Why Earning a PMP Should Be on Every Project Manager’s To-Do List

It is said that truly good leaders are constantly learning. After years of practicing traditional project management, I wanted to sharpen and validate my skills by becoming a Project Management Professional (PMP), considered the “gold standard” of project management certification. If you’re not familiar with this valuable certification for project management professionals, read on to see if it should be on your to-do list, too!

What is the PMP certification?

Granted by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the PMP certification “demonstrates to employers, clients, and colleagues that a project manager possesses project management knowledge, experience, and skills to bring projects to successful completion.”

The PMP covers in-depth understanding of ten project management knowledge areas: scope, integration, human resources, time, cost, quality, communications, risk, stakeholders, and procurement.

While many certification programs focus only on a specific domain or geography, the PMP certification is universally recognized. The PMP is demanded by organizations globally, in any industry and in any location.

The PMP Handbook is a helpful tool for learning more about the PMP certification and process, but I also give a brief overview below.

Who can apply?

The PMP certification will greatly help engineers to perform better in corporate management. But it is also useful for all project managers in various professional fields, including IT, commerce, finance, research, and more.

To be eligible for the PMP certification, you need to meet educational requirements and have professional experience managing projects. All project management experience must have been accrued within the last 8 consecutive years before submitting your application.

The specific prerequisites are:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent)
  • 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education


  • Four-year degree
  • 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education

PMI also specifies that your professional experience must be non-overlapping, meaning that if you managed two projects at once, you can only count one of those projects toward your project management experience.

What is the application process?

The information you include in your application allows PMI to determine if you have the necessary experience and education to qualify for the PMP certification. Fortunately, the application process is straightforward. For information on what to include with your application, see PMI’s Application Tips. When you are ready, you can register and apply online.

Note that becoming a member of PMI can save you considerably on the certification exam fee.

How should I study for the exam?

The certification exam has 200 multiple-choice questions, and you have 4 hours to complete it. Even the most experienced project managers should plan to devote plenty of time to exam prep. PMI states that, on average, successful candidates will spend 35 hours or more studying for the exam. You should find a good study guide and consider taking a training course. I also recommend joining a study group, either locally or virtually, to help keep you accountable and on track.

PMI offers a PMP Examination Content Outline that covers the domains, tasks, knowledge, and skills evaluated in the exam, as well as a list of sample questions. I also found the PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to be a thorough and helpful resource.

If you don’t meet the project management education requirements, a PMP exam prep course can actually be counted toward that requirement. A quick online search will provide a wide variety of free and for-fee online training courses. You might find a formal study course offered by your local PMI chapter, or check out the list of PMI-approved Registered Education Providers.

How do I find out if I passed or failed, and what happens next?

If you take the exam in a testing center, you will just watch the computer screen after completing the test and hope for the best. Results are just a few (long!) seconds away. You can also access your exam report later online.

If you pass, you will receive a certification package with your PMP certificate within 6 to 8 weeks. Be sure to celebrate and share the good news with colleagues inside and outside of your organization. To maintain your PMP, you must earn 60 professional development units every 3 years.

If you do not pass the exam, do not give up hope! You are granted a one-year eligibility period to pass the exam when you apply for certification, and you may take the exam up to three times during this period. So, if you do fail, simply continue to study and try again. Just be sure to leave yourself enough time during the eligibility period to retake the exam, if needed.

How will earning the PMP benefit my career?

Holding a PMP certification will help you stand out among employers, recruiters, and clients. Being a PMP can also lead to a higher salary. Survey respondents to PMI’s Earning Power Salary Survey reported that a PMP certification earned them, on average, 20 percent more than those without a PMP certification.

For me, the PMP has provided a good platform of knowledge to draw on and has given me greater confidence to know that I’m operating to a global industry standard. The skills I’ve learned as a PMP have been valuable, and I have directly applied those skills to benefit my firm and client partners.

If you’re a project manager in any field who would like to put earning a PMP on your to-do list, I hope this overview is a helpful start!

Harish Patel, PE, PMP, RLS, LEED AP, is Executive Vice President and COO of EBA Engineering, Inc. He has more than 35 years of professional engineering and land surveying experience, including 20 years as a project manager. He can be reached at 410.504.6101,, or on LinkedIn.


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Harish Patel