A Recent Grad’s Insights on the PMP Certification

by Modis on September 24, 2014

PMP CertificationToday we’re welcoming Casey Ayers to the Modis blog. Casey is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. He’s the founder and author of Points Away, a website book aimed at helping travelers make the most of their frequent flier miles and credit card rewards. A recent MBA graduate, Casey also earned the Project Manager Professional (PMP) certification, and he’s sharing his insight on the entire process from the initial decision to the certification exam and beyond.

I love projects. Working toward new and varied goals, each presenting a unique set of challenges, has always come more naturally than doing the same thing day in and day out. In the past five years alone, I’ve worked on a number of iOS apps and consumer products, built several digital media brands and was key to the development of a healthcare startup. In each case, I learned important lessons I was able to apply to the next project, even if it seemed on the surface to be wholly unrelated to the ones that came before it.

To me, the result of all this work was a complex tapestry of valuable experience. When it came to future clients or employers, though, I feared they’d see only a mess of mixed signals. I wanted to formally tie together all of this experience in a way that would be meaningful to others. The answer soon became obvious: my niche wasn’t in app development or product design, in publishing or healthcare; it was in leading teams and seeing projects of all shapes and sizes through from beginning to end. That’s what led me to earn my Project Management Professional certification.

The PMP Certification Process

Earning a PMP isn’t easy. Eligibility requires either a high school diploma or associate’s degree plus 7,500 hours of experience leading and directing projects. Alternatively, a four-year degree along with 4,500 hours of experience will do. Only forty hours per week of work can be counted toward the experience quota, and while hours from overlapping projects may be counted, your experience must also span a minimum of three years in total.

It’s important to document this experience as thoroughly as possible and ensure that colleagues, supervisors, clients or other stakeholders can readily verify your work. Only a portion of PMP applicants are randomly audited to verify their experience, but all applicants must log their hours and describe the work completed as part of the application process.

In addition to the experience requirements, applicants must also complete 35 hours of project management education from a certified source. PMP online courses can be found for a few hundred dollars, while in-person classes can often soar into the thousands.

The PMP Exam

The exam itself is 200 questions in length, covering all phases of project management and each of the areas of emphasis leading project managers have agreed apply to nearly all projects. These include managing project scope, communicating with stakeholders, setting and tracking budgets and much more.

The test itself isn’t cheap, either, at $555. Becoming a member of the Project Management Institute costs $129, but it’ll make you eligible for a discounted rate of $405 for the test, saving more than the cost of membership. You’ll also be provided with a free PDF copy of the Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide as a member, which is an essential study tool as the basis of the PMP exam.

Why I Chose PMP Certification

In all honesty, I set out to earn my PMP to prove something to others. Now that I’ve earned it, though, I can tell you the experience was much more valuable than I expected. Without a formalized background in project management techniques, I’ve often relied on tricks and processes of my own creation. Studying for the PMP showed me just how often I had been reinventing the wheel. The standards and methodologies found in the PMBOK Guide and on the PMP exam empower you to speak the same language as other project management professionals and to stand on the shoulders of those who have already faced challenges inherent in projects of all kinds.

A PMP might be a great resume builder. The Project Management Institute touts how PMP-holders often earn substantially more than project managers without the certification, and many project management jobs either require or strongly prefer candidates with a PMP. More important than the letters, though, will be the skills you can acquire through the process of earning them. You’ll be a better leader, a more efficient taskmaster and more ready to take on big new challenges thanks to what you’ll learn.

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