PMP vs PRINCE2: How to select the right qualification

Project management has quickly become one of the core business competencies due to the benefits it offers. In addition to guiding organizations to choose projects which contribute the most to business strategy, it ensures faster, cheaper, and less risky execution that delivers business benefits.

To achieve these benefits, organizations need to have the right project managers on board.

In addition to expertise and knowledge, certifications are factored in the selection process. This is because certified project managers are perceived to have a better grasp of project management discipline and can successfully deliver projects.

Of the many project management certifications available, two stand out: PRINCE2® and PMP®. Both are leading and internationally recognized qualifications. However, choosing between them can be confusing.

The following lines will introduce you to both certifications as well as detail their differences to help you make the right decision.

A Quick Look at PMP Certification

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is a popular project management certification. In fact, its provider, the Project Management Institute (PMI), states it is held and maintained by over a million project managers in 200 countries.

There are many reasons as to why you should consider becoming PMP certified. Here are some of the top benefits this credential has to offer.

  • Higher Earning Potential – One of the long-term payoffs of the PMP certification is a higher earning power. Certified project managers in the U.S. for instance enjoy a 25% higher salary than non-certified counterparts.
  • Industry Recognition – PMP certification holders can work in any location and any industry. This is because they have knowledge and skills which allow them to complete projects on time and within a budget.
  • Networking Opportunities – PMI arranges frequent meetings which allow PMP certification holders to meet up and earn Professional Development Units (PDUs). There are other communities available both online and offline which help in building professional networks.

What is PRINCE2?

PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE2) is a structured project management method provided by AXELOS. It comprises seven principles, themes, and processes which can be tailored according to projects regardless of type or size.

The method further ensures the success of projects by ensuring control over project resources and effectively managing business and project risks.

If you’re interested in pursuing the PRINCE2 certification, here are some of the main benefits you can reap.

  • Stronger Project Management Career – PRINCE2 testifies to a project manager’s reliability. It ensures their ability to deliver to budget, quality, and time. Moreover, it increases the confidence of stakeholders in the project’s success.
  • Flexible Working Experience – PRINCE2 certified professionals are experts on cross functional working. The method supports engagement with supporting teams to ensure cooperation and the delivery of mutual benefits.
  • More Certifications – One of the benefits of this certification is that it’s related to other AXELOS certifications such as MoP Portfolio Management Certifications. You may also qualify for certain exemptions while preparing for other certifications.

PMP vs. PRINCE2 – The Similarities and Differences

Both project management certifications share a few common factors:

  • Process Oriented – Both qualifications are process oriented. They focus on following defined set of processes to achieve better results.
  • Common Parameters – Both qualifications agree upon common set of project management parameters, including scope, time, budget, risks, and quality.
  • Complementary Concepts – Conceptually, both qualifications complement each other despite few terminologies being different.

The similarities, however, end there. The following are the main differences between the PMP certification and the PRINCE2 certification.

1) Approach to Project Management

Both certifications have a different take on project management. Here are some of the main differences in this regard.

  • Standard vs. Approach – PMP is a standard whereas PRINCE2 is a method. The first provides project management good practices, tools and techniques, whereas the latter has a practical approach as it provides detailed, step-by-step guidance on delivering a successful project with clear processes, steps and templates.
  • Descriptive vs. Prescriptive –Further, PMP is descriptive. It describes various techniques such as how to develop schedules using the Critical Path Method, or how to perform an Earned Value Analysis. On the other hand, PRINCE2 is prescriptive. It tells exactly what needs to be done. While it makes references to various techniques, it does not explain them in detail.
  • Role of the Project Manager – PMP deems the project manager responsible and accountable for a typical project. PRINCE2, however, holds the Project Board accountable for a project. As for the project manager, they are responsible for executing a project stage-by-stage and delivering results, as per the authority provided by the Board.
  • Project Success Criteria – Both qualifications consider scope, time, and cost as basic criteria for measuring project success. However, PRINCE2 adds achieving project benefits as the most important criterion. The method provides a definitive approach to develop effective business cases, and to ensure project benefits during and after the completion of projects.
  • Project Lifecycle – PRINCE2 follows the concept of project stages, from both technical and management perspectives. This concept has proven to be very practical and helpful in executing projects successfully. PMP does define the concept of phases, but does not detail any method for managing them.

2) Certification Demand

While both certifications have a strong reputation globally, some regions prefer one over the other. So, make the choice based on where you live and work.

  • Asia – Both PMP and PRINCE2
  • Middle East – Both PMP and PRINCE2
  • Africa – Both PMP and PRINCE2
  • Europe – PRINCE2
  • UK – PRINCE2
  • North and South America –PMP
  • Australasia – PRINCE2

3) Salary Prospects

One of the biggest benefits of becoming a certified project management professional is the increase in renumeration. According to surveys, PMP® ensures a 20% salary increase. In the U.S., the average PMP® certified project manager earns $111,000 whereas a non-certified professional earns $91,000.

This number can increase based on the industry you work in. For instance, the highly regulated pharma industry pays PMP® certified professionals $125,000 whereas the agriculture industry pays $120,000.

As for PRINCE2®, PayScale reports the average salary for certified professionals to be around $97,779. Renumeration changed based on the position you hold. For instance, a PRINCE2® certified Senior Project Manager, IT can earn an average of $117,261 whereas an Information Technology Director can earn $130,180.

4) Certification Prerequisites and Process

To earn the PMP® credential, you need to meet certain eligibility criteria.

  • If you hold a four-degree, you need to be able to prove 36 months of experience leading project.
  • If you have a high school diploma or an associate’s degree, you need to show proof of 60 months of experience leading projects.
  • Certification candidates need to complete 35 hours of PMP certification training or project management training.

