The value and importance of the PMP certification is a hotly debated topic within the project management community. One end of the spectrum vigorously defends the credential as the defining standard for competence, whereas the other end views it as a meaningless exercise signifying nothing more than rote memorization. Many fall somewhere in the middle, seeing it as a necessary evil that hopefully yields some advantage to their marketability.
Adding fuel to the debate are the results of a research study published in the Project Management Journal, February 2011. **A little dated, but still provides some insight**
“PMP Certification as a Core Competency: Necessary But Not Sufficient” reports the results of a study conducted by Jo Ann Starkweather and Deborah H. Stevenson of Northwestern University’s Department of Information Systems & Technology.
The study reports the valuation of the PMP certification by IT Recruiters and corporate IT Executives, as well as a statistical evaluation of the PMP as an indicator of project success.
Valuation of the PMP: Of the 15 core competencies surveyed, the PMP certification was ranked #11 by IT recruiters, and #15 by IT Executives (that’s right-dead last!) Shown below are percentages of IT Executives rating of “Important” or “Extremely Important” for each competency.
1. Leadership 95%
2. Ability to Communicate at Multiple Levels 94%
3. Verbal Skills 87%
4. Written Skills 87%
5. Attitude 85%
6. Ability to Deal With Ambiguity and Change 83%
7. Work History 69%
8. Experience 67%
9. Ability to Escalate 66%
10. Cultural Fit 57%
11. Technical Expertise 46%
12. Education 38%
13. Length of Prior Engagements 23%
14. Past Team Size 18%
15. PMP Certification 15%
PMP as Indicator of Project Success: There was no statistically significant difference in the reported success rates for projects led by certified vs. non-certified project managers when considered across 5 Success Criteria:
- Cost/Within Budget
- On Schedule
- Quality/Met Technical Specifications
- Quality/Met Client Business Requirements
- Client/User Satisfaction
So What Does It Mean?
In the words of the study leaders, “Clearly, mastery of the project management body of knowledge is an important asset in the preparation of professional project managers. An understanding of the methodology is essential to the appropriate conduct of project management. However, based on the narrative explanations offered by both IT Recruiters and Executives, their emphasis on soft skills such as the ability to communicate at multiple levels, and the tacit knowledge of knowing when to exercise leadership and how to do this effectively are critical to eventual project success.”
So it would seem that we as a community must address the gap that currently exists in our curriculum and training when it comes to leadership and soft skills. Furthermore, recruiters must use more screening techniques to evaluate soft skills and leadership abilities when considering candidates for project management roles. As the value of project management has evolved from tactical to strategic in organizations, so must our perspective on the core competencies for success.
What’s the PMP?
The PMP certification is the most popular among the five different certifications now offered by the PMI (Project Management Institute) which are:
- PgMP: Program Management Professional
- PMP: Project Management Professional
- CAPM: Certified Associate Project Manager
- PMI-SP: PMI Scheduling Professional
- PMI-RMP: PMI Risk Management Professional
According the PMI website, to apply for the PMP, you need to have either:
- A four-year degree (bachelor’s or the global equivalent) and at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education, OR,
- A secondary diploma (high school or the global equivalent) with at least five years of project management experience, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.
The PMP is an expensive exam, costing $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members. Many people feel intimidated by what they have heard about the 200-question test and thus take exam prep courses that average between $1,500 and $2,000.
In order to maintain a PMP certification, one must accrue 60 “PDUs” (Professional Development Units) every three years. There are a few different ways to gain these PDUs, either by taking classes, attending PMI conferences, or self-directed study. Generally, one hour of instruction or participation = 1 PDU. There are many commercial providers who offer training, podcasts, webinars, etc., where it can cost from $25 to $100’s per PDU. I estimate that the 60 PDUs over three years costs about $3,000.
So, let’s add it up:
- PMP exam prep: $2,000
- PMP exam cost: $500
- Maintaining PDUs over a 40 year career: $40,000
Total Career Cost of PMP Certification: $42,500.
Being able to List PMP on Your Resume: Priceless?
What are your thoughts?