Comparing project management certifications

Project management certifications provide an opportunity to both novice and experienced project managers to formally document their skills and experience. It’s a testament to their commitment to the profession and allows project managers prove their worth and keep up to date with the latest trends through obligatory continued education and contribution to the profession and its many communities.

Since it’s not always obvious what the differences between certifications is, what the requirements are and how each certification compares to different offerings, we’ve compiled this handy breakdown of certifications from the PMI, IPMA and Axelos in this handy summary.

Providers of project management certifications

Project Management Institute(PMI)

The Project Management Institute is, by far, the largest organization worldwide in project management. The institute originates from the US and offers certifications for project and program managers at a variety of levels:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
  • Program Management Professional (PgMP)
  • Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, Sixt Edition as well as the Project Management Competency Framework are the most important foundations for PMI certification.

International Project Management Association (IPMA)

The IMPA has its origins in Europe, with influences from German, Austrian, Swiss, French and UK sources. It’s represented by host organizations in most countries, and is especially strong in Europe but lesser known elsewhere in the world.

Project manager certifications are attained on 4 levels, after attaining a base certificate:

  • Base certificate (GPM)
  • Certified Project Management Associate (IPMA® Level D)
  • Certified Project Manager (IPMA® Level C)
  • Certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA® Level B)
  • Certified Project Director (IPMA® Level A)
  • Basics: Competency-Based Project Management (PM3) and International Competence Baseline (ICB 3.0)


Axelos is a UK-based joint venture between the British government and a private company, established to manage, develop and grow a variety of best practice methodologies, most import in our context the well-known PRINCE2 certifications.

PRINCE2 offers certifications in the form of:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation
  • PRINCE2 Practitioner

Target audiences

Project Management Institute (PMI)

  • CAPM: An entry-level certificate for project staff, prospective or junior project leads, or fresh graduates (or school leavers) with an interest in project management. It’s a valid precursor for the PMP.
  • PMP: The target audience is experienced project managers. The PMP is considered as the world’s most prestigious award for project managers.


  • Level A: aimed at managers responsible for project coordination, project control and project oversight
  • Level B: aimed at managers tasked with leading complex projects in all areas
  • Level C: aimed at managers leading non-complex projects, or supporting project management of complex projects
  • Level D: aimed at team members working on projects, providing an overview of all project management areas

Content differences for project management certifications

Project Management Institute (PMI)

  • The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) Guide describes project management in 10 knowledge areas and 49 processes aimed at professionally conducting a project.
  • The approach is very project-oriented with a strong emphasis on methods.
  • Agile aspects are integrated throughout the guide, and as of the sixth edition of the PMBoK Guide, an additional Agile Practice Guide is supplied that dives deeper into agile project management.
  • Guidelines and best practices can be applied to projects in all fields and industries.

International Project Management Association (IPMA)

  •  The International Competence Baseline (ICB) 3.0 describes project management in 46 competence elements a project manager should posess, made up out of 20 technical competences, 15 behavioral competences and 11 contextual competences.
  • Just as with PMI’s PMBoK Guide, the competencies can be applied to all types of projects across industries and sectors.

Axelos / PRINCE2

  • PRINCE2 stands for Projects In Controlled Environments and contains a detailed process model of what needs to be done end-to-end in project delivery.
  • There’s a focus on basic principles, with less emphasis on specific methods used, along with a heavy focus on tailoring principles to the project context.

Requirements for eligibility

Project Management Institute (PMI)

  • CAPM
    • 1 500 hours of participation in projects teams or 23 hours of training in the basics of project management
  • PMP
    • With a 4-year degree, at least 3 years of project management experience with over 4 500 hours in senior positions.
    • Without a 4-year degree, at least 4 years of project management experience, including over 7 500 hours in responsible positions.
    • Additionally, 35 hours of training in project management.


  • Level A: at least 5 years of experience in project or programme management, of which 3 years in line function and portfolio management of projects
  • Level B: at least 5 years of project management experience, of which 3 years in management functions of complex projects
  • Level C: at least 3 years of experience in project management, in responsible line functions for non-complex projects
  • Level D: school and vocational training as well as working experience

Popularity and certification costs

Number of certified individuals worldwide

  • Project Management Institute (PMI) – data as of March 2018
    • CAPM: ca. 35 000
    • PMP: ca. 840 000
    • PgMP: ca. 2 500
    • Total: over 900 000
  • IPMA – data as of EOY 2017
    • Level A: ca. 350
    • Level B: ca.13 500
    • Level C: ca. 50 000
    • Level D: ca. 135 000
    • Total: over 250 000
  • PRINCE2 – data as of EOY 2017
    • Total: over 1.1 million certified individuals

Certification costs

  • Project Management Institute (PMI)
    • CAPM: € 250
    • PMP: € 465
    • Discounts apply for PMI members
  • IPMA
    • Level B: € 2 070
    • Level C: € 1 637
    • Level D: € 675
    • Discounts apply for IPMA members
    • Foundation: € 180
    • Practitioner: € 310

Validity and recertification

  • Project Management Institute (PMI)
    • CAPM: 5 years
      • A new test suffices to recertify.
    • PMP: 3 years
      • Proof of 60 personal development units (PDUs) must be provided. PDUs can be attained by being active in project management, furthering education, participating in congresses or holding lectures, and publishing articles.
      • Recertification costs: € 120
  • IPMA
    • All levels: 5 years
      • Written proof of active engagement in project management is necessary, as well as a continued education, community participation, giving lectures and publishing publications.
      • Recertification costs:
        • Level B: € 428.00
        • Level C: € 321.00
        • Level D: € 267.50

Deciding on a certification to take

Project Management Institute (PMI)

  • Appreciated by clients and suppliers in the US and Asia.
  • PMP certification for experienced project managers that want to document their experience.
  • CAPM for junior project managers to express content knowledge.

International Project Management Association (IPMA)

  • Appreciated by European companies and communities
  • Comprehensive certifications that cover both hard and soft skills
  • Project Manager Level D: solid knowledge, but little experience in practice (equal to PMI’s CAPM)
  • Project Manager Level C: project manager with practical experience (corresponds to PMI’s PMP)
  • Senior Project Manager Level B: project manager with practical experience in complex projects

Axelos / PRINCE2

  • For companies heavily involved in IT or technology projects, or organizational change projects
  • Often, commonalities with other frameworks used by clients will be found when working within the IT industry
  • PRINCE2 Practitioner: expresses the ability to implement the PRINCE2 approach