PMP Certification: Project Management’s “Family Feud”

Family FeudThe value and importance of the PMP certification is a hotly debated topic within the project management community.  One end of the spectrum vigorously defends the credential as the defining standard for competence, whereas the other end views it as a meaningless exercise signifying nothing more than rote memorization. Many fall somewhere in the middle, seeing it as a necessary evil that hopefully yields some advantage to their marketability.

Adding fuel to the debate are the results of a research study published in the Project Management Journal, February 2011. “PMP Certification as a Core Competency:  Necessary But Not Sufficient” reports the results of a study conducted by Jo Ann Starkweather and Deborah H. Stevenson of Northwestern University’s Department of Information Systems & Technology.

The study reports the valuation of the PMP certification by IT Recruiters and corporate IT Executives, as well as a statistical evaluation of the PMP as an indicator of project success.

Survey Says…

Valuation of the PMP: Of the 15 core competencies surveyed, the PMP certification was ranked #11 by IT recruiters, and #15 by IT Executives (that’s right—dead last!) Shown below are percentages of IT Executives rating of “Important” or “Extremely Important” for each competency.

1.       Leadership                                                                           95%

2.       Ability to Communicate at Multiple Levels          94%

3.       Verbal Skills                                                                        87%

4.       Written Skills                                                                     87%

5.       Attitude                                                                                 85%

6.       Ability to Deal With Ambiguity and Change        83%

7.       Work History                                                                    69%

8.       Experience                                                                         67%

9.       Ability to Escalate                                                           66%

10.   Cultural Fit                                                                          57%

11.   Technical Expertise                                                         46%

12.   Education                                                                            38%

13.   Length of Prior Engagements                                     23%

14.   Past Team Size                                                                  18%

15.   PMP Certification                                                             15%

PMP as Indicator of Project Success: There was no statistically significant difference in the reported success rates for projects led by certified vs. non-certified project managers when considered across 5 Success Criteria:

  • Cost/Within Budget
  • On Schedule
  • Quality/Met Technical Specifications
  • Quality/Met Client Business Requirements
  • Client/User Satisfaction

So What Does It Mean?

In the words of the study leaders, “Clearly, mastery of the project management body of knowledge is an important asset in the preparation of professional project managers. An understanding of the methodology is essential to the appropriate conduct of project management. However, based on the narrative explanations offered by both IT Recruiters and Executives, their emphasis on soft skills such as the ability to communicate at multiple levels, and the tacit knowledge of knowing when to exercise leadership and how to do this effectively are critical to eventual project success.”

So it would seem that we as a community must address the gap that currently exists in our curriculum and training when it comes to leadership and soft skills. Furthermore, recruiters must use more screening techniques to evaluate soft skills and leadership abilities when considering candidates for project management roles. As the value of project management has evolved from tactical to strategic in organizations, so must our perspective on the core competencies for success.


6 responses to “PMP Certification: Project Management’s “Family Feud”

  1. I too agree that PMP certification does not hold any merit in today’s context. It is more of theory and less of real world , its just like memorizing and then taking up the exam. Also PMP course content should focus on practical work as its passing criteria not just one theory exam. Course content should contain more of leadership contents and less of dry management subjects with no juice.
    They should also come up with OLP(organizational leadership program) kind of exam. With exponential ways of getting any task/project executed the PMP exam just focuses how dry theory can help to execute any project.
    Paying for PMP exam from pocket may be worth if you get good increments by virtue of being PMP. Its time for Change Management of PMP exam to be more on Leadership Oriented Side.

  2. Hi Pam,

    Are you OK if I republish this excellent article on PM Hut (I’ve published few of yours already, see here). I’m sure a lot of potential PMPs will appreciate it.

  3. projectmanagementprofessionalcertification

    Hi all
    i want to add something on PMP Certification that, any PMP Aspirants should take some PMP Certification Training Before sitting for PMP Exam. it will help PMP Aspirants a lot. PMP Aspirant should take PMP Certification training from R.E.P of PMI, not from any other place as PMI R.E.P are genuine and provide very good PMP Certification training. for example [NAME REMOVED] is PMI’s R.E.P and they offer 100% money back grantee if you don’t pass PMP exam after taking PMP certification training from [NAME REMOVED]. PMP Aspirant also get 35 PDU’s certificate which fulfill one of the requirement to sit in PMP Exam. there are so many advantages if you opt for PMI’s R.E.P. if you want to know more advantages then you can check out [NAME/WEBSITE REMOVED]

  4. Dear Reader,

    Again, thank you for your comments. I must respectfully disagree with your comments that PMP certification training should be taken only from R.E.P.s of PMI. After looking into the requirements and cost myself to become an R.E.P., I decided there would not be an ROI for me to make the investment at this time.

    Just as a non-certified Project Manager can be as good as one who has a PMP, so also can a non-R.E.P. provider match the quality of an R.E.P.

    Best regards,

  5. Pam, I just happened to stumble on your well done analysis and I can only say that you may find this ongoing research I have been doing since 2010, benchmarking all the major global project management credentials against the US Professional Engineer (PE) license as well as Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour” rule may be of considerable interest to you.

    I think it is high time that we, as professional practitioners, start to DEMAND more honesty not only by PMI but ALL these supposedly “not for profit” professional organizations flogging their meaningless credentials around, which have begun to serve as defacto “licenses to practice”.

    I think it is time the the Federal Trade Organization or other consumer protection groups start to look into the claims these credentialing organizations are making?

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

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