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Getting Ahead With PMP Certification

One of the hottest certifications for lead software engineers isn’t a software certification at all. It’s the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential, available from the Project Management Institute. This isn’t so surprising when you consider that large scale software engineering projects are handled by teams of teams, and that they’re notorious for going over time and over budget, even when the end product is right. And of course the end product isn’t always right the first time around…

As is the case in other industries, leads and managers earn more. And even when someone has reached the ranks of management, there’s still room for advancement. This is where certification comes in. A 2011 survey of 30,000 project managers suggested that certification possibly impacted salary. In the U.S., credentialed managers were earning about 16% more than their non-credentialed peers. Details are available on the PMI site.

PMI's PMP certification is #6 on the list of top IT certifications. ~ Tech Republic

Tech Republic, meanwhile, has listed PMI PMP certification as #6 on the list of top IT certifications. Interested in pursuing the credential? There are two main steps to getting your initial certification. First, you’ll have to meet the eligibility requirements. Then you’ll have to pass a computer-based examination. Here’s a breakdown of the process.

Meeting PMP Certification Eligibility Requirements

In order to be certified as a PMP, you need to have experience in project management. If you have a bachelor’s degree, three years will suffice. If you have less, you’ll need five years, or 7,500 hours. You are expected to have 1,500 hours of project management experience for each year that you count toward the total. (If you’re new to the field but want a testament to your skills, though, you can apply for Certified Associate in Project Management.)

Whatever the level of your degree, you must have 35 contact hours of project management education. You can earn this in any number of ways. A typical three semester hour university course (three contact hours a week for fifteen weeks) would more than meet the requirement, provided the whole course was indeed devoted to project management.

If you have gone through a software engineering program, chances are you have met the requirement. If not, it can be met through continuing education.

Passing the Examination

Some people like to enroll in a test prep class just to increase their chances of passing the exam. Major cities have boot camps or short classes. There are also opportunities to enroll in test prep online. One of the obstacles, of course, is cost.

If you are not a member of the Project Management Institute, you will likely want to become one before registering for the exam – this will decrease the fees that you pay. If you join well in advance, though, and get to know your local chapter, you may find some resources available at little or no cost. Your local chapter may, for example, have a small library of study materials. There may also be study groups.

The PMBOK Guide, available on the PMI site, can also guide your studies. There are other resources like webinars to guide your practice.

Taking the PMP Examination

The registration process is not lengthy – at least not unless you are selected for audit and don’t have all your documentation at arm’s length. You will want to visit the PMI site well in advance, though, and familiarize yourself with the process. You can download a PMP Credential Handbook to get all the timelines and figures.

You may request special accommodation or language aid if English is not your first language. Language aids are available in 13 languages.

The exam includes questions in five domains: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing projects. Initiation and closing are worth smaller percentages of the total (13% and 8% respectively).

The exam includes 200 questions and must be completed within four hours.

PMP Certification Renewal

The PMP credential must be renewed periodically. You will need to earn 60 professional development units every three years. You can find seminars, e-learning courses, and publication-based quizzes on the PMI site.

Your local chapter will have additional offerings as will other course providers around the world. There are other options like volunteering, authoring publications, or hosting webinars. You can even earn PDUs from projects that you manage.

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