PMP vs. PRINCE2® Exams and Certificates

I work in the project management field, should I start preparing and getting certified as PMP, or as PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner? What’s the difference between them? Which one better matches my career?

PRINCE2 Practitioner Certification PMP vs. PRINCE2

Well, there are lots of questions like this; after all, being certified seems more and more important these days. I’m going to provide you with as much information as I could, hoping you can make a more educated decision.

 

What’s PMP?

PMP is short for Project Management Professional, and is a professional certificate from PMI (Project Management Institute).

PMI is a USA based non-for-profit organization focused on project management, which has developed and published a number of standards, including:

  • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)
  • The Standard for Program Management
  • The Standard for Portfolio Management
  • Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®)

And also a number of practice standards and frameworks:

  • Practice Standard for Project Risk Management
  • Practice Standard for Earned Value Management
  • Practice Standard for Project Configuration Management
  • Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures
  • Practice Standard for Scheduling
  • Project Manager Competency Development Framework

There’s no doubt that PMBOK Guide is the most famous standard among these, and people are using it (or trying to use it) worldwide; that’s why it even has three extensions:

  • Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide
  • Construction Extension to the PMBOK Guide
  • Government Extension to the PMBOK Guide

Which help you use the PMBOK Guide more effectively in certain application areas.

PMI has recently added a line of practice guides, which includes:

  • Managing Changes in Organizations: A Practice Guide

These are great sources of knowledge for everyone involved in the project management field, and you should definitely be serious about using them.

PMI also has a number of certifications. Once you are interested to, and have the requirements, you can take the exams and you will be awarded with globally recognized certificates upon passing the exams, which is great, not only because you can easily prove your knowledge, but also because in the process of preparing for the exams, you will learn a lot and you will have to fill in a lot of gaps in your knowledge.

These are the PMI’s certifications:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)® – as you might guess, this is about the PMBOK Guide, but you should know that the exam questions are about the project management body of knowledge in general, and the PMBOK Guide is just a part of it; well, an important part.
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® – a simple form of PMP
  • Program Management Professional (PgMP)®
  • Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)SM
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® – yes, there’s no standalone publication for this yet, but there’s a syllabus and they award certifications
  • PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)®
  • PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)® – All of you project planners out there, this is useful for you.
  • OPM3® Professional Certification

Related Article: Where can I get PM Experience?

Well, that’s all. Let’s now take a look at PRINCE2.

What are PRINCE2 Certifications?

PRINCE2 is a project management methodology previously owned by the UK’s Cabinet Office. PRINCE2, among other “Best Practices” are now owned by AXELOS, a new joint venture company in the UK.

This “Best Practice” family consist of the following:

  • PRINCE2 – project management
  • MSP – program management
  • MoP – portfolio management
  • M_o_R – risk management
  • MoV – value management
  • P3O – project, program, and portfolio management offices (PMO)
  • P3M3 – project, program, and portfolio management maturity model
  • ITIL – IT service management

And of course, there are exams and certifications for all of them; usually in two levels of Foundation and Practitioner.

There are three levels of certification for PRINCE2 however:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation – it’s the simple one
  • PRINCE2 Practitioner – It’s the important one
  • PRINCE2 Professional – well, it’s just too hard!

When people are talking about PRINCE2 certifications, they usually refer to the PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner. The former is easier than PMP and it’s unfair to compare them, while the latter is as hard as PMP, or as some people believe, even harder than PMP.

The main source for the both Foundation and Practitioner exams is an official publication named “Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2”.

I’ll cover both PRINCE2 certifications in this article.

PMP vs. PRINCE2

Different Viewpoints of the PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2

You should know that there’s a big different between the PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2. The PMBOK Guide is a knowledge, while PRINCE2 is a methodology.

PMBOK Guide PRINCE2
Knowledge (explains what you should know) Methodology (explains what you should do)
Descriptive (explains the good practices) Prescriptive (tells you what to do)
Answers HOW questions Answers WHAT, WHEN, and WHOM questions

So, which one do you need? Obviously both of them!

Just take a look at the PMBOK Guide 5th Edition, page 2: “This standard is a guide rather than a specific methodology. One can use different methodologies and tools (e.g. agile, waterfall, PRINCE2) to implement the project management framework.”

And there’s a similar state in the official PRINCE2 manual, pages 230 and 231, which also mentions the PMBOK Guide.

