Project Management Institute

Head of the class



Costa Rica stands out in Central America for many reasons. Perhaps the most widely known one is its reputation for eco-tourism. Considered one of the “greenest” countries according to the Environmental Performance Index 2010, Costa Rica ranks behind only Iceland and Switzerland.

But a lesser-known fact about this small, beautiful country is the emphasis its people and government place on education, including the study of project management.

Universities in Costa Rica, both public and private, are considered among the best in Latin America. In 1999, the Universidad Para la Cooperación Internacional in San José established a master's degree program in project management that has now graduated more than 2,000 students. In 2007, then-dean Federico Vargas, PMP, accomplished one of the major milestones in the Costa Rican project management community: He and a team of committed professors helped the program become the first, and so far only, degree-granting program in Latin America recognized by PMI's Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC).

Costa Rica's strong position on education is actually established in its constitution. In 1949, the Costa Rican government abolished its army and declared that the budget previously allotted to military forces would be used mainly to fund the national education system. Very few countries today can claim that they don't have a permanent army.

Furthermore, as early as 1848, José María Castro, the founder of the republic (who, by the way, was a former schoolteacher), helped established Costa Rica as the first country in the world with free and mandatory education.

The nation boasts about having more teachers than policemen, and this affirmation is a source of great pride for Ticos—as Costa Ricans are called—because they feel that their high education level sets them apart from other countries in the region.

» This is obviously a community that believes in education and professional development as the most important means of human development and the basis for a country's international success.

A Good Teacher

When you consider the country's focus on education, it does not come as a surprise that the project management community in Costa Rica is robust and forward-thinking. The well-established PMI Costa Rica Chapter received its charter in 2001. It was founded by a group of professionals, led by Enrique Cappella, PMP, who had strong ties to the academic world. Many of them, in fact, were professors from local universities.

The growing number of Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential holders in Costa Rica greatly exceeds those of its neighbors and countries of similar population size. In addition, the republic hosts one of the most successful annual congresses in Latin America and a wide offering of professional development activities that attract practitioners from all over the region.

This is obviously a community that believes in education and professional development as the most important means of human development and the basis for a country's international success.

Larger or more developed countries should learn the lesson that Costa Rica has taught us. The value of education, paired with a healthy respect for our environment, should be a high priority—not only as project managers but also as human beings. PM


Roberto Toledo, MBA, PMP, is managing director of Alpha Consultoría, and a trainer and consultant who works across Latin America. He can be reached at

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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