Exploring the role of formal bodies of knowledge in defining a profession - The case of project management

P. W.G. Morris, L. Crawford, D. Hodgson, M. M. Shepherd, J. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

188 Citations (Scopus)


Since the mid 1970s, project management associations around the world have made serious attempts to conduct themselves as professional associations. Traditional professions distinguished themselves by emphasising standards such as service to the public and competence in their field, and by ensuring that their membership meets these standards. An important element of a profession is ownership of a body of knowledge that is distinctive to the professional group. Project management associations have spent considerable time and effort in developing Bodies of Knowledge (BOKs) and their associated certification programs, and indeed the popularity of these has been notable. Yet there are problems, some relating to the broader issue of whether the project management associations really are equipped to act as professional bodies, others related to the specific challenge of agreeing the 'distinctive body of knowledge' and to the value of certification. This paper draws on insights from the rethinking project management EPSRC project as well as several separate research programs to explore the development of project management as a profession and the role of the formal BOKs in this professionalization, and to suggest a research agenda for critiquing, contributing to, and maintaining both the formal BOKs and the more general body of knowledge relevant to the needs of the discipline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-721
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov. 2006


  • Bodies of knowledge
  • Competency
  • Learning
  • Professionalism


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