Project Management

Project managers' views on the value of a PMP certification

Weigh in on whether you think earning a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is a career booster, or if you believe a better use of time is simply demonstrating delivery.

A TechRepublic reader emailed me and inquired about the real value of the Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP), and asked how the certification can boost a project manager's career.

My take

The PMP certification establishes a common language among project managers and helps each other work within a common framework. Once you have the PMP, you need to consider how you're applying the processes, tools, and techniques to projects. By sharing how you apply the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) framework and demonstrating that through actions, you'll build your own personal brand within the company as someone who can deliver. With each success, you should find experiences on larger projects across programs in different business organizations. By demonstrating greater competency managing more complex projects, you'll also be able to compete for more senior positions.

However, certification is merely a test; it validates academic competency, but it doesn't prove you have a historic track record of success. When hiring project managers, I often look for the PMP certification to screen incoming resumes and prioritize candidates for interviews, though I'm using the PMP to look for leadership behaviors across different projects. With enough study and creative experience, anyone can become a PMP, but the successful project managers have a track record of successful delivery using the PMBOK framework.

Ultimately, I believe long-term career success depends on the person and not the credentials. People, not certifications, deliver projects.

What other project managers think

I solicited real-world feedback from the project management community. These are some of the survey responses I received to my question: How did you leverage your PMP credentials to boost your career?

(Please note: I didn't capture user names in this survey.)

  • "I've found that as experience builds through one's career, a PMP is less essential to secure a new position or advancement. Real life experience is worth a lot more. With that said, a less-experienced, newly graduated individual or someone moving into the project management field as a career change will find certification to be a door opener."
  • "The PMP certification at the beginning helped me to progress within my company. Some companies are already looking for project managers with PMP certification and obtaining the certification makes the PM career progression easier. I always highlight the PMP certification to distinguish myself from other PMs that don't have this certification."
  • "I came into project management before the PMP existed, looked at it, but never thought it was a certification I needed."
  • "The holder of the PMP credential gets an edge over other competitors only at the time of initial scrutiny of job profile and help build a trust factor in the customer."
  • "The PMP was helpful to increase salary. It opens the door for discussion with particular employees because it explicitly shows that the person has project management knowledge as well as a positive attitude towards knowledge acquisition: e.g. reading, learning, sharing, and etc. The PMP is must in addition to project management experience in order to start professional career of project manager."
  • "My PMP credentials got my resume past the HR screening process into the hiring manager's hands. Once I got the interview the PMP added confidence while responding to the questions. Now that I have the job, the PMP adds to my credibility when interacting with other teams. It's a high value credential, particularly working in a Department of Defense environment where many folks are titled 'program manager' but don't have the experience. They often seek advice and I'm able to mentor new managers."
  • "My PMP credentials boosted my self-confidence and skills. My organization currently does not recognize, support or require the PMP credential for any of our job classifications. I have promoted the value of PMP credentials to colleagues and several have pursued acquiring this credential."
  • "By obtaining my PMP credential, I was able to end my 6-month unemployment period and get selected for a PM position which has helped me expand my career into Healthcare IT and onto becoming a Site Manager in Program Management"
  • "I got to know some people, but I could have done this also without the credential."
  • "I have found the PMP to be a "door opener" -- the minimum requirement for most opportunities. After that, it's about how I apply the information, demonstrate leadership and apply the skills to project challenges that help advance my career."

In summary, the majority of respondents value the importance of the PMP credential; however, some view it merely as a certification to get past the resume screening.

Also read on TechRepublic

About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

21 comments
ezcertifications
ezcertifications

It is very Importent to the Every person who want to join in the PMP Certification Training

Deucarelli
Deucarelli

Folks, the PMP is not a magic bullet that will make an excellent PM. The PMP is merely a certification to indicate that you have the same baseline understanding of the PM process (as preached by PMI). You can make the same argument that someone that graduated with an engineering degree is supposed to be a good engineer...not true...all it means is that this person went to the rigor to get the engineering degree. yes, it does not distinguish good PM's but do you have another alternative to prove you have the same understanding of PM processes without the PMP? and how do you know we have the same understanding of PM roles if you don't have a PMP?

poonamsharma01
poonamsharma01

I agree with you Andrew that a PM with PMP certification gain more credits as compared to PM without certification. 

