To PMP, or Not To PMP

Almost daily, there are questions posted in various project management groups asking for information about the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. How do I obtain it? Is it worth it? Will it make me a better project manager? Will my job pay me more once I get certified? And the list goes on and on. 

Some people want to get certified because they’ve chosen project management as their long-term career path.  Others believe it’s a golden ticket to a better job and greater wealth. Others, meanwhile, are good at taking tests and collecting acronyms.

The PMP is probably the most recognizable project management certification in the market today. The Project Management Institute (PMI) states there are over 790,000 PMP certified project managers globally. They also, on average, make 20% more than non-certified project managers (http://www.pmi.org/certifications/types/project-management-pmp). There are a number of other selling points for both project managers and employers on its site as well.

So the question raised; should I get a PMP?

If you’re a project manager and have a dedication to the profession, then yes, you should probably get your PMP. I looked at it as a cost of being in the profession since I knew project management was the career for me. But, don’t expect a certification to automatically open a bunch of doors for you or make you wealthy.

The following answer some of the more common questions I see:

How Do I Get a PMP? If you’re asking that question, you’re probably not ready to pursue it. If you think you are, though, check out PMI.org’s website. They have certain education and experience required to apply. You can study for your PMP a number of different ways. If you Google “PMP Study Prep” you’ll get a shitload of results. Find the approach that works best for you, whether it be self or group study, to boot camps.

Is The PMP Exam Hard? I did my PMP some time ago, but still remember it well. I went into a small room, sat at an uncomfortable desk, was handed 4 sheets of paper and a keyboard, and told good luck. Everyone takes test different, so understand how you handle the pressure. Are you cool under it, or do you turn into a sweaty, blubbering puddle? I used the instructional time before the test officially began to do a brain dump of process inputs and outputs, formulas and anything else I thought valuable during my studies. Every question has two right answers, you just have to pick the better of the two. With studying and some luck, you’ll see PASS at the end.

The HR Hurdle. Will the PMP get me a new job? Maybe! When looking for a new job, Human Resources puts out job basic job descriptions that have PMP as either a requirement or highly desirable. No offense against HR professionals, but this is nothing more than a filter to screen candidates and whittle down the candidate pool. They get bombarded with resumes when a job is open, so they need something to sort through the mass of submissions. Your best bet is to network with someone in the company.

The PMP is Nice, but I Hire on Experience. I have interviewed a number of candidates for project management positions. Some have their PMP while others didn’t. What I, and a lot of other project professionals I know, look for is experience. Can you handle issues when they arise and not be afraid to talk to executives about them? Can you see the big picture when it comes to how projects align with organizational strategy? Have you lead a team through a complex initiative with ever-changing priorities? Prove to me you can communicate effectively. A PMP won’t matter if you can’t handle the wide range of crap thrown your way.

PMP and $$Money$$. Getting certified does not guarantee more money, only the potential for more. Some employers will give you a raise right away. Others may wait until appraisal time. Some won’t give you anything! You can try to negotiate a higher salary at your next job. Project management may not make you millions, but it pays well enough and you won’t be board!

What are PDU’s? Professional Development Units! If you hold the PMP, you are required to log 60 PDU’s over the course of 3 years. Sounds easy, right?! Wrong! After 2 years and 8 months you have an “OH SHIT” moment and start thinking back to all those things you’ve done that count. It’s hard, but try your best to log hours as they’re done. More information can be found on PMI’s site: https://www.pmi.org/certifications/maintain/requirements

Related image
PMI’s Talent Triangle

If you’ve been managing projects and enjoy the challenge that comes with them, I recommend the PMP. The PMP coupled with experience can make you a valuable asset to any company across industries. Understand the requirements to obtain and be sure to study. It’s not over once you pass, though! Keep up on those PDU’s. Good Luck!

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