PMP Certification: Is it Worth it?

Having trained literally thousands of students over the past 10+ years in both Project Management as well as a host of technologies (ASP.NET, C#, XML…all about that in a different post!) I am invariably asked at least once a week: “What do you think of certifications?”

Whether it is someone who is just getting their feet wet in the Application Development field, or someone just starting out (or progressing) in the Project Management field, their concerns are the same: will having the letters behind my name actually do anything for me – is it worth the time, effort and money?

In my mind, although I’m sure some will strongly disagree, this is a little like asking “Do I need a college degree specifically in the field I’m going into?”  In some companies a relevant college degree is a must, just to get your foot in the door.  At other companies, not only is a relevant degree not necessary- not having any degree at all won’t be seen as a negative.  Many companies are much more concerned about your relevant experience.  How long have you been in the field? What kinds of results have you produced? What size projects have your worked on? These questions are the same, whether in Project Management or Application Development.

So my answer to students is usually this: certification can’t hurt.  I don’t think anyone has ever lost out on a job because of having a certification.  Moreover – if two equally qualified candidates are going for a position, certification can sometimes tip the scale in the favor of one candidate over the other.  While the certification itself may not be important to the employer, the fact that you have taken the extra step might be seen as another positive in your favor.

Another compelling reason to consider certification is this: in today’s economy, where you may be competing with dozens (or more) qualified candidates, some companies will narrow the prospective pool using criteria like a certification just to be able to get down to a manageable number of prospects.  And recruiters sifting through thousands of resumes will many times use keywords to narrow their search. What are some of the most obvious? PMP for a Project Manager, and MCSD or MCPD for an Application Developer.  If certification can put you in a different tier of candidates, then I say it’s well worth it.  The same holds true even if you are not in the job market…yet.  These days you just never know what might happen (in any company) or what turns your career will take.  That’s when you’ll be glad you put the time, money and effort into those little initials behind your name.

For a great overview of the value of the PMP certification, and it’s rise and fall over the years, check out this article on Project Management Planet.

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