Best Practices

20 Best Project Management Certifications & Courses for 2021

Jonathan Friedman
January 27, 2021
20 Best Project Management Certifications & Courses for 2021

Pursuing a degree in a specialized field takes more than a college degree. If you're looking for a career in project management, you'll need to go the extra mile to get your foot in the door. The talent pool for coveted positions is competitive, and employers want top-tier candidates. One way to set yourself apart from the rest of the competition is by attaining one of the best project management certifications. 

Is your goal to advance with your current employer? Are you coming into a company as a new hire? The best project management certifications will get you to the top of the list. It doesn't matter if you're on the business side or in technology. 

Employers desire deep thinkers capable of understanding complex processes. You must also have strong project management skills, communicate clearly, and effectively work with others. Teams represent an essential part of business development, and managing people is necessary. 

The success of every project is dependent upon delivering the best product or service. Whether internal or external, stakeholders' needs are vital to the team's success.

Are you someone who has what it takes to excel at project management? Keep reading to learn more about the top 20 programs to consider for your project management certifications. 

Why project management certification?

It's important to distinguish between product manager vs. project manager roles. Both can play a vital role in a company's success, but they have different responsibilities. Your project manager is responsible for overseeing projects that start as short-term in nature. 

There is a list of reasons you need to get your project management certifications from the highest-rated programs. All of the reasons lead back to being the best candidate for the role.

It's crucial to learn everything about your chosen field in any field. It makes you a subject matter expert and a respected voice within the company. When it's time to vie for a project manager role, certifications set you apart from the competition. 

Businesses want the best talent and the brightest minds working on their projects. Their ultimate goal is customer satisfaction. Are you a quick thinker, do you believe in innovative approaches, and can you take a project conception to completion?

What to look for in the best certification programs

Once you understand the importance of finding the best project management certifications, it's time to explore your options. Here is everything you need to know about the most sought-after programs. 

If you're seeking the best online project management certificate programs, we have you covered. Most certification courses offer self-paced classes that students can take anywhere. They last between a few weeks to a few years to complete.

Applicants with the right amount of education and experience may opt to forgo courses and go straight to the exam. If you're unsuccessful in passing the exam, you will have to repay the full fee for most, if not all, of the exams.

About our list

We only provide information on the programs in our list of 20 best project management certifications. Keep in mind that every employer has its own requirements and qualifications. In our education and experience section, we're referencing the certification qualifications and not the suggested careers. 

Project management positions have increased globally. Each industry and company have its specifications in terms of difficulty, impacting its salary scale. We have provided the average salaries for the United States.

The 20 best project management certifications of 2021

Now, here are the 20 best project management certifications and courses. Feel free to skip ahead.

  1. Project Management Professional (PMP)
  2. Program Management Professional (PgMP)
  3. Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)
  4. Project Management in IT Security (PMITS)
  5. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  6. Certified Project Director (CPD)
  7. Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)
  8. Certified Project Manager–IAPM
  9. Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  10. Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB)
  11. Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Certification (CSSGB)
  12. CompTIA Project+
  13. GPM-IPMA
  14. Master Project Manager (MPM)
  15. PRINCE2 Foundation/PRINCE2 Practitioner
  16. Professional in Project Management (PPM)
  17. Project Management Certificate (PMC)
  18. Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP)
  19. BVOP Certified Project Manager
  20. Associate in Project Management (APM)

Project management certification study group

1. Project Management Professional (PMP)

One of the best project management certifications is the Project Management Professional (PMP), which is issued by the Project Management Institution (PMP). The program sets the standard for individuals looking to boost their education in project management.

It's not a fluff certification. Applicants must have specific requirements to take the PMP exam to gain acceptance into the certification program. 

Education and experience

What can you do with a PMP certification?

If you're someone looking to join a team geared towards business process improvement projects, a PMP is essential to your career goals. As you gain more experience, you'll want to pursue additional certifications. 

Four positions to consider:

  1. Construction Project Manager
  2. Portfolio and Program Manager
  3. Project Manager Consultant
  4. Project Manager 

Explore different opportunities to find one in a field of interest. The project management industry has rewarding positions that only get better when it's in an area you desire to work in. Construction might not rank in your top 10 industries, but pharmaceuticals may have a greater attraction. 

