Is PMP Boot Camp Worth the Hassle?

If you're new to project management, get your hands dirty first and then think about a boot camp later.
Purists will tell you a PMP certification boot camp won't teach you much except how to pass your PMP certification exam. Realists will scoff and say "Isn't that the whole point of a PMP boot camp -- to give you sufficient knowledge to pass a difficult, highly specialized exam?!?"

Clearly, spending four of five days cramming information into your head to pass an exam isn't likely to enhance your PM skills, even though some course providers loftily claim students will develop and enhance their real-world project management skills by attending one of their expensive boot camps ... and expensive they certainly are. These knowledge cram-fests cost between $2000 and $3000 -- a big payment if you will not be reimbursed. A budget-friendly alternative is an online self-study course that allows you to learn at your own speed for as little as $300.

Still , the value of any boot camp depends on your perspective. "A PMP boot camp is a tool to help you get certified," said Todd Williams, president, eCameron, a PM consulting firm in Camas, Washington. "[I]f you are new to project management and just want to get your PMP certification, they're a good idea. If you really want to become a PM and see the PMP certification as a tool in your tool kit, boot camps are not the answer. Learning and understanding amount to more than memorization."

Williams advises that if people want to expand their knowledge of project management theory, they should take some university courses, ideally including some leadership and organization development courses.

"Boot camp courses are designed to help you pass the PMP exam, but they won't really do anything to advance your practical PM skills," said Sally Wiggell, project manager, Camilion Solutions, a Markham, Ontario-based provider of product development and management solutions for insurance and other financial services organizations.

For people new to project management, Wiggell wonders whether a boot camp is the best approach noting that in-depth training and experience are advisable for inexperienced managers. "There's no doubt that having a PMP certification is almost essential these days if you want to be competitive in the market place. However, when you look into how best to prepare for sitting the exam, it's clear there are a number of options available."

The two primary options for PMP exam preparation are an in-depth project management course that covers all project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) areas in detail or a boot camp course that covers the same areas in a very specific way in a condensed period of time.

What are the advantages of one over the other? The clear advantage of a boot camp is time. Within one week you will have taken the course and sat the PMP exam. "Taking more in-depth courses in a modular fashion will help you understand project management more fully but it can take many months before a person is 'exam ready'," said Wiggell. "It's a no brainer right? If all you want is your PMP certification, you'll choose the boot camp course."

However, before signing up for that course, Wiggell recommends everyone to remind themselves why the PMP certification came about in the first place -- to establish and subsequently raise standards within the field of project management.

"If you have had very little project management experience, attend a boot camp and are lucky enough to pass the exam at the end of it, will it make you a better project manager?" Wiggell questioned. "Having gone through a boot camp type course, I believe such courses are not designed to advance your practical PM skills."

"However, for people with considerable project management experience -- as was my case -- a boot camp is an excellent way to add context to what you've already been doing on a daily basis for many years," she said. Wiggell believes her boot camp experience provided a valuable framework to develop a repeatable approach to managing projects, thus raising her own game.

"However, if everyone went the boot camp route, I think we could ultimately end up with a lot of certified, but not necessarily 'qualified' project managers," she said. Wiggell doubts that's what the industry needs.

Tags: Mehling, Project management, certification, PMP, boot camp

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