"Why do I need a badge to prove I can manage projects? I've been doing it for 10 years!"
This is something I have heard from many people over the course of my career. In this blog I will discuss the answer to this question, by looking at why having a qualification is useful for both your working practice and career. I will also discuss why, of all the possible qualifications out there, the Association of Project Management Project Management Qualification (APMPMQ) is worth putting at the top of your list.
Firstly, it is true that experience counts, especially in the discipline of Project Management where there is no skill more useful than someone who has been there before, and knows what to do next. Project Management, however, is a broad subject, with a broad skillset, and it is entirely possible that someone can have been successfully managing particular types of projects for many years, but never come across certain situations. For example, one delegate I taught had been working on major construction projects for many years, but had a team that dealt with the procurement, and so had little knowledge of the mechanics of this vital area of Project Management.
That means that some education in the key skills and techniques is important, but it doesn't necessarily follow that you then have to sit an exam to prove your knowledge, right? So let's look at why a qualification may be useful.
Getting a job
The job market is competitive, as it always has been. Project Management in particular can be difficult to get into, as there are many people out there who can claim to have managed projects in the past, without having any particular training or proof of the skills they employed to do it. Many organisations will therefore demand a qualification before they will even speak to someone. In a quick analysis of Reed.co.uk in August 2018, I found that 22% of the jobs advertised that had 'project' in their title demanded some form of qualification as an entry criteria, with a further 10% suggesting a qualification was desirable. If you consider the 'Talent Gap Report' from the PMI suggest that there will be 41.5 million roles in Project Management by 2020, then that is about 12 Million jobs that you can't apply for without a qualification. Basically without a qualification, you are cutting yourself off from a third of the job market.
Many customers will require that a supplier has staff with a particular qualification before they will work with them. Often this is so that the customer can be confident that the supplier can communicate with them using a recognisable standard in terms of documents and language, but sometimes it may simply be a way to ensure that bidders are competent in what they suspect will be a very competitive market.
All the major qualifications out there are based on a recognised framework (such as PRINCE2™) or a recognised Body of Knowledge (such as the APM qualifications) and as such are recognised as a benchmark for Project Management that is based on the experiences of others. For me, 'Best Practice' is nothing more or less than a group of people who have been working in a discipline for a long time getting together and saying "this works for me" or "this doesn't" and distilling that into a collection of ideas and techniques that these experts agree will usually deliver the results that you want. Project Management is no exception to this. A qualification shows that you have been exposed to this best practice and, just as importantly, that you understood it.
OK so hopefully I have convinced you that a qualification is a good idea, so why specifically the PMQ?
PLEASE NOTE: I am not suggesting that any of the other qualifications out there are no good. Each has their own merits, and their own place in the market.
Broad Body of Knowledge
The Association of Project Management Body of Knowledge (APMBoK) has a broad coverage. The APM believe that Project Managers need a range of skills, which can be classified into the following groups:
- Business Awareness – the PM knows about the business case, the marketplace and the industry
- Administrative Techniques – the PM can manage changes, analyse risks, write reports
- Interpersonal Skills – the PM can use their people skills to drive delivery and gain agreement, for example by using motivation, conflict management and communication
The APMBoK therefore addresses all of these key areas, by employing a competence framework which identifies the key skills and the levels they must be at to ensure a Project Manager is competent.
The APM qualifications are recognised internationally, and in all industries. Due to the broad set of skills within it (see above), it is often considered an equivalent for other qualifications. If you see a job advertised that demands another qualification, saying "but I am APMPMQ qualified" can often get you into the interview room. Of course, it's up to you after that!
A fair exam format
The exam for the APMPMQ itself is a three hour written test. Now, many of you may recoil in horror at the idea of writing for three hours, but this should be considered in conjunction with another key point in the APM's syllabus for the PMQ; that you don't have to use the language in the book to get the marks. What this means is that, provided you can discuss the subject in a competent way, you will pass the questions posed, without the need to memorise concepts, like multiple choice and objective testing exams demand. If you know what you are talking about, you have a very good chance to pass (provided you read the questions properly!) and employers, colleagues and clients should know that this therefore means that if you passed this exam, you didn't just simply memorise a bunch of lists and pick them out of a line up, you demonstrated knowledge and the ability to apply it, over a range of subject areas.
So, hopefully you now understand why having a qualification is vital for your career, your organisation's ability to work with clients, and your skill set. Hopefully I have also managed to convince you that the PMQ is the benchmark for a professional PM to achieve.
If you only gain one qualification this year, why not make it this one?
Michael WoodMichael has been teaching at QA for more than 12 years and is the lead trainer for Managing Successful Programmes (MSP).