In an increasingly evolving projectized world, Project Management Institute (PMI) professional certification ensures that project managers are ready to meet the demands of projects and employers across the globe.
Project Management Professional (PMP)® is a global certification for project managers, recognized around the world over as the gold standard in project management. In addition to Prince certification (Europe), it’s the only certification for project managers out there today. As a PMP, you can work in virtually any industry, with any methodology, in any location.
But it doesn’t come easy. As a Senior Project Manager here at Hanson who has recently been PMP certified, I’d like to walk you through the process to help you understand just what it takes to be a certified project manager.
To put it simply, the preparation for PMP certification involves rigorous testing with strong emphasis on process. Based on the PMBOK guide, which is the Project Management Standard put forth by the Project Management Institute, there are many ways to prepare for the exam. You can prep by yourself by using the guide, though it’s not a complete resource, or by using one of the many published prep programs available. Another option is to prepare using a Bootcamp (usually a week long) or a prep class, in my case, 8 weeks, 5 hours per week, with additional prep time during the week.
But it’s important to note that only having project management experience will not be sufficient because sometimes, what is ideal (the “Standard”) isn’t always what we do in real life, and the exam itself only cares about the Standard.
Before you apply, you must meet the following prerequisites:
- Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent)
- 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
- 35 hours of project management education
- Four-year degree
- 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
- 35 hours of project management education
Education and project hours must be documented in detail and you may be audited, in which case, additional proof of hours is required. This is a filter that eliminates a lot of people from the process. I started the application as soon as I had enough classroom and online hours to apply so I could take the test as soon as possible after finishing the class, which I’d recommend. I was also audited, which took an additional one and a half weeks to complete.
The exam itself is 200 multiple choice questions in 4 hours. 25 questions are experimental and don’t count. The exact passing % is not known, but it’s estimated to be around 65%.
The test itself is taken electronically in a tightly monitored testing center, requiring identification each time you enter and leave the room, as well as a pat down to make sure no notes, food, phones, etc. are being taken in or out of the testing center.
I scheduled my exam within 4 days of the end of the class, and just took as many online practice exams as I could in that time, using a variety of different sources. The prep course I took emphasized a lot of formulas and math, which I was prepared for. But the exam ended up being primarily what-if scenarios, which I didn’t feel as good about.
The results are given immediately following the completion of the exam. I was so nervous about the results, I didn’t push the ‘Finish’ button until there were only 4 minutes left – but happily I PASSED!
Why It’s Worth It
As a result of this process, you definitely gain knowledge about project management, which is obviously useful and important. But aside from that, I personally learned something about my ability to focus on a goal and achieve it despite a number of pretty significant obstacles that came up while preparing for the exam. I haven’t been a student for a long time, so I needed to brush up on my study habits, while also recognizing a need to be really really efficient as I balanced this against all the other responsibilities we all have in life. I met great people in my class and was able to learn from their real life experiences in project management, which were almost always different from mine.
And as far as my career goes, as is the case in most industries, maybe especially those that involve technology, the workforce is better educated and more competitive. Despite years of experience, a PM may not even be considered for a position if they don’t have a PMP certification. It not only provides important knowledge, but also communicates to employers that you’re serious about your work and want to continue to grow as a professional.