January 18, 2018


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

Project Management as a Professional Designation

The purpose of this article is to look at project management as a profession, the characteristics of a professional, the career path and levels of project managers and how to register it as a designation.

A Profession would have the following elements:

project management as a profession









Source: Project Management South Africa

When we talk about a professional project manager, what does that really mean?

Characteristics of a Professional

In a profession, people would be expected to have certain characteristics. Here are some of those:

  • Advanced education and expertise
  • Membership to professional bodies
  • Implicit adoption of that organisation’s ethics
  • Commitment to continual professional development and learning
  • Sense of responsibility to the wider public
  • Consistent exercise of discretion and judgement

Professionals would have a qualification, an accreditation and/or certification. Let’s look at the definitions to be clear on what each means.

Qualification – A learning outcome as a result of formal tuition. In South Africa it is what is recognised on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) at the different levels.

Accreditation – Recognition provided to a candidate in accordance with the criteria of a specific organisation or institution typically based on a combination of knowledge and demonstrated ability.

Certification – Certification is often needed to work in some trades. It usually means an individual has passed a trade test administered by a recognised authority. Possessing a certificate of completion of a course is typically not the same as being certified.

Registration – A Professional Registration gives a license to operate and to practice within a scope of operation and to take responsibility for the work. It provides authority to perform a certain scope of work without supervision. The registration is typically a statutory requirement.

Designation – In the South African context designation is a job title. It’s the title conferred by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) recognised professional body that could be statutory or non-statutory, based on certain criteria defined by the professional body.

SAQA aims to work with professional bodies towards:

  • Progressing professions by working with those professional bodies that meet the criteria for recognition and with these bodies, regulate professional designations.
  • This promotes public awareness of these professional designations, inspiring pride in the profession, and sets the scene for public protection by requiring adherence to a code of professional conduct.

By recognising and formalising designations, professional bodies contribute to the development of career paths as well as promoting continuous professional development within the profession.

Project Management Landscape

The South African Department of Higher Education and Training named Project/Programme Management the 5th most scarce skill in South Africa. Project Management South Africa (PMSA) aims to provide a career path framework through qualifications, training, accreditation etc. The following designations have been registered:

  • Project Manager
  • Senior Project Manager
  • Principal Project Manager

Ongoing professional development is also enabled. The following image depicts a typical career path:

PM career path















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