Building a project management career

Where to start on your PRINCE2 project management journey

Mike Acaster, PPM Portfolio Manager, AXELOS gives advice on what PRINCE2 means and how to begin your project management journey.


Mike Acaster | 3 April 2017

If your current work – or your career ambitions – are bringing you into contact with the concept of projects or something called PRINCE2, but you are not sure exactly of what either mean or where to start on a project management career path through PRINCE2, then this read on!

What you need to know first is what we mean by a project: it’s a way of organising work to achieve a desired objective. Organisations and companies use projects to introduce change, such as a new IT system, an office move or a marketing campaign. People from any walk of life experience dealing with ‘projects’ at some point in their lives: buying a house, building work, getting married, etc.

Most organisations will have a way of working across their various departments and a way of dealing with or implementing change – for example, purchasing, HR, IT. However, where such methods don’t yet exist, then common ways of working will emerge. They are unlikely to be the best ways of working which is where PRINCE2 helps by providing you with the right tools for the job.

So, what is PRINCE2 and where do I start?

The PRINCE2 guidance – put together by AXELOS – is a coherent collection of best practices based on the experiences of people running projects globally across all types and sizes of organisation. In essence, it’s sage advice based on an understanding of what works well and what problems you might encounter in delivering a project.

The guidance is structured around seven principles, themes and processes which are designed to ensure that, in managing a project, you never lose sight of your objective and the business justification for doing the project in the first place. And the guidance gives you an approach throughout the life of the project, providing relevant information to help you at any point in the project.

However, it’s important to understand that PRINCE2 is not an “A-B-C” guide that has to be followed slavishly. No – it’s about applying the principles in a way that’s appropriate to your project and organisation.

If you are reading this, it is likely that you might be a) someone tasked with running projects (mostly at work) who isn’t a project manager, b) someone just starting in the project management profession or c) thinking about a career move.

Whoever you are, here are some reasons why PRINCE2 is valid for you:

  1. PRINCE2 is a proven method for managing projects which also happens to be the most widely-practised project management method around the world. Over two million PRINCE2 exams have been taken across 150 countries.
  2. Even if the bulk of your work doesn’t involve projects, it’s good to have an understanding of what constitutes project working – you’ll soon find out it’s not all about what happens on TV’s The Apprentice!
  3. If you’re looking for a new job or change of career, having PRINCE2 shows you have a proven, structured approach to your work that you can call upon, again and again.
  4. Among the options you have for studying project management, PRINCE2 provides a structured and reproducible way of working. Regardless of whether you become a project manager in title, it will be beneficial to your career; giving you a methodical approach and, indeed, a life skill that enables you to manage your activities in an efficient and effective way.
  5. Being qualified in PRINCE2 is often stipulated by employers recruiting people for project-related roles. So, having the certification is an important part of getting into and progressing your career in the industry. AXELOS’ annual PPM research in 2016 showed that 85% of PRINCE2-qualified people found the certification valuable to their job and their career. And recent AXELOS research among project managers revealed that 90% believe ongoing training is vital to keep up with the pace of change in the industry.

How do you study it?

Its entry level qualification – Foundation– tests your knowledge of PRINCE2, your recall (of a particular definition, for example) and your understanding of its principles, themes and processes. Meanwhile, Practitioner level examines your ability to apply the guidance and its principles practically in a particular situation; analysing the scenario, making a comparison between options and choosing what is most appropriate based on the guidance. Certainly, if you want to become a project manager, then your end game should include PRINCE2 Practitioner.

Related blogs

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Digital Transformation- A Key Role for Project Managers

Benefits of earning a Project Management certification

12 steps to ensure a successful project

How to get into Project Management


Mike Acaster

Mike Acaster

AXELOS PPM Portfolio Manager

Mike Acaster is the PPM Portfolio Manager at AXELOS and looks after the maintenance and development of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, MoR, MoV, P3O and P3M3. Mike joined AXELOS from its inception on the 1st July 2013, having transferred from the Cabinet Office following its decision to establish a joint venture company with Capita plc.
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