Project Management Certification

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CAUTION – This article was written in 2016 and may no longer be accurate.

Recently we had a visit from a very upset project manager. She had been managing projects in her company for years and the success of these projects contributed to the company’s decision to expand and hire new staff. However, she now learned that a new project manager is being taken on, someone who has less experience, but has a certificate in project management. Our visitor, although well able for the job, has no qualifications in the field whatsoever, which was why the newcomer was brought in at a higher level and on more pay.

So our visitor wanted to learn about what certificates in project management were available to her. So we started with the most basic one – the Project Management Institute’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®.  As this is really designed for inexperienced people, we suggested the Project Management Professional (PMP)® instead. Our visitor said she had considered this, but feared that the HR department would not be too impressed with something from an “institute”.

The next certificate we discussed was the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) level 6, component certificate in project management. This has the attraction of being assessed on an actual project, with no examination involved. It is really ideal for practitioners, who are working on projects anyway and could easily write up their experiences as part of their everyday work.

However, our guest was not too keen on this either. Having already obtained a science degree, a level 6 certificate was not going to impress her managers. We also learned that the newcomer to her company has a post-graduate certificate, from an English university.

At this point, we were delighted that we had earlier partnered with University College Cork in the development of their MSc programme in project management. Definitely, this was more like what our visitor was looking for. However, she was concerned about the effort involved and whether she would be able to devote the necessary time.

We explained that the coursework is scheduled for 2-6pm every second Friday during term time and 10am-2pm on Saturdays, again every second week. Although, there would sometimes be full days on Saturdays, that would only happen every six to eight weeks. In the first year of the course, there would be three modules:

  • Project Management (10 credits)
  • Strategy, leadership and change (10 credits)
  • Innovative problem solving and decision making (10 credits)

We really got her attention at this point when we told her that, if she was finding the going tough and if she had been successfully assessed in these modules, she could opt to finish at this point with a post-graduate certificate in project management.

But, if she was enjoying the course work, she could sign up for the second year. This would involve five modules:

  • Current Issues in Project Management (10 credits)
  • Realising strategy through programme management (5 credits)
  • Management and Organisation (5 credits)
  • Research methods (5 credits)
  • Project Bootcamp (PMP® Certification) (5 credits)

Again, at the end of the second academic year, the option is there to finish off with a level 9 post-graduate diploma in project management. At this point too, she would  have attempted the PMP® exam.

We definitely had her attention now – the diploma would certainly trump her rival’s certificate. But there was more to come. She could put the research methods she learned in year 2 to good use and write a 15,000 word thesis which would earn her an MSc in project management.

Having e-mailed her the link to the course page on the UCC website, we said goodbye to our visitor and spent some time pondering on the different meanings the same word has for people. In the end, we were simply thankful that we were able to offer a range of certificate options and are optimistic that we will see this woman again when the MSc programme begins in September.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

P.S. For details of the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and its system of levels, please visit its website.