Project Management CertificationWhile people relatively new to project management understand the advantage of getting a formal certification such as PMP or PRINCE