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Project Management Certifications for IT Pros

The Best Project Management Certifications for IT Pros.

The field of Project Management is hands-down one of my favorite career paths. Project management is challenging. It pulls in elements of resource management (human and tangible), planning, scheduling, risk mitigation, scope, finances, and so much more. For individuals with an eye for detail and who love the challenge of taking a mere concept from initial planning to the final product, project management may be the career for you.

Project management can be an exciting career opportunity for IT professionals and developers. As a result, project managers who possess technical skills are in high demand. A search for technical project managers on SimplyHired yielded over 90,000 job postings. Granted, this was just a snapshot in time, but no matter how you look at it, many employers seek project managers who possess technical skills! It’s a perfect win for employers, IT pros, and developers.

Whether you’re a seasoned project management pro, looking to make a mid-career transition to project management, or simply exploring what project management is all about, certifications can help you achieve your career goals. Many different project management certifications are available today, and selecting the proper PM certification may appear daunting. How do you choose? Consider where you are in your PM career (entry-level, mid-career, or experienced) in reviewing certifications. Has your organization adopted a specific project management methodology such as Agile, Six Sigma, or Scrum? Are you located in the US or another geography? These questions will help you select the cert program that is right for you.

Below, we’ll look at a few of my favorite project management certifications. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list of PM certifications. But these are all well-respected, globally recognized, and sought after by employers. As a result, you’ll find them a welcome addition to your career portfolio.

Entry-level PM Certifications

Suppose you’re just beginning your project manager career path or simply want to kick the PM tires. In that case, my top picks are CompTIA’s Project+ credential and the Project Management Institute’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).

CompTIA Project+

CompTIA’s Project+ is an entry-level PM certificate geared to IT professionals who expect to manage small or mid-sized projects. This credential validates foundational project management skills such as communication, resource and stakeholder management, project documentation, and project life cycle management. The Project+ exam also covers basic Agile methodology.

No prerequisites are required, although CompTIA recommends 12 months of PM experience before attempting the exam. A single exam is required to earn the credential. This vendor-neutral credential is an excellent addition to your skills portfolio and is achievable.

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is part of a PM certification portfolio offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI is the unabashed global leader in project and program management certifications. They are geared toward professionals (not just IT pros or developers) who want to take on more challenging projects but need more education or experience to obtain the more advanced Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. The CAPM also prepares professionals with an eye to more advanced program or project management credentials.

To obtain the CAPM, candidates must possess a high school diploma or associate’s degree (or global equivalent), plus at least 23 hours of project management education. PMI offers an online PM Basics class that meets this requirement. The course prepares candidates for the CAPM exam and focuses on understanding PM vocabulary, understanding how PM processes and concepts work together, and incorporating PM principles into your projects.

PM Certifications for Experienced Practitioners
Project Management Professional (PMP)

When it comes to PM certifications, PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) is the must-have credential. Well respected and globally recognized, there are more than 1 million PMP certification holders worldwide. In addition to the prestige of having the initials “PMP” on your byline, earning the PMP is financially rewarding. According to PMI’s research, project managers with the PMP credential can expect to earn 25% more than their non-PMP counterparts.

They are geared toward experienced PMs who manage large, complex projects. Two paths to certification depend on a candidate’s education and experience. To qualify to attempt the exam, candidates must possess a four-year degree, a minimum of 36 months of direct PM experience leading projects, plus 35 hours of PM education or the CAPM. Alternatively, candidates who possess a high school diploma or associate’s degree (or global equivalent) and have at least 60 documented hours leading projects, plus 35 hours of PM education or the CAPM, may apply to take the exam. All candidates must submit an application documenting how they meet the requirements. A candidate may not attempt the exam until approved by PMI.

The rigorous exam covers the five Performance Domains of Project Management: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring, and Controlling. Successful candidates should be familiar with the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) and review the exam outline. Sixty PDUs in a 3-year cycle is required to maintain the credential.

Agile and Scrum Certifications

Many IT and development environments have adopted Agile-type project management methodologies. Standard agile-type project management methodologies include Kanban, Lean, Scrum, and Agile. While the nomenclature and processes may vary between Agile PM methodologies, most have the common themes of constant collaboration between teams and stakeholders, self-directed teams, iterations, and continuous improvement.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at the ScrumMaster and Six Sigma Black Belt.


Scrum methodology is widespread in IT and software development organizations. Scrum methodology focuses on short iterations, quick feedback, continuous improvement, ability to adapt to change, resulting in accelerated delivery rapidly. If your organization has adopted Scrum methodology, then the ScrumMaster certification from the Scrum Alliance is your credential. The ScrumMaster certification is available at the foundation, advanced, and professional levels.

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): The Certified ScrumMaster is the foundation level ScrumMaster certification. To earn the credential, candidates must take a training course available online or through a Certified Agile Coach (CAC). The number of training hours required varies based on the type of training selected. Once training is completed, candidates need to accept the ScrumMaster License Agreement and take the CSM test.

Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM): The A-CSM is a mid-level Scrum credential geared to candidates with at least 12 months of experience directly related to the role of ScrumMaster. All experiences must be validated and must have occurred within the past five years. In addition to experience, candidates must possess the CSM, attend an A-CSM training, complete all course work (including pre- or post-work), accept the A-CSM License Agreement, and complete the Scrum Alliance membership Profile to earn the credential.

Certified Scrum Professional – ScrumMaster (CSP-SM): The Certified Scrum Professional (CSM-SM) is the highest-level credential offered by the Scrum Alliance. It targets senior-level Scrum practitioners. Candidates must possess the A-CSM, attend a CSP-SM training class, complete all pre- and post-course work, accept the CSP-SM license, and have an additional 24 months working as a ScrumMaster within the past five years.

The Scrum Alliance also offers certification tracks for product owners, trainers, coaches, and Agile leadership.

Six Sigma Certifications

ASQ is a globally recognized professional certification provider whose mission is to empower “people, communities, and organizations of the world to achieve excellence through quality.” They offer several certifications across various disciplines, including management, quality, auditing, engineering, inspector/technician, and Six Sigma. ASQ currently offers four Six Sigma credentials:

Certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt (CSSYB): an entry-level credential for early-career professionals

Certified Six Sigma Green Belt (CSSGB): a mid-level credential with a focus on quality improvement

Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB): a professional-level credential for experienced Six Sigma practitioners

Certified Master Black Belt (CMBB): an expert-level credential for professionals with exceptional skills and leadership abilities

The CSSBB is the highest Six Sigma credential offered by ASQ (except the CMBB). CSSBBs not only understand Six Sigma philosophies but can implement them into projects. Class experts, CSSBBs possess an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the DMAIC model (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control). CSSBBs are also excellent leaders and provide mentorship and guidance to CSSYBs and CSSGBs and are qualified to make recommendations and monitor their projects.

To earn the CSSBB, candidates must submit two projects, including project affidavits from the project champion. The project must show that the candidate produced “statistically significant improvements” to a process. Alternatively, candidates may submit one project with an affidavit and demonstrate that they possess at least three years of direct paid experience working in at least one of the Six Sigma Black Belt Body of Knowledge domains. The domains include Organization-Wide Planning and Deployment, Organizational Process Management and Measures, Team Management, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) Framework and Methodologies. ASQ must receive completed project documentation within one week after receipt of the candidate’s fees and application.

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