January 17, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Is Project Management A Profession?

This debate whether project management is a profession or not, has heated up again in the past year. I wanted to have a closer look at what it means to receive acknowledgement as a profession and if I think we will ever arrive there.

According to Wikipedia, the formation of a profession is as follows:
A profession arises when any trade or occupation transforms itself through the development of formal qualifications based upon education, apprenticeship, and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of monopoly rights.

Even though there are many other descriptions and traits associated with an occupation actually becoming a profession, but this is clear and easily lends itself to a step approach when trying to define how far Project Management has progressed towards becoming a true profession.

Project Management can be described as relatively static with respect to its education, apprenticeship and examinations. Right, wrong or otherwise, the adoption of the Project Management Institute’s Code of Ethics, education requirements and examinations based on their Project Management Body of Knowledge has become the de-facto standard for education, apprenticeship and examination.

Project Management is clearly not dependent on any particular type of hardware/software application or platform. Project Management methodology can also be applied across multiple industries.

Again, using the Wikipedia definition of a profession, the following is the classical manner in which an occupation becomes a profession:
1. It became a full-time occupation;
2. The first training school was established;
3. The first university school was established;
4. The first local association was established;
5. The first national association was established;
6. The codes of professional ethics were introduced;
7. State licensing laws were established.

Source: Perks, R.W.(1993): Accounting and Society. Chapman & Hall (London)

Obviously, if we accept PMBOK as the Body of Knowledge, and PMI as the local and national association and accept and embrace their Code of Ethics, Project Management has satisfied the first 6 steps to becoming a true profession. The final step, State Licensing laws being established, remains to be enacted. Since we are in fact global though, that requirement may not be possible, or at least may be unrealistic in many cases.

Does that preclude Project Management from being a true profession? I think not, especially due to the fact that there are other accepted professions that do not have licensing requirements.  If in fact there are other, better qualified, organizations than PMI that would better represent our interests as a profession, then that organization should be identified, promoted and voted on by the members of the profession.

Like many other Project Management Professionals, I also believe that the Project Management occupation has satisfied the definition of a profession and has matured to a level that we should move forward as a truly professional organization.

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