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.

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