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Designations FAQs
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FAQs on the Registration of Designations

At the end of September 2013, PMSA was confirmed as a registered professional body by the South African Qualifications Authority and afforded the right and responsibility to confer the following designations:

This page serves to answer some of the many questions our members and the general public may have with regard to these designations. Should you have a question that is not addressed below, kindly send your enquiry to

1. What is SAQA’s objective in registering professional bodies?

Part of South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA’s) mandate is to ‘further develop and implement the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)’.

By developing and implementing a policy for recognising professional bodies and registering professional designations, SAQA seeks to promote ‘coordination and collaboration across education, training, development and work’.

SAQA aims to work with professional bodies to achieve a range of objectives, which are detailed in their Policy and Criteria document, but in summary include the following:

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 also sets the scene for public protection by requiring adherence to a code of professional conduct and applying a procedure to address contraventions of the code of conduct.

Individuals earning the designations will be recorded on a national register, yielding data that can be used to promote the profession and purposes of the NQF Act. By recognising and formalising designations, professional bodies contribute to the development of career paths and a national career advice system, as well as promoting continuous professional development within the profession.

2. What is the thinking behind PMSA’s application to register designations?

There has been much debate on the validity of referring to project management as a profession, as opposed to a discipline applied while performing the role of engineer, technician, business analyst etc. PMSA believes that project management has progressed from a discipline to a profession in its own right.

Evidence of this is a large and growing body of knowledge; the scale and activities of professional bodies for project managers globally; formal education programmes in project management; PM certifications and accreditations; global standards for the application of PM; career paths and opportunities for ongoing professional development; to list just some of the trademarks of a profession.

By aligning to a national initiative, PMSA is able to put the pieces in place for national recognition of project management as a profession, and to develop the profession within the framework put in place by SAQA. This framework is complementary to the views and membership criteria which PMSA has followed since inception in 1997 and the opportunity now exists to take what used to be a voluntary membership of a non-statutory body to the next level – namely to a professional registration.

3. Are all professional bodies required to apply?

No – registration is not compulsory. This means that professional bodies that are not yet sufficiently mature to comply with the SAQA criteria are not barred from continuing their business; nor are those bodies that do not see value in the process compelled to participate. This SAQA initiative spans all industry sectors and disciplines, not just project management, so naturally some bodies might not find value in applying for recognition.

4. If it is not compulsory, why did PMSA apply?

PMSA has a 16-year history as an autonomous, non-statutory professional body for project, programme and portfolio management in South Africa. We believe that PMSA is ideally placed to assist SAQA in meeting its objectives in terms of project management and has the necessary track record to guide the industry in this regard.

PMSA also has mature systems and policies and comfortably met the requirement stipulated by SAQA, and shares the organisation’s vision. Through this recognition, PMSA is also better placed to interact with allied associations that have similar recognition, to seek collaboration in the interests of mutual benefit for the bodies and their members. An example of this would be efforts to share recognition of CPD activities across industries and professional bodies. The recognition raises the platform from which we carry out our mandate and connect with our stakeholder groups.

5. Does this make PMSA a statutory body?

No. PMSA remains a voluntary membership association / non-statutory body. Statutory bodies exist as a result of legislation and are required to meet the specific objectives specified by the relevant law.

PMSA prefers its autonomy and continues to operate according to a Constitution and the Articles of Association developed by its members.This means that there is no legal requirement to be registered with PMSA to practice as a project manager, however, in future the weight of the formal national recognition will begin to set designation holders apart from those who have not sought registration. The greater the support from PMSA members in this initiative, the faster we can grow the status of the designations.

6. How long does PMSA retain its status as a recognised professional body?

Recognition is valid for a five year period after which it is reviewed to determine if the body has complied with the various requirements, and can have their status renewed for a further five years.

7. Who decided on the criteria for the designations?

The initial review by SAQA of PMSA’s membership criteria set the scene for the official application for each designation. A series of working committees, comprising PMSA members and leaders who (amongst their credentials) are long-term participants in the development of national and global standards for project management contributed to identifying the criteria for the three designations put forward with the initial application.

There was also benchmarking against similar processes in other countries. The resulting criteria are consistent with the requirements specified by SAQA and have received the necessary approvals from the relevant quality councils.

8. What are the qualifying criteria for the different designations and what is the rationale behind it?

Through its promotion of the NQF Act, SAQA stipulates that each designation must have its foundation in an NQF qualification. The qualification is one of seven criteria for a registered designation.

