Successful IT organizations are those that understand the value of integrating people, process and technology to achieve strategic business objectives. IT professionals in those organizations are typically on one of two career paths: technical or managerial. Those nearing mid-career levels and gaining progressive responsibility at work often have a decision to make. Do they continue down a highly technical path and become experts in their area of technology? Or do they pursue the management route of directing people and processes? The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is one way for IT professionals to advance their career down the path of management.
An overview of the PMP
One of the world's leading certifications for IT professionals, the PMP signals to employers a level of competency and expertise in project management practices. In the sixth edition of its annual Salary Survey, PMI claims that those with the PMP designation increase their earning power by 10 percent over those who lack the credential. IT training firm Global Knowledge, on the other hand, cites a survey by Payscale.com that reports median salaries for PMPs are up to 30 percent higher than those who aren't certified.
Qualifying to take the exam
Before taking the Project Management Professional certification test, applicants must qualify by demonstrating a particular combination of education, instructor-led training, and professional project management experience. There are two ways to qualify:
- With a four-year bachelor's degree, applicants must be able to prove at least three years of project management experience amounting to at least 4,500 hours leading and directing projects, plus 35 hours of project management education.
- With a high school diploma, applicants must have worked at least five years and 7,500 hours in project management with 35 hours of project management education.
The applicant must adequately document his or her experience in addition to submitting a fee. A certain percentage of submitted applications are selected at random for audit to ensure applicants are being truthful. When approved, applicants can schedule to sit for the PMP which is offered as a computer- or in some cases paper-based examination.
Preparing for the exam
The exam is based off the Project Management Body of Knowledge, commonly referred to as the "PMBOK", the global standard of project management published by PMI. Students must answer 200 multiple-choice questions in the allotted four hours. The exam covers six domain areas including project initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, closing, and professional and social responsibility. Often, exam applicants will take a rigorous prep course to aid in their preparation.
Maintaining the PMP credential
In order to maintain the PMP credential, professionals must complete 60 hours of professional development units (PDUs) every three-year cycle. The purpose of the maintenance program is to ensure that professionals are continuing to develop their project management skill set through ongoing education. The credential is suspended for one year before expiring if the holder does not complete the education requirements.
Career benefits of the PMP
The PMP certification opens doors to IT professionals that non-credentialed colleagues do not see. Wider job opportunities are available to PMPs and as noted, the extra earning power of a PMP is something to be reckoned with. But perhaps the non-monetary value of a PMP is most important. Those with the PMP designation are highly respected and trusted contributors within an IT organization, and the certification can be just what's needed on one's climb to the top.