If PMI approves your application, you’ll need to pay the PMP exam fee and schedule your exam time.

To be PRINCE2® certified, you need to choose from the PRINCE2® certification scheme or the PRINCE2 Agile® certification scheme. While both are designed to help deliver projects successfully, PRINCE2 Agile® goes beyond the governance of PRINCE2® to include the flexibility and responsiveness of Agile.

The PRINCE2® certification scheme has two levels:

  • PRINCE2® Foundation – The Foundation certification testifies to your knowledge of the PRINCE2® method. There are no prerequisites for this certification.
  • PRINCE2® Practitioner – The PRINCE2® Practitioner certification confirms you have a good grasp on applying and tailoring the method according to different project environments. To be eligible for the certification exam, you need to have one of the following certifications:
    • PRINCE2® Foundation
    • Project Management Qualification (PMQ)
    • Project Professional Qualification (PPQ)
    • Project Management Professional (PMP)
    • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
    • IPMA Level A® (Certified Projects Director)
    • IPMA Level B® (Certified Senior Project Manager)
    • IPMA Level C® (Certified Project Manager)
    • IPMA Level D® (Certified Project Management Associate)

Similarly, the PRINCE2 Agile certification scheme has two levels:

  • PRINCE2 Agile® Foundation – PRINCE2 Agile Foundation is the right credential for professionals managing agile projects.
  • PRINCE2 Agile® Practitioner –PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner is an advanced certification which testifies to a practitioner’s ability to blend structure, governance, and control with Agile methods. To be eligible for the certification exam, you need to have one of the following certifications:
    • PRINCE2® Foundation
    • PRINCE2 Agile® Foundation
    • Project Management Qualification (PMQ)
    • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
    • IPMA Level A® (Certified Projects Director)
    • IPMA Level B® (Certified Senior Project Manager)
    • IPMA Level C® (Certified Project Manager)
    • IPMA Level D® (Certified Project Management Associate)

5) Certification Examination

The PMP® certification exam comprises 200 multiple choice questions, of which 25 non-graded questions. You need to attempt the exam within four hours.

As for PRINCE2® certification examinations, these differ based on level and scheme.

  • PRINCE2® Foundation – This certification’s examination comprises 60 multiple choice questions. You need to score at least 55% or 33 marks out of 60. You’ll have 60 minutes to attempt the exam. However, you’ll be given an additional 15 minutes if English isn’t your native language.
  • PRINCE2® Practitioner – The certification exam is a 150-minute open book exam. It comprises 68 objective questions. You need to achieve 55%, or at least 38 marks to pass.
  • PRINCE2 Agile® Foundation – PRINCE2 Agile® Foundation exam is a closed book multiple choice exam. You need to score at least 55% or 28 marks out of 50. You’ll have 60 minutes to attempt the exam.
  • PRINCE2 Agile® Practitioner – The certification exam is an open book exam which comprises 50 objective questions. You need to achieve 60%, or at least 30 marks to pass. The duration of the exam is 150 minutes.

As for the costs of the exams, the PMP® exam fee is $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members. PMI membership costs $129 per year, plus a one-time $10 application fee.

On the other hand, PRINCE2® examination fees differ based on region. You can check how much it costs in your region by visiting PeopleCert, the assessment and certification partner of AXELOS.

6) Certification Maintenance

PMI requires PMP® professionals to maintain their certification status. To renew their certifications every three years, certified professionals need to attain 60 professional development units (PDUs). This is possible through attending courses, participating in meetings or local events, or sharing knowledge.

As for PRINCE2® certification holders, Foundation level professionals do not need to renew their certifications. The Practitioner exam, however, is valid for five years. To maintain their certifications, professionals need to pass the PRINCE2 re-registration examination before their certificates expire.

Which Project Management Certification is Right?

You can make a decision based on the factors mentioned above. However, you can actually gain more by pursuing both certifications.

PMP® focuses on the knowledge and skills to manage a project, whereas PRINCE2 details the processes and framework for executing specific projects in controlled environments. As both complement one another, your project management skills will definitely be highly sought after.

Keep in mind that there are two challenges you may face if you go down this route. One, both certifications use different terms. For instance, PMP uses the term ‘Project Charter’ whereas PRINCE2 uses ‘Project Brief’. Two, techniques, such as the categorization of risk, will be different in both.

Get Certified with the Right People Today

Whether you wish to be PMP or PRINCE2 certified, Business Beam can help. Our accredited trainers already hold these certificates and have years of industry experience to add. Therefore, they are the right people to begin your certification journey with.

Check our training schedule to book your slot for upcoming PMP or PRINCE2 training sessions/

About the Author

Ikram is the co-founder and CEO at Business Beam UAE and Pakistan. He is also an active corporate advisor, writer, speaker, and workshop leader. In his 22+ years of industry experience, he has successfully completed 80+ consulting assignments related to IT governance, IT service management, project & portfolio management, information security, business & ICT continuity, software engineering, etc. His clients ranked him “excellent” in technical knowledge, capability to deliver, helpfulness and overall value delivered. He is also an internationally accredited trainer for COBIT, TOGAF, CGEIT, CISM, CISA, ITIL, Scrum, PMP, PRINCE2, P3O, DevOps, ISO 27001, ISO 22301, ISO 20000, ISO 9001, ISO 38500 and Six Sigma. He has successfully conducted 250+ training courses and workshops in USA, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Pakistan. More than 5,000 executives and professionals from 600+ organizations have benefited from his training sessions. You may connect with Ikram at LinkedIn.


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