These are illustrated in the below documents:

Level 1 - Project Manager (PM)

Level 2 - Senior Project Manager (Sr.PM)

Level 3 - Professional Project Manager (Pr.PM)

PMSA further specifies how each designation is shaped by explaining the minimum requirements to hold each designation, as indicated in the diagrams.

9. Why does the Pr.PM require a NQF8 qualification?

The Pr.PM is intended to refer to an expert, specialist project manager. In South Africa, a Bachelor’s Degree Honours and a Post Graduate Diploma are NQF 8 qualifications.

If one refers to the NQF Act definitions of the various NQF levels, it becomes apparent that it is at NQF8 that expert / specialist learning takes place:

Bachelor’s Honours: ‘This qualification typically follows a Bachelor's Degree, and serves to consolidate and deepen the student's expertise in a particular discipline, and to develop research capacity in the methodology and techniques of that discipline. This qualification demands a high level of theoretical engagement and intellectual independence. In some cases a Bachelor Honours Degree carries recognition by an appropriate professional or statutory body.’ (NQF Act 67 of 2008)

Postgraduate Diploma: This ‘is generally multi- or interdisciplinary in nature but may serve to strengthen and deepen the student's knowledge in a particular discipline or profession. The primary purpose of the qualification is to enable working professionals to undertake advanced reflection and development by means of a systematic survey of current thinking, practice and research methods in an area of specialisation. This qualification demands a high level of theoretical engagement and intellectual independence.’ (NQF Act 67 of 2008)

10. How do these designations compare to professional registration with statutory councils?

As mentioned earlier, statutory councils exist due to an Act of legislation. Their registration of professionals is determined by the law and is required if the individual intends to practice in that profession. This would be an example of where a registration is compulsory. In the project management space, the only statutory requirement for registration is the one conferred by the SACPCMP for construction project managers.

Whereas PMSA and SACPCMP are both bodies recognised by SAQA, and the evaluation criteria, CPD processes etc. are similar the PMSA designations are not the same as, nor aligned to those conferred by SACPCMP. PMSA designations refer to project management in a generic sense, though there is scope to consider future designations specific to industries.

11. How does this differ from PMSA membership?

PMSA membership as it currently stands, is voluntary and on various levels:

Affiliate membership is designed as an entry point for those who have an interest in project management and are in their early stages of their PM career. Categories of affiliate membership include Associate, Student and Retiree.

Full membership requires a first qualification and a minimum of three years’ experience as a project manager.

Professional membership requires a tertiary qualification, a qualification in project management at NQF 6/7, ten or more years of experience working as a project manager and a commitment to the profession in the form of having made a contribution to the body of knowledge, developing young project managers or volunteering towards improving the practice of project management.

With the introduction of the designations, there will be a gradual transition of memberships to designations. For example, those who are currently full members of PMSA would be able to apply for registration on the PM and Sr.PM designations, and current professional members would be able to apply for the Sr.PM or Pr.PM designations, depending on the extent to which they meet the criteria. 

PMSA will likely begin with a pilot group of long-serving professional members to register the first Pr.PM designation holders.

Membership and registration will run in parallel for the time being, and until PMSA has registered designations suitable for other levels of project practitioner (for example, project administrator).

This means that all members can maintain their existing membership until they wish to apply for a designation.

12. When can individuals start to register on the designations?

We aim to begin the pilot intake of designations in the first quarter of 2014. Members will be advised and in some cases invited to apply on a particular designation.

We encourage all members who believe they would like to register on a designation to do the following in the interim:

  • Understand the criteria and requirements for each designation.
  • Identify which designation you are likely to qualify for.
  • Gather the necessary documentation.
  • Log on to you member profile on the PMSA system and complete all required member information.
  • Upload any documentation relevant to your application for a designation.

This will give members a head-start in the process.

Further fields will be added to the application form, in line with the requirements of the SAQA database format. This and other developments will be communicated to members as and when it becomes relevant.

13. What will this mean for PMSA members and designation-holders?

By registering on a designation, members will formalise their position at a particular stage of their career path. They will carry a formal title consistent with their career stage, the learning and experience they have gathered for the duration of their career to date. They will be evaluated by their peers either through an analysis of their portfolio of evidence (PM and Sr.PM) or a combination of this and a peer interview (Pr.PM).

There will be a differentiation between members (non-designation holders) and designation-holders in that the former will not be included on the national register and will not carry the title. They may still use the post-nominal associated with their membership status (M.PMSA, PM.PMSA), but communication and marketing efforts will indicate the difference between these and the designations.

