “standard” and a “reference guide,” and PRINCE2 as “a methodology, with a detailed process model and templates” and “more a manual than a reference guide.”

In 2010, Gartner compared PMP and PRINCE2 and, while the research is dated, it’s still informative.

That study (full content available to Gartner Clients). found that a PMP implies “solid project management knowledge, skills and experience” while a PRINCE2 credential “demonstrates a comprehension of a specific methodology and set of approaches to managing a project, rather than a demonstration of their use in an actual project environment.”

To sum it up, while both certifications have the potential to produce stronger project managers, PMP is more like a bible, while PRINCE2 is more like a blueprint.

Revolutionary War?

As it turns out, the decision between PMP and PRINCE2—like the classic debate between Agile and Waterfall software development—might not need to be decided at all, as the ever-shifting technological landscape calls for project managers to constantly adapt. Instead of rigidly subscribing to one discipline, be well-versed on the best elements of both.

As Gartner’s Michael Hanford writes in “Where Your PPM Career Won’t Be in 2020: Project Managers Must Reinvent Themselves for the Digital Future (full content available to Gartner Clients):

“In the face of transformational efforts, the ability to control and manage the introduction and impact of change will be a business-critical skill set—far more than being PMP- or PRINCE2-certified in a collection of practices that are rapidly becoming irrelevant. Your toolkit must contain multiple approaches.”

A few other key takeaways from Gartner’s analysis:

  • Neither certification guarantees that an individual is a solid, highly experienced project/program manager or an experienced leader.
  • These two certifications should be regarded as any other instance of education would be, rather than as evidence of mentored, supervised and controlled expertise or capability.
  • Solid project management capabilities result from a well-integrated approach, in which certifications can play a part when they are combined with mentoring, education, and development of interpersonal and leadership skills.

In other words, becoming certified in PMP or PRINCE2 certainly won’t hurt your career, and—assuming you have the time, money, and inclination—feel free to circle back around and get both certifications if that’s what you want to do.

You are a project manager. You exhibit strong decision-making every day. A certification is nice to put on the wall of your office and list on your resume, but real-world experience and adaptability are even more important.

Are you PMP- or PRINCE2-certified? Or better yet, are you certified in both? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments!

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Andrew Conrad

Andrew is a content writer for Capterra, specializing in church management and project management software. When he’s not striving for the perfect balance of information and entertainment, Andrew enjoys the great outdoors and the wide world of sports. Follow him on Twitter @CapterraAC.

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