Can the PMP Make Sense for Developers?

Project Management Institute

Does earning the Project Management Professional certification make any sense for someone who’s focused on a technical role like, say, a software engineer or developer? It might, if you’re looking to move onto the management track.

Project Management InstituteA large proportion of project management jobs in everything from software development to SOA include the PMP as a requirement. The credential’s listed as either a requirement or “nice-to-have” for roles beyond project management, such as software engineer, information architect and senior SharePoint administrator. For technology professionals who want to make the leap into management in general or project management specifically, earning the PMP makes sense, says Kathy Tullio, senior consultant and project manager at Oak Brook, Ill., software developer Geneca. But it might not be the top priority for someone looking to stay on the technical side.

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Some 600,000 PMPs are active in the Project Management Institute, the organization behind the PMP. Some of the key industries they’re involved with: IT, software and data processing. (The PMI doesn’t break out how many tech professionals hold the PMP.) The certification’s cost ranges from $400 to $555, plus what you spend on training and prep materials, which can run over $1,000.

Experience Required

Experience is also required to earn the PMP, meaning a certain commitment to project management is involved, often at the expense of a technical focus. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree need at least three years of project management experience, including 4,500 hours leading and directing projects. Those without college degrees need more.

Tullio earned her PMP after working as an applications development manager and taking some time off from her career. She says adding the PMP “really did help my job search.” However, she notes that just having the credential doesn’t make someone a good project manager. “Personality, management style and cultural fit—none of those are really captured by a test,” she notes.

Suzy Bates, director of project management at Austin-based Web design, development and strategy firm Four Kitchens, agrees. She doesn’t have a PMP after her name and doesn’t look for it when hiring project managers. “The PMP isn’t going to make you a better project manager,” she says.

Standing Out

At the same time, Bates does believe the credential can catch an employer’s attention. “It shows a level of commitment and it does indicate your knowledge base,” she says. “It’s a great program, but it’s not the only way to learn how to be a good project manager. That’s something you do on the job.”

Lew Sauder, senior project manager for Geneca, started out as a developer in a small consulting firm before becoming a team lead and project manager. “After 25 years in the industry, I’m not directly working on the tech side anymore,” he says. “I manage tech teams.” He believes the PMP provided real help in getting him onto the management track. “Like any degree or certification, it enhances the resume and opens the door to interviews you might not have gotten,” Sauder says. “It doesn’t prove anything, but it’s an opportunity to start the conversation and get in there and explain your capabilities.”

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