The intention is that each member apply for a relevant designation so as to establish their standing in the project management environment with their peers and the public in general. This will contribute to the gradual ‘professionalising’ of the PM environment and public understanding of the career stages.

14. Does PMSA recommend a particular career path for project, programme and portfolio management?

PMSA has proposed a career path framework to contextualise the various stages and where the designations fit. This framework is intended to be a generic framework that is not specific to a particular industry but provides a guideline for how an individual can enter and progress in the profession. It refers to the knowledge, skill and experience consistent with each stage and will further link the offerings of PMSA recognised education and training providers (RETPs) to career path progression.

15. Who will conduct the evaluation of designation applications?

Initial evaluation will be conducted by the PMSA administration to ensure that the documentation submitted is consistent with the requirements. Thereafter a peer will be tasked with valuating an application. PMSA has looked first to its volunteer structures to form a pool of evaluators and will extend an invitation to the PMSA members to make themselves available to serve as evaluators. It is important, particularly in the evaluation of applicants to the Pr.PM designation, that evaluators have insight into the industry in which the applicant has built their career so that a fair assessment of competence can be made. Evaluators needn’t be designation-holders themselves but should be deemed to have the appropriate level of seniority to make a fair evaluation. More than one evaluator will be assigned to each application.

16. Will PMSA become a training provider offering credentials towards the designations?

No. While PMSA can offer career advice and explain what courses a candidate can complete to advance their progression along the career path, the SAQA rules state that the professional body conferring designations may not be a training provider. PMSA will rely on its Recognised Education and Training Providers (RETPs) to provide the tuition towards meeting the requirements of a designation and retaining their designation through continuous professional development.

17. Will these designations be internationally recognised?

The SAQA initiative is designed to be relevant to the South African environment. Designations conferred by PMSA are intended to build an identify for what is considered a project manager in the local context and educate the local environment about the difference between a person holding a title following recognition of that individual by a nationally registered professional body, versus a job-title. Its relevance is local, however the standard and criteria associated with each designation is consistent with what we have seen being developed by similar professional bodies in other parts of the world. It is important to understand the difference between holding a designation and holding an accreditation. A number of accreditations are available and many of these are recognised within a country, within an industry or within a company. The designations, on the other hand, recognise the overall extent to which an individual has developed themselves according to the stipulated criteria, of which an accreditation or certification is just one.

In time, due to the manner in which the designations framework is structured for all professions, the status of the designations should grow to the extent that it is may become a preference or requirement when recruiting / awarding tenders / awarding contracts.

18. How do I retain my designation?

The tables reflected in the attachment indicate the ‘retaining’ criteria. The designation-holder is expected to comply with the code of conduct, pay their annual membership fees and attain the relevant continuous development points over a three-year cycle.

19. What will this mean for PMSA Recognised Education and Training Providers?

PMSA RETPs are all doing excellent work in addressing education and training needs for the project management space at different levels. Using the PMSA Career Path Framework, they will be requested to indicate where their various course offerings fit in terms of career development. This will also be a step towards creating context for the ongoing professional development requirements to progress through the career path.

20. What if I am already a Pr. Eng?

The Pr. Eng (Professional Engineer) is conferred by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), which is a statutory body. The Pr. Eng has its own set of requirements for awarding and retention and has the hallmarks of a registration that has legislative support and a long history, both of which have allowed ECSA to negotiate global recognition for this professional registration. For these and other reasons, a Pr. Eng cannot be equated to a Pr.PM. A Pr. Eng would therefore not be a pre-requisite for becoming a Pr.PM, nor would it entitle an individual to the Pr.PM designation.

21. What if I am a PMP®?

A Project Management Professional (PMP®) could be considered a certification / accreditation at the advanced level and would therefore contribute to one of the requirements for the Sr.PM designation, as would other similar certifications / accreditations offered by other bodies (IPMA, APM etc.). A PMP® is not considered an NQF 8 qualification, so on its own would not be sufficient for a Pr.PM designation. A comprehensive table will be made available which identifies the levels of the various prevailing accreditations according to the Global Alliance of Project Performance Standards (GAPPS). This will assist applying individuals and the grading panels

22. Can a designation be used by more than one professional body?

No. According to the SAQA policy, only one professional body may register a particular designation.

23. Is a designation assigned to a NQF level?

No. The designation itself is not registered at a particular level, however SAQA requires that an NQF level is one of the requirements of the designation.

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