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IPMA´s 4-Level-Certification System – A Success Story

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IPMA is the world´s first project management association and celebrates its 50th Anniversary during the 29th IPMA World Congress in Panama end of September. There is another reason for celebrating this year: IPMA´s 4-Level-Certification System comes to the 20th year since the founding. Through IPMA the idea of a competence-based certification in project management has spread from Europe to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia as well as North and South America.

The demand for certification is steadily growing. So far, already more than 250,000 certificates were handed worldwide covering all four levels. The numbers are a great success, they show on the one hand the trend towards more and more projects and, secondly, the increasing recognition of competence-based certificates in all sectors. Competence is the demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and/or skills, and where relevant, demonstrated personal attributes. It may be easier, faster and cheaper to perform a knowledge-based certification (and there are many of them worldwide). But be aware: those who attempt projects or programmes with only knowledge, and not competence, are walking a dangerous high-wire without a net. Read more about a comparison of certifications

The four levels depict a career path in project management. Level D is the entry level for those, working in or supporting projects. They have to bring a basic understanding of project management before later starting into projects with low complexity or into subprojects. At the next level (Level C) a candidate has already gained some experience as a project manager and strives for certification as “Project Manager”. A candidate at Level B needs to demonstrate several years of experience as project manager and intends to manage projects at a higher complexity level, which is why the certification level is called “Senior Project Manager”. The highest level (Level A) includes in addition to the management of very complex projects, the perspective of multi-project management, i.e. program and portfolio management. Typically, the candidate is in charge of a number of project managers, for example, as head of a functional department or division, or as manager of the project management department or PMO. With the new IPMA Individual Competence Baseline (IPMA ICB®) two new and independent career paths for program and portfolio management will be made available.

Let´s appreciate the initiative of a few enthusiasts (including Klaus Pannenbäcker and his son Olaf) back in 1995, who helped to move forward with a great idea, shaping the future of our profession. IPMA builds on their heritage, developing additional certification schemes for professionals in the field of project, program and portfolio management. Since a couple of years, Project, Program and Portfolio Management Consultants may apply for a certificate based on IPMA´s 2-Level-Certification System for Consultants . Recently, IPMA started the development of a Competence Baseline for Consultants, Coaches and Trainers (“ICB4CCT”), which will lead into an extended Certification System for Consultants, Coaches and Trainer being active in the field of project, program and portfolio management. Other baselines (e.g. for PMO and sponsor functions) will follow soon and enable IPMA and its Member Associations to expand their offerings.

- Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defence, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is President of IPMA, past President and Honorary Fellow of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, Germany´s No. 1 PM Full Service Provider.

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