Is Getting Your PMP® Worth It?

A Project Management Article by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning

Lately, I have seen lot of arguments out there about why you shouldn’t get your PMP credential. Why it doesn’t matter, why it is too expensive to keep and maintain, and why you would be better off twiddling your thumbs than bothering to go for it. On top of that, I have also noticed an online presence that argues against an organized exam prep class for a variety of reasons.

Addressing the Washington PMI Chapter, I feel like I am preaching to the choir when it comes to the importance of earning and maintaining your PMP credential. However, I wanted to explore further some of these notions I have heard, because I believe that to see the whole story, you need to examine dissenting opinions. Below is my take on these opinions. 

Reasons Why You Should Not Earn Your PMP

Reason: Maintaining Your PMP is time consuming to keep active.
Rebuttal: When you earn your PMP credential, you do not just join a Fraternity or Sorority in which all that is required is an initial energy dump and then you are a member for life.

The PMP credential signifies that you are a member of an elite and professional organization that is characterized by each member’s dedication to Project Management and their commitment to continue learning and growing in their profession. This is why to continue being a PMP, you are required to earn 60 hours of professional development over three years. And there are all types of ways to earn these 60 hours of professional development – from volunteering at PMI Chapters to taking online PDU courses. 

The more effort required from you to maintain your PMP credential, the more emphasis and goodwill is placed on having your PMP.   And it is the people who hold the PMP credential the longest who are the highest PM earners in their respective industries.

Reason: Getting your PMP is expensive.
Rebuttal: Not earning your PMP is expensive. The cost to of the PMP exam is $405 if you’re a PMI member and $555 for nonmembers. PMPs typically earn $10,000 more a year than their non-PMP counterparts. This means that in just one month you more than paid for the cost of the exam due to your increase in salary.    Also as mentioned above, the longer you keep your PMP, the more your salary increases.

Not having a PMP can also be expensive in the lost opportunity costs associated with not being considered for a job or promotions simply because you do not have your PMP. This is especially true in the DC market. The President of SLS Consulting Services, based out of Herndon, VA, told Cheetah Learning: “Contract are now saying that they prefer a PMP, but what this really means is that they require it, because they will simply take the next provider who has a PMP.”

Reason: Just because you earn your PMP doesn’t mean you are a good PM.
Rebuttal: Just because you have your license doesn’t mean you are a good driver. But if you don’t have your license, you can’t drive – period.

More and more jobs are not even considering someone who is not PMP certified. Why? Because the reasons to earn your PMP far outweigh any excuse you may have to not earn your PMP. So when a prospective employer looks at your resume, and sees the potential for a PMP but not the actual credential, this will raise a red flag as to why you didn’t go that extra mile to show dedication to your profession.

The bottom line is that while the PMP can only say so much about your PM skill level – it says a whole lot about your character and your dedication to your personal and professional growth, which does matter when you are looking to change jobs or move up in your organization.  

Reasons Why You Should Not Take a PMP Exam Prep Course

Reason: Exam Prep courses focus on memorization.
Rebuttal: To pass any exam, memorization is required. As students in school, we know this. We had to memorize all the chemicals on the table of elements to create it later on an exam. We had to memorize all the capitals and states, and where they were located on a map. And what did we get from all this information? While not a perfect memory, I am guessing that most adults today could tell me the capital of Virginia if I asked them, or would know that Cu abbreviated Copper on the table of elements.  And we can thank memorization for this.

Memorization is an important part of learning. The fact that you are memorizing does not mean that you are not learning – it is a deeper form of learning that is ingraining the information in your brain so that you can reference it later, and is absolutely crucial to passing the PMP exam.

Reason: Exam prep courses just focus on passing the exam. 
Rebuttal: It is called an Exam Prep course for a reason. If you wanted to learn how to make your own home-style Italian meatballs – go to an Italian meatball cooking class. If you want to learn how to pass a specific exam and don’t want to spend months and months preparing, go to and exam prep class that is focused on that one thing only: passing the exam.

While I know this may sound harsh, the reality is that time is a scarce resource. Most exam prep institutions (ah hem, Cheetah Learning!) value learning beyond obtaining your PMP credential, which is why we offer many PDU courses that are geared toward extensive Project Management learning. But by providing a direct service of allowing you to learn what you need to know to pass the exam, we are providing a way to take less of your scarce resources (time and money) and giving you what you need (PMP credential).

