Project Management Professional (PMP): To Certify or Not to Certify?
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
I became a Project Management Professional (PMP) certified through Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2011, and it was one of the best career decisions I have made! Prior to getting certified, I spent more than seven years on Active Duty Air Force, where I managed a lot of people and projects. However, my first ‘civilian’ job is where I fell in love with the project management profession.
After getting out of the military, I accepted a role at a large consulting firm in Washington, DC. I was brought on to work in the Project Management Office (PMO) on a newly awarded Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contract. I was extremely lucky to work for a woman who was certified as a Program Management Professional (PgMP), which requires a minimum of 6,000 hours of project management experience and 10,500 hours of program management experience. She prioritized developing the PMO team’s skills, so we could operate efficiently and effectively, and she served as an extraordinary mentor. One day she took the team into the conference room and drew a triangle on the whiteboard, representing a project’s triple constraints: time, budget, and scope. She taught us how the triple constraints impact a project and how tradeoffs exist. This was the simplest way this had ever been explained to me and a lesson I will never forget. After that training session, she introduced the team to PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and encouraged us to get certified. I filled out the incredibly detailed application, buckled down for several months studying, and successfully passed the exam. The rest is history!
I’m often asked by project managers if it is worth going through the PMP certification process, as it is quite an undertaking. My answer is yes, for the following reasons:
1. It provides project managers with a solid foundation of knowledge and common language. PMI’s PMBOK, Sixth Edition, is a whopping 756 pages. This guide is full of tools and techniques that can be used to thoughtfully plan and execute a project. The PMP certification exam is based on the PMBOK, so when I see the letters “PMP” in someone’s signature block, it is easy to dive right into project management lingo and know they understand what I’m talking about. This makes communicating much easier. There is no doubt that certified PMPs know that each project has five process groups – initiation, planning, execution, monitoring & controlling, and closing – with specific things that should be accomplished in each phase. Each organization manages projects differently, but this foundational knowledge remains the same.
2. It connects you to a community of Project Management Professionals. PMI has close to three million members in 208 countries and territories around the world. There are also local chapters that allow you to connect with people in your community. Having a project management network can be a huge asset when you encounter challenges on projects or want to bounce ideas off other people. Although you do not have to be PMP certified to join PMI, I’ll point back to reason number one as to why it helps!
3. It encourages you to continue learning. Once certified as a PMP, you are required to complete 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three years, in alignment with PMI’s Talent Triangle. The Talent Triangle consists of three areas of focus: Technical; Leadership; and Strategic & Business Management. The continuing education ensures that your project management skills are perpetually developed and that you will stay plugged into the industry.
4. It can boost your salary. According to ZipRecruiter’s salary model, the average salary of a project manager in the United States is $78,000. Project managers fulfilling jobs with a PMP certification requirement make a median of $120,877. That is a significant difference, indicating an increase of more than 35%.
So, what are the next steps if you want to move towards getting certified as a PMP? My advice is to get familiar with PMI’s certification process and requirements by reviewing their website HERE. There are going to be some significant changes to the PMP Exam in January 2021, so you will want to stay abreast of those to ensure you prepare properly. You can find the 2021 Examination Content Outline HERE.
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