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Becoming a Certified Project Management Professional (sidebar)

According to estimates by the Project Management Institute (PMI), more than 14.5 million people globally are involved in the practice of project management.

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“That’s based on what individuals consider themselves to be, so they may be doing project management full time, or they be doing it for a portion of their day,” explains Laurie Cooke, director of career management for PMI, a 135,000-member organization based in Newtown Square, Pa.

PMI is working to establish project management as a global profession that offers a well-defined career path for practitioners, and a set of well-understood benefits to the companies and organizations that they work for, says Cooke. And if the growth in the number of Project Management Professionals, or PMPs, who are certified by the Institute is any indication, the organization lately has been gaining ground rapidly.

The PMP credential was established 20 years ago. But most of the growth in the PMP population has come in recent years. Just since 2000, when the Institute counted about 27,000 PMPs on its roles, the number of certified PMPs has more than tripled, to 87,147 by the end of June this year. The largest growth is coming currently from outside North America, says Cooke, particularly in Asia.

To be eligible for PMP certification, individuals must meet specific education and experience requirements and agree to adhere to a code of professional conduct. PMP candidates must also pass a rigorous, four-hour examination that tests an individual’s knowledge and understanding of the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK—an extensive compilation of project management knowledge, practices and terminology. More than 20 percent fail to pass the exam on the first attempt. Individuals who achieve PMP certification must then demonstrate continuing professional development to retain the credential.

Who should consider becoming a PMP? Some consultants say the credential may be most appropriate for full-time project managers at large organizations, which are most likely to be in tune with the formalized approach to project management laid out in PMI’s PMBOK Guide. The credential may be less worthwhile for part-time project managers and for individuals at smaller companies, these sources say. Some critics contend too that the PMP exam is too focused on testing knowledge of a precise set of terminologies that may not directly impact an individual’s ability to effectively manage projects.

Cooke, however, defends the approach. PMI’s goal is promote the global profession of project management, she points out, and the use of standardized terminology enables project managers around the globe to work more effectively with each other. She notes too that a number of part-time project managers, as well as those who work for smaller companies, do choose to earn their PMP certification. It can pay dividends, both for the individual, and for the companies they work for, she says.

“What we’re trying to do is get a body of project management professionals out there, speaking the same language, communicating and practicing project management properly,” she concludes, “because the more people you have practicing project management properly, the more you’re going to see the real benefits that project management can bring.”

See the story that goes with this sidebar: Help for the incidental project manager

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