What DC area PMPs Have To Say

An interview with four Cheetah Learning alumni who received their PMP® credential in early 2013 in the Washington DC area revealed that the payback is worth far more than the investment.

New PMP Erika Rymsha, a Senior Project Manager for construction management at Henkels & McCoy’s East Region Project Management Office says “I am a firm believer that the PMP methodology of project management is a strong, organized, and methodical way of approaching management not only in my field, but across various business sectors.”

The value of the credential is evident in the largest and smallest of organizations. Henkels & McCoy, one of the largest privately held engineering, network development and construction firms serving the communications, information technology and utility industries has evolved its own Project Management Methodology (PMM) adapted directly from the PMBOK® Guide. A story that has been proven true again and again, PMP® credential holders entering Henkels & McCoy as new employees have a definite head start.

The President of SLS Consulting Services of Herndon, VA also sees the surge in PMP® credential acquisition since early 2012. In his case, budget cuts and the overall environment in 2013 makes cost management and negotiation more critical than ever, points that are covered in the PMP® exam. Although contracts now indicate a preference for employees with a PMP® credential he feels that, in truth, the jobs go to those contracting organizations that provide people with the credential.

Very importantly, the President of SLS Consulting Services senses that his clients view him differently and that they place additional trust in his expertise. In particular, he sees the value in everyday project management work such as risk management, creating a communications plan, etc. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, the PMP® credential has helped him reach his professional goals.

Terry Kunneman, PMP®, United States Marine Corps Medium & Heavy Tactical Vehicles Program Management Office at Quantico, VA decided to earn the credential because “like so many others in the world, I appreciate that it’s a visible, prestigious testament to the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in project management. Having earned both my MBA and BS Technical Management degrees with a concentration in project management, and working as a successful Project Officer in an acquisition PMO, it was also a logical step to attain the professional credential that matches perfectly with my professional pursuits and personal goals.”

He continues, “Within my organization that places a lot of value and emphasis on project management personnel continually improving their competency and skills, the PMP® credential will serve as a prerequisite to selection for positions of increasing responsibility and program management leadership. Also, while it is often said that the PMP® credential within government acquisition is not as coveted or expected as Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certifications, there is no mistaking the credibility that accompanies PMI credentials.”

Chuck Hughes, PMP®, at the Building Technologies Division of Siemens Industry, Inc. in Beltsville, MD says “I decided to obtain my PMP® for several reasons.  One, several of my coworkers recently obtained theirs (within the past 18 months) and saw how they were able to advance their careers by obtaining it, so I wanted to open the same doors for myself as they had.  Also, by obtaining it, I’ve furthered my professional development, increased my knowledge drastically about project management, and challenged and pushed myself personally and professionally.  Additionally, people in the industry know the name PMP®, and they know it is a prestigious credential.  I feel it gives my words and actions more weight and credibility. Here at Siemens, the PMP® will allow me to move into the official role of project manager (an official job title) as opposed to being a general engineer who managed projects.”

Hughes also looks forward to the wealth of networking capabilities that will be afforded him through PMI chapter meetings, events and classes in the DC region.
For Hughes, an examination prep class offered by Cheetah Learning was instrumental and essential to him passing the exam.  “The class was intense, but I firmly believe I would not have passed the exam without having taken the class.”

The Bottom Line

The PMP® credential is not just valuable in DC, but it is increasingly essential in various industries and governments throughout the world as we all become more interconnected. Speaking the same language in our project work can mean the difference between success and failure.   Besides providing a critical common framework for important projects, the PMP® credential enhances one’s image in the profession, opens networking opportunities through local chapters and regional and national meetings, facilitates job advancement, and affords the foundation of knowledge that can grow as the discipline of project management grows in future editions of the PMBOK® Guide.

So while you read over the various arguments and testimonials and wonder if the PMP credential is right for you, make the right decision for you based on facts rather than emotional responses and go from there. Best of luck.

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning

Michelle LaBrosseMichelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun and fast.  She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses.

Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 30,000 people have become “Cheetahs” using Cheetah Learning’s innovative Project Management and accelerated learning techniques.  

Recently honored by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Cheetah Learning was named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 PMI® Global Congress. A dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Michelle was previously recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world.

Michelle’s articles have appeared in over 100 publications and web sites around the world. Her monthly column, the Know How Network is carried by over 400 publications, and her monthly newsletter goes out to more than 50,000 people.

She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Manager’s (OPM) program and also holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton.

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