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Development and Training

What's expected from Project Managers in our sector?

What qualifications are needed?

Our sector is dominated by professionals who have impressive qualifications. Degrees, PhDs, Pharmacy, Medical, MBA and Engineering. So it may be surprising to discover that many project managers in our field do not have formal PM qualifications. In general, such a thing is not necessarily a requirement before selection for the role. Conversely, a candidate from outside the sector, who may be a highly qualified project manager, is not necessarily an obvious candidate for a PM role.

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This is evidenced by the fact that most Pharma PMs take on the role after an initial career within the sector, as a professional in science, technology, manufacturing or marketing. There are two considerations in particular for suitability in this role, within the life science world: firstly there is a high need for a relevant functional grounding to demonstrate credibility to lead a cross-functional group of experts. Secondly, that the leadership role itself operates in a complex, uncertain environment, where the relationship and facilitative skills of the PM are much more important than a deep knowledge of processes.

PIPMG has been monitoring this situation for a long time. Ten / fifteen years ago we held several networking meetings to discuss the topic. At the time there was a majority feeling that a stronger push for formal accreditation was a distraction from the essential personal skills to manage in an uncertain, fluid environment. But things are changing. Although as we've said above, many large companies still don’t insist on relevant qualifications as a prerequisite to appointing someone as a PM, when they start, it’s mandatory to embark on them. Typically a professional accreditation such as the ‘PMP’ from the Project Management Institute (PMI) or the equivalent from the Association for Project Management (APM).

Traditionally, these associations have been much more representative of industries such as construction, logistics, telecoms and engineering than of BioPharma. But they are looking to change this in coming years.


APM qualifications

The APM offers Project management qualifications at all levels, presenting a clear route to achieving Chartered Project Professional status (ChPP).

People just setting out in a PM role can take the ‘Project Fundamentals Qualification’. (Note that the PIPMG PM Development Program covers the key knowledge aspects of this qualification).

People can continue to build their knowledge as their PM career develops by taking the APM ‘Project Management Qualification’, and the ‘Project Professional Qualification’.

Look at more detail at these programmes here.

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