Project Management Certification: The Beginners Guide

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Project management is a tough field.

From keeping track of elusive team members’ progress to endlessly preventing your budget from imploding.

However, the smiles and cheers at the project closing party make it all worth it.

You want to be the best at your job, but ongoing education costs time and money.

Do you find your asking…

Do I really need that project management certification, or will it be just another piece of paper in your file?

You’ll get all the answers and more in this guide.

Why Project Management Certification Is So Important

An internationally recognized project management certification can drastically improve your career prospects.

The Project Management Institute estimates that there will be 22 million new project management jobs between now and 2027.

There are plenty of career opportunities in construction, energy, healthcare, engineering, software development, and information technology, among other sectors.

Secondly, just like a CPA, a project management certification identifies you as an industry professional.

Plus, the certification cuts across multiple sectors, further opening up opportunities for employment and career progression.

A project management certification can also augment your existing knowledge base and skills, allowing you to perform at your optimum level and streamline processes.

This certification is knowledge and skill-intensive, offering you an opportunity to acquire new hard and soft skills.

New methodologies and techniques, while familiarizing yourself with industry best practices, among other practical takeaways.

Finally, the project management certification can boost your income relatively quickly after receiving your credentials.

On average, certified project managers earn at least 25% more than their non-certified contemporaries. The certification process is often affordable, and the ROI can be tremendous in the course of your career.

A case for earning your project management certification

In a 2010 interview with, then-director of IBM’s Project Management Center of Excellence, Steve DelGrosso noted that more and more customers demanded certified project managers.

DelGrosso also observed that an increasing number of clients would not consider proposals that did not include a certified project manager.

In the same year, more than half of IBM’s project managers had the project management certification.

Tim Wasserman, Program Director for the Stanford Advanced Project Management (SAPM) program, echoes DelGrosso’s observations.

According to Wasserman, highly regulated industries like aerospace, defense, financial services, and finance require adherence to strictly-defined processes. Such structures make project management certification mandatory.

How To Improve Your Project Management Certification Today

The best way to boost your project management certification is to become a Project Management Professional (PMP®) certified. The Project Management Professional certification is a globally recognized accreditation from the Project Management Institute.

This designation proves that you have the requisite experience, education, and competency, needed to direct and lead projects.

Think of this as a CPA for project managers.

Although the Project Management Institute offers other certifications, PMP is the most sought-after and prestigious accreditation. The exam is a closed-book test consisting of 180 questions covering all core project management knowledge areas, including initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. As of January 2, 2021, the PMP exam is no longer all multiple choice questions and now includes multiple-choice, multiple response, matching, hotspot, and fill-in-the-blank questions. They also now offer the exam online.

You can take the test online by appointment, get your results immediately after completing the test, and receive your certification (if you pass) soon after. PMI also offers paper-based tests if you cannot do it online or do not have access to a Prometric testing center near you. The online tests are not on-demand and are still proctored by a live person via webcam.

Once a certified PMP, you can look forward to possible income boosts, more work opportunities, better performance, and becoming part of a network of internationally recognized professional project managers.

Below are some of the core project management principles where PMP certification will help build and prove knowledge and competence.

Scope Management

Scope management outlines all the steps that need to be completed before delivering the project.

This eliminates unnecessary tasks, optimizing efficiency, and keeps the team on track with the project or potential headaches for project managers.

As part of your certification, you’ll be tested on crucial project scope management processes. This includes planning, collecting requirements, defining the scope, creating a work breakdown structure, validating scope, and controlling the scope just to name a few.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) Guide is a critical resource for any project management certification you choose to undertake.

Here, you’ll learn to understand project scopes better, identify project requirements, define milestones, and take advantage of management tools. Plus other crucial competencies related to project scope management. But you get to learn even more on top of that.

Cost Management

As a project manager, you will be called upon to justify to stakeholders that funds are spent appropriately. To this end, project managers face numerous challenges, including bad estimates, poor communication with stakeholders, underestimating budget requirements, and lack of access to cost analysis tools.

Stakeholders naturally want to get the most value for their money. A competent project manager with in-depth knowledge and project cost management experience can be an attractive choice for hiring managers and stakeholders alike.

With a proven track record and certification, you will be more effective at anticipating cost-related issues on the horizon and dealing with unforeseen challenges as they appear.

Communication Management

A recent PMI study revealed that one-third of projects fail due to ineffective communication.

Managing communication within large teams of complex projects is difficult, but it is an integral part of successful project management.

One of the manager’s key responsibilities is ensuring that new changes are communicated timely to avoid new problems later in the project. Setting project expectations early is a great way to foster communication right off the bat. Team members and stakeholders should be clear about what is expected of them throughout the project’s lifecycle.

A strong team culture where everyone feels that they can share their ideas and opinions also fosters communication. Team members can express concerns, contribute ideas, or speak their minds for the team’s benefit.

