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Howard Birnberg


At present, no certification program exists for construction industry project managers (PM's). The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a widely recognized project manager certification program and has a specific interest group for design and construction. Unfortunately, the PMI certification program is quite generic and is not specific to the construction industry. In recent years, several construction industry associations have discussed developing certification programs for PM's. To date, none of these have materialized. Several years ago, the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) evaluated project manager certification. ASFE--Professional Firms Practicing in the Geosciences--is presently considering a certification program for PM's. The Association for Project Managers (APM) has long considered implementing project manager certification. As the only construction industry organization specifically focused on project managers' needs, APM is the natural choice to provide a certification program.


Complicating plans to offer a certification program is the diverse nature of the construction industry. Certification must be tailored to the needs of the three main branches of our industry-owner/client staff, design staff end construction staff. While the branches work with each other, they have significant differences. For example, many design firm project managers have only a limited role during the construction phase of a project. For a construction project manager, this phase is where most of their time and effort is spent. In addition, an architectural firm PM works most closely with engineering consultants and the general contractor (GC) while the contractor's project manager works most closely with the project's construction subcontractors and the architect. Further complicating matters has been the proliferation of specialists such as construction managers (CM's), program managers, design/builders, etc. Even within a discipline or client type, great variations in project manager functions and activities exist.

As a result, designing a one size fits all project manager certification program is nearly impossible. Some have argued that there are core activities required of all PM's. These often include scheduling, planning, personnel management, budgeting, etc. It is these types of skills that the PMI certification exam emphasizes. Most construction professionals would argue however, that testing proficiency in these skills must be within the context of the construction industry.


Clearly, a construction industry focused project manager certification program is the better approach. How should such a program be designed? Most certification programs are largely centered on a multiple choice test typically of 100 to 200 questions. While multiple choice is easy to grade, many educators question the validity of this type of test as a method of evaluating comprehension and competence. Additionally, multiple choice fails to measure performance in a primary responsibility of project managers--their ability to communicate in writing.

Nearly all programs have a continuing education requirement to maintain certification. Only a few certification programs have a periodic retesting requirement. Some certification programs require the completion of essays as an addition to the multiple choice questions or as the exam itself. For example, the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) uses an essay type format for part of it's certification process. The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) incorporates the preparation of a written paper as a major element of its certification process.


What are the benefits of certification to construction industry project managers? To their employers?

For project managers, there are many benefits to obtaining certification. It provides recognition of a higher level of achievement in PM's chosen field, while also recognizing their proficiency in construction industry project management. Certification enhances a project manager's opportunity for advancement within their current organization and within the construction industry. Certification becomes a benchmark by which those within an organization can measure themselves. Economic opportunities may be enhanced as a result of achieving certification.

For employers, having their project managers obtain certification can be of great importance. Certification can reassure employers of a superior level of performance on the part of current project managers or new hires. Certified project managers can assist design firms and contractors in their marketing by highlighting the higher level of achievement and performance reached by their PM's. Seeking certification encourages existing project managers to strive for this higher level of achievement and performance and encourages continuous improvement.

Project Management Certification

For more information on Project Management Certification click on this link to Construction