The Project Notebook

PMP® Credential: The Chicken or Egg?

Fellow blogger Fadi El-Eter contacted me this morning to let me know an article on earning a PMP credential which I had on his site, PM Hut, had a question in a comment and invited me to provide an anwer. For those of you who are unaware, the Project Management Institute has been raising the bar for earning a PMP credential at regular intervals. When I took the exam in 2000, the language around qualifications was a lot looser. Although I had plenty of experience managing projects and leading teams, many were able to get by with simply doing project work.

The tighter qualifications now require managing projects and leading teams as an eligibility requirement, leading Brian P. Branagan to post the following question:

Again and again, we see that companies do not allow a candidate to manage a project without PMP certification. You emphasize that one is not eligible to take the examination without project management experience. Something must be allowed to come first. What helpful thing can you say about this?

My response:

While its true in the past, you only had to work on projects, the September 2008 PMI PMP Certification Handbook now states:

The PMP Role Delineation states that candidates for the PMP credential:

• Perform their duties under general supervision and are responsible for all aspects of the project for the life of the project

• Lead and direct cross-functional teams to deliver projects within the constraints of schedule,budget, and scope

• Demonstrate sufficient knowledge and experience to appropriately apply a methodology to projects that have reasonably well-defined project requirements and deliverables

The key phrase here is “under general supervision”. When I first became a Project Manager 25 years ago, my manager, himself an experienced Project Manager who moved into a management slot supervised my efforts. Such on the job training is the best route to take to gain the needed experience. Smart companies create internships and mentoring opportunities.

One way to convince your manager you are ready for such an “apprenticeship” would be to earn the CAPM – Certified Associate Project Manager first.

While its an unfortunate truth, there are also still companies which create the “knighted” Project Manager — you get a copy of the MS Project documentation (if you’re lucky!) and are told to “go forth and manage”.

Either way, you can still earn the necessary experience, even though just working on projects isn’t any longer sufficient.

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Don’t Wait for 20 Years! (Part II)

I’ve had some further questions about last week’s article, so thought I would continue the story in this week’s post. Once you receive your certification, CAPM, PMP, or PgMP, there’s no need to wait another 20 years to continue your professional growth as a Project Manager. In fact, you will have to put in some minimal effort to maintain your certification. I’ll focus on the PMP.

To recertify as a PMP, you will need to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three years. There are plenty of ways to earn PDUs, so obtaining an average of 20 per year is a reasonable goal. With many sources available, the associated expense can be very low, and in many cases, free. Here are a few good ways to earn them:

  • attend local PMI breakfast, lunch, or dinner meetings (usually worth 1 PDU each)
  • become a volunteer for your local PMI component (committee member or Board member)
  • take a Project Management class offered by your local PMI component or university
  • take an online Project Management class
  • write Project Management articles or papers
  • volunteer to teach a Project Management class
  • volunteer to be a speaker on a Project Management topic
  • self-study — e.g., read a book and write a brief review

The list goes on. Of course it will be difficult to get the PDUs if you wait until the last month in your renewal cycle, but with a little planning, its very easy. Your local PMI component is there to assist you and also provides a very inexpensive source of PDUs — the cost to attend a dinner meeting is usually just the price of a meal, and many breakfast and lunch meetings are free (you buy or bring your own meal). What could be simpler than that?

You will also notice many of the ways to earn PDUs give something back to the Project Management community. After I received my certification, I started attending dinner meetings (10 PDUs per year in San Diego) and became a volunteer director (another 10 PDUs per year). With occasional speaking and teaching engagements, I typically have three times the required PDUs each renewal cycle.

Don’t wait for 20 years — get involved in the Project Management profession today to make a difference and maintain your credential.

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Don’t Wait for 20 Years! (Part I)

There is absolutely no reason to wait 20 years as I did to get your PMP®! Although PMI was founded in 1969, it was virtually unknown when I embarked on my Project Management training in 1980. I had on-the-job training from my managers, seminars from IEEE and ACM, and formal classes from the GE Management Institute, but PMI never played a part in any of that. There was also a lot of effort in self-study — I was one of the early adopters of Visi-Schedule, perhaps the earliest well known scheduling tool.

It wasn’t until 1999 that I had the opportunity to work with a fellow Project Manager who was a PMP. Tom encouraged me to look into the certification. In between work and travel (I was a jet commuter every week from San Diego to Walnut Creek at the time) I looked into the exam requirements, found I met all the qualifications, and had more than 75% of the knowledge to pass. I had just two relatively new knowledge areas to look into, a few areas to brush up on, and had to learn “the PMI way” (which was only slightly different than what I was practicing). By November 2000 I took the exam and it was the following year I decided to look into the organization behind it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Back in 1980, the road to Project Management was very different than it is today. There is a far larger demand for Project Management, so getting the necessary training and qualifications early is more important so you are distinguished from the other potential candidates. Worse yet, if you find yourself being the “knighted Project Manager” (here’s a copy of MS Project — go manage our projects), you may never find the time to gain the right skills and knowledge to allow you to move your career ahead in a constructive manner.

Besides the benefit of having the qualifications in hand, there are other benefits of having a PMP:

  • You demonstrate to your prospective employer you have some minimal training
  • Likewise, you have at least 3-6 years of practical experience
  • You are expanding your network of contacts and opportunities
  • You are giving something to the future of others in your profession
  • The PMP was rated #5 of the top 10 IT qualifications — an extra benefit for IT PMs
  • You are demonstrating your commitment to life long learning
  • PMPs have higher average salaries
  • PMP is now a requirement for certain jobs
  • PMP has major recognition in large organizations (e.g. US Government, Microsoft, HP)

Now, there is even less reason to put off working toward this credential — the new CAPM® certificate is an intermediate milestone you can shoot for along the way. I like to think of it as the mid-point in your path, since it carries half the experience requirements of the PMP. There is also the new PgMP if you have already obtained your PMP.

Have any questions about the PMP credential or exam? Feel free to contact me at and I will either answer your question or put you in touch with those who can. Please also visit the PMI links and “Notebook News” found on the right hand side of this blog!

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP