There are many different types of project management course and their relevance to you will depend on the stage you’re at in your career, and which qualifications you have already.
Project teams have many roles, and there are courses that are suitable for project administrators, project managers, programme management office staff, programme managers and IT specialists. Some of these are courses in a particular area, such as project planning, finance or risk management. However, most courses in the project area are wider than this, simply because projects require a broad range of skills and knowledge.
For this reason, courses that are based upon project management methodologies, such as PRINCE2 or Agile, can be valuable in that they cover a broad spectrum of activities. In addition, they can provide a certification route for the career project manager or administrator. So let’s look at some of the courses in terms of what they cover, whether they have an underlying methodology, and what qualifications can be gained.
PRINCE2 (which abbreviated to PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is probably the best-known methodology, which combines a clear and universally recognised qualification route. The PRINCE2 Foundation level covers the method and its principles in broad outline. It’s a great qualification for project administrators and others, working in an organisation where PRINCE2 is used as the project method. Because no previous project experience is required, it’s a good preparation for those just moving into the project arena.
The next level is the PRINCE2 Practitioner course which is only available to those who have passed the Foundation level. This is more demanding, in that it requires students to demonstrate that they can tailor the method to specific projects and to show an understanding as to how the method can be applied to meet practical requirements. It’s not a walk in the park – but once gained, PRINCE2 certification can be a passport to excellent opportunities because it is so widely recognised.
Project Management Professional isn’t a prescriptive project method; rather, it is a means of demonstrating expertise in various aspects of project management. You have to have 35 hours of project management training to enrol as a PMP member and there are other experience requirements. People who already have PRINCE2 sometimes take this as an extra qualification. This is an international qualification but probably isn’t as widely recognised in the UK as PRINCE2.
Agile is a philosophy as much as a method, but it has structured qualifications at Foundation and Practitioner level, and you need to have the Foundation certificate before progressing to Practitioner. The foundation covers project management areas such as risk and cost estimation while the Practitioner focuses further on achieving project objectives and understanding the project lifecycle.
Initially from the same stable as PRINCE2, Managing Successful Programmes, or MSP, is aimed at larger organisations with a need to manage multiple projects. It looks at how programmes differ from individual projects and takes a more strategic look at management. It’s favoured by many Programme Management Office (PMO) administrators and managers, as well as higher level Portfolio Managers. The more senior managers often have PRINCE2 qualifications and have moved from managing single projects to portfolios of projects. Like PRINCE2 and Agile, it has Foundation and Practitioner levels.
Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is run by the Project Management Institute and is another widely recognised qualification. This seeks to develop project managers so that they can move up the career path and start managing larger, more complex and more critical projects. There is a standard CAPM method, covering risk management, the project lifecycle and management techniques. Certification is exam based and there are entrance requirements for CAPM courses.
This stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It’s a best practice method which links five key areas of IT service design and delivery. The reason that it’s often allied to project management methods is that so many projects are IT based. It has the familiar Foundation and Practitioner structure, but beyond these, it also offers a range of specialist courses and certificates. This method is widely used in IT departments and service companies, often in combination with a project management methodology such as PRINCE2.
When choosing a course, look at the qualifications that are most commonly required for the types of job you are interested in. Check too, that the courses are on offer in a location that is accessible, or as packages that can be taken online.