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PMP vs. PRINCE2 Certificates

~ By Nader Khorrami Rad

Senior lecturer in front of his class

What's the difference between the PMP and PRINCE2 certifications? Which one should I choose? Which one's better for my career?

Well, there are a lot of questions like this; after all, being certified seems more and more important these days. I'm going to provide you with as much information as I can, in this comparison, hoping you can make a more educated decision.

Differences in a Nutshell

Well, in a table actually! There are two common certificates for PRINCE2, the PRINCE2 Foundation (the simple one), and the PRINCE2 Practitioner (the advanced one). I'll compare these two with the PMP certification.

PMPPRINCE2 FoundationPRINCE2 Practitioner
SubjectPM KnowledgePM Method
Deals with question typeHow?What? When? Whom?
Most common inUSA, Canada, Middle East, AustraliaUK, Europe, Australia
Source of the examMainly PMBOK Guide, but not limited to itThe official manual, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2
Number of questions200758x10
Type of questionsMultiple choiceMultiple choiceObjective testing
AbstractAbstractScenario based
Passmark62%50%55%
Note: passing is not based on a pre-defined value, and it's not publicly available, but said to be close to 62%.
Duration240 minutes60 minutes150 minutes
Extra time for taking the exam in a second languageNo15 minutes30 minutes
Open book?NoNoYes
Exam placeExam centre (Prometric)Exam centre, any other approved place, or online
PrerequisitesAt least 3 years of experience in the project management field (5 years if you don't have a four-year degree)Formal training might be requiredBeing certified as PRINCE2 Foundation
At least 4,500 hours experience in leading and directing projects (7,500 hours if you don't have a four-year degree)Formal training might be required
35 hours of formal project management education
Registering for the examBy registering at pmi.org, and taking the exam in Prometric exam centres around the worldUsually by registering at an accelerated training organisation and taking the exam online (wherever you are), at an exam centre, or at any other place you've arranged with your training organisation
Renewing the certificateEvery 3 years, by PDUsIt doesn't expire!Every 3 to 5 years, by a relatively shorter exam
Exam cost€465/$555~€270/$365~€360/$485
Price is fixedYesNo, price is different among training organisations
Cost of the required courseStarting as low as €40 for online coursesStarting as low as €70 for online courses

OK, now we can discuss it in more detail.

What's PMP?

PMP is short for Project Management Professional, and is a professional certificate from PMI (Project Management Institute). PMI is a USA based non-for-profit organisation focused on project management, which has developed and published a number of standards, including:

  • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
  • The Standard for Program Management.
  • The Standard for Portfolio Management.
  • Organisational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®).

And also a number of practice standards and frameworks:

  • Practice Standard for Project Risk Management.
  • Practice Standard for Earned Value Management.
  • Practice Standard for Project Configuration Management.
  • Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures.
  • Practice Standard for Scheduling.
  • Project Manager Competency Development Framework.

There's no doubt that PMBOK Guide is the most famous standard among these, and people are using it (or trying to use it) worldwide; that's why it even has three extensions:

  • Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide.
  • Construction Extension to the PMBOK Guide.
  • Government Extension to the PMBOK Guide.

These help you use the PMBOK Guide more effectively in certain application areas.

PMI has recently added a line of practice guides, which includes:

  • Managing Changes in Organisations: A Practice Guide.

These are a great source of knowledge for everyone involved in the project management field, and you should definitely be serious about using them.

PMI also has a number of certifications. Once you are interested to, and have the requirements, you can take the exams and you will be awarded with globally recognised certificates upon passing the exams, which is great, not only because you can easily prove your knowledge, but also because in the process of preparing for the exams, you will learn a lot and you will have to fill in a lot of gaps in your knowledge. These are the PMI's certifications:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)® - as you might guess, this is about the PMBOK Guide, but you should know that the exam questions are about the project management body of knowledge in general, and the PMBOK Guide is just a part of it; well, an important part.
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® - a simple form of PMP.
  • Program Management Professional (PgMP)®.
  • Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)SM.
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® - yes, there's no standalone publication for this yet, but there's a syllabus and they award certifications.
  • PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)®.
  • PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)® - lookout all of you project planners out there, this is useful for you.
  • OPM3® Professional Certification.

