Listen here, or read below.

My home is a like an IKEA showroom. You know when you walk round an IKEA store and you see ready-made rooms for inspiration - that’s kinda like my downstairs. We have many a Billy bookcase – my (non-scientific) theory is that most people have a Billy bookcase in their house, and the thing about a theory is that it doesn’t need proving per se, rather it needs disproving. So, until I’m proved wrong, most people have a Billy bookcase!

I always talk about Billy bookcases to explain the relationship between the different project management certifications. In this blog, these certifications are PRINCE2 and APM (Association for Project Management).

Certifications are important. Some recent research into the contribution of projects and project management to the UK’s economy and society stated that 70% of respondents considered project management qualifications to be important for the project professional of the future.

So, you’ve been to IKEA and bought a Billy bookcase. It’s flat-packed, and when you overcome the realisation it won’t fit in your car (we’ve all been there: looked at the dimensions online, measured the car boot, thought it’d fit, and then it doesn’t) and got it home somehow, it’s time to build it. In order to build your Billy bookcase, you ideally need two things:

  1. An instruction manual

  2. The right tools for the job (which may include your own competence)

If all you have is the instruction manual, you'd know what you need to do – the steps to go through which, if you follow them properly, will get you to your desired output. But you don’t have the right tools for the job: the allen key provided won’t help you to nail in the unnecessarily large number of nails to hold the backboard in.

If all you have were the right tools, then you'd have the equipment for the job, yet you wouldn't know the best way to use them for your purpose. You may even have lots of tools in a toolbox and it’s about selecting the best ones for the job. You may decide to have a go at building your Billy bookcase without the instructions, yet I guarantee it won’t be as efficient (or as stress-free) as following the correct steps.

So, to build your Billy bookcase efficiently and effectively, you need both the instructions AND the right tools.

Billy bookcase

Yet, how does all of this explain the relationship between PRINCE2 and APM?

It’s the same logic to explain how to run projects and how be an effective project manager.

PRINCE2 is your instruction manual, and APM is your toolbox. Either of these alone will not enable you to undertake your project efficiently and effectively. To be an effective project manager, you need both the rights tools for the job, and the instructions to tell you how best to use them.


Before I discuss the best routes to attaining the necessary qualifications based on knowledge and experience, it’s worth a quick note on what these qualifications are:

  • PRINCE2. There are two core qualifications: Foundation and Practitioner. You must pass Foundation before you can attempt Practitioner.

  • APM. There are two core qualifications: Project Fundamentals (PFQ) and Project Management (PMQ). The PFQ is for anyone new to the subject, and the PMQ is for more experienced people – typically with a couple of years working as a project manager. You don’t need to pass the PFQ before undertaking PMQ. Just decide on your experience level.

  • There is another APM qualification called PMQ for PRINCE2 Practitioners, which is a fast-track route to PMQ if you already passed PRINCE2 Practitioner – basically, it is saying that your PRINCE2 qualification will exempt you from some topics in the PMQ. The other thing is your PRINCE2 Practitioner needs to have been done within the last 3 to 5 years to do this option. Personally speaking, I would just go for the full PMQ as it covers more topics and provides a more in-depth treatise of the subject than the fast-track option. It’s also less "faffy" than trying to prove when you passed your PRINCE2 Practitioner exam!

At QA, we offer all of the above as classroom events, live-streaming, interactive Virtual Classroom events, and online learning

So... which course for whom?

If you are reading this, then you have an interest in project management. You will fall into one of four camps:

  1. No project management certifications

  2. Only a PRINCE2 certification

  3. Only an APM certification

  4. Have both PRINCE2 and APM certifications

I'll take each in turn and provide some advice on what to do. These aren’t hard and fast rules, just some guidance based on my own knowledge and experience – and your decisions will be influenced by what your organisation is using, what your own objectives are, and what your experience is.

I guess the message I’m giving is that you ideally need both PRINCE2 and APM. I did try to create a flow diagram – and found it too complicated, so I have just described the options instead!

No project management certifications

I would always advise starting on the APM certifications to give a good base knowledge of project management, and then do PRINCE2 to provide the formality of process. Depending on your experience:

Only a PRINCE2 certification

Depends on which one: Foundation or Practitioner (remember that to do Practitioner you must have already passed Foundation):

  • Are you PRINCE2 Foundation Certified? Go for PFQ, and then progress to PRINCE2 Practitioner and PMQ as career development.

  • Are you PRINCE2 Practitioner Certified? Go for PMQ.

Nice and straight forward!

Only an APM certification

Again, depends which one: PFQ or PMQ:

Another straight forward one!

Have both PRINCE2 and APM certifications

This is where things get a bit more convoluted when we look at the different combinations: PRINCE2 Foundation + PFQ, PRINCE2 Foundation + PMQ, PRINCE2 Practitioner + PFQ, PRINCE2 Practitioner + PMQ. I’m not going to be prescriptive about the order in which you would do the additional certifications:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation + PFQ: As part of career development, progress to PRINCE2 Practitioner and PMQ.

  • PRINCE2 Foundation + PMQ: Do PRINCE2 Practitioner.

  • PRINCE2 Practitioner + PFQ: Do PMQ.

  • PRINCE2 Practitioner + PMQ: Contact us to discuss more advanced options such as Chartership, or programme management.

As stated above, some recent research into the contribution of projects and project management to the UK’s economy and society stated that 70% of respondents considered project management qualifications to be important for the project professional of the future. This blog has described what these qualifications are, and how best to attain them.

Now down to you: Don’t be a silly Billy with your project management career!

Thank you for reading this article or listening to the podcast. If you would like to discuss how to fill the hole between learning and strategic goals, please get in contact:


Related Articles


Be the first to comment!

Add a comment