Therefore, these two standards are not competitors, you need both of them (or similar replacements for each of them) to be able to manage your projects successfully.

 

Where are They Used in the World?

Well, PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2 are not competitors, but most people do not believe so, and that’s why many people are trying to decide which one is better for them; which is a wrong question! None of them replaces the other one; they are different things.

But anyway, each of them are better known in certain countries.

PMBOK Guide PRINCE2
USA, Canada, Middle East, Australia UK, Europe, Australia

 

How’s the Exams?

And now let’s take a look at the three exams:

PMP PRINCE2 Foundation PRINCE2 Practitioner
200 Questions 75 Questions 8×10 Questions
Multiple Choice Multiple Choice Objective Testing
Abstract Questions Abstract Questions Scenario Based Questions
62% pass mark* 50% pass mark 55% pass mark
240 Minutes 60 Minutes** 150 Minutes**
Closed book Closed book Open book
Exam center Exam center*** / Online Exam center*** / Online

* Ok, it used to be 61% or 62%, but they use a complicated system now which is not based on a predefined passing score. However, it’s said to be close to a 62% passing score.
** If you’re not taking the exam in your mother tongue, you will have a little more time to take the exam.
*** You can actually take the exam in any place, given that the place is approved by your training organization and an official proctor is there while you’re taking the exam.

The big different between the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam and the other two is that the Practitioner exam questions are based on a scenario. The exam papers describe a project and you have to answer different questions based on that scenario. The other two exams are a collection of normal abstract multiple choice questions which are completely independent.

Passing the PRINCE2 Foundation exam is the easiest among these three. The PMP and the PRINCE2 Practitioner are in the same level; some people believe that the PMP exam is harder, and others believe that PRINCE2 Practitioner is harder.

 

PMP vs. PRINCE2 – What’s the Prerequisites?

Not everyone can take the exams!

PMP PRINCE2 Foundation PRINCE2 Practitioner
At least 3 years of experience in the project management field (5 years if you don’t have a four-year degree) A formal training might be required* Being certified as PRINCE2 Foundation
At least 4500 hours experience in leading and directing projects (7500 hours if you don’t have a four-year degree) A formal training might be required*
35 hours of formal project management education

* it depends on the training organization which takes the exam

The formal training can be online in all three cases.

 

How to Register for the Exam?

OK, let’s say you’ve decided to take the exam and you’re ready; how should you register to take the exam?

PMP exam PRINCE2 exams
By registering at PMI.ORG, and taking the exam in Prometric exam centers around the world. Usually by registering at an accelerated training organization and taking the exam online (wherever you are), at an exam center, or at any other place you’ve arranged with your training organization.

The training organizations have an important role in your PRINCE2 certification process. You cannot take the exam directly from AXELOS. So, be careful with the organization you choose. And by the way, the accelerated training organizations are allowed to set their own prices; that’s why you see different prices in different websites.

 

Renewing the Certificates

These certificates are not permanent, you should renew them. Both PMI and AXELOS want to be sure that everyone certified by them have enough knowledge all the time.

PMP PRINCE2 Foundation PRINCE2 Practitioner
Every 3 years It doesn’t expire Every 3 to 5 years
By PDUs* By a relatively shorter exam

* A PDU (Professional Development Unit) is an activity you take which increases your project management knowledge/capabilities or others (reading or writing books and articles, attending seminars, train others or get trained, etc).

 

PMP vs. PRINCE2 Cost!

And yes, they cost you both time, and money. But don’t worry, it’s worth it.

PMP PRINCE2 Foundation PRINCE2 Practitioner
€465/$555* €270/$365** €360/$485**

* you would also need to pay a fee for your formal training; usually starts at as low as €50 for the most affordable online training.

** prices differ among different training organizations, and you might also need to pay a fee for the training, which usually starts as low as €75 for the most affordable online training. Most accelerated training organizations provide you with a package of the training and exam for a total price.

In case of PRINCE2 Practitioner, you should also pay a fee for renewing your certificate by taking a short exam.

You would also like to have the official publications. You should buy the PRINCE2 publications separately, but you can download all the PMI publications for free, once you become a member.

 

Source of the Exam

The source of the PRINCE2 exams is the official manual, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2.

The main source of the PMP exam is the PMBOK Guide, but the exam is not limited to the guide and you need to have a broader knowledge. Therefore, you should read a PMP exam preparation book or/and take a good-enough online/classroom course.