Well, that's all. Let's now take a look at PRINCE2.

What are PRINCE2 Certifications?

PRINCE2 is a project management methodology previously owned by the UK's Cabinet Office. PRINCE2, among other "Best Practices" are now owned by AXELOS, a new joint venture company in the UK. This "Best Practice" family consist of the following:

  • PRINCE2 - project management.
  • MSP - program management.
  • MoP - portfolio management.
  • M_o_R - risk management.
  • MoV - value management.
  • P3O - project, program, and portfolio management offices (PMO).
  • P3M3 - project, program, and portfolio management maturity model.
  • ITIL - IT service management.

And of course, there are exams and certifications for all of them; usually in two levels of Foundation and Practitioner.

There are three levels of certification for PRINCE2:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation - it's the simple one.
  • PRINCE2 Practitioner - it's the important one.
  • PRINCE2 Professional - well, it's just too hard!

When people are talking about PRINCE2 certifications, they usually refer to the PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner. The former is easier than PMP and it's unfair to compare them, while the latter is as hard as PMP, or as some people believe, even harder than PMP. The main source for both the Foundation and Practitioner exams is an official publication named "Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2." I'll cover both PRINCE2 certifications in this article.

Different Viewpoints on the PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2

You should know that there's a big difference between the PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2. The PMBOK Guide is a prescriptive knowledge, while PRINCE2 is a descriptive methodology. PRINCE2 answers WHAT, WHEN, and WHOM questions, while PMBOK Guide answers HOW questions.

So, which one do you need? Obviously both of them!

Just take a look at the PMBOK Guide 5th Edition, page 2, "This standard is a guide rather than a specific methodology. One can use different methodologies and tools (e.g. agile, waterfall, PRINCE2) to implement the project management framework." And there's a similar statement in the official PRINCE2 manual, pages 230 and 231, which also mentions the PMBOK Guide. Therefore, these two standards are not competitors, you need both of them (or similar replacements for each of them) to be able to manage your projects successfully.

Where are They Used in the World?

Well, PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2 are not competitors, but most people do not believe so, and that's why many people are trying to decide which one is better for them; which is a wrong question! None of them replaces the other one, they are different things. But anyway, each of them are better known in different countries. PMBOK and PMP are better known in the USA, Canada, Middle East, and Australia, while PRINCE2 is better known in the UK, Europe, and Australia.

How's the Exams?

The big difference between the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam and the other two is that the Practitioner exam questions are based on a scenario. The exam papers describe a project and you have to answer different questions based on that scenario. The other two exams are a collection of normal abstract multiple choice questions which are completely independent.

Passing the PRINCE2 Foundation exam is the easiest among these three. The PMP and the PRINCE2 Practitioner are in the same level; some people believe that the PMP exam is harder, and others believe that PRINCE2 Practitioner is harder.

What's the Prerequisites?

Not everyone can take the exams! Almost all of them require you to pass a standard course, either online, or in a physical classroom. PRINCE2 Foundation doesn't have any other prerequisite, and PRINCE2 Practitioner has only one more: being certified as PRINCE2 Foundation. PMP exam has more prerequisites though; you need to have a certain amount of relative experience.

How to Register for the Exam

OK, let's say you've decided to take the exam and you're ready; how should you register to take the exam? The training organisations have an important role in your PRINCE2 certification process; you normally cannot take the exam directly from AXELOS. So, be careful with the organisation you choose. And by the way, the accelerated training organisations are allowed to set their own prices, that's why you see different prices in different websites.

The PMP exam on the other hand, is very straightforward; you go to the pmi.org website, apply and pay, and they give you access to book the exam in the Prometric website as soon as your application is accepted.

Cost!

And yes, they cost you both time, and money. But don't worry, it's worth it.

For the PMP exam, you should pay €465/$555 if you're not a member. You can simply pay €97/$129 to become a member and the exam price would become €340/$405.

