PMP Certification – is it worth it?

In April 2005, I passed the PMP exam. More than 17 years later I look back: What positives (or negatives) did the PMP certification bring me?

The Project Management Professional (PMP) is a certification of the Project Management Institute (PMI). There are thousands of pages on the web that list the advantages of the PMP; fortunately, some also look at the disadvantages – mostly neutrally.

I do not want to explain the PMP in general here, that has already been done enough by many other authors, project managers and consultants. Rather, I will describe the influence on and the change for me personally.

Why did I want to become PMP certified?

I started my own business in early 2005, it was my first phase of self-employment as a consultant. Since I did not immediately have a client with a project at the beginning of the year, I thought about how I could use my free time in a meaningful way. I wanted to do further training, preferably in project management or business analysis.

My ideas and research ranged from simple one-day seminars to an MBA in Project Management. The former seemed too banal, the latter a bit too extensive. Finally, I kept getting stuck on certifications until two emerged: PMI and IPMA.

After some thought and further research, I decided on the PMP from the Project Management Institute. I put myself through a really fun-free week of training and passed the exam with my heart rate clearly elevated. I was a PMP. And then?

PMP certification – an advantage in tenders and job applications?

In a nutshell, my sobering conclusion: In not a single one (!) of the projects in the past years was the PMP certification decisive. It was always about experience and the personal approach to problem situations.

In numerous tenders, the PMP or a similar certification is requested. However, I have never been asked a single question about methodology. In the projects themselves, a company-internal methodology was mostly used, which was oriented towards the common and well-known ones.

This leaves me with the question: What is the point of a certification as a PMP if nothing more is heard about it apart from a “yes, I have”? Instead, clients should rather rely on a consultant with industry and project experience, regardless of existing or non-existing certifications.

PMP re-certification

It is well known that the PMP has to be re-certified every three years. This has changed a bit in recent years, not necessarily for the better, in my opinion. The re-certification is also very theory-heavy, the practice (i.e.: satisfied customers) is taken into account less and less.

This may seem sensible given the large number of PMPs that now exist worldwide (theory is easier to verify than individual practice). On the other hand, I then ask myself what the value of a PMP title should be in the future and what the PMI wants to represent with it. With the glut of new PMPs, combined with the squishy feel-good re-certifications, the title PMP is nothing to stand out with.

Did the PMP nevertheless make a difference?

I would like to highlight two advantages that nevertheless made the project work easier for me:

1. Wording: the standardised definition of the individual phases, steps and above all the deliverables clearly facilitated the initial communication with other (initially quite unknown) project members. Even if the underlying methodology was often an internal home-grown, the basically desired content of the discussed deliverable package was clear and unambiguous due to the naming alone.

2. Procedure and structure: Basically, there are no major differences between all the numerous methodologies in the waterfall project procedure. At some point, somehow a start is made, and significantly later everything is ready (mostly, at least). In between, a lot of things happen that have to be documented one way or the other, depending on the process model.

What I like about the PMP is the space and freedom it gives me in implementing the projects. For me, the PMBOK is a “suggestion” of what can be included in a project, and depending on the customer, the assignment and the project content, I can design the methodological environment more or less intensively. There is a clear structure and approach, but the details are left to me.

Personal and private

The “PMP” on my business card and in my email-signature has disappeared in the meantime. The same goes for the additions on LinkedIn or Xing.
Addendum to this: I’m sorry – there may well be people who like to adorn themselves with their titles, but to give “first name, last name, PMP” as contact information is not acceptable in my view, for various reasons.

Since I am a convinced advocate of the principle that everyone should find their own way to a given goal, the concept of the recommended structure with a lot of freedom suits me very well. In private “projects” I do not follow PMBOK, but my already existing structured approach does not suffer at all from the knowledge gained.


Having the PMP certification in your profile at least does not hurt. Maybe it opens a door or two with clients, interviewers and recruiters. But maybe you would have been shortlisted anyway, also without the PMP.

Feedback from previous clients as well as from various non-clients: even if it is in the advertisement, it is not a knock-out criterion if the PMP is not available. Experience is more important than a title.

So far, I have not been able to find a purely monetary advantage (higher hourly rate due to the PMP).

And the fact is, every client should be aware of this: The title PMP does not deliver projects. A project manager can benefit from it, but this is only a small part in the complex project structure.

Would I take the PMP exam again today? Probably yes. Not for monetary reasons, not for prestige, but for the knowledge.

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