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Every year, project management as a career choice becomes more and more popular. Experienced professionals like engineers and software developers are moving from their previous roles and taking on project management responsibilities, and younger workers are coming out of universities and graduate schools looking for a project management positions right out of the gate.

PMP certification

With more people entering the ranks, competition for desirable project management positions is naturally increasing. Aspiring project managers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves in the job market, and getting a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute is one of the most effective ways to make yourself stand out from the crowd. While there are many more PMP-certified project managers today than there were just a few years ago, a project management certification is still a mark of distinction.

If you’re wondering whether getting a PMP certification will improve your prospects, it’s important to understand what you’ll need to do in order to earn the certification, and weigh the time and effort against the potential benefits in salary and opportunities.

What’s Involved in Getting a PMP?

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the PMP certification process is that it isn’t intended for new college graduates or other project management rookies. PMP applicants need to have at least three years of professional experience, including at least 4,500 hours of direct project management experience. Applicants without college degrees need at least five years of experience and at least 7,500 hours managing projects. On top of their professional experience, applicants also need to complete at least 35 hours of specialized project management education.

The certification process itself involves passing a 200-question multiple choice exam, which comes with a fee in the $400-$600 range depending on the applicant’s country of residence. Once you’re certified, you’ll need to earn professional development units every three years to maintain your PMP status. Depending on how you earn your development units, maintaining your certification can be a fairly expensive process in itself.

What Benefits Can You Expect?

While earning a PMP is no easy task, most project managers find that the benefits outweigh the costs. In most cases, your earning potential will increase significantly once you can put “PMP” after your name– in fact, a recent PMI project management salary survey indicated that certified project managers make an average of 20 percent more than their non-certified counterparts.

PMP certification will also put you in the running for higher-profile and more interesting projects, and can improve your chances of getting hired by one of the increasing number of organizations that consider certification on a resume a prerequisite for a project management role.

In the long term, the biggest benefit of certification may show itself in your own job performance. The knowledge you gain by studying for the PMP exam, and by earning your ongoing professional development units, will make it easier for you to lead your teams through complex projects. Chances are, building a reputation as someone who can be trusted with highly visible, mission-critical projects will do more to improve your earning potential and career opportunities than earning the certification itself.

Angela Bunner
Angela Bunner, Sr. Director Product