PRINCE2 Manual PMBOK Guide

 

Conclusion

OK, I hope you’ve found all the information you were looking for.

If you’re going to decide, I strongly suggest you remember that PRINCE2 and PMBOK Guide are not competitors, and you’d better learn both of them. In case of getting certified, why not get both types of certifications? If you would like to, this is my suggestion:

  1. Learn both PRINCE2 and PMBOK Guide in an introductory level
  2. Learn PRINCE2 more seriously
  3. Take and pass the PRINCE2 Foundation exam
  4. Learn PMBOK Guide super-seriously
  5. Take and pass the PMP exam
  6. Learn PRINCE2 super-seriously
  7. Take and Pass the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam

And don’t stop there! There are lots more to learn, including:

  • Agile methods such as Scrum
  • Program management
  • Portfolio management

And you can also improve your theme knowledge and techniques, such as risk management, benefits management, configuration management, scheduling, etc.

Good luck.

PRINCE2® Awareness, One Step a Day (free)

Start learning PRINCE2 by spending less than 2 minutes per day. Lessons will be emailed to you. [more info]

PMBOK® Awareness, One Step a Day (free)

And here you can learn the PMBOK Guide by spending less than 2 minutes per day. [more info]

 
 

37 Responses to PMP vs. PRINCE2® Exams and Certificates

  1. Shashi June 26, 2017 at 05:50 #

    This is a good comparison! Many thanks for explaining in simple terms. I work in the area of Streetscape improvements and recently cleared Prince2 Practitioner. I am planning to take up PMP in 6 months time. Could you please suggest some links and tips to prepare for the PMP exam? Thanks heaps

    • Nader K. Rad June 28, 2017 at 07:15 #

      Hi Shashi,
      Most resources about the PMP are only focused on providing shortcuts for passing the exam, without creating a real opportunity for learning. My main suggestion is to choose a path that helps you learn the concept, in addition to getting certified.

      There are three alternatives:

      1. Self-study, using books (there are good ones out there). However, you still need the 35 contact hours, which you can get using one of the cheapest R.E.P. elearning courses in the market (there are some as cheap as $50). This is what I did myself.

      2. Learn using a proper eleaning course. For example ours ;)

      3. Take a high-quality classroom course.

  2. Daz July 2, 2015 at 11:50 #

    Prince 2 is becoming the standard. Here in the UK its almost impossible to get a project management job without prince 2. PMP is desirable but its something that you can get afterwards while in your job. Most companies will pay for PMP afterwards.

  3. Vaibhav June 29, 2015 at 19:33 #

    Thanks, very well explained. I perform client training on our financial solution that our company has to offer. Recently I have been leading a project and I think PRINCE 2 Foundation would be a good start. I possess 9 years of work experience but mostly training. Do you recommend any other certifications?

    • Nader K. Rad July 8, 2015 at 12:39 #

      Well, since you’re involved in “financial solutions”, the MoV (management of value) certification can also be helpful to you. On the other hand, because you’re involved in implementations, Agile certifications such as PSM I and ASF are also good options.

  4. Michael Kimaili May 18, 2015 at 19:32 #

    Thank you For very useful and clear guiding information

  5. chan chau April 27, 2015 at 12:24 #

    excellent explanation and now doubt is clear , ..thanks

  6. Amani January 5, 2015 at 21:46 #

    Thank you for your great post! I passed PRINCE2 recently and I’m going for PMP very soon. If I passed, how shall I go forward?

    • Nader K. Rad January 17, 2015 at 21:03 #

      There are many options Amani. What’s your expertise? what’s the industry you work in?

  7. Kunal January 5, 2015 at 12:01 #

    Thank you! This is the best explanation I have come across on the web. Kudos.

  8. Udaya December 23, 2014 at 10:42 #

    Thank you so much.

  9. Danko Pigac December 10, 2014 at 15:02 #

    Thank you very much for great explanation of the differences. Also, thank you for your firm statement that PMP and PRINCE2 certificates actually are not competitors, which is sometimes very hard to explain ;-)
    In addition, I would not undermine the importance of PMP in EU project management practice.

  10. Surendra Rayudu December 4, 2014 at 08:58 #

    All the details provided were crisp and clear. This has changed my perception and approach towards these exams.

  11. Yashwanth December 2, 2014 at 05:48 #

    Hi Nader

    May I know what is the training duration for PRINCE2 and PMP? what is the standard/minimum of class training hours required to complete PRINCE2/PMP? syllabus.

