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To PMP or not to PMP

Michelle LaBrosse
May 8, 2013

Should I get it now, or should I wait until I have more time to study? What if I study and I don’t pass, and wasted all that time for nothing? Will having it actually impact my career, or will there be no change?

These are the questions that run through one’s mind when deciding to attain Project Management Professional (PMP) certification not. They are normal. And they are very good questions.

At first, I wanted to write this article on why you should get your PMP because I believe that in most cases, it can only help you in your career and in your life. But isn’t that so typical? Me, the CEO of a training company that profits from people earning their PMPs, writing an advocacy article about how great the PMP is? How authentic is that?

So instead, I want to focus on arguments that I have seen out there lately about why having your PMP does not matter, and why taking an exam prep class is a bad idea, and address those. Here we go!

Reasons not to earn your PMP

1. 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 organisation that is characterised 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 (see how to earn Professional Development Units or PDUs).

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 project management earners in their respective industries.

2. Getting your PMP is expensive
Rebuttal: Not earning your PMP is expensive. The cost of the PMP exam is $405 if you’re a PMI member and $555 for non-members. PMPs typically earn $10,000 more a year than their non-PMP counterparts. This means that in just one month you have 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. Those are immeasurable, but we have heard it time and time again that having the PMP credential helps people get in the door so that they have a chance at the job of their dreams.

3. Earning a PMP doesn’t mean you are a good project manager
Rebuttal: Just because you have your licence doesn’t mean you are a good driver. But if you don’t have your licence, 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 project management skills, 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 organisation.

Reasons not to take a PMP Exam prep course

1. Exam prep courses focus on memorisation
Rebuttal: To pass any exam, memorisation is required. As students in school, we know this. We had to memorise all the chemicals on the table of elements to create it later on an exam. We had to memorise all the states and capitals, 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 that Cu is the abbreviation of copper on the table of elements. And we can thank memorisation for this.

Memorisation is an important part of learning. The fact that you are memorising 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.

2. 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 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 like Cheetah Learning value learning beyond obtaining your PMP credential. 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).

So while you read over these 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.

Co-authored with Kristen Medina

Michelle LaBrosse
Michelle LaBrosse (PMP) is one of the Project Management Institute's (PMI) 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World and the founder of Cheetah Learning, a former PMI Professional Development Provider of the Year. She boasts a background in engineering and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Managers (OPM) program, as well as a prolific writer and educator, having authored Cheetah Negotiations, Cheetah Project Management, Cheetah Know How and Cheetah Exam Prep as well as numerous articles in publications worldwide.
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One thought on “To PMP or not to PMP

  1. Thank you, Michelle, for a thought provoking article. I would like to add that having your PMI cert shows a dedication to your career field.

    I am a PM who opted not to get his PMP cert. My BS degree is in PM so I auto-qualify for the CAPM which I did not get either. I am a certified ScrumMaster, though. The information I have read steered me to this – based on my research, I found that having your Masters carries the same weight as the PMP cert. At least in the USA and I will also say it is most likely the region I am in.

    Although I agree memorization is a requisite for any type of learning, my memory is not what it was. My system works by having paper and electronic references and knowing where to look/find what I need. I never took chemistry so perhaps this is why (lol) – not having to memorize and dump the info for a test.

    In my experience – and I realize it was the company I worked for – having my PMP cert made little to no difference. Of course, now that I am no longer there, I am seeing things from a different perspective.

    I have been a PM for about 15 years now – roughly half my overall career of about 26 years in the technical field. Thank you again for the article, and the food for thought…

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