Should project managers be professionally licensed?
The need for licensed/chartered qualifications exists for a reason. For example:
- A doctor needs to demonstrate knowledge and training.
- A truck driver needs to demonstrate prowess at road handling and perhaps hazardous materials handling if they are hauling chemicals.
- An engineer needs to have the necessary qualifications to design buildings so that they are structurally stable.
- A cosmetologist can give you a bad haircut, but if they don’t manicure your nails correctly, you can develop an infection.
In these examples, the professionals described are legally accountable and defensible. Although the project manager’s circumstances are different, we wonder about the impact on people that manage millions of dollars worth of people resources, equipment and materials if they were required to demonstrate and have a licence. If a project manager mismanages a project, there are certainly consequences that can have a ripple effect on the project in terms of cost, time, scope (or all three) and other elements such as lost business opportunities, reputation, and so on.
Pros and cons of licensing project managers
- Licensing project managers could bring project management into the ‘public eye’.
- ‘Project manager’ could be considered a standardised profession and licensing standards could highlight the true capabilities needed by project managers.
- Standards requirements would ensure a minimum level of competency based on education, experience, knowledge and demonstrated proficiency.
- Professionally licensed project managers may be able to command higher salaries.
- Training requirements could generate business opportunities for training companies, therefore creating jobs.
- Licensing revenues could generate taxes.
- ‘LPM’ or ‘CPM’ (our suggested terms for Licensed or Chartered Project Manager) could be a project manager’s professional initialisation following their name much like accountants use CPA.
Potential risks and considerations
- Implementing the process as to establishing the standard requirements for a project managers. Variations in power and responsibilities of project managers across all industries would have to be standardised.
- Impact on current project manager type credentials and certifications as to their inclusion and/or requirements in licensing.
- Overcoming the current state of project managers working without a licence; “If we needed to do it, we’d have done it years ago.”
- Crossover of various industries as a project manager is not identified with any one industry. Kowever, keep in mind that CPAs, for example, aren’t specific to any industry either.
- What would be the licensing body for project management? One of the current global entities? Would these be merged? Should they be merged? Should the bodies be governmental instead?
- Government regulation could make it easy, standard, and uniform or very difficult, pending the final result; states, as well as various counties/regions, could set their own requirements like a driver’s licence. Were that the case, multiple licences might be required for some project managers that work across various borders.
- Could unions get involved and could project managers become unionised? Would that help or hurt project managers as a whole? Project managers would probably have to assume the costs of licences/chartered status, liability insurance, and renewal training requirements.
- Project managers could be considered ‘experts’ and might be more easily sued for mal-conformance or negligence.
Keep it simple
It is important to recognise that regional certification or chartered status is a topic under debate in several countries. We think it is worthwhile to keep it simple. For example, as a simple conceptual model for consideration, could there be three global classifications as follows, with specialised areas of focus such as LPM/CPM – Information Technology, LPM/CPM – Construction. The table below uses LPM as the example acronym:
Perhaps regional certification is also advisable. We know that some organisations are considering such measures.
In conclusion, we believe that the ‘LPM’ (Licensed Project Manager) or ‘CPM’ (Chartered Project Manager) could be a worthwhile path for the project management profession to follow, assuming the issuing entity is agreed upon and standardised. In doing so, project managers would be given both a professional ‘identity’ and the recognition enjoyed by many other professions. As with all change, there are positives and risks to consider, but the benefits may outweigh the negatives. We would welcome people’s thoughts on this subject.