PMP (Project Management Professional) and PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) are two of the most popular and highly ranked project management certifications worldwide. But how are they perceived in the editorial and publishing world, and which would be most valuable to an editorial project manager seeking work?

I’m planning to complete one of these qualifications over the next year, but I wanted to be sure I was choosing the right one for my industry, where I am in my career and my general development goals. I couldn’t find much published information on the topic focusing on publishing, so here’s what I found out from my research, plus my conclusions based on my own situation.

Arrows depicting a choice between two alternatives

My background as an editorial project manager: why accreditation?

I’ve been a practising editorial project manager for around 12 years and have spent over 3,500 hours leading projects to completion. Many of these projects have been vast, prestigious entities with hundreds (or even thousands) of contributors. They have required cooperation with suppliers around the world, complex data-handling, and a need to demonstrate sensitive and proactive people management.

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved as an editorial project manager and enjoy pushing myself to deliver solutions that meet my clients’ goals.

But for several years I’ve been uneasy that my learning has mostly been on the job. Just as I wouldn’t consider advertising myself as an editor without my Advanced Professional Membership of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, I want to be able to point to a qualification that shows that I take my project management work seriously – that I don’t just have experience (valuable though that is) but a solid, verified grounding in industry-standard best practices.

My criteria for project management certification

For starters, I eliminated Agile-based certifications, because publishing generally uses the Waterfall methodology. Both PMP and PRINCE2 essentially use Waterfall principles.

(For newbies: Waterfall has a clearly defined, predetermined product where each stage has to be completed before the next can be started; Agile has a more iterative approach where the final product takes shape as the project progresses.)

I wanted to choose the option that would be:

  • most valued by prospective editorial clients
  • genuinely relevant and helpful in my editorial project management work, enabling me to offer my clients better solutions that are relevant to them (I didn’t just want to throw money at someone to get a piece of paper)
  • flexible to enable me to consider going for projects on the borders of (or even outside) the editorial world in the future.

Comparison of PMP and PRINCE2

Approach

The key distinction in approach is that PMP is knowledge based whereas PRINCE2 is process based. In other words, PMP is a less prescriptive approach that focuses on techniques and adapting project management principles to the customer’s requirements, whereas PRINCE2 is more prescriptive (although it should be tailored to individual projects) and is driven by the business case for the project.

Importantly, I read several times that choosing between PMP and PRINCE2 is not necessarily either-or. Parallel Project Training says:

PMP certification can deliver the competence required to deliver successful projects, while PRINCE2 provides the detailed processes, roles and responsibilities and template. We think that combining the two approaches would give project managers a powerful tool set to deliver project[s] successfully.

Verdict: PRINCE2

Although I’m strongly drawn to the more knowledge- and competence-based flavour of PMP, PRINCE2 seems more appropriate for where I am in my career now. Although I know editorial project management inside out, I’m aware that I have gaps in my knowledge of wider project management processes, and PRINCE2 seems better suited to filling those gaps.

Geographical and industry (publishing) relevance

I regularly work with clients and suppliers in the USA and Asia, but the bulk of my work is commissioned by organisations in Europe and specifically the UK. So I wanted to choose a qualification that prospective clients would recognise and be likely to search for on platforms such as LinkedIn.

Both PMP and PRINCE2 are recognised around the world, but they have slightly different profiles in different regions. PMP is owned by the Project Management Institute (PMI), based in Philadelphia in the USA, whereas PRINCE2 originated in the UK. This is reflected in their popularity, with PMP tending to be preferred in the USA and PRINCE2 in the UK and Europe (e.g. Arras People reports that 66% of all UK project managers have PRINCE2 whereas only 11% have PMP). Both are popular in Australia, East Asia and India.

I also looked at the qualifications held by my LinkedIn first-degree connections (348 at the time of writing):

  • Out of 256 connections based in the UK, 13 profiles mentioned PRINCE2 and one mentioned CAPM or PMP (CAPM is the precursor qualification to PMP; see next section)
  • Out of 32 connections based in the USA, no profiles mentioned PRINCE2 and one mentioned CAPM or PMP
  • Out of 18 connections based in India or Singapore, no profiles mentioned either PRINCE2 or PMP

Next I expanded my search to my wider network (first- and second-degree connections, numbering 414,000 at the time of writing). I restricted my search to people who used the term ‘editor’ in their profile (to try to exclude other industries). The results continued the same pattern:

  • Out of 16,000 people based in the UK, 333 profiles mentioned PRINCE2 and 43 mentioned CAPM or PMP
  • Out of 21,000 people based in the USA, 14 profiles mentioned PRINCE2 and 247 mentioned CAPM or PMP
  • Out of 5,800 people based in India or Singapore, 23 profiles mentioned PRINCE2 and 69 mentioned CAPM or PMP

PRINCE2 is therefore clearly preferred among my network in the UK. Of my first-degree LinkedIn connections with either qualification, 93% had PRINCE2. Among my wider network in the publishing industry, this figure was around 89%.

Verdict: PRINCE2

Both published statistics and my own research indicate that PRINCE2 is vastly more popular than PMP among editorial professionals in the UK, who are my primary target clients. PRINCE2 is the clear winner for me.

