This is one of those topics that might draw some emotions from individuals so let me first tell you my situation and my thoughts. First, I’m not PMP certified, but I was headed in that direction…more on that in a moment. I applaud those who have taken the time and effort to get certified. In my experience and interactions with PMs, I’ve not seen any instance where a PMP certified PM was any ‘better’ than an experienced PM. Real experience is always the key. Project management certification means you passed the test, but it does also mean that you have training and some experience for certain and that you have the drive and dedication to get it done and achieve the certification and that’s a project in itself.
I was a PMI member back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when I worked at Rockwell Collins. It was something they provided for their PMs, but pushing for actual PMP certification wasn’t something they cared about. I was also managing up to 20 live projects at a time so I had no opportunity to move forward with the certification.
When I came to Las Vegas, a company I began working for in late 2004 did think it was important and wrote a clause into my hiring agreement calling for a $10k bump in pay within 6 months if I acquired my PMP certification. Naturally, I jumped on that idea and started to document my training and experience so that I could sit for the test. Unfortunately, some issues at the top of the company – which I will write about very soon in another article to be entitled “You Think YOUR Project is in Trouble!” – caused that organization to shut down and with it went my $10k incentive to get certified. Now it was time to find another position…fast.
I digress. Back to the topic at hand. Is PMP certification worth it? I personally think that the PMP designation after your name is a nice thing to have, but is no indication of how good a project manager you are or will be. Having PMP certification means that you have the proper amount of experience and training to sit for the test, and then that you correctly answered 61% of the answers on the exam. 61%.
The most frustrating thing about the PMP certification to me is the weight that employers place on this designation when looking for Project Managers. I hear this again and again from PMs looking for work. To these organizations, it’s an easy screening mechanism for their HR personnel. Unfortunately, that will screen out PMs with many years of very busy and successful management of projects who worked for organizations that placed no emphasis on PMP cert and therefore didn’t pay for PMI and the tests or PMs who just didn’t have the time it takes to document the info and sit for the test. That is wrong.
I’m not trying to knock PMP certication completely and I definitely applaud the efforts of the PMs out there who have successfully studied for and attained the PMP designation. However, I think that PMI has done a very good job of ensuring their own financially viability with this certification. If they wanted to take it a step further, they could easily triple their organization's income if they were to create different levels of PMP certification. Let’s consider this scenario:
- 91-100% correct answers = PMP Black Belt
- 81-90% correct answers = PMP Brown Belt
- 71-80% correct answers = PMP Green Belt
- 61-70% correct answers = PMP Yellow Belt
Imagine if you took the PMP exam and got 90% right….how much would you pay or how many times would you gladly retake the test to get 91% or above and achieve black belt certification? Employers would be jumping on this and start requiring a certain level of certification or they won’t even consider you. PMI’s profits would soar.
PMI Processes / Real Life
PMI bases everything on the following 6 separate, but overlapping processes:
These are great and there are PM and project activities that occur within each phase. However, here’s a frustrating thing for me. I write for a website that is designed to help out project managers with real-life tips culled from experience. I wrote a detailed article on each of the 8 phases of a general project management methodology that I use. I then wrote one article that contained a “quick guide” to this methodology. It outlines what the purpose of each phase is, what activities happen in each of those phases and what deliverables are generally expected out of each of those phases. This quick guide I wrote can be used by an inexperienced project manager to very quickly setup a project schedule shell for their project in MS Project or a web-based project tool like Seavus Project Viewer.
However, when I published the article, I received a comment from someone saying that they had no idea what it was I was documenting…they couldn’t see past the 6 PMI processes. The 6 PMI processes won’t setup a project plan for you…they just tell you the ‘duh’ of what is involved in managing a project. They don’t tell you what phases need to occur and what you need to deliver and get signed off in order to be successful. In other words, they don’t give you real-life experience to help someone with. The concern was that this person read my quick guide and didn’t even understand it.
This article will probably offend some. Remember, I’m not saying PMP certification is a bad thing at all. I sometimes wish I had my PMP cert. But what is bad is that employers are quickly screening out experienced individuals up front for much less experienced PMP certified project managers. It should be a ‘nice-to-have.’ It’s a test, not real life and it should not be an in-or-out screening mechanism but I’m hearing repeatedly from PMs and organizations that it is. That’s frustrating for our industry. And it’s sad that it’s become such big business.