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Project & Programme Management

PRINCE2 vs APM: Which is the best choice for you?

Whatever stage you’re at in your project management career, gaining a globally recognised qualification could be the perfect next step. Programmes such as APM and PRINCE2 can provide you with the knowledge to deliver a wide range of projects, with the added benefit of helping you stand out on the job market.  

Deciding which course is right for you can be a challenge.

This article will cover the key features of PRINCE2 and APM, so you can decide which one, or combination of the two, is right for you.  

What is PRINCE2?  

PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. As the industry-standard 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. 

PRINCE2 key features:  

  • PRINCE2 focuses on project governance, risk management, and controlled project execution. 
  • PRINCE2 defines clear roles for each member of the project team, and the specific expectations of each role made clear at the outset. 
  • There are seven key principles covered in PRINCE2:  
  1. Projects must have business justification. 
  2. Teams should learn from every stage. 
  3. Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. 
  4. Work is planned in stages. 
  5. Project boards manage by exception. 
  6. Teams keep a constant focus on quality. 
  7. The approach is tailored for each project. 
  • The PRINCE2 framework is a seven-phase process, from project initiation to project closure. 
  • PRINCE2 provides the templates for key project information and documentation.  

Is PRINCE2 right for you?  

There are a few things to consider when it comes to PRINCE2: 

  • The PRINCE2 framework is designed to be tailored - you can adapt it to fit your business context, for example if your organisation works in an agile way. 
  • PRINCE2 consists of two core qualifications: Foundation and Practitioner. You must pass the Foundation level before taking the Practitioner qualification. To be fully qualified in PRINCE2, you need to complete both the PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner courses. 
  • If you find exams and essay writing difficult, PRINCE2 may be a good option as your understanding will be evaluated using a multiple-choice test. The exam is open book. 
  • Project managers must renew their certification every three years. 

What is APM?  

APM (Association for Project Management) is the only chartered body for project management. An APM qualification will allow you go on to achieve the Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) standard. 

APM also consists of two core qualifications: Project Fundamentals (PFQ) and Project Management (PMQ). Unlike with PRINCE2, you don’t need to do PFQ before you can do PMQ. Your experience level will determine which course is most appropriate. PFQ is typically for people with little or no project management experience, whereas PMQ better suits people with a couple of years’ experience. 

  APM key features: 

  • APM courses provide a solid foundation in how the different elements of project management each contribute to project success.  
  • As well as exploring project structure and planning, APM covers a broad range of fundamental project management interpersonal skills, including topics such as communication within project management and the principles of leadership and teamwork. The syllabus is intentionally wide-ranging in its content; it’s not limited to any specific methodology or business sector. 
  • APM covers certain monitoring and planning techniques, including Earned Value and Critical Path, which PRINCE2 doesn’t teach.  

Is APM right for you? 

  • APM qualification involves taking a closed-book, essay-style exam. If this format of evaluation works for you, perfect! 
  • If you’re taking APM PMQ, you'll need to have some pre-existing project management knowledge. It’s the ideal next step for anyone holding the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification. 


What are the differences between APM and PRINCE2? 

APM and PRINCE2 are both useful tools for enhancing your project management skills, but they differ in several crucial, often complementary, ways.  

  • At a fundamental level, the PRINCE2 course serves as a methodology, whereas APM is a body of knowledge covering a broader range of subject matter regarding project, programme, portfolio, and risk management. 
  • The PRINCE2 framework is structured and prescriptive, offering guidance, templates, and an insight into clearly established processes that lead to success. APM qualifications are more flexible: they’re designed to be adapted to your specific project and business context. Put simply, PRINCE2 outlines what you should do, whilst APM provides options for how to do it. 
  • As a general rule, PRINCE2 details who, what, where, and when, whilst APM focuses on the how. This is a great example of how the two qualifications complement one another.  

The differences in subject matter and approach between PRINCE2 and APM mean that together, they offer a truly comprehensive understanding of project management. Many project management professionals are choosing to get ahead by pursuing both qualifications. 

How to choose the best project management qualification 

When deciding which qualification is best for you – you’ll need to consider your individual and organisational context.  

If you’re starting out without much project management expertise, you may want to begin with APM to establish a strong base of contextual knowledge. This context may be useful when you then move on to PRINCE2 and focus on understanding the process. 

You also need to consider how ready your organisation is for change. For example, implementing PRINCE2 successfully will require your whole team to make changes, and may require team-wide training in how you’ll apply the framework. Consider if this would be feasible within your team, and if it’s something your team would even benefit from. If this kind of change would be disruptive, you may be better off starting with APM.  

Interested in PRINCE2 or APM training? Contact our team today to find out more. 

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