Professionalization of Project Management:
What Does It Mean for Practice?
JANICE THOMAS, PHD, CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE MANAGEMENT, ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY
BILL ZWERMAN, SOCIOLOGY DEPARTMENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
As we move into the 21st century, work has become more knowledge oriented, and information workers in various occupations have recognized the similarity of their work to the traditional “professions” of the 20th century. Many of these occupations, led by teaching, nursing, and social work and including financial planners, surveyors, and many others, have embarked on professionalization initiatives seeking the recognition and privileges traditionally associated with medicine, law, accounting, engineering, and a very few other occupations.
In the last decade of the 20th century, project managers launched a similar professionalization mission. The Project Management Institute (PMI) stated that its mission is “to further the professionalization of project management” with the explicit intent of developing a new profession. Today, many project managers view project management as a “profession.” More than 65 percent of PMI’s membership explicitly recognizes project management as a profession.1
There is no question that these individuals conduct themselves in a professional manner when carrying out their responsibilities. Yet, there is equally no doubt that project management has not today attained the status of a traditional profession as defined in sociological terms, in which a profession