After spending the better part of a decade in the consulting industry, including the management of large-scale projects over the last few years, the question loomed in my mind: should I get a Project Management Professional (PMP) credential? At first glance this seems like a no-brainer – it can’t hurt, right? Conventional wisdom says that it’s a well-respected industry certification that can help advance a career. A little more digging tells me that the choice may not be so clear cut after all.
Let’s take a look at some of the purported advantages of getting a PMP credential:
– Earning potential: Attaining a PMP credential is ostensibly a salary booster. Tech Republic’s annual IT Skills and Salary Reports consistently show higher median salaries for PMPs than non-PMPs.
– Industry standard: The PMP credential is universally recognized, particularly in the United States. The application process is rigorous and candidates are required to meet a threshold of project management experience and training before even being able to apply. For those like me in the consulting field, it provides clients with an independent validation of my skills and experience.
– Career advancement: Increasingly large companies and government agencies are seeking employees and contractors with a PMP. Recently, CIO.com placed the PMP at the top of their list of the 12 best IT certifications for career advancement.
– Commitment: Working through a laborious application process, completing a rigorous study program, and passing a challenging exam demonstrates to employers and clients that the candidate has a willingness to work hard and follow through on tasks.
On the otherhand, some potential downsides to pursuing a PMP credential:
– Time commitment: Candidates report studying for several hours a week for 3 months or more in order to prepare for the exam. According to a survey on LinkedIn, nearly a third of respondents spent more than 6 months on prep time. Furthermore, maintaining the credential requires PMPs to accrue 60 hours of approved training every three years.
– Expense: Joining the Project Management Institute currently costs $129. After joining, the cost to sit for the PMP exam is $405, so it costs over $500 just to apply for the credential (as of June 2013). This doesn’t include the cost of study materials, which run to hundreds of dollars, or prep courses, which can cost thousands of dollars.
– Proficiency: Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, having a PMP credential doesn’t necessarily make you a better project manager. I know some PMPs who have no business running a project. What the credential does is gives you a PM vocabulary and an awareness of PM best practices. Only experience, mentoring, and hard work will truly make you a proficient project manager.
Before telling you which way I decided to go, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please sound off in the comments – is pursuing a PMP credential really worth it? Or is it just another string of letters to append to your profile? Are people pursuing this credential simply because it’s the latest fashion, or does it genuinely increase your skills? For those of you who have a PMP, has it helped you in your job? For those of you who meet the criteria but don’t have the credential, why not?
Aniket Hirebet is a Senior Consultant at SDLC Partners, a leading provider of business and technology solutions. Please feel free to contact Aniket at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on this blog post or to further discuss project management.