Adapted from a paper produced for asapm's PM Cert program, © 2003 by Dr. Lewis Ireland, Clarksville, TN.
Published here June 2007.

Introduction | The Beneficiaries of Project Management Certification
Organizations and Customers | Professional Societies and the Project Management Community
The Public | The Certifying Organization
Value of Knowledge-Based versus Competence-Based Certification | Summary

Lewis Ireland is a senior project management consultant, President of asapm and Charter Life Member. Lew served in the US Army, advancing from private to lieutenant colonel, earning five medals and several certificates for achievements. His service was marked by unique assignments in Germany, South Vietnam, and Ethiopia that gave him exposure to different cultures and customs. However, he feels that his greatest achievements have been in helping others grow and advance in their work environment, particularly in project management. He now divides his time between consulting and writing project management books. He can be reached at
See also the asapm web site at:


Our goal with this paper is to assert the value of project management certification by considering who benefits from it, who provides it, and the standard upon which it is based. Anyone giving even slight attention to project management knows that certification is a "big thing". Between 1996 and 2000, as PM certification became popular (and companies had money to spend), few people seemed to question its cost, ROI, or the basis for evaluating competence. Today, companies are rightfully challenging these and other value factors, as are individuals, professional societies, and others who might benefit from properly certified project managers.

"The worth of a thing is what it will bring."

"Certification, degrees, and other qualifications are just hunting licenses.
They do not guarantee anyone work, but give a person the right to hunt for that work."

--Dr. David I. Cleland, Professor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh, c.1986

As these two quotes suggest, the value of project management certification depends on the perception of its worth from different perspectives: those who are buying the skills of a competent (certified) person, and those who are paying for the "I'm certified!" credential. At this point, it's worth reminding ourselves of the basic definitions.

  • Value: An amount considered to be a suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return for goods or services.
  • Certification: The authentication of one's qualifications or the act of certifying.
  • To certify: To guarantee as meeting a standard.
  • Standard: A degree or level of excellence.[1]

Based on these definitions, I will examine the three factors affecting the value of project management certification, namely: The Beneficiaries; The Certifiers; and The Standards.


1. From The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition
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