The PRINCE2 exams do not have a fixed price; it depends on the training organisation you've chosen. It's usually around €270/$365 for the PRINCE2 Foundation and €360/$485 for the PRINCE2 Practitioner, excluding the cost of the course.

You might need to pay a price for the courses in all three cases, which usually starts at about €40 for the most affordable online PMP courses and €70 for the most affordable PRINCE2 courses.

In the case of PRINCE2 Practitioner, you should also pay a fee for renewing your certificate by taking a short exam. You would also like to have the official publications. You should buy the PRINCE2 publications separately, but you can download all the PMI publications for free, once you become a member.

Source of the Exam

The source of the PRINCE2 exams is the official manual, "Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2." The main source of the PMP exam is the "PMBOK Guide", but the exam is not limited to the guide and you need to have a broader knowledge. Therefore, you should read a PMP exam preparation book or/and take a good-enough online/classroom course.

Conclusion

OK, I hope you've found all the information you were looking for. If you're going to decide, I strongly suggest you remember that PRINCE2 and PMBOK Guide are not competitors, and you'd better learn both of them. In case of getting certified, why not get both types of certifications? If you would like to, this is my suggestion:

  1. Learn both PRINCE2 and PMBOK Guide in an introductory level.
  2. Learn PRINCE2 more seriously.
  3. Take and pass the PRINCE2 Foundation exam.
  4. Learn PMBOK Guide super-seriously.
  5. Take and pass the PMP exam.
  6. Learn PRINCE2 super-seriously.
  7. Take and Pass the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam.

And don't stop there! There;s a lot more to learn, including:

  • Agile methods such as Scrum.
  • Programme management.
  • Portfolio management.

And you can also improve your theme knowledge and techniques, such as risk management, benefits management, configuration management, scheduling, etc.

Good luck.


Nader Khorrami Rad is a project management expert with 13 years of experience. A PMP, PRINCE2 Practitioner, AgilePM Foundation, CSM and PSM-I certified civil engineer with a Philosophy of Science master's degree. He is the author of more than 40 books. Connect with him on Twitter @KhorramiRad, or read his profile on Management Plaza


Comments (6)

Topic: PMP vs. PRINCE2 Certificates
4/5 (8)
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5th August 2016 8:12am
Ashok (Mumnao) says...
Which one is more preferable in Australia, PMP or Prince2
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6th August 2016 11:36am
Duncan (London) says...
I'd suggest studying the industry sector in which you'd like to work to see which qualification is preferred.

I'm led to believe that PRINCE2 is a popular choice in Australia and may help improve your chances of landing a job there.

If possible, do both PRINCE2 and PMP. They compliment each other in my opinion as somebody that has done both. It's also worth looking at an Agile PM qualification.
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16th November 2015 4:25pm
Omzy (Toronto) says...
Good summary but again, this is just another series of certifications obtained through rote memorization. Only after you've been thrown into a project fire pit will you truly learn how to plan and execute. The theory is important, but the manner in which the credential is obtained will need to change if we want to have quality PMs in the market. They need to integrate a series of practical scenarios into the equation, measured not by a series of multiple-choice Q&A but through some sort of live group-based sessions. #rantover.
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6th May 2015 7:01am
Sammy says...
Great. Another "certification" that means memorizing, regurgitating and proving you can apply what you've memorized. This won't make you good at managing projects. Unfortunately the whole world's high on certification nonsense at the moment.
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13th September 2016 2:24am
Mikey (UK) says...
I agree that certification is based on memorizing and regurgitating just like university education, but it still provides a structured way of knowing that someone is passionate about a subject. The difference between someone who is certified and not certified e.g. in CAD is the speed of modelling. Plus, it helps guys that are just getting into the industry, gives a broader view of the subject.
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3rd October 2014 5:54am
mingpalace says...
Both. Do both. PRINCE2 is not a body of knowledge (BOK). PRINCE2 is the framework that spells out exactly what needs to be done, by whom, and by when. So without PRINCE2 you won't know how to run projects. PMP is a body of knowledge and gives range of tools and knowledge that can be used for project management, but does not give the processes like PRINCE2 does.

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