Tech & Work

PMP: How developers and engineers can use it to jumpstart their career

Projects are universal in business. As a developer or engineer, a PMP certification might help you demonstrate you can see those projects through.

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Professional growth, especially within the tech industry, isn't something to ignore.

For programmers or engineers, though, the Project Management Professional certification (an industry-recognized certification for project managers) might not necessarily be the first certification that comes to mind. However, there are a few reasons why it might be an advantageous move for those thinking ahead.

"Project management in and of itself is similar when you think about a project being a temporary endeavor that's used to undertake and create a new product or an offering, said Victor Carter-Bey of the Project Management Institute. "It's very much aligned [with engineering and development], from that perspective, because it's all about the creation of a product."

A study from the Project Management Institute found that 15.7 million project management jobs will be created around the world through 2020. One of the fastest-growing sectors is IT. The report also said that those with the certification earned 16% more, on average than their peers without the credentials.

To start, according to PMI, there are a few requirements for getting a PMP certification. You can either have:

"A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate's degree, or the global equivalent) with at least five years of project management experience, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education."

Or, "A four-year degree (bachelor's degree or the global equivalent) and at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education."

After the application is approved, applicants have up to a year to take the 200-question, multiple choice exam, and they can retake it three times within one year. The exam is meant to show that the applicant can successfully navigates the stages of project development and execution.

For non-PMI members, the exam fee is $555; for members, it's $405. Course preparation can also run up the bill. Some employers might cover the cost.

So, why go the PMP route?

"Almost any software development or maintenance project is going to follow a project life cycle." said Matt Brosseau, director of recruiting and CTO of Instant Alliance.

No matter the industry, projects have to be completed under certain constraints and circumstances.

"It is a set of practical techniques to help identify the scope the work that needs to be done in and then manage the effort to make sure that the work is done correctly, on time, and within the budget you have planned," said Global Knowledge's Kirsten Lora.

With regard to those who are currently in roles as programmers and engineers, the idea here, perhaps, is not to switch over the role of a project manager. Merely obtaining the certification won't automatically qualify a candidate for an upper level role of that nature. However, having the PMP certification can show that the person in question is looking long term at his or her career.

"Developing their experience and education skills so that they can be eligible for the PMP is a way to identify themselves as strong potentials for future leadership roles," Lora said. The certification helps establish the person as a credible leader.

There are also the soft skills to consider. Leadership, communication, negotiation — Carter-Bey said those are key skills too, for a project manager. "That person can be an engineer, a software developer, but as a project manager, those skills are important," he said.

For programmers and engineers looking for a job, Brosseau said the PMP certification serves as an indicator to hiring managers that the candidate has a certain grasp of the function and importance of projects.

"Working to obtain additional certification and expand on one's skillset is always a positive quality in a potential hire," he said. "Though a PMP certification will not likely immediately qualify someone for a seasoned project management role, the desire to become a more well-rounded technologists certainly won't hurt anyone's chances in the job hunt."

Carter-Bey also talked about the monetary risk companies take when undertaking projects. In PMI's 2014 Pulse of the Profession report, they found that for every billion dollars that's invested into a project, $109 million of that investment is put at risk. Companies might be more willing to go with a certified candidate in order to try and mitigate that risk.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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