Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What you need to understand about the PMP Certification

The PMP certification is a Professional Certification.  Don't think of it lightly.  It's one of the toughest exams I've taken, and I have dozens of certifications, licenses, and 4 degrees.  The key mindset to get is that the PMP exam is just that - an examination.  It's not a test.  You can't "memorize" your way to a PMP certification as you can just about any technology oriented certification.  Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco -- read the book, memorize some facts, take the test - shazam!  The closest tech cert I can think of is the CCIE from Cisco, which, if you talk to some techies about it, they have a great deal of respect for.  It is not easy or inexpensive to achieve.  Experience counts, must be demonstrated, and is a mandatory requirement to even applying for the certification. 


Experienced PM's, that is roughly 10 years experience in at least several different companies and disciplines, can usually get by with about 60-70 hours total study time (that includes the 40 odd hours of the exam prep course and it's reading assignments).  Yep, even with all that experience, you can expect to spend 20-30 hours additional study after class - maybe more.  It's not that the PMP exam is "hard" - it is very broad in it's scope.  There is the basic PM framework you need to memorize (there is some memorization for sure) - and then there is the practical understanding of how to execute the PM framework that you can only really understand if you've done it.  Add to that HR, Procurement, Risk Management, team building, decision making, motivation theory, communications, finance, - there are a total of 9 Knowledge areas (domains) of expertise required, some of which have sub-domains of expertise like Earned Value Management in Finance.  Hint - they are not all covered in the PMBOK Guide, some not even mentioned!  You see, the PMP exam is not based ONLY on the PMBOK Guide.  One other source of information for the exam, hence required reading, is the PMP Handbook you can get for free at the PMI.org site.  In addition to all the info about the exam, it talks at the high level about what the exam covers.  While you are there, get a copy of the PMP Exam Content Outline.  This guide provides greater detail on what the exam covers.