The overwhelming majority of IT professionals that I have met or interacted with want to reach a level in their careers which engages in managing projects, resources or services.
Management has become the ultimate pinnacle of most career oriented workers today. One way to reserve a chair at the management table is through business schools; the alternative and more professional approach is to obtain management certificates.
As NetworkWorld.com pointed out a couple of weeks ago, project management certifications do matter. The article states “more and more CIOs believe in the importance of project management certifications” and the PMP credential is in high demand.
Today I’m going to discuss the very popular and reputable option — Project Management Professional (PMP) certification which is soon catching up as the arrow in the quiver that all managers dream of.
Overview of PMP Certification
Let’s start by defining a project. A project is a set of activities that are grouped together to achieve a specific goal. It has a specific start date and an end date, which implies temporary endeavor.
A project goes through various stages to achieve the purpose of its existence, and there is one person who owns the project from the beginning until completion.
This person is the Project Manager.
The PMP certification is a formal recognition implying that the individual understands the art of managing projects through various stages of development.
PMP is internationally recognized and respected. It is one of the most sought after certifications in the IT field. It empowers professionals in bagging crucial high profile project manager roles across the globe.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a nonprofit organization responsible for handing over PMP certifications and better project management practices for the community.
Pre-Requisites for the PMP Exam
You need to have several ducks in a row to be eligible to take up the PMP certification.
If you have a bachelor degree and above, you are required to have 4,500 hours of project experience and should have worked in projects for at least 3 years. Things get worse if you don’t hold a bachelor’s degree; for those with associate degrees and high school diplomas, 7,500 hours of project experience is sought with at least 5 years of project experience.
Apart from the long and exhausting project experience, you are required to take up a PMP training course from one of the PMI certified trainers. At the end of the training session followed by a quiz, you will receive 35 contact hours; provided you pass the quiz.
PMP Application Process
The PMP application process is rather tedious. I would rather apply for a Master’s examination and clear it rather than applying for the PMP exam. Just kidding!
For sure, it takes a good four hours to complete the application process.
You are required to enter your work experience based on different stages of project management; it includes listing the exact hours you worked on certain aspects of project management along with the contact details of your managers, which is required to verify your claims.
This is followed by details of the PMP training that you have undertaken and the number of contact hours it amounts to.
After you hit a final submit on the application process, it will take a maximum of five business days for the application to be reviewed.
15% of the total applications go under the hammer, in other words, get audited. If your application is audited, you are asked to provide material evidences of your experience which includes signatures from your managers and supervisors under whom you have performed for the activities that are listed on the application.
These attested copies are to be sealed in an envelope and mailed to your regional PMI office after which you will receive a response within 5 business days. The auditing part is extremely energy sapping and I am fortunate that I was spared from it.
Looking at the Economics of PMP
There are two different pricing cycles to apply for the PMP exam.
The first is rather a straightforward approach, where you pay the exam fees – $555 and take the exam. Else, the cheaper option is to become a member with the PMI organization by paying $129 and taking the exam for $405, which totals to $534 — $21 cheaper than the former alternative.
Why not save while we can? Plus, you have other advantages with the membership like obtaining a free copy of Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide, the bible that is instrumental for the salvation of PMP certification.
If you fail to clear the PMP examination, the retake fee is $375 for non-members and $275 for members of PMI, which points to additional savings for PMI members.
I would also advise you to become a member of the local PMP chapter by paying $10, which is a great way to meet other project managers in your area, and goes towards activities that are required for you to undertake post certification.
Tips for Passing the PMP Exam
I would strongly advise you to read the PMBOK — Project Management Body of Knowledge at least 3 times in detail. And this time, I’m not joking.
All of the exam questions will be based on this guide. All other commercially available resources are a filtered copy of the original, and in some cases, a derivative of the author’s opinions, which may be useful but not for the exam.
Another book that is worth investing in is the PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy. This book extracts portions of the PMBOK and simplifies some of the hard-to-understand concepts. In addition, it contains practice exams for each of the chapters and a full length exam. I personally felt that the questions in the exam were a grade or two higher than the full length quiz provided in this book.
To clear the PMP examination, you will need at least fifteen days of undivided attention with at least 12 hours of preparation per day to be confident of passing. That being said, I know people who have prepared for ten days, and are PMP certified. But, why take the risk when you can help yourself by giving the extra time and confidence?
I gave myself one and a half months before I took up the exam. During this time, I worked full time and sacrificed my social life by immersing in PMBOK and PMP Exam Prep books. I even utilized the time I drove to office by listening to a few podcasts relating to the PMP exam. I took time off from work during the last ten days, and was working at it for 10-12 hours a day. I felt that I had over prepared at times, but it is far better than the other way around. During the entire period, I had read the PMBOK three times, PMP Exam Prep twice and had taken around 700 practice questions, including three full length quizzes.
The PMP Examination
The PMP exam consists of 200 questions and you have four hours to complete it. Of the 200 questions, 25 are dud questions, and will not be considered for scoring purposes. You will not know the dud questions, before and even after the exam.
The total number of questions that you need to answer successfully to pass the exam is a mystery. But, experts feel that the magic number is 106, and you need to get 106+25=131 questions right to be absolutely sure you have passed the exam.
The questions are fairly straightforward. As mentioned earlier, all the questions will be picked from the PMBOK. So make sure to prepare well; give yourself enough time and study with passion.
Learn more the PMP Certification Process at www.pmi.org.