In some of the digital project management communities I belong to there is much debate over whether or not it is beneficial to go through the process and sit for the PMP exam.
For other businesses and industries, there is sometimes debate about which is more valuable, a PMP, or an MBA? Both have their merits, and the answer to this question depends on your unique experience, skills, and your end goals. We’ll unpack the answers to these questions and give you all of the information you need to make the best decision for your current situation and your goals.
The PMP is essential in some areas of Project Management. In the digital world, it can be very polarizing. Some digital agencies won’t hire project managers who have their PMP. They believe, for better or worse, that these project managers are too process heavy. Sometimes digital project management feels like changing the tires while the car is still moving. This is compared to some other types of projects like construction where taking weeks, months or even years to plan a project is the norm!
I have heard from PM’s at some digital agencies that their managers won’t sponsor (read: pay for) or support their PMPs. Other companies will not only pay but also financially reward employees for achieving this certification.
Full disclosure: I do have a PMP which I have maintained since 2016. In order to keep my certification, I need to earn 60 continuing education hours called PDUs. I’m actually earning hours for writing this blog post. Another way I earn hours is by giving back and speaking with others who are considering the certification.
I always tell people who are considering getting a PMP the same things.
Get clear on why you are getting a PMP
Applying for the PMP, logging required experience ( three years with a 4-year degree and five years without), completing the required education hours (35 hours), studying for and completing the exam is a significant investment of time and money.
Before you make that investment you want to be sure you have a reason for getting the certification and a goal.
If you work for a company who will pay for the exam, your coursework and support your studying, and will reward you either financially or with some type of career advancement after you pass, it is a no brainer. You should take the opportunity to earn your certification and further your career.
If you are in a role where your current company does not value the certification and you will have to bear all of the financial burdens, you may want to consider your decision more carefully. This doesn’t mean to forgo the opportunity, just consider more carefully if it is the right certification at the right time. There are many other project management courses and certifications available. Do your research and see what fits best at this time when considering the commitment, cost and potential return on your investment (both time and money).
One of the biggest hurdles I faced when looking for a new role after getting certified was that I didn’t have experience in IT (technical projects), digital marketing (creative projects/agency), healthcare, or construction/real estate. Many of the job postings I found wanted PMP AND some type of specialized experience I didn’t have.
I don’t want that to deter anyone from getting a PMP but I do think it’s worth thinking about first. I was so frustrated about how long it took me to find a company willing to take a chance on a newly certified project manager. I personally took a detour back to sales & marketing first but ultimately followed my passion back to projects.
Since then I have managed website design and builds, ad campaign projects, content creation workflows and even an awards show! Projects happen in every industry and discipline so you may just have to get creative.
Do you have a plan for your education hours and studying? Do you know when you’ll sit for the exam?
Before you can take the exam, you’ll need to do a lot of work. Preparing the application can take a few hours. You will also need to find a Registered Education Provider (REP) and complete the 35 hours of education needed to be eligible for the exam.
The exam is updated every 3-5 years as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is updated to reflect changes in the discipline of project management. The dates of these updates are broadly communicated by PMI. The exam will be updated on January 2, 2021 so if you’re just considering starting the process, you’ll be in good shape for a while.
In my personal opinion, the education provided by the REP’s is great, but that alone won’t prepare you to sit for and pass the exam. I took about 2.5 months to study and prepare with additional practice tests and the PMBOK. Everyone learns at a different pace so your experience and time needed might be different than mine. Either way, you will want to set yourself up to succeed and pass on the first try!
Taking a full length practice test is a good indicator of whether or not you’re ready for the real deal. If you pass a few full length tests in under the allotted time — you’re probably good to go!
Once you earn your credential, what is next?
Once you earn your PMP the journey is just beginning. You are now responsible for earning PDU’s (60 per three year cycle). There are many ways to earn these hours including: working in the profession (up to 5 hours per year), volunteering, attending PMI events and conferences, taking classes in your field or about project management, and speaking or mentoring others.
Not having to pass a stressful exam again is reason enough to keep up with your certification but there are many other benefits. You will continue your professional development, build new skills and hopefully meet some wonderful people along the way.
I hope this blog post has given you some food for thought about whether or not the PMP is the right certification for you. I am certainly glad I had the opportunity to pursue it and it has enriched my career in many ways.