Image reading project management benchmark

This week Walaa Bakry, principal lecturer at Westminster Business School and project management specialist, reports on Arras People’s annual survey of Programme and Project Management Practitioners. Arras People is one of the UK’s leading Programme and Project Management Practitioner (PPM) recruitment specialists and the Project Management Benchmark Report for 2017 covers the views of Programme and Project Managers on various issues related to the PPM community.

The annual survey of Programme and Project Management Practitioners

This year’s survey – the 12fth – attracted more than 2,000 respondents, most of whom are UK-based. The report covers a range of issues ranging from the importance of accreditation, through the gender gap within the PPM community to the impact of the economic climate on PPM Practitioners, shedding light on the state of the PPM community both in the public and private sector.

Chartered status

As the APM (Association for Project Management) readies itself for its newly granted status as the chartered body for the PM profession within the UK, it was encouraging to see that a large proportion of the PM community (46%) feels that chartered status is extremely or very important whilst 27% (32% for UK) felt it was either moderately or slightly important. The charter

• offers assurance to users of project management services through the association’s regulating authority
• acknowledges project professionals as experts in their field
• provides a framework for improving project performance
• will raise the profile and value of project management as a profession.

With one exception, the more highly educated respondents were, the more likely they were to say they considered chartered status extremely important. The exception was that those respondents with a PhD were less likely than everyone else to rate chartered status as extremely important.

bar chart showing how prpoject managers with different educational levels view the iportance of chartered status
©Arras People, from the 2017 Project Management Benchmark report

The 46% of survey respondents who see Chartered status as extremely or very important offer the APM a good base from which to promote the relevance and the benefits of accreditation in general. It’ll also be interesting to see whether the 26% of respondents who felt chartered status was not at all important, or were unaware that it has been granted to the APM, change their opinions as the new status beds in.

Popular Accreditation  

AXELOS accreditation – which includes PRINCE2®, MSP® (Managing Successful Projects) and M_o_R® (Management of Risk) amongst others – is the most popular in the UK, with 42% of respondents citing it, followed by the APM (12%) and the Project Management Institute (PMI) at 6%. PMI accreditation remains the most popular (35%) outside the UK. This is not surprising as the Institute has been established since 1969 and has been marketing their qualifications internationally for a long time.

However, 17% of respondents remain without any accreditation and 10% don’t appear to value any of the accreditation available. Accreditation offers common standards for practitioners and recruiters against which they can have an independently assessed of level of knowledge of the qualifications holders. In many cases, it also promotes best practice within the profession. As well as offering AXELOS-accredited courses in PRINCE2®M_o_R®, AgilePM® (Agile Project Management™) and MSP®, the University of Westminster also offers an APM-accredited MSc In Project Management.

The Gender Gap

Although the figures are heading in the right direction, the PPM practitioner community remains stubbornly male-dominated and progress is very slow. This year, 68% of practitioners identified as male, 31% as female, with 1% choosing not to disclose. The figures for the previous two years were 71% male and 29% female (2015) and 73% male and 26% female (2014).

There is also a significant gender pay gap.

graph showing distribution of project management salaries by gender
©Arras People, from the 2017 Project Management Benchmark report

57% of male project managers earn above the mean salary while only 33% of females do. And, of those who have taken a career break and felt it had an impact on their career, a majority of the men (62%) felt that the impact was positive, whereas a majority of the women (72%) felt the impact was negative.

Meanwhile, 68% of female PPM practitioners reported that factors outside their own capabilities and competencies impacted on their career, compared with 56% of male practitioners. 44% of those women cited unconscious bias as a factor.

graphs showing factors that have impacted on project managers' careers by gender
©Arras People, from the 2017 Project Management Benchmark report

I would like to see more research here to identify what can be done to move the profession towards gender parity. But encouraging women to apply for leading roles would help. Westminster Business School runs Women for the Board which prepares women who wish to take up high-level roles. Lead with Your Strengths: a workshop for women could also be useful.

Mixed picture with regard to employment

Whilst the overall unemployment figure for PPM practitioners remains constant at 6%, the percentage of those who have been unemployed for more than 12 months, dropped significantly from 29% to 18% which is encouraging. However, the corollary of that is that shorter-term unemployment – 3-6 and 7-12 months – rose from 16% in both time-periods to 27% and 23% respectively. This suggests a tightening of the job market. 33% (down from 38%) said they had been unemployed for less than three months.

Meanwhile, 65% of all survey respondents reported feeling confident heading into 2017. This is a sizeable majority, but down from 74% last year, and the first time this figure has fallen below 70% since 2012. But confidence among unemployed seems to increase significantly compared to last year from 32% to 48%.


49% of respondents reported an increase in their remuneration, 38% no change and 13% reporting a fall in their remuneration compared with 2015. The average salary range remains between £40K-£50K and the average day-rate for the self-employed is between £450-£499.

image showing project manager salary distribution by gender
©Arras People, from the 2017 Project Management Benchmark report

While 4% more contractors are earning above the average rate than in previous years, this change is gendered: with more women earning between £400-£449, and more men earning £500-£550.

image showing distribution of project manager contractor day rates by gender
©Arras People, from the 2017 Project Management Benchmark report

Overall, the report suggests that not much has changed since last year. However, it indicates some tightening for PPM Practitioners’ prospects within the public sector, where the impending changes to contractors’ tax status is likely to have an impact.

Top tips for Project and Programme Managers

For anyone working in the PPM domain, or planning a career in project management, it is worth

1. completing a course that leads to an accredited qualification

2. following one or more the large PM organisations

on Twitter – @AXELOS_GBP,  @APMProjectMgmt, @PMInstitute
or on LinkedIn – AXELOSAPM, PMI.

3. attending events where guest speakers from industry or professional bodies talk about careers in project management. Westminster Business School organises a number of such events every year. Follow us on Twitter to find out about them.

portrait of Walaa Bakry
Walaa Bakry is a Principal Lecturer at Westminster Business School (WBS). He lectures on Project Finance and Project Management on the MSc Project Management offered by WBS. He is an accredited PRINCE2® Trainer and an MSP® and M_o_R® practitioner. Walaa is a chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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