Lots of people wonder if it is worth the cost and effort to become certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP).  If your main job function is project management, the answer is pretty clearly, “yes.”  The Project Management Institute (PMI), which administers the PMP certification, publishes salary data.  They show that PMP certified project managers in the US stand to make about $11,000 more per year than project managers who don’t have the certification. And in the construction and IT industries, certification has become a requirement for a lot of jobs. 

However, if you are an engineer first, who also manages projects, the answer is not as clear.  As a mechanical engineer who recently got the certification, I’ve put together my thoughts as well as my personal experience around the subject.

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The Upside of a PMP Certification:

1. Salary: Titles Matter

My company pays project managers (with engineering degrees) about $5000-$7000 more per year than engineers with similar qualifications.  I have not seen an increase in my salary from passing the PMP test.  But, I continue to primarily do engineering work, and use project management techniques to run my projects, and this is the work I prefer.  If your employer recognizes “Project Manager” as a job title, you likely need the PMP certification to move into this higher paid job function.  If the certification does not lead you directly to a title change, don’t expect an immediate salary increase, unless your supervisor has told you otherwise.

2. Communication

Even though I do more engineering than project managing, I often communicate with project managers, both inside and outside my company.  One thing PMP certification ensures is that you understand the common vocabulary and techniques of the field.  Learning this vocabulary has made it easier for me to collaborate with other PMs on projects. 

3. Portability

PMP certification is widely recognized, and as such, can make it easier to change jobs.  As a former boss used to tell me, ‘Even if you don’t have experience designing a particular kind of widget, managing projects translates very well across industries.’

4. Responsibility

Since passing the PMP test, my boss has assigned larger projects to me.  As I said, I did not receive a direct raise, but I am more valuable to the company if I handle larger projects. Hopefully, that translates to larger future salary increases (fingers crossed).

The Downsides of PMP Certification:

1. Cost

The PMP test itself costs $544, and a preparation class can cost around $2000.  My company paid all these expenses for me, but if yours does not, this is a serious hurdle.

2. Time

I took a 4-day preparation class.  I also spent about 40 hours after the class studying for the test.  This was during work hours, but again, if your company does not allow this, it’s quite a bit of time to take out of your personal life.

3. Continuing Education

PMI requires 60 PDUs every 3 years to maintain certification.  This equates to roughly 60 hours of time investment, and may mean money invested as well.

Whether a PMP certification makes sense for you is obviously highly personal and depends a lot on your industry and organization.  Hopefully the above points have been able to give you a little more data to make that decision.  If you decide to go ahead with the certification, follow me to read my future articles for tips on preparing for the test and acquiring PDUs. Good luck.