Entry requirements and exam pathways

PMP and PRINCE2 both have two tiers of accreditation.

PMP’s first tier is CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) whereas PRINCE2 has its Foundation accreditation. Both are entry-level courses for individuals who intend to work ‘on – or with – project teams’ (as the PMI puts it). In other words, if you intend to lead projects, you need the second-tier accreditations too.

PMP is the second tier of the PMI accreditation, whereas PRINCE2 calls its second tier Practitioner. Direct entry to both is possible.

For direct entry, PMP requires 35 hours of project management training plus either:

  • a four-year degree plus three years leading projects or
  • a high school diploma or two-year degree plus five years of leading projects

For direct entry, PRINCE2 requires one of seven qualifications (two of which are CAPM and PMP itself!).

Verdict: TIE

Because I already work as an editorial project manager and intend to continue doing so, I would need to complete both tiers of either qualification. The majority of my project management training has been informal and I don’t have any of the recognised prerequisite PRINCE2 qualifications, so I wouldn’t meet the requirements for direct entry for either PMP or PRINCE Practitioner. So for me this is a tie: I would have to do both tiers, whichever option I chose.

Cost of training and exams

Neither is cheap, but there are various options for how to learn the material and get through the exams (in my case, CAPM and PMP, or PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner).

In both cases it is possible to entirely self-study, using the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) for the PMP or the manual Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 (6th edition). In this case, the main outlay is the exam fees, which for CAPM and PMP will set you back $855 (approx. £690), although membership discounts may apply. For PRINCE2, the typical cost seems to be around £500 + VAT for both exams.

Alternatively, there are myriad courses (online and, in a non-COVID world, classroom based) that can be taken for a fee.

My research suggested that the PRINCE2 options are fairly straightforward: many providers offer packages including course materials, sample exams and the actual exams. Typically, the overall cost of completing both tiers (Foundation and Practitioner) seems to range between around £1,000 and £1,500 + VAT.

In contrast, CAPM and PMP training is less likely to come in neat all-inclusive packages. It seems more common for candidates to buy each stage (CAPM training, CAPM exam, PMP training, PMP exam) separately. It is difficult to be precise as there are so many options, but the overall cost of the courses and exams seems comparable to that of PRINCE2.

Verdict: PRINCE2

Gaining PRINCE2 accreditation (in the UK at least) seems more straightforward than gaining PMP accreditation, and potentially a little cheaper.

Ongoing accreditation

Both PMP and PRINCE2 require project managers to undertake ongoing CPD (continuing professional development) to remain accredited.

PMP has a Continuing Certification Requirements programme that is based on the acquisition of Professional Development Units (PDUs). PMP recertification requires 60 PDUs over three years, logged in an online system. The cost of recertifying is $60 (around £50), or $150 (around £120) for people who are not members of the PMI. There are two categories of PDU:

  • Education is mandatory and has three sub-categories: Technical, Leadership, and Strategy and Business Management. All 60 PDUs can be earned in this category if you choose.
  • Giving Back is optional. It allows up to 25 PDUs to be earned from ‘working as a professional’ and ‘volunteering and creating knowledge’.

PRINCE2 Practitioner certification lasts for three years. There are two options for recertification:

  • Resit the exam at the end of the three years. (I immediately discounted this option as I believe that intelligently planned, ongoing CPD is crucial for any professional and cannot be replaced with an exam.)
  • Register on MYPRINCE2 (at a cost of  £50 + VAT per year) and work towards recording 20 CPD points each year. The CPD points must come from four categories (Professional Experience, Training, Community and Self-Study), with a minimum of 5 points from Professional Experience. The overall focus is on assessing your own development needs and enacting a plan tailored to those needs.

Verdict: PMP (by a hair)

Both PMP and PRINCE2 have flexible, real-world approaches that would allow me to identify my training needs and goals, and define a plan for my own development. For me, PMP has the edge because it requires ongoing development, rather than making it optional, which in theory means that PMP may be perceived as more rigorous. However, based on my geographical research (see above), in reality I suspect that most of my target clients would be unaware of this distinction.

Conclusion

In the five areas I considered, my results are as follows (allocating half points for a tie):

  • PMP: 1.5/5
  • PRINCE2: 3.5/5

This disparity doesn’t tell the whole story, as PMP has a huge amount to recommend it and I was attracted to its competence-based outlook. However, the scores do give me a clear plan to follow: PRINCE2 is the obvious choice for me, given my current training level and the UK publishing industry’s preference for it over PMP.

Who knows what the future will hold and maybe I will consider PMP somewhere down the line. But for now I will be signing up to a package that gives me access to the PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner courses for 12 months, with the exams included.

As I progress, I’ll check back in to report on whether PRINCE2 fulfils my expectations and to reflect on how well it complements my work as an editorial project manager.

Note: I have endeavoured to ensure that this information is accurate at the time of publishing, but things change and people’s circumstances differ, so please do carry out your own research before acting on anything in this article.

About Hazel Bird

Hazel is an editorial project manager, copyeditor and proofreader who works with businesses, charities, publishers, academics and students to make their projects happen. She was once described as ’superhuman’ and is still wondering whether this is a good thing.

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