The Project Management Professional (PMP) credential is the most widely-recognized certification for project managers, but is it worth it? The certification acknowledges that you have the experience, education, and competency to lead and direct projects. This recognition is often viewed as a means to make a Project Manager more marketable while also providing a higher salary but more important questions remain unanswered when researching this question.

Are employers willing to pay more for someone simply because they have a PMP?

According to the 2010 PMI Salary Survey, PMP-certified project managers in six major countries reported a $10,000 USD salary advantage over non-PMP-certified project managers. Those who take the extra steps to earn their certification show commitment to the project management career path. Additionally, the PMP certification prepares you for and often leads to a higher level of career responsibility, additional opportunities, and career advancement.

There’s no question that a PMP certification enhances a resume and will certainly be an advantage when seeking a position as a project manager. However, for many project management job openings, the PMP certification is already expected. Even when it is not required, employers look at the credential as a preference. The stringent requirements to initially earn the certification demonstrate your willingness to keep your skills and knowledge up to date through further career advancement and completing the continuing education requirements.

Is it more valuable than field experience?

To apply for the PMP, you need to have both a four-year degree and at least three years of project management experience or a secondary diploma with at least five years of project management experience. This verifies that you have spent time and effort leading up to and attaining PMP certification through course work as well as hands-on experience, which means that you are at least to some extent committed to project management as a profession.

What are the down sides to obtaining your PMP?

Passing the PMP exam doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an expert in all facets of project management. It means that you have passed a test that validates you understand the framework of the project management process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the projects you’ve managed have been successful. Many equate it with attaining your Bachelor’s degree – you have validated that you have the education, but not the skill nor ability to successfully perform.

To apply for the PMP exam 35 hours of formal project management training courses are required. Currently, the application fee for the exam costs $405 for PMI members or $555 for non-PMI members. If you’re already working as a project manager there’s a chance your company will pay for it. Many organizations see the value of certifying their project managers as PMPs and are willing to reimburse the cost.

Applying and studying for the PMP exam can be a tedious process. PMI requires applicants to document all project management education and experience attained down to the process level. On each respective project, you will have to provide extensive detail including the number of hours you spent on tasks such as creating a work breakdown structure or executing project tasks. It is tedious work. You must be prepared to prove your experience in the event that your application is audited randomly by PMI.

The study time it takes to pass the PMP varies depending on your project management experience. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is the key resource of information that will be found on the PMP exam, but it is not the only resource. Certain topics such as ethics will be featured but are only glossed over in the PMBOK.

There are plenty of study guides that are available to assist with preparation for the PMP exam. PMP preparation courses are also an option but can become costly.

To keep your PMP certification active, you need to earn 60 PDUs over a period of three years. These can be earned in a variety of different categories but for the most part it will take time and money to amass the necessary PDUs to maintain your credential. And in addition to the costs involved with attending classes to further your project management education and earn PDUs, it also costs $150 every three years to renew your PMP certification.

So is it worth it?

Earning your PMP is costly and complicated, and requires a great deal of preparation. Nevertheless, if you are kicking around the idea of pursuing a career path in project management, the PMP certification can assist in opening doors for you. Having the certification is a quick way to enter new countries, new markets, and new industries because your basic qualifications, expertise and competency in the field of project management are validated. However, my advice is to carefully assess why you want your PMP and what the value is for you. Are you seeking your PMP as a:

  1. Personal decision to broaden knowledge and skills in your respective discipline; or as a
  2. Requirement of your current company which embraces and values people who proactively further their education in their field.

From my perspective, the bottom line is that different companies place more or less value on the certification and you should not pursue solely for salary growth, but should view the PMP certification as an investment in your personal development within the project management discipline.

Please contact Marc Mann at with any questions on this blog post or to further discuss the PMP Certification.

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