What Certification Pairs Best With Your PMP?

By Michael J. McMorrow

This article originally appeared in the PMI-SFBAC Newsletter in Oct 2018. PMI-SFBAC no longer provides access to newsletter archives.

PMI_SFBAC CEO Cecilio “CJ” Mills is a believer in certification, holding a PgMP®, a CSM®, a PMI-ACP®, and LEED® certification. “ I use all of them in my consulting business,” says Mills. 

But where to start when you are looking to add more certifications? “There are so many certifications available today that it’s hard to say which to choose,” says Sandy Mitchell, PMI-SFBAC Director of PMP Certification, when asked which ones can be paired with a PMP® to enhance career options. With that stated, let’s get ready to do battle with a plethora of trademarked acronyms.

Agile Certifications

“I’d start off with saying the PMI-ACP® is a great compliment to the PMP®. A lot of PMs are already doing agile so the ACP fits right in,” says Mitchell. Mills adds, “With many of our companies desiring or practicing agile in their operations, learning about the framework, leadership style, and difficulties in implementing agile is very worthwhile because it is very easy to understand, so the misconception is that any company can do it.”

The competing CSM® (Certified Scrum Master), PSM® (Professional Scrum Master) and SMC® (Scrum Master Certified) certifications are cost effective, but they are not as comprehensive as the PMI-ACP®. 

Design Thinking® is a similar iterative process that has gained popularity. Mills explains, “The purpose is to take complex problems that are not well defined or unknown, take human needs into account, reframe the problem in human-centric ways, create as many ideas as possible by brainstorming and using a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.”

The area of Agile certification demonstrates two common issues across industries. There are many competing certifications, and there are always emerging domains where it is unclear which certifications  will become standards.

Sigma Certifications

“There’s also Lean 6 Sigma® with the different “belts”, white, green, black, etc, which helps to teach folks how to improve processes so the company can save money. Lean is also good for helping companies improve their manufacturing lines and time to market timelines,” says Mitchell. Mills adds that “it is very popular in healthcare and production facilities.”

Another certification series popular in manufacturing and biotech in particular is the Good Manufacturing Practice® certifications from CfPIE (Center for Professional Innovation and Education). 

LEED® and Other Building Certifications

“LEED® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is great for those who are looking to be certified in green building industry,” according to Mitchell. Mills details: “You begin by satisfying the Green Associate and can become an AP® (Accredited Professional) in BD+C Building Design and Construction, ID+C Interior Design and Construction, O+M Operations & Maintenance, or ND Neighborhood Development. There are specialties that exist in each like LEED® for schools, healthcare, data centers, etc. And the caveat is that buildings get ‘Certified’ while folks get ‘Accredited’.”

There are also certifications for Facilities Management from the International Facilities Management Association and the Building Owners Management Association.

PgMP® and more PMI certifications

Mills advises, “With so many professionals holding the PMP and moving towards larger and more complex programs, the PgMP® (Program Management Professional)  is the next natural step. We move from tactical delivery and begin to think about benefits management of the overall program, not just scope/schedule/budget.”

Mitchell counsels, “Another is the PMI-PBA® (Professional Business Administrator).  Lots of PMs are actually PBAs who took the PMP® exam because PMI didn’t have a PBA® certification until recently. “

Of course, says Mitchell, “there are the rest of the PMI certifications, depending on what a person is interested in or currently doing; PgMP®, PfMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP®, CAPM®.”

  • PfMP® = Portfolio Management Professional
  • PMI-RMP® = Risk Management Professional
  • PMI-SP® = Scheduling Professional
  • CAPM® = Certified Associate in Project Management

IT Certifications

Raymond Chang, PMI-SFBAC VP Professional Development, recommends: “If someone wants to further advance their career after obtaining a PMP® the CISSP® (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) may be the next certification to aim for in the Information Technology field. These two certifications complement each other: for someone like a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) who needs to understand about the program management aspect of IT security, or a regular PM who needs to understand technical aspects to complete all the audits/monitoring in a timely manner.” 

IT training company Global Knowledge’s 2018 IT Skills & Salary Report reveals the top 15 IT certifications in terms of annual income. In addition to the CISSP®, you’ll find other security-related certifications, as well as many for cloud and servers.


If you need some IT fundamentals, you might want to start with the CompTIA A+® certification, which will provide you with basics you will need to advance to more technical topics.

Survey Says: PMP® Still a Winner!

Take a breath, Project Manager. The Global Knowledge survey still ranks your PMP® as one the top earning certificates in IT.