The basics

2. Program Management Professional (PgMP)

You may wonder the difference between PMP and PgMP since they both fall under Program Management Professional. They're similar in terms of objectives. They both assist professionals in boosting their credentials.

The key difference is a PMP focus is on project management, while a PgMP is focused on program management. Is it recommended that an individual obtain both? The answer lies within your professional goals.

Obtaining both will boost your resume and expand your wealth of knowledge. Many see this program as the next step.

With this certification, the focus turns from managing a single project to overseeing multiple projects, if needed. The PgMP is beneficial to global implications. The person in this role requires training in dealing with multi-faceted concepts and effectively communicating across cultures.

Education and experience

The education and experience requirements for a PgMP look similar to the PMP certification. 

Four-year degree

High school plus Associate degree 

Experience must have been obtained within the past 15 years. 

The key differences to become eligible for the exam is the extensive application process that requires applicants to verify their work history and experience. 

What can you do with a PgMP certification?

The PgMP certification is useful when applying for high-level program and project manager positions. Consider these four examples. 

  1. Business Strategy Program Manager
  2. ITS Program Manager
  3. Senior Project Manager
  4. Program Implementation Manager

These exist lead roles with multiple functions across various industries. 

The basics

3. Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)

Before we get into the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP), it's essential to understand its project portfolio management (PPM).

In a project management department, there is collecting and storing data related to each project. This includes projects in process and those proposed but not yet executed. The PPM is a centralized location when all data and information on each project is housed.

The role of the PfMP is to oversee the projects through completion. The individual must have strong communication skills. They can manage more than one project at a time. Plus, they have excellent organizational skills.

The critical components of the exam include:

  1. Capacity and Capability Management
  2. Governance
  3. Life Cycle
  4. Risk Management
  5. Strategic Management
  6. Value Management
  7. Stakeholder Engagement

Individuals pursuing this certification should have a clear understanding of how portfolios work in the project management office's full scheme. Most often, they're PMA executives.

Education and experience

A person wanting to earn a PfMP certification should have the standard education requirements as other project management professionals in 1 & 2.

Plus:

High school plus Associate degree

Four-year college degree

These experiences had to have taken place within the 15 years leading up to the applicant applying for the program.

To keep your certification active, you must earn 60 professional development units every three years.

What can you do with a PfMP certification?

A PfMP certification is instrumental in the following roles.

  1. Chief Technology Officer
  2. Continuous Improvement Manager
  3. Leads Systems Engineer
  4. Product Manager

There is a wide range of positions you will qualify for in addition to these. Those positions cover a wide array of responsibilities.

The basics

4. Project Management in IT Security (PMITS)

PMITS is one of the best online project management certificate programs for professionals working in the IT field. With this certification, you'll enhance your opportunities to succeed in your chosen leadership roles. 

The certification courses include developing an IT systems team to developing an operations security IT plan. The objective is to elevate IT security professionals by promoting their analytical skills to lead projects involving security protocols.

Education and experience

Individuals pursuing this certification need to have a minimum of one year of experience working with Windows/Linux/Unix systems. IT Management experience in managing the following roles:

A minimum of 2 years of project management experience. 

What can you do with a PMITS certification?

  1. Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
  2. IT Project Manager
  3. Network/Cloud Manager
  4. Technology Director

The basics

5. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

If you're looking for the necessary IT Project Management certification, the CAPM is the way to go. This is one of the best project management certifications geared towards individuals at various stages in their career and is good to have as a part of their resume building strategy.


It is geared towards IT professionals looking to move into a project management role. This field is expected to grow quickly with new job creation over the next few years. 

Education and experience

Minimal requirements for this certification must get met. Applicants need: 

To maintain active certification, 15 PDUs must be earned every three years. 

What can you do with a CAPM certification?

The positions a CAPM certification is required include:

  1. Associate Project Manager
  2. Data Analyst
  3. Project Coordinator
  4. Technical Project Manager 

The basics

6. Certified Project Director (CPD)

A Certified Project Direct (CPD) is a project management certification that is recognized globally. The certification is geared towards executives with project management experience wishing to gain new accreditations. 

As technology grows, the way we visualize project management continues to evolve. The certification will demonstrate the holders' ability to assess risk management, develop project budgets, and predicting and managing the full scope of a project.  