Balrisk
Balrisk

Often up to 50% of the job is assessing the political environment.

Balrisk
Balrisk

Having lead successful high level aerospace teams for over 22 years - and commercial teams for 5 years, I've also been called in to attempt to recover major programs and projects that were crashed by a manager or technical lead with ALL the credentials.

All of these certs and credentials should never be utilized for anything other than a basic entry-level platform.

What we are seeing are training facilities going for the wallets of higher level managers like myself.

There are no certs or training that can prepare you for a high level position - only entry level positions.

Hiring managers - like my self who do hire other high level managers should only rely on the presented experience examined during the interview process.

These certs and even BS and MS degrees should be used as entry level.

An experienced manager knows what questions to ask at an interview and considers it 90% of the risk reduction process for positioning a high level manager.

A authentic managers can weed out those who have always protected themselves rather than the processes that reduce risk and facilitate consistently reliable products which continually satisfy customers.

JDR


piercebr
piercebr

What are we going to have next? a TTP (Toilet Trained Professional) certification program?

When are we going to wake and realize that these certifications are nothing more than a scam.

I know people who have never managed a project and nor have their bosses and in order to be accepted within their companies as 'project managers' lie on the application process by saying they have the required number of hours managing project just so they qualify for taking the exam. then they cheat and pass the exam and get the credential.

To Hiring Managers who value a PMP. Wake up and smell the coffee. The PMP is a scam.



Aleks001
Aleks001

The only thing I disagree with PMI is how audit process works. I believe that:

1. Everyone should be audited.

2. When person is being audited it is responsibility of PMI to check the history not the candidate. When we are hired for work it is HR's responsibility to check your work employment history, not yours. PMI should be no different. It is unethical for candidate to contact managers from 3-5 years ago and ask them to sign audit form.

Edward Chung
Edward Chung

I am right now preparing for the PMP Exam (PMBOK 5th Edition), the study of guide itself already pays off as I have a more clearer picture of the project management process. Also, PMPs can speak the same language which can clear a lot of misunderstanding.

bprakash
bprakash

The success of a Project Manager certainly doesn't depend on the certification. For an employer, certification serves as a proof that the candidate has an understanding of a comprehensive project management framework. In that sense the credential will help "pushing" the resume further. Secondly, having gone through the PMBOK Guide will give you a confidence of "knowing the project management". When it comes to delivery...it is all about the PM and not PMP!

If you are planning to become a PMP, you can find a lot of valuable tips in PM Exam Academy: http://www.pmexamacademy.com/

Adam Shrug
Adam Shrug

I've been a PMP since 2004.  I've hired project managers for years and have been the director of two PMO's. In my experience, a PMP certification is no indication of a person's ability to manage projects.  In fact it's been my experience the more closely aligned one's perspective is to PMI, the less likely they are to be effective project managers.  I became so disgusted with PMI and their 'chamber of commerce' mentality that I had them remove me from all affiliations and will not be renewing my PMP.   



dpickles53
dpickles53

I have over 25 years of project management experience with a track record of delivering successfully (measured by schedule, budget, and customer satisfaction with deliverables). I started well before PMP certification was well established. I never found it necessary while I was working in the same corporation (which I did for 29 years). I don't believe I ever missed out on a project opportunity because I did not have the PMP Cert. However, now that I no longer am with the same company and I'm marketing my skills to prospective employers, I know I have been passed over due to the lack of those initials on my resume. One Sr PM on a government project interviewed me and recommended me to the decision makers, but when he got back to me, he said they decided to go with someone who had a PMP certification. He confided that the person had less experience than I have. At this stage of my career, it is difficult to consider putting in the investment in PMP, but I know that not having it limits my possibilities.

