Why Earn a Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification?

Why Earn a Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification?

By Ed Lively, PMP, PRINCE2 Practitioner, MCITP

About the PMP® Certification:

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most recognized and important industry certification for project managers. It doesn’t matter what organization you are currently employed with, PMPs can be found to be leading projects in virtually every industry and every country worldwide. The PMP certification is truly global.

According to the most current study on project management salaries from the Project Management Institute (PMI) ®, Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey, Ninth Edition, the average annual salary for PMPs is $111,969. This is $20,000 or 22% more than non-certified Project Managers in the U.S.

Another PMI® study, Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017-2027, indicates that in the next decade there will be 2.2 million new project-oriented roles each year through 2027. The analysis in 2012 found that the future demand for project management jobs would grow to 52.4 million by 2020, but by early 2017 the number of project management jobs had already reached 65.9 million.

Other than being a globally acknowledged certification and the potential to significantly increase salaries, the PMP certification also offers benefits like:

  • Expanding your market reach and scope
  • Job opportunities
  • Greater visibility to recruiters
  • Security even in economic downturns

For current employers, the benefits of PMP-certified Project Managers far outweighs the cost. In PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession: Success Rates Rise…Transforming the high cost of low performance, the executive summary states:

“For the first time in five years, more projects are meeting original goals and business intent and being completed within budget. There has also been a significant decline in dollars lost. Organizations are wasting an average of $97 million for every $1 billion invested, due to poor project performance—that’s a 20 percent decline from one year ago.”

While this is a move in the right direction, organizations still have a long way to go. The percentage of organizations providing training and development has been stable for the past five years and this is encouraging. According to the 2017 Pulse of the Profession:

“Three in five organizations provide training on project management tools and techniques, and just under half have a formal process to develop project manager competency and a defined career path for project managers.”

Only one in three organizations reports high benefits realization maturity, the new measure of true project success.

In 1994, the Standish Group’s Chaos Report indicated that the number one reason for project failure was inaccurate requirements gathering (this report continues to be quoted partially because the 2015 Chaos report changed its definition of success and the factors that contributed to success.) In 2017, PMI looking at the problem globally, reported that the largest contributing factor in project failure was a change in an organization’s priorities.

However organizations view the reasons for project failure, it is clear that they still have a long way to go to improve project performance … well-trained and qualified Project Managers is the way forward.

How to get PMP certified:

  1. Fulfill Eligibility PMP Requirements

Begin by downloading the Project Management Professional (PMP) Handbook from:

http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Certifications/handbooks/project-management-professional-handbook-pmp.ashx .

This will provide you with the most current prerequisites for the certification. Currently, if you have a bachelor’s degree or global equivalent, you will need 3 years (36 months) of unique, non-overlapping professional project management experience during which at least 4,500 hours were spent leading and directing the project. In addition, you will have needed to complete 35 contact hours of formal project management education.

It is a good idea to take a training class that will prepare you for the certification exam. Some training companies offer this in a two to three day “boot camp” which may not be sufficient to adequately prepare you for the rigorous 4 hour, 200 question exam. I would suggest a minimum of a 5-day class and plan on about 40 hours of additional study to review the material before you attempt the exam.

  1. Complete the PMP Application

For purposes of ease and expediency, I suggest filling out the online application, as opposed to paper. The online application typically takes about five days to process. Once you start the application you cannot cancel it. You can save it unfinished, come back to it later, and edit any information you already entered. The application will remain active for 90 days. You will need to record your experience and education on the application. Be sure to record projects individually regardless of the number of projects you include.

One item to consider is whether you wish to join PMI as a member. The current cost of membership is $139 (USD). This will save you $150 (USD) on the exam. The current cost of taking the exam for members is $405 (USD) and for non-members it is $555 (USD). In addition to saving you on the PMP® exam cost you will receive the following benefits:

  1. You will receive a free digital copy of the PMBOK® Guide
  2. You will have access to tools and techniques
  3. You will have access to webinars and articles, and
  4. You will receive the following publications
    1. PM Network
    2. PMI Today
  • Project Management Journal.

Occasionally, an application is randomly selected to be audited. They may request copies of your diploma, signatures of supervisors attesting to your experience, copies of certificates, etc. PMI gives you 90 days to respond to their request.

Once submitted, your application remains active for one year from acceptance of the application (if audited this means once you have satisfied the audit requirements and have your application accepted.)

*In some cases, training companies will help you with the application process.

The online application can be found at:  http://www.pmi.org/certification/project-management-professional-pmp.aspx

  1. Payment

Make payment through PMI’s online certification system. Once you’ve made payment you’ll be emailed an eligibility number that you’ll use to schedule your test appointment. You will be eligible for one year and you may take the exam up to three times during that year.

  1. Schedule the Test Appointment

Go to www.prometric.com to schedule your examination. You will need your eligibility number that PMI sends you. Choose the date and location you would like to take this computer-based test. Be sure to allow enough time to adequately prepare for the exam.

  1. Exam

On the day of the exam you will need to provide two forms of identification that match exactly with the name you registered under. One of these must be a government ID with a picture. The exam has 200 questions and you will have four hours to complete the exam. Of the 200 questions, only 175 will be scored, 25 of the questions are field tested to check the statistical validity of the question before they go “live.” You will not know which 25 will not be scored. There are no scheduled breaks, but you may take a break if you wish. The clock will NOT stop.

While challenging, passing the exam will be extremely gratifying and provide you with an entry into one of the most rewarding careers of your life with unlimited potential.

Suggested PMI Publications:

Project Management Professional (PMP)® Handbook

Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap | 2017-2027

Pulse of the Profession: Success Rates Rise, Transforming the high cost of low performance

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Fifth Edition

*Note: The PMBOK® Guide—Sixth Edition will be released September 2017. The PMP exam is changing in the first quarter of 2018. Anyone taking the exam prior to Q1 2018 will receive the current version of the exam that references the PMBOK® Guide—Fifth Edition.

PMI, PMBOK, and PMP are marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


Ed Lively brings a wealth of experience to the project management field as a practitioner, presenter, mentor and author. His multidimensional skills allow him to teach 52 different classes in three core subject areas: negotiation and conflict resolution skills, all aspects of project management and team leadership.

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