    • Nader K. Rad December 2, 2014 at 09:21 #

      The standard PMP course is 35 hours, and a normal PRINCE2 Foundation + Practitioner course (including the time for the two exams) is 5 days.

  12. Senda October 14, 2014 at 20:29 #

    Thanks Just answered my questions that held me back for months, gotta do both in tandem. Brilliant analysis.

  13. James September 26, 2014 at 18:08 #

    I recently pass PMP and presently preparing for the scheduling certification offered by PMI. This article has really given me a push for prince2 that I will start preparing for now as I never thought of it until after reading this publication. You are wonderful. I also in the pass have ITIL certification.

    • Nader K. Rad September 27, 2014 at 09:33 #

      I’m glad it was helpful.
      If you are in the IT industry, you can also consider Agile certifications such as PSM I, EXIN Agile Scrum Foundation and PMI-ACP.

  14. Wissam September 23, 2014 at 12:42 #

    Very detailed and organized response.
    Very useful.
    Thank you for the input!

    Regards

  15. Sri Naveen Dasari September 20, 2014 at 18:13 #

    Explaination was simple and easily understandable. Now I will start with Prince2 Foundation.

  16. Sonia September 11, 2014 at 19:44 #

    Excellent explanation about the two concepts. I am very pleased I found this link; it is much more clear. Thanks so much and keep doing this!!

  17. Jay September 2, 2014 at 05:15 #

    Worth spending few minutes of time to take a quick glance on this site, I was having different perception on this certificates prior reading this blog. Thanks Much and appreciate your efforts.

  18. Hanmant Bakal August 15, 2014 at 20:53 #

    Really Happy! found required help. Thanks really helpful.

  19. Bandana June 12, 2014 at 14:36 #

    very well explained and very helpful to start with certification.
    just a little more to know, as I am trying to to self study through online sessions but I am confused with training websites. Can I find any comparison on it e.g. which one is good in learning material and in cost wise?
    Thanks once again for your answer.

    • Nader K. Rad June 12, 2014 at 14:54 #

      I’m glad that you’ve found it helpful.
      You’re right, it’s usually hard to choose one. Some online courses are just a summary of the standard/manual, without any real added value.
      I suggest you check the demo, the free material that the same organization provides, and check the reviews or ask your friends and colleagues.
      Good luck.

  20. Elena June 8, 2014 at 16:44 #

    Very clear and extremely helpful in the decision-making where to start from and how to deep dive into profiling. Thank you!

  21. Razaq June 5, 2014 at 23:20 #

    Fantastic as usual Frank & Co,you guys have given very comprehensive explanation, I think is time for me complete the Prince2 practictioner now,then Agile, PMP, thanks for the support for the foundation.

  22. sheetal June 5, 2014 at 07:12 #

    Thank you for such a descriptive explanation. I have finally made my decision after days of head scratching over the course to be taken, I am a fresher with mba in operations and to kick start my career in projects prince2 is what I think is the best option for me..

  23. Rasoul May 10, 2014 at 06:30 #

    Very clear explanation, especially the viewpoint comparison table.
    recently I passed PMP exam. it tooks one year of self-study. Believe me or not, the exam was a total nightmare to me. :))
    BTW, I am looking forward to plan for PRNICE2 self-study, and your awesome article ignited the torch for me.

    thank you

  24. khamis H hamada April 29, 2014 at 03:20 #

    This is a very clearest explanation I’ve seen.
    Thanks,,,,,,

  25. Rohit April 3, 2014 at 09:43 #

    superb, thanks a lot …really appreciate your detailed explanation on PMP vs prince2…. from last 2 months i was just wondering what to do…you just made it so simple for me…I will go for Prince2 (foundation + practitioner) right now and will get trained on PMP in parallel (and when time allows will appear for PMP exam)
    Thanks once again :)

  26. Ian March 5, 2014 at 11:14 #

    The clearest explanation I’ve seen. Thanks a lot.

  27. Edgardo Silva February 21, 2014 at 16:34 #

    Excellent explanation. I have things more clear now since I’m pursuing the PMP certification. I will follow your advice and begin digging into the Prince2 methodology. Thanks!

  28. Denis February 18, 2014 at 23:00 #

    Thank you for a brilliant overview. I wish I would have seen this article before I spent several hours on gathering all the useful info from many other web-sites.

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