Education and experience

Bachelor's degree from an accredited university; or a Master's degree or higher-level education. 

Applicants must also hold one of the following (verifiable) credentials.

A copy of the certification must be submitted.

What can you do with a CPD certification?

Most individuals pursuing a CPD certification already hold senior-level or executive positions. The certification is appealing to individuals in the following roles.

  1. Project Board Members
  2. Project Managers
  3. Project Sponsors
  4. Senior Stakeholders 

Business owners with a hands-on approach to project management may also be interested in obtaining this certification.

The basics

7. Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)

Project management certifications cover a large array of topics that may interest someone. A primary requirement for businesses is to have both business continuity and disaster relief plan. If this is an area of interest for you, a Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP) certification is something to explore.

The certification came about following the events of 9/11. The goal is to build leadership, management, and technical skills. 

Individuals hired for the knowledge backed by the certificate will work on teams facing leadership obstacles. They're also able to lead in the development of infrastructure projects.  

Education and experience

There are no set requirements for eligibility to take the exam. Some programs may suggest you invest in courses to prepare for the exam. Note: if you take the exam via EC Council, there is a non-refundable fee of $200.

What can you do with a CPMP certification?

Those individuals receiving a CPMP certification can use it to serve on project management teams in need of members with strong leadership and technical skills.

Look into positions for project managers. 

The basics

8. Certified Project Manager–IAPM

The International Association of Project Managers supports individuals currently in or seeking careers in project management. The IAPM certification for Certified Project Manager is geared towards professionals with a basic understanding of project management. 

The focus is on effectively planning, organizing, and implementing a project from start to finish. Although participants aren't required to have project management experience, it's suggested and will help them understand the content. 

Education and experience

There no prerequisites for the certified project manager certification. You may be required to take a training course before sitting for the actual exam. 

What can you do with an IAPM certification?

As a certified project manager, you're well on your way to building a resume that demonstrates your experience. Professionals with this certification should seek project manager positions in construction or information technology.

Other roles include:

  1. Project Engineer
  2. Operations Manager
  3. Assistant Project Manager

The basics

9. Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

The best project management certification for agile project management is Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). A ScrumMaster is responsible for managing teams and leading collaborations. The certification shows that you fully understand agile concepts and processes.

The benefit of having the CSM certification is you're prepared to work in multiple industries worldwide. If you work for a global reach company, you're better positioned for advancement into project leadership. 

Education and experience

Education requirements for the certification include:

A basic understanding of Scrum and Agile methodology.

This course requires in-person courses taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®), or private coaching from a Certified Agile Coach (CAC). Also, you'll need the following:

Upon completing the course, you'll need to submit a license agreement for access to the exam. The certification remains in effect by earning Scrum Education Units (SEU) and renewing your certification every two years.

What can you do with a CSM certification?

Once you have earned a certification as a ScrumMaster, the key position is a Scrum Master. Other roles include:

  1. Agile Transformation/Sr. Scrum Master
  2. Associate Scrum Master
  3. Marketing Scrum Master 

The basics

10. Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB)

Companies that are looking for serious organizational change management invest in building Six Sigma teams. Team members often come from inside the organization. They're diverse in nature because they pull in individuals from different departments with different levels of skill sets.

To become a Six Sigma Black Belt, you must undergo training to achieve the results the company is seeking successfully. Individuals in this role require a skill set to utilize Six Sigma tools and incorporate statistical data to measure results.  

Once you achieve a black belt level, you can branch into different areas. The certification is a beneficial asset to your resume, coupled with other education and experience. 

Education and experience

No education requirements for CSSBB certification. Other requirements include:

What can you do with a CSSBB certification?

Once an individual reaches a Six Sigma Black Belt level, they can move into the following careers.

  1. Six Sigma Black Belt Project Manager
  2. Quality Manager
  3. Quality Assurance Manager
  4. Process Improvement Manager
  5. Operations Manager 

The next level after a Black Belt is Master Black Belt.

The basics

11. Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Certification (CSSGB)

The Certified Six Sigma Green Belt (CSSGB) is a lower-level certification than the Black Belt. This program is recommended for an individual who will play a team member's role and not a leader. It's excellent preparation for those who want to become a project manager one day. 