tvanbure
tvanbure

A PMP is not granted just for passing a test unlike many other I/T industry designations that used to mean something and now don't, eg MCSE. To Qualify for a PMP you must meet the following according to the PMI website. 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. With a minimum number of 4500 hours of PM experience and 3 years in the role of a PM plus accredited eduction and passing the PMP exam. You would think it means something. What I am seeing it PMPs that have achieved granted their designation yet do not demonstrate that the have much actual experience. PMI should be doing more to verify that the applicant actual meets the rest of the requirements, with some it is very hard to validate that information when it is not easy to do so. Example education and job experience in some countries is harder to validate, eg Middle East countries, African countries and South American countries, not all but many. If PMI always takes people at their word then then experience requirement of the designation becomes meaningless. Compared to other designations I feel PMP actual means something, not just that you merely passed a test. PMI needs to make sure PMPs met the standards they have set or the designation will just become another MCSE or similar bunch of meaningless letters behind your name. Are they doing this today? Just my opinion, I am not a project manager but I work with several.

tonyd
tonyd

In addition to being incestuous, why didn't you ask for input from the boots-on-the-ground people who have been managed by both PMP and non-PMP certificate holders? I'm glad you asked, cuz I'm one of those people :) In my experience, "delivering" is totally uncorrelated to whether the PM has a PMP certificate or not. Also, being a leader/helper to the team is also uncorrelated to whether the PM has a PMP certificate or not.

davidsheppard1
davidsheppard1

I agree upon that certification is related to only academics record but implementation of the software's successfully requires much better skill.Certification are quite good to work as an entry for an interview but when it comes to actual implementation part its all different scenario.I have seen some softwares or project management templates of getprojecttemplates that has helped me a lot as are very easy to use.

Dave.A.Townsend
Dave.A.Townsend

I have been certified since 2006 and in all honestly the certification has not really made much of a difference in terms of employment for me. I have also worked with Project Managers that do not understand the fundemental basics of PM and have even had one Project Manager ask me what PMI stands for. Certification represents that you understand the fundementals, the lingo and have some experience. What amazes me is how there are so many project managers that have very little understanding of the field and are not certified. Yet they have been hired by HR departments as project managers working on some expensive projects. I am sure this is one reason we have some huge failures in some major projects that have sucked millions of dollars in funds and end up as dismal failures. A PM certificate sets a standard and establishes a bar that the person does know something about the management of projects and has some experience. If we ever want this field to be respected HR must start recognizing that the certification does indeed mean something.

Curtis R. Unruh
Curtis R. Unruh

I agree the PMP looks good on the resume as employers are anxious for any 'benchmark' in hiring PMs and that the PMP program does provide a solid foundation for the core principles assocated with the ability to replicate project success. But I'd also agree that the certification is no indication of genuine PM capability and strict adherence to the methodology would be a disaster in many cases. Given that, clearly the best indicator of PM capability is demonstrable experience and interviewing PM candidates requires unusual sensitivities to understanding what constitutes 'success'. Terms like 'success or failure' are relative as one could be very 'successful' on massive projects with lots of support and funding but the same PM could be a considered a 'failure' on a similar project with no support or funding. Determining genuine PM skills requires deeper diving into experience and has little to do with the certification. I'd add one thng. I believe the entire Project Managment Institute (PMI) has a 'Chamber of Commerce' mentality that really focuses on business partner success more than advacing the craft and that their entire Maturity Model is much more a business partner money generator than any meaningful measure. I've been a PMP since 2004, I won't be recertifying again.

Mastercraft209
Mastercraft209

My experience is that it does truly help to have on your resume when looking for a job. Otherwise, I simply count it as an overall good addition to my overall education. I can't say it made me a better PM by having the certification. I equate it with my MBA, except that the MBA took me much longer to complete and didn't have the immediate impact (although it may have a longer impact) as did the PMP certification.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

It's too bad that there isn't magic halo (or even a head stamp) that automatically appears over a person's head that says they are a qualified project manager. I've met project managers who were quite skilled and failed and project managers who were incompetent and succeeded. I've met PMPs who didn't have the needed experience (fewer now that the experience rules are changed). I've also met PMs with a long list of past accomplishments who really didn't know how to manage even a small project. (The were really just lead programmers). Dismissing all PMPs because you've met a few good non-PMPs and a few bad PMPs is foolish. Glen Ford, PMP http://www.glendford.com

bittoom
bittoom

Yes, it does get one shortlisted for positions. However I've met PMs with less real world experience but having PMP who struggled to manage even simple projects. There was also this one (extreme) case of a PM who literally demolished a fairly smoothly running project through his bookish approach.

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