Oct. 20, 2020

Should you get a PRINCE2 certification?

This blog post highlights my experience in getting PRINCE2. It might help you decide whether it's worth getting one.

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Are you considering upskilling and getting a PRINCE2 certification? Is it because you're looking to become a project manager or looking for a more senior position?

Last year, I finally got my PRINCE2 certification, having completed both the foundation and practitioner courses.

This blog describes my experience in getting PRINCE2. It might help you decide whether it's worth getting one.

What is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is short for Projects in Controlled Environment. The methodology was developed by the UK government for IT projects. Now it's privately owned by Axelos Ltd. source: Wikipedia

What's the big deal about PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is one of the more popular project management certification courses out there. The other popular certification is Project Management Professional (PMP) course offered by the Project Management Institute.

Unlike 'engineer', or 'architect', the title 'project manager' isn't protected. You don't need any formal qualification to call yourself a 'project manager'. However, if you want a qualification, there are two highly popular options (as mentioned above).

PRINCE2 is more popular in the UK and Australia whereas PMP is more popular in the US and the rest of Europe, according to this outdated article.

A few years ago, when I decided to pursue project management rather than architecture, I decided to get my Masters in Project Management. To be honest, what I got was a very generalist education. So, I thought PRINCE2 would help me apply my education at work more effectively.

How does PRINCE2 Certification work?

To receive your PRINCE2 certification, you can complete two levels of study - Foundation and Practitioner.

You can receive both certifications at once by completing the Foundation and Practitioner certification over five full days. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to take five days off work, so I did the course online during the weekend. I don't recommend this. This took me three months to finish because I was procrastinating a bit and the online training provider I chose was very boring.

Something to note is that you can't just study it on your own and do the test. You need to go through a training provider to get the training and complete the exam (I guess this is how they make money). You also get a hard copy of the PRINCE2 book.

Even though you can complete it in five full days, this does not mean it is easy. It is bloody hard. Just because you paid for the course, that doesn't mean they let you automatically pass. The pass rate is 73% for the practitioner level so if you don't fully understand the concepts and do the practice exams, it is easy to fail.

According to this article, 75% of people taking the driving test pass in their first go. So in terms of probability, yes, it's possible to fail. I can tell you that because I failed my driving test twice.

How much does it cost?

I tried shopping around for different online courses. The one I did cost $1,424.50 (incl GST). This was last year in 2019. I don't know whether the price would have gone up or down since then. But rather than looking at cost, the most important thing is to find a quality training provider.

If you can, persuade your current employer to pay for the training as part of your professional development.

General Concepts of PRINCE2

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There are 7 core Principles, 7 Themes, and 7 Processes.

A project needs to embed the even Principles for it to be a "PRINCE2 Project". The seven Themes are things you might encounter in any project and describe how a PRINCE2 project would handle them. The seven Processes are the phases of a PRINCE2 project.

Then, there are other things like PRINCE2 governance structure, and "management product" which are like templates and documents you should be using.

PRINCE2 Wiki is a very useful website to learn more about PRINCE2 without actually taking the training.

There are very good key concepts to learn from PRINCE2 for anyone working in a project environment. For example, the biggest thing I took away from it is the Principle concept of "Continued Business Justification" which describe the reason for starting the project must be justified throughout the whole lifecycle of the project. If the Return on Investment or expected benefits start to decrease then we need to review whether to continue the project.

To be honest, it is hard to understand and explain how everything intertwines with each other. I might post an article about how to apply some important PRINCE2 principles for construction projects in the future.

PRINCE2 and Employability

I only got this at the end of last year so unfortunately, I can't tell you with great confidence how it affected my employability. Once I got the certification, I put it on my LinkedIn profile and my resume. But to be honest, nobody including recruiters, has asked me anything about PRINCE2. At this point in my career, I believe that employers place greater value on my experience in similar projects, my networks, and my good references. Any certification or degrees relating to project management is a plus, but not exactly what they look for.

However, if you are coming from a different industry or don't have a university degree, it could be useful to put this in your resume.

But I don't think it's worth paying for it with your money.

I still do think that there is a lot of value to get out of the course. It helps you think more strategically about your project by looking through a PRINCE2 lens. But like anything, you need to put it into practice to make it useful. Training alone won't help you become a better project manager.

Project Management courses are not industry-specific

A lot of project management courses out there are not industry-specific. PRINCE2 won't teach you specifically how to manage a construction project. These courses are a lot more generalist in nature.

If you're going to take it, do it after you have some project experience under your belt. That way, you can look back at your previous experience and think about how you could have applied PRINCE2. If you don't have any project experience, then I think the course would be purely theoretical.

Learn in a classroom, if you can

If you're learning online, pick a good one. The one I picked was unfortunately really, really boring. I tried so hard to finish over a few weekends but because they presented the information in a very dry and unengaging manner, it took me longer.

I am a fan of online courses and I've taken several of them. But the PRINCE2 course that I took from this provider was one of the most boring ones I've done.

If you're learning online, you need to take the exam in person or online. I took it online and it was a Proctored Exam so there was a person in the webcam watching me do my online test to see if I was cheating or not. At the beginning of the test, I had to show my room using the webcam. During the test, the exam was full screen and you couldn't minimise the browser to google for answers. Don't think you can cheat in a Proctored Exam!

Summary

  • PRINCE2 may be helpful if you're switching industries but my personal experience is that employers value more about your experience in similar projects, networks, and good references.
  • PRINCE2 is expensive so try to get work to pay for it
  • PRINCE2 is generalist so don't expect construction-specific project management training
  • Try to take PRINCE2 in a classroom setting because online training will bore you very quickly
  • Apply what you've learnt to get the most out of it.

Thanks for reading.


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