You may hear the term Lean Green Belt as you pursue this certification. The two have similar approaches that get you to the same conclusion. In some instances, Lean methodologies should precede Six Sigma Green Belt training in that it helps the person working in the role to streamline processes.  

The CSSGB key role is to assist the Black Belt team in identifying areas of interest for its focus.

Before sitting for a Certification, candidates must have a full understanding of the Six Sigma Green Belt phases, which include:

If you require a course to prepare for the exam, they offer in-person (when available), virtual, and self-paced courses available.

Education and experience

No formal education is required.

Three years of experience from a paid full-time position. Unpaid internships cannot be used towards this requirement.

Work experience must include a minimum of one Six Sigma Green Belt project. The individual will also need to pass an exam to show their competency in the six areas of the Green Belt Body of Knowledge.

What can you do with a CSSGB certification?

With the CSSGB and successful completion of multiple projects, you can use your certification and experience to move into these types of positions:

  1. Compliance Structural Engineer
  2. Lean Six Sigma Consultant
  3. Process Development Engineer
  4. Senior IT Project Manager
  5. Warehouse Operations Manager

The basics

12. CompTIA Project+

CompTIA the best online project management certificate program for Project+, an entry-level certification. What makes this program stand out from the rest is that it's designed based on current industry needs and standards.

Education and experience

The CompTIA Project+ certification doesn't have education requirements. 

In terms of experience, it's recommended that you have one year of project experience in one of the following capacities:

There are no specific requirements for the project size.

What can you do with a CompTIA Project+ certification?

The CompTIA Project+ certification is designed for professionals seeking the following roles: 

  1. Project Coordinator/Manager
  2. Project Team Member
  3. Business Analyst
  4. Manager, Director, Team Leader

The basics

13. GPM-IPMA

German Association for Project Management (GPM) is a branch of the International Project Management Association (IPMA). The certification provides project management certification for a global audience. The certification has four levels:

Each level comes with its proficiency and is globally recognized.

Education and experience

Level D is the entry point. There are no requirements. However, to apply for the next level, you must first complete the introductory level requirements.  

The basics

14. Master Project Manager (MPM)

The Master Project Manager (MPM) certification is a certification that any professional can obtain. However, it's beneficial in the IT industry when individuals want to move into project management. 

Education and experience

What can you do with an MPM certification?

The MPM is a certification for professionals looking to shift gears within their company. If you're looking for a project manager role, this certification will help demonstrate your qualifications.

The basics

15. PRINCE2 Foundation/PRINCE2 Practitioner

Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE2) are prevalent in the United Kingdom. They do exist in the US, but not at the same level. A PRINCE2 professional's traits include their ability to maintain consistency throughout the life-cycle of a project.

Positions typically require a highly skilled individual who can move a project from start to finish based on the business's expectations and perimeters. 

Education and experience

Pay close attention to the requirements for these exams.

You will need at least one for the following project management certifications or course:

To expedite qualifying for the exam, review the above certification requirements and difficulty level. Depending on your knowledge and skillset, it may be more comfortable and less expensive to take a lower-level exam. 

What can you do with a PRINCE2 certification?

PRINCE2 certifications get recognized globally and used for several positions, including:

  1. Customer Project Manager
  2. Implementation Project Manager
  3. Innovation Delivery Manager
  4. National Senior EQA Scheme Officer
  5. PRINCE2® Consultant

The basics

16. Professional in Project Management (PPM)

A Professional in Project Management (PPM) is a certification that's a bonus on your resume when seeking employment with a new company. A business focused on building project management teams will look for individuals with a combination of education, experience, and specialized certifications.

It shows that you're invested in elevating your knowledge and committed to the processes involved in working on and leading teams. Successfully earning a PPM certification shows you have mastered the best project management principles.

Education and experience

No formal education is required for a PPM certification. However, it does require experience in a project management role.

Candidates will still be considered if they can demonstrate knowledge of project management methodologies.

Certificates remain valid for five years. The certificate can be renewed by retaking the exam or completing continuing education units (CEUs).

What can you do with a PPM certification?

PPM certifications have multiple levels. Each level plays a part in the career paths you can take. A few careers to consider.

