by QA

To thrive in your project management career – you need to be efficient, systematic and maximise your productivity. You need the right tools to do the job.

We’ll look at how both qualifications will empower your career success.

You need the right tools and instructions

An effective approach to project management is similar to assembling flat-pack furniture. A bold statement, but hear us out. Whether the project is a huge international construction project, or simple construction of a chest of drawers – the principles are the same. To be successful you need two things:

  1. Instructions
  2. The right tools for the job

You won’t get the best results if either one is missing. If you’ve only got the instructions – you have each step of the plan – but without grandmaster improvisation skills, the chances of constructing functional furniture without tools is very slim.

If you’ve only got the right tools for the job – there’s no guidance on how to use them to get the right outcome. Whilst some of us might have mastered the art of flat-pack intuition, sadly for the majority of people it would be hard going. Not having instructions would make it a long process, riddled with trial and error (not to mention, frustration and eventually, fury). Similarly, the end product (if frustration and anger aren’t enough to indefinitely postpone completion), is likely to be a functional compromise.

If you improvise, you may find success a handful of times. But using both the instructions and the right tools for the job is a much more effective (and easier) way to get the job done well.

This concept – of a co-dependent relationship between two things – is transferrable to project management. Here’s how.

A framework for project management success

Adopting the same principle for managing projects effectively, the two most well-known project management certifications - PRINCE2 and APM - should be seen in the same way as the instruction manual and the toolbox. Yes, it’s possible to succeed with just one, but success is much easier when you have both.

In our experience, we think of PRINCE2 as the instruction manual. As the industry-standard and globally-recognised framework, PRINCE2 is endorsed by the UK government as the best practice for project management. Many employers ask for project managers to be PRINCE2 qualified as a prerequisite. It consists of two core qualifications: Foundation and Practitioner. Attempting the Practitioner qualification is dependent on passing Foundation first. As a tried, tested and trusted qualification created by experts with roots in the industry, PRINCE2 benefits from over 25 years of development.

So, APM should be seen as the toolbox. It’s another internationally-recognised qualification, proven to give organisations a competitive advantage and provide improved product delivery. It differs from PRINCE2 with less focus on frameworks, and a greater focus on holistic project management knowledge – building your understanding of how projects fit within a strategic and commercial environment. Similarly, APM also consists of two core qualifications: Project Fundamentals (PFQ) and Project Management (PMQ). But unlike PRINCE2, you don’t need to do PFQ before you can do PMQ. Instead, it depends on your level of experience. PFQ is typically for people with little or no project management experience, whereas PMQ is for those with a couple of years’ experience.

Let’s compare PRINCE2 and APM – which is best?

PRINCE2 takes more general approach to the project management processes and methodologies. It provides the templates for key project information and documentation. PRINCE2 teaches monitoring and planning projects, but doesn’t prescribe the particular techniques for doing do. Many organisations have their own tools and methods for this. So, a PRINCE2 qualification is ideal for organisations, because it’s not as prescriptive in this area.

On the other hand, APM tests your ability to project manage successfully and efficiently. It offers a more comprehensive range of topics, including the ‘people’ aspects of project management. APM also teaches monitoring and planning techniques such as Earned Value and Critical Path – things that PRINCE2 deliberately doesn’t cover. On top of this, APM gets more into the detail and takes into account project-specific topics – like procurement, budgeting and portfolio management – whereas PRINCE2 only offers a generic approach.

Both qualifications have their individual strengths – which is why they complement each other.

But there are other advantages. Becoming certified in PRINCE2 and APM, significantly increases earning potential. Each qualification also improves career progression prospects, whilst enhancing the credibility of the organisation itself . 70% of survey respondents consider project management qualifications to be important for the project professional of the future. The methodologies and principles taught in both qualifications work well in a variety of industries and applications. So you’ll be set up for your career, no matter where you choose to work.

On top of all this, 86% of those who had taken a project management qualification enjoyed greater project success as a result, and 94% report an improvement in self-confidence in their project management ability.

Building a successful project management career

Achieving project management qualifications is a fast-track way to: improve employability for aspiring project managers – progress career opportunities for experienced project managers – and raise salaries.

When considering which qualification is best for you – the answer depends on your situation. It’s ideal to have both qualifications, to get the complete package for a project management career. If you’re starting out with no project management qualifications – the best approach to powering your success is to start with APM certifications for a strong knowledge base – and then move on to PRINCE2 to understand the process.

Want to enhance your project management career?

Take a look at our project management courses and project management apprenticeships. If you're not sure what's right for you, let's talk.