Project Management Institute

ESA accreditation round table

PMI Director for Educational Services

An Ad Hoc Round Table discussion session was held during the 1982 Toronto, Canada, PMI Symposium, October 3-6, 1982. The purpose of this discussion was to share views on the various ramifications that accreditation, certification, and licensing of project managers might have on the Project Management Institute and its members. It is important to note that this meeting was held after the formal ESA Report had been submitted to the PMI Board of Directors. These notes therefore constitute an extension and elaboration of the basic ESA report in this area, but an extension that was accomplished under the auspices and with the support of the ESA Project.

In a separate activity, the Project Management Institute (PMI) polled its members at the Toronto Symposium to determine their attitudes toward various methods of certifying project managers. The discussion at this meeting began with the question of distinguishing between accreditation, as viewed by ESA, and the certification efforts also being pursued by PMI. The two terms were defined in the following manner:

1. Accreditation is a process by which one institution reviews and evaluates the program of another institution, granting the program approval, or “accrediting” it, if the program meets certain levels of quality. Thus PMI might, at some time in the future, review a proposed Master of Science in Project Management Degree offered by some college or university, and finding that it met certain standards of quality, “accredit” or endorse the degree program.

2. Certification is a process by which an organization reviews the professional qualifications of an individual to determine if he or she meets certain standards of knowledge and professional achievement. If so, the organization would “certify” this individual as meeting these minimum standards. Thus PMI might, at some time in the future, establish standards for levels of knowledge and ethical performance related to the project management field, establish a series of tests to determine that the individual meets these standards, and then certify publically that the individual does meet at least these published minimum standards.

With these definitions in mind, an extended discussion ensued concerning the original intent of the ESA Project. It was agreed that while PMI might in the future be called upon to accredit programs of other organizations, the intent of the ESA Project and the issue of greatest current concern involved the certification of project managers. The remainder of the discussion was limited to this topic.

Several different methods of certification were discussed, each representative of the certification program used by one or more U.S. professional organization. It was the consensus of the group that some form of certification program would be very useful to the project management field, since it would require the definition of a unique body of knowledge which should be mastered by one who would claim to be a certified project manager. It was believed that the certification program, if properly controlled, would enhance the advancement of the project management field as a profession, and would aid in establishing degree programs by clearly defining the unique body of knowledge represented by the profession. The meeting concluded with a recommendation that the PMI Board of Directors establish a Certification Committee to evaluate the attitudes of the PMI membership at large toward certification, and to recommend both if and how the Institute should involve itself in a certification program. It was further agreed that this Certification Committee should assume all responsibilities for the Accreditation portion of the ESA Project.

Upon receiving these recommendations, the PMI Board of Directors acted to establish a Project Management Certification Committee, chaired by Dr. Martin D. Martin of Western Carolina University, and reporting to the Board of Directors through the Director for Educational Services. A distinguished list of senior project managers agreed to serve on the Committee, including:


Name and Affiliation Partial List, PMI Activities
Mr. Gordon Davis DDR International Founding member of PMI; Project Manager for the 1979 Atlanta Symposium; PMI Person of the Year, 1980.
Mr. Lew Ireland (Consultant) President and Founder, Washington, D.C., Chapter; Assistant to the V.P. Chapter Activities at the CCR Meetings.
Dr. Harold Kerzner Baldwin-Wallace College Professor of Project and Systems Management; Author of leading texts on project management.
Mr. Lee Lambert Battelle Project Management Division President, Ohio Chapter, responsible for the Chapter's reactivation.
Mr. Dave Morton Cadillac-Fairview Corporation Past President, PMI; Past Chairman of the Board, PMI; PMI Person of the Year, 1981.
Mr. Al Smith Past President and Founder, Southeast Chapter; Facilities Manager, 1979 Atlanta Symposium.
Mr. James Snyder Smith Kline Beckman, Inc. Founding Member of PMI; Past President, PMI; Past Chairman of the Board, PMI; PMI Person of the Year, 1978; Fellow of the Institute; Honorary Life Member of PMI; Past Executive Director, PMI.


The Committee has surveyed the PMI membership, using a survey form distributed at the Toronto Symposium and also published in the December, 1982, issue of the Project Management Quarterly. A large majority of the respondees favored PMI developing some form of certification program. The Committee is now developing a proposal to recommend the most appropriate form of certification for the project management field, and how PMI could best initiate, administer, and control such a program. The Committee's report will be presented to the Board of Directors for action in October, 1983, at the Houston Symposium.

The ESA Project has established a baseline of topic areas appropriate to the study of project management. This baseline will certainly be used and expanded upon in any effort to develop recommended knowledge areas for project managers. The ESA Project has also proposed a Code of Ethics for Project Managers, which can serve as an ethical foundation for any certification program. Dr. Martin's Certification Committee is building on these baselines as they develop their recommendations for the Board of Directors. It is apparent that the ESA Project has established a foundation on which to advance project management as a recognized managerial profession.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.



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