  1. Project Coordinator, Manager, and Sr. Project Manager
  2. Program Coordinator, Manager, Director
  3. Portfolio Manager, Director
  4. PMO Coordinator, Analyst, Director
  5. Project Planner
  6. Business or Risk Analyst 

GAQM offers the best online project management certificate programs for PPMs.

The basics

17. Project Management Certificate (PMC)

If you're someone interested in project management and have limited experience, consider enrolling in a project management certification course. Choose a program that will prepare you for a bright future.

The best online project management programs include the one offered by Harvard Extension School. After completing the program, participants can expect to comprehend taking a project from start to finish entirely.

They will learn critical principals in project management, including:

To earn certification, students will need to earn 16 graduate-level credits. Maintain a B-average across all courses and complete the program in three years or less. 

Education and experience

No prerequisites exist for this program. Interested individuals enroll online.

What can you do with a PMC certification?

  1. Program Manager
  2. Project Manager
  3. IT Managers
  4. Logistics and Supply Chain Managers 

The basics

18. Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP)

The Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) is one of the best agile project management certifications. It is administered by the Project Management Institute. Additionally, it is considered advanced agile certification.

One of the major perks of this agile certification is that it is internationally recognized.

Education and experience

The is a certification open to anyone interested in agile project management. Minimum requirements include:

What can you do with a ACP certification?

Holders of a ACP certification find success in the following roles:

  1. Agile Transformation/Sr. Scrum Master
  2. Associate Scrum Master
  3. Marketing Scrum Master 

The basics

19. BVOP Certified Project Manager

The Business Valued Principles (BVOP) is a new-age approach to Agile methodology. Within the certified project manager certification, participants can learn modern techniques for project management.

The program is relatively new and riding on its successes in the United Kingdom. The certification basis is rooted in the popular and successful Agile framework. 

The certification is designed for a select group of professionals, including:

The intended outcome for those obtaining the certification is heightened awareness of processes and procedures. Project managers will lead teams to reach goals and provide excellent results for all stakeholders.

Education and Experience

No educational prerequisites exist for the certification. The expectation for applicants is to have advanced knowledge of the topics covered on the exam. They should also have a clear understanding of terminology related to project management.

In terms of work experience, it's requested but not required that applicants have project management experience. They also suggest certifications in the field.

What you can do with a BVOP certification?

A BVOP certification is geared towards individuals currently in project management roles. Careers and those mentioned above include project managers in industries of your choice. 

The basics

20. Associate in Project Management (APM)

The Associate in Project Management (APM) certification is perfect for anyone interested in pursuing a project management career. The use of project managers is expanding into industries that never used this role before. Keep in mind and project management duties lean towards individual projects and implementations.

Therefore, a company may only have one or two projects per year. Instead of having a department, teams get assembled on an as-needed basis. This approach provides opportunities for subject matter experts to take a leadership role in development teams.

Taking an online project management course to earn certification will help you learn the role's principles. It will also show your commitment to being a part of a project.

This entry-level certification demonstrates the basic requirements for someone interested in project management. 

Education and experience

No education requirements to meet for the APM exam. Applicants don't have to have any project management experience.  

What can you do with an APM certification?

Although the APD is more about personal development and career experience, you could qualify for one of these positions.

  1. Assistant Project Manager
  2. Junior Project Manager
  3. Program or Project Management Associate
  4. Project Management Analyst

The basics

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 

Where can I start with project management certifications?

 

First and foremost, we advise you do your research. The first question you should ask is, what career do you seek? Then, take a look at people that are successful in that career. You can search LinkedIn.


Determine what project management certification they hold. It wouldn't hurt to even reach out to the people identified and ask them if they believe the certification helped them in their career.


How can I prepare for project management certifications?

 

There are different ways that you can prepare for certification in project management. Some people prefer to study at recognized institutions, while others prefer to study independently.

 

Whatever approach you decide to take, it's essential to select the best project management certification for your desired career or industry. We advise that you also consider your return on investment (ROI). How much does the certification cost, and how much more salary will you earn after completing the certification?

 

How long does it take to get a project management certification?

 

It depends on the project management certification you intend to pursue.

It's time to get certified

Whatever your reason for seeking the best project management certifications, you'll distinguish yourself from those professionals ready to step into the role, regardless of the industry.

No matter the certification you choose, select TrueNxus as your project management software. Start you free 14-day trial today.