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IPMA, PMI & APMG – what’s the difference?

The qualifications offered by the IPMA, PMI and APMG are all recognised internationally. So what’s the difference between them? One is competency-based (the IPMA), one is based on a Body of Knowledge (PMI) and one is based on a methodology (PRINCE2®) so, for instance, the PMI qualification and a PRINCE2 qualification are basically different – even though they are highly complementary.

International Project Management Association (IPMA)

Based in the Netherlands, IPMA is an international grouping of national project management associations in Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America. It was originally formed in 1965.

IPMA is made up of members operating in their own countries. In the UK, for example, the member association is the Association of Project Managers (APM). Each national association operates in its own language, according to its country’s culture and national standards.

Through its associations, IPMA offers internationally recognized qualifications based on its IPMA Competency Baseline (ICB). The exact format of assessment varies from country to country, but generally it is as follows:

Level D: Certificated PM Practitioners – having PM knowledge in all elements and aspects.

Level C: Certificated PM Professionals – able to manage non-complex projects themselves and/or to assist managers of complex projects in all elements and aspects of PM.

Level B: Certificated Project Managers – able to manage complex projects themselves.

Level A: Certificated Project Directors – able to direct all projects of an organization or branch or all projects of a programme.

At the end of 2009 there were more than 110,000 IPMA certificates worldwide. Details of National Certification Bodies can be found here on the IPMA website.

The Project Management Institute (PMI)

PMI, with its headquarters in the USA, was founded in 1969 and now has over 500,000 members in 185 countries. It aims to set industry standards, conduct research and provide education, professional certification and networking opportunities. It is made up of chartered ‘chapters’ and SIGs (Specific Interest Groups).

Local chapters provide their members with events, certification and support for those applying for certification and training.

In 1984 PMI introduced the Project Management Professional (PMP®) qualification. PMI also offers the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®). This qualification is for project managers who have a good level of knowledge and experience in running projects. It also has a  Program Management Professional (PgMPSM®) qualification for experienced program managers.

PMI’s certification is available for examinations taken after training by a Registered Education Provider. To find out more, visit their website.


APMG is responsible for administering PRINCE2 exams on behalf of OGC.  APMG has offices in ten countries. Examinations in PRINCE2 began in 1996 and since then more than 600,000 people have taken either the Foundation or Practitioner exams. Currently, around 3000 people take one or other of these exams each week. Exams are available throughout the world and in a variety of languages. Candidates can take their exam through an open centre but courses are only offered through Accredited Training Organizations.

The future

The drive for internationally recognized qualifications continues and has led to the Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards (GAPPS) which in January 2007 announced the launch of the first ever, globally developed, performance-based competence standards for project managers.

In 2009 the GAPPS Board verified a comparison between the various project management methods and the GAPPS Standard. A copy of this comparison is available here.

You’ll find more information on the GAPPS website.

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