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PRINCE2, ITIL or PMP: Which Certification is Right for You?

Do you want to give your career a boost with a project or service management qualification but aren’t sure which one to go for? Our quick and easy guide will unpack three of the most popular and respected qualifications to help you make this important decision.

What do the qualifications stand for?

PRINCE2® stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. ITIL® stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library®. PMP® is the acronym for Project Management Professional.

Who owns PRINCE2, ITIL and PMP?

AXELOS now owns the intellectual property of the whole Best Management Practice portfolio including PRINCE2 and ITIL. PMP is owned by the Project Management Institute (PMI)®.

How do you get PRINCE2, PMP and ITIL?

All three have certification programmes that you can work towards. PRINCE2 has Foundation, Practitioner and Professional levels. ITIL has several levels of certification: Foundation, Intermediate, Managing Across The Lifecycle (MALC), Expert and Master. While the Project Management Institute also offers several certifications – the most commonly sought after being the PMP - they do not, however, split them into expertise levels.

How do individuals and organisations use them?

PRINCE2 and PMP are two of the most respected project management approaches in the world today, and are designed to manage projects and improve project performance. If you are completely new to project management, a project is a unique, temporary event with a defined start and finish. Almost anything can be a project. It could be something domestic, like creating a garden; something physical, like building a school; or something more abstract like organising and running a conference.

ITIL is the most recognised framework for IT service management in the world. It is essentially a cohesive set of best practices, providing guidance for developing, delivering and managing IT services for an organisation.

How do the three qualifications differ in their approach?

PRINCE2 is a practical, process-based methodology which provides detailed, step-by-step guidance on delivering a successful project with clear processes, steps and templates.

PMP is based on the Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide). The PMBOK® Guide provides you with the tools and techniques of project management.

ITIL comes from the same stable as PRINCE2 so, unsurprisingly, is also process-based. It aims to give you the ability to improve how IT is delivered and managed within an organisation. Using ITIL you can continually improve efficiency, effectiveness, quality and cost management. ITIL has traditionally been used for IT but increasingly organisations are finding it can be used in a variety of settings for a variety of purposes. CERN - the location of the Large Hadron Collider - is using ITIL for non-IT situations as reported by Computer Weekly.

What is the market for each of the qualifications?

As part of a suite of best practice products originally developed by the Office of Government Commerce in the UK, PRINCE2 has become the de facto standard there but is recognised and valued worldwide because of its practicality and scalability – in particular enjoying a strong presence in Europe, Australia and other countries outside North America.

PMI qualifications have their origins in the USA and as such PMP is the predominant certification in the US, though it is still valued throughout the world for the comprehensive content of the PMBOK® Guide.

ITIL is accepted globally as an effective and efficient way to identify, plan, deliver and support IT services in the business.

In fact, the demand for all these certifications is growing all the time; for instance, more than 1 million PRINCE2 examinations have been taken around the world and the qualification’s popularity continues to grow.

Which certifications should I do first and which are welcomed by which industries or employers?

When considering which certifications to take, you will no doubt be concerned with how each will enhance your employment prospects.

You’ll find that different industries often favour one accreditation over another. So to better target the industry area and employer type you are interested in, ensure that you do your research! You could look at their job adverts and on their websites for information on what abilities, skills and knowledge they favour. Once you have your initial qualification, you can look at the others as career aspirations, as time and budget dictate.

Is it worth doing more than one?

Indeed it is, on several fronts:

PRINCE2 is concerned with the framework in which to manage projects, whereas the PMP focuses on the skills and knowledge required by the Project Manager to manage the project through the lifecycle. You would therefore actually benefit from having knowledge of both, providing a more rounded approach to project management.

Also the adoption of the PMBOK to a PRINCE2-based organisation will help to identify the additional areas which need to be addressed in order to give projects the best chance of success, such as the soft skills needed - the PMBOK identifies needs to be covered in human resource management. In another example, PRINCE2 offers a complete change control approach, whereas PMBOK just talks of the need for it.

So where does ITIL come in? Our recent blog, PRINCE2: still got the “IT” factor for ITSM, examines one area. If, for instance, you implement ITIL within an organisation, then you are effectively undertaking a project. As such, it would make sense to use project management.

Ideally, you would use the theory and competencies you had gained from PMP and the methodology learnt from PRINCE2 to ensure the project is successful. Since not one of these certifications does everything, it makes sense, in the long run, to get all three to make you an all-round professional. It can also pay: PRINCE2 commands healthy salaries as PayScale.com shows and both PMP and ITIL are amongst the certifications that are expected to pass the test of time according to IT Business Edge.

Useful Links

  • For a more detailed comparison of PRINCE2 and PMP go to our blog It Takes Two to Tango or visit our downloads page.
  • If you already have your PMP, see how these approaches will allow you to get value of completing a PRINCE2 course.
  • If you did not know that PRINCE2 is perfect for IT projects and therefore complements ITIL particularly well, then read our blog PRINCE2: Still Got the “IT” Factor for ITSM.
  • Find out more about our world-class PRINCE2 courses that enable you to work and learn thanks to our interactive digital learning - including innovative learning solutions like our PRINCE2 revision game.
  • Read our ITIL training guide to see what level of qualification will suit you before signing up for our courses here.
  • If you want to find out more about Best Practice courses visit APMG and the Cabinet Office for the definitive story
  • The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a great source of information about PMP certification.