The rush to licensure

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director.

The idea of licensed project managers has been discussed off-and-on for nearly 30 years now. With the Association of Project Managers in the UK apparently on the verge of getting approval from the British government to begin chartering project management, the discussions are heating up again.

In case you’re not familiar with the British system, “chartering” is effectively the same as licensure. Accountants in the UK are “chartered” and this credential is an almost exact analog for the Certified Public Accountant in the USA with requirements a matter of law.

Personally, I’m ambivalent. I think there are arguments for licensure and arguments against.

I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in the topic start by doing a little research. Begin by reading (or at least skimming) “The System of Professions” by Andrew Abbott. Here’s the publisher’s blurb from Amazon:

In The System of Professions Andrew Abbott explores central questions about the role of professions in modern life: Why should there be occupational groups controlling expert knowledge? Where and why did groups such as law and medicine achieve their power? Will professionalism spread throughout the occupational world? While most inquiries in this field study one profession at a time, Abbott here considers the system of professions as a whole. Through comparative and historical study of the professions in nineteenth- and twentieth-century England, France, and America, Abbott builds a general theory of how and why professionals evolve.

Next, dig into both sides of the argument in the Harvard Business Review:

http://hbr.org/2008/10/its-time-to-make-management-a-true-profession/ar/1

http://hbr.org/2010/07/the-big-idea-no-management-is-not-a-profession/ar/1

Then — and only then — weigh in with your opinion. This is not about “is project management a profession or not?” where the answer depends solely on which definition of “profession” you use. This is about the future: will the discipline of project management be ruled by elected officials? Or will it continue to be driven by practitioners?

Your Comments?