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Why Go for Certification?

I got a very typical call today from someone who wanted my opinion on certification – was it worth it or not? My first reaction was THANKS! I had to write my blog today and I was struggling for a topic. Now I had one.

My answer …it depends. Sorry.

First of all it really depends on the value your industry and some specific organizations place on certification. I can tell you right now that any technology-based project environment places a very high value on certification – specifically the PMP – the Project Management Institute’s designation. I also know there are some large institutions, specifically the systems divisions, that are now making PMP a requirement for all PM applicants.

I think the reason for this is that there are so many people applying for these jobs that this designation provides an initial filter on the applicants. So, on the job application front, the PMP give you a leg up. No doubt about it. But once you make the first round, you are on your own. To very clear…the PMP does tell the reader something to be sure – a level of understanding of a Body of Knowledge, a guaranteed quantity of experience. But honestly, that’s it. It certainly does not indicate the level of quality of a PM.

If you look at other industries, this may not be the case. The fewer the project management positions and applicants, the less important the designation is. Reasoning …these people have the time to go through resumes and the interview process to find the right qualifications. Now, if a PMP designation pops up in that process, it’s a good thing. But I would suggest not necessary. Construction, engineering, the more traditional project management industries are placing less and less value on the PMP designation. They are now looking at other designations and professional education.

Is the PMP designation transferable across different types of projects? No! You cannot be a project manager in an IT environment and work in the construction industry. You cannot move from marketing projects to software development projects as a project manager, regardless of your certification. You need the experience within each type of project, from the ground floor up, before you can manage those projects.

Having said all of this, I will often tell people that if it is easy – do it – you cannot loose. In other words, if you have the knowledge, educations and credentials to write the exam and pass – go for it. If all of this is a struggle for you be careful before you go to all the trouble. It may not be worth it.

My advice to anyone is to look at your industry and evaluate the importance of the PMP designation, and other certifications, before going forward.

Mike Morton

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