Collaborative tools also help to keep an open channel of communication between team members regardless of their location. Finally, project status reports provide an excellent avenue to ensure that team members and stakeholders are continually on the same page.

Project management certification guarantees that project managers are well versed in this performance domain. 

Resource Management

Working with limited resources seems to be a recurring theme for project managers. More often than not, over-scheduling of resources is bound to happen. This doesn’t have to be the case when you have a firm grasp of resource management principles, which you should have after receiving your certification.

A great place to start is to have granular insight into your team’s project. The project manager should have a clear understanding of what the team is working on and how much time and resources it takes to complete each task.

Next, it is crucial to prioritize tasks and expectations and share this information with the involved team members and stakeholders. Lastly, you’ll need to keep track of resources and provide status updates as required throughout the project’s lifecycle.

A good project manager will be able to schedule resources appropriately by considering forecasted resources like skills, budget, and time. If this doesn’t sound like your strong suit, accredited project management certification will put you on the right track toward success.


Coming to the end of the project life-cycle is an exciting time for project managers, teams, and stakeholders. However, the job isn’t done until you get this final step right.

You want to make sure that the project has been completed according to plan and scope. Additionally, you will need a final approval and sign-off from all parties.

A checklist for steps required to close the project ensures that everyone is happy with the completed project, including the customer or stakeholders.

Some of the items to include in your checklist include:

  • Formally transferring deliverables
  • Confirming project completion with all parties involved
  • Reviewing documentation and contracts for outstanding invoices and unpaid work
  • Conducting a project performance review
  • Archiving documentation for future reference

A formal and well-structured closing process will help you identify flaws in your processes and avoid them in the future. Furthermore, you minimize liability risks and are more likely to get repeat clients.

Project management certification demonstrates that you can close a project successfully.

5  Best Practices For Preparing For PMP Certification

While these tips will help you prepare for the PMP exam, they are equally useful for preparing for other types of project management certification.

1. Qualify For The Exam

This point might seem obvious, but you need to meet the certification’s eligibility criteria before signing up for the test. For the PMP exam, you will need:

  • A four-year degree
  • CAPM® Certification or 35 hours of project management training or education
  • 36 months experience leading projects


  • An associate’s degree, high school diploma, or global equivalent
  • CAPM Certification or 35 hours of project management training or education
  • 60 months experience leading projects

If you feel that you do not meet this threshold, you may want to consider CAPM Certification instead. The Project Management Institute also offers this alternative.

2. Take A Formal Project Management Course

One significant advantage of taking a formal project management course is meeting the 35-hour education/training eligibility criteria if you haven’t already. There are plenty of online courses to choose from, including free ones.

These courses are also available online or in-person. Working with an experienced trainer or coach will help you understand project management principles in-depth. You can also learn at your own pace, have your questions answered, and clear up any misunderstandings before the examination.

Consider taking your course from a PMI authorized training partner. You can see the full list of authorized training partners here.

3. Study the PMBOK Guide

While there are plenty of free and paid project management courses online, the PMBOK Guide is the best resource if you intend to take the PMP exam. The exam is based primarily on this guide, so mastering the PMBOK increases your chances of acing your exam and getting accredited.

Additionally, you can use supporting study materials after you are familiar with PMBOK. These guides and materials should help you to polish your understanding of project management further.

The PMBOK may seem a little daunting at first. The guide is structured in knowledge areas. Go through one knowledge area at a time and master it before moving on to the next one. It also helps if you set learning milestones to ensure that you are on track for the exam date.

Keep in mind that the PMP also tests your working knowledge of project management principles. Many questions feature project management scenarios where you are expected to find the best solution to a hypothetical situation. Make sure you understand how the principles you learn apply to real-world project management situations.

The PMBOK guide is also an essential resource even if you choose to enroll in other project management certifications. This guide is put together by the Project Management Institute and is widely considered the gold standard resource for project management concepts and principles.

4. Take Practice Mock Tests

You can find mock PMP tests (and other project management tests) online. Take as many of these tests as you can after your first reading of the PMBOK guide. The tests will expose knowledge gaps that you can go back and polish. You can also track your progress and readiness for the test.

Preferably, take the full-length mock test. The PMP exam is almost four hours long, which sounds daunting. A full-length mock test will improve your confidence for the actual test. Knowing what to expect should take the edge off the anxiety of taking a big test. Furthermore, you will be physically and psychologically prepared to complete the lengthy exam when the time comes.

5. Join A Study Group

Search online for PMP study groups in your area. You can also join online forums. A study group can help to make the preparation process more exciting.

Additionally, the study group or forum may have people who have already taken the test. Getting insights from someone who has taken the test can eliminate blind spots that you might not have known about until after taking the test.

Study groups are also an excellent opportunity to create or join networks with other aspiring or experienced project managers. 

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