Many technologists want to eventually end up in management. But whether they ultimately wish to become a team leader (which would allow them to keep a hand in the nitty-gritty of development and engineering) or climb all the way to a CEO or CTO position, they’re no doubt wondering if they need to earn certifications in management in order to speed their ascent.
Certifications are a focus of intense debate within tech. Some technologists will argue that you don’t really need them, and that possessing the right mix of skills and experience is nearly always enough to convince an employer that you’re right for the role. But those in the opposite camp will point to all the job postings that list certifications as a requirement; they’ll insist, when pressed, that not obtaining at least some certifications will close off certain career opportunities.
Which side is right? It depends quite a bit on which kinds of jobs you’re aiming for, as well as which certifications you want to obtain. Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, shows that a sizable percentage of management-related jobs ask for a management certification of some sort. For example, here’s the breakdown of tech-management positions that ask for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification:
As you can see, if you want to become a project manager, IT project manager, or program manager, a smallish but significant percentage of job postings ask for PMP. Indeed, PMP leads other management-related certifications by a healthy margin, as this breakdown of the top 12 management certifications over the past 12 months shows:
Many employers are also clearly interested in CAPM, PgMP, and ‘Master Project Management’ (which we’re assuming is Master Project Manager). There are dozens of project management certifications out there, and some highly specialized roles may also want you to have certifications in other areas, such as cybersecurity.
But the PMP clearly leads the way. It’s offered by the Project Management Institute; requirements include a four-year degree, 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM certification, and three years of leading projects. If you’re totally new to project or product management, and you’re a bit intimidated by tackling PMP requirements, you could consider earning your CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management), which is also managed by the Project Management Institute) and positioned as a way for project-management newbies to validate their skills ahead of earning the PMP.
Project Manager Skills and Salary
According to Burning Glass, the median salary for a project manager is $80,280, but that can rise substantially with the right mix of education and experience. For example, while the median project manager salary for those with 0 to 2 years of experience is $56,000, those with 9+ years of experience can earn a median salary of $103,000. Knowledge of management methods such as Scrum, Agile, Kanban, and even Waterfall can give you an advantage when competing for management positions (as well as flexibility in terms of the jobs you apply for).
As mentioned above, though, not all management jobs ask for certifications. Many hiring managers and recruiters are going to focus primarily on the skills you’ve learned, as well as how your communication abilities and capacity for dealing with complex situations. During job interviews, you’ll surely be asked about times you overcame substantial challenges, in addition to the results you’ve achieved.
According to Burning Glass, the following are the skills that pop up the most in project-manager job postings; although these won’t map to every job, it gives you a good idea of what many companies want out of managers at a certain level:
Bottom line: Certifications are important in many jobs, but pretty much all jobs will examine your soft skills if you want to ascend into management. Keep that in mind as you move forward.