Should I study PRINCE2 or CAPM?

It is a commonly asked question among those that have little to no experience who are only just beginning their project management career: Should I study PRINCE2 or CAPM? Both the PRINCE2 Foundation and CAPM certifications are aimed at helping you start your career, laying a solid base of fundamental skills and knowledge from where to build a career. All of these factors mean that it can be a tough and often confusing decision to have to make.

What about experience?

The reason that PRINCE2 and CAPM are mentioned together in this regard is that neither of the certifications require the student to have previous project management experience to undertake the training. The Practitioner level of PRINCE2 does, of course, require you to pass the Foundation level exam first, but there are no prerequisites to writing the PRINCE2 Foundation Exam.

CAPM also requires you to demonstrate 23 hours of training before sitting the exam, but this will obviously only help you to understand the material that the exam relates to and will ensure that you are fully prepared when you do sit the exam.

Choose your training path

After gaining the PRINCE2 Foundation certification, you will be eligible to carry on to the Practitioner level. When done through classroom training, it is possible to gain both the Foundation and Practitioner certifications through a five-day course with the Foundation course and exam covered in the first three days and the Practitioner level covered over the following two days, If you are studying PRINCE2 online, however, there is an extended timeframe (typically 6-12 months) in which you will be able to complete the course before sitting the exam.

Many aspiring Project Managers choose to bypass the CAPM certification when looking to gain PMI credentials and study PMP straight away (CAPM and PMP are both awarded by PMI) however, the experience needed to gain the PMP certification can be daunting. Hence, those looking to gain a certification that will help them gain the necessary experience that will allow them to undertake the PMP exam choose to study CAPM first.

A common language

One of the more confusing aspects of project management is that different organisations use different methods, such as PMP and PRINCE2. This means that the standards and terminology differ from organisation to organisation and from certification to certification. That makes it harder to follow a PRINCE2 certification up with CAPM and vice versa, since the language and methods differ.

Thus, it is a much better idea to choose a project management method and follow through with your studies before adding a different certification to it. You will have a strong understanding of the processes and language used in the method that you have mastered, ensuring that the new information does not get muddled up with what you have already learned.

The UK market

PRINCE2 is without a doubt the leading project management method in the UK as it was developed to be used by the UK government to aid with their IT projects and has since spread to every sector of business throughout the world. It is considered to be the method that all other project management methods are measured against as far as quality of training and project success is concerned.

CAPM has far less of a following in the UK, but is growing steadily as more organisations become aware of the method and are endeavouring to take on bigger and more complicated projects. As it grows, CAPM Project Managers will become more in demand, but it would seem that, for the time being, PRINCE2 remains the preferred certification by employers and Project Mangers alike.

A matter of geography

A prevailing question to consider is where you will be working as a Project Manager. Whilst PRINCE2 is wildly popular throughout the UK and practiced in over 50 countries worldwide, it is not as popular in others. It would certainly be the method of choice for those starting a project management career in one of these countries.

However, in the United States PRINCE2 has a far smaller following and is not as well known (as with CAPM in the UK). US-based Project Managers are almost always required to hold a PMP certification before being considered for a position as the hours of experience and educational prerequisites are considered to be a means of ensuring that only quality and fully trained Project Managers will undertake an organisation’s projects.

Consider your career progression

Choosing either PRINCE2 or CAPM to start your career does obviously not mean that when you have finished your studies you will be expected to apply only the one method. Quite the contrary is in fact true. Adding multiple certifications to your CV will only increase your career prospects and, ultimately, can only effect your career progression in a positive way.

Base your decision on the sector that you will be working in. A little research will quickly teach you which certifications are preferred in which fields. Browse through job boards and have a look at which companies list PRINCE2 as a prerequisite and do the same for CAPM. This will narrow your decision down considerably and could make the decision just a little easier.

If, in the end, you decide to pursue a PRINCE2 certification, study the PRINCE2 Foundation course, write the exam and then follow through with the PRINCE2 Practitioner course and exam. This will not only show that you have gained a higher level of competency, but demonstrates dedication towards the project management profession.

Likewise, if you decide to study CAPM, use it as a stepping stone in order to build up your experience and project management hours to eventually gain a PMP certification. He higher you are able to travel on the project management certification ladder, the better.

Then again, if you study both PRINCE2 and CAPM, you will have a world of options available to you. One can never be over-certified. Especially when you are looking to make a name for yourself as you start your project manager career.

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