A recession is definitely an employers’ market. With so few IT jobs available, the competition is fierce and employers can afford to be picky. In recent downturns, a professional project manager (PMP) certification bettered your odds in getting hired or promoted. But is obtaining a PMP now really worth the effort or has its heyday come and gone?
“The answer is obscured, hidden in the mists of urgent customer demands, the fog of business processes that don’t map towards recognizable project methodologies, and the plain confusion of teeming issues that must be solved now, and damn the Project Management Body of Knowledge,” said Paul Flynn, director of Operations at 3Sharp, a consulting company.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is the Project Management Institute’s set of core knowledge areas that a competent project manager must know or operate within. Flynn said his PMP certification has lapsed even though he values the training.
If PMP certification is of questionable help in the field, is it at least a sure path to hiring and promotion? Bob Tarne, PMP/CSM/CSSBB, a management consultant at Lombardi, a BPM software provider, said “not necessarily.” He got his PMP certification eight years ago and is now in the position to hire project managers. “To me, the PMP is just a box to check off,” he said. “If you claim to be a project manager and you don’t have your PMP, I won’t consider you for a position. However, I don’t think it means that you are qualified―that will come out in an interview.”
Indeed, these days hiring managers are looking to check off more than just the PMP box. “I know very few firms that use PMP as a requirement for a specific position,” said Justin Honaman, director of Customer Intelligence at Coca-Cola Enterprises and author of Make It Happen! Live Out Your Personal Brand. “More and more companies are looking for Six Sigma, Lean and/or successive project management experiences that allow the individual to effectively add value immediately.”
Despite these changes in the market, the PMP is still both useful and respected.
“From an employee perspective, I can say that the PMP certification opened doors for me,” said C. Bruce Palmer, PMP, senior technical project manager at Performance Technology Group. “After working for a very large bank for 17 years and getting caught in a corporate downsize, I took the opportunity to study and prepare for the certification exam. Even though my resume included some very prestigious experience with projects, it wasn’t until I became certified that the job offers began to surface.”
However, the lean employment market is causing a flood of PMP applicants and this in turn is diluting the certification’s prestige and meaning. “More and more individuals are taking the PMP exam who are not intending on practicing the principles, which has negative impact on the value of the certification overall,” said R. Thomas Nieukirk, Jr., director of Knowledge Management at CGN & Associates, a global business performance consulting firm with offices in the U.S., China, India, and throughout Europe.
“For those whom are truly looking to follow the principles and act as a true project manager, the certification, along with the experience required to sit for the exam, is still held in high regard in most organizations,” said Nieukirk.
PMP certification is particularly attractive to the government sector.
“The government has been a very strong supporter of the PMP certification and has built in the requirements to most of their contracts to include having the Project Managers certified,” said Michael Ferree, PMP, director of Craig Technologies where he oversees 50 people working on contracts at NASA HQ in Washington, DC, and at the DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) DECC (Defense Enterprise Computing Center) in Mechanicsburg, PA.
Although there are as many supporters as dissenters in the PMP debate, there is one point most agree on: it is a great career door-opener.
“The ‘PMP’ after my name didn’t necessarily give me instant credibility, but it certainly didn’t hurt, and the knowledge gained from the training was most certainly what propelled me to the top,” said Tom Coalson LEED-AP, PMP, of Tom Coalson Consulting.
A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker’s published credits include numerous cover stories for international, national and regional media from women’s and general interest to finance, business and technology magazines, online content and newspapers; analytical studies on technology; and, six books. She is a member National Press Club and Avant Guild/Mediabistro.com. She was 2004 nominee for the Templeton Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science and Religion (UK) and wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making.