Is PMP Worth The Hassle?

As a certified PMP®, I often come across the un-convinced who question the value of project
management certification and believe that it represents a triumph of book knowledge over
experience and common sense. I often hear comments like “doesn’t just taking a test mean
that you are good at reading and memorising knowledge?” and “how can taking a test really
indicate a level of ability on something that is fundamentally an experience based skill?”
However, these un-convinced, or late adopters, haven’t quite caught on to the growing ‘tour
de force’ that is project management.

As those of us working in project management know, things have moved on quite
considerably. The days when an individual was given a project to complete alongside
their normal day to day roles are going. Project management is becoming an established
profession on its own, like accountancy; it has professional bodies, certification bodies,
frameworks and methodologies, protocols, research and best practice. There is a difference
between ‘certified’ and ‘qualified’. In my book, to be considered a ‘qualified’ project manager,
you have to do more than simply pass a test and manage projects, you have to manage the
people, stakeholders, resources and a whole host of other project related soft skills.

As a PMP® myself, I would (predictably!) advocate the PMI®’s certifications. The most popular
of the PMI’®s qualification is the Project Management Professional (PMP®). Other credentials
offered by the PMI® include:

• The Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM®) – for those that are just entering the field
and may not have the experience required

• The PMI® Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP®) – for those that work in the project
environment and are becoming the risk manager for their organisation

• The PMI® Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP®) – for those that are schedule planners and
manage the complexities of the schedules and dependencies.

• The Program Manager Professional (PgMP®) – for those individuals that work with multiple
related projects and programmes

Project Management Institute (founded in 1969), introduced The Guide to the Project
Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) as a way to standardise project
management practices across the globe and to raise standards. By creating these common
processes, project managers had something to refer to when looking for best practices. To
show commitment to meeting these standards and advancing project management all over
the globe, the PMI® created a credentialing programme, the first of which was the Project
Management Professional (PMP®). In 2004 and again in 2008, the PMBOK® Guide became an
approved standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI-PMI 99-001-2008), and
the process for credentialing PMP® is also approved by ANSI. Both of these ANSI standards
lend a huge level of credibility to the credentials.

It is only recently that understanding of the value of disciplined project management
processes, has become widespread (obviously not everyone but a large enough number
to make a real difference). The PMI®’s most recent stats reported that there are over 370,000
certified PMP®s worldwide.

At this point, I would like to say for the record to anyone who thinks that achieving the PMP®
Credential is easy – it isn’t. The value of the PMP® is rooted in how challenging it is to obtain,
not everyone who tries makes it – even on the second attempt. Not only is there a gruelling
exam (especially if you have been out of university for a while), but you also need to show
evidence that you have (depending on education level) 3 to 5 years experience in which you
have to have accumulated between 4500 and 7500 hours managing and leading a project
and working in a project environment. In addition you also need 35 hours of formal project
management education. You have to have some serious dedication to get PMP certified!

So, why would I recommend adding the PMP® credential to your name?

1. Put yourself ahead of the pack

Project management as a core skill is growing within organisations, leading some organisations to elevate it
from a specialised niche skill to an identified core skill. This means that you need something to set you apart from the other project managers going for the same job/contract/ promotion as you. I have seen it many times in the past, where organisations filter out people who don’t have the PMP®…before they even get to interview stage. If you are a consultant or a freelancer, often the organisations where you will go to work, are made up of teams led by certified PMP®s and will expect at least this standard for new people coming in. I have also seen the trend in tenders released by government agencies or private organisations where they require that the leading project manager be certified!

2. Position yourself for a better salary (possibly)
Ok – so that’s a bit of a crude way of putting it, the more sensitive among you might refer to it as ‘higher billing
potential!’ But seriously, if the recent survey done by PMI® showing stats that are to be believed, certified PMP®s , earn 20% more than the non certified Project Managers, on average. I definitely believe that being PMP certified has definitely made me more marketable.

3. Broaden your experience with global networking
I have mentioned that there are around 370,000 certified PMP®s around the globe. This is a massive benefit in itself. This means that all PMP®s are able to talk to each other in a common language and work to an international standard. For employers, it is invaluable for them to be able to recruit
people from anywhere on the globe, if they have the PMP® credential, they will all speak the same vocabulary! PMI® also offers a fantastic opportunity for networking through their conferences, chapters, and special interest groups.

4. Distinguish yourself through recognition and credibility
Taking the time and making the effort to get certified says something about you. As an employer, I am always impressed by someone had been proactive and fulfilled this commitment to their career, in addition to telling me that they have achieved a set level of knowledge and skill in project management, it gives them just a bit more credibility and says that they will stick it out when the going gets tough. On the flip side, The PMP® certification is especially useful way for employers to show that they value their employees, as it requires that you invest in continuous professional development. This ensures that your knowledge stays fresh and that project managers remain current and relevant.

Of course, there really is no substitute for experience. It isn’t just the certificate that makes you a great
project manager, but what you do with it that counts. Getting the credential represents a commitment to learning and gives you a solid foundation from which you can continue building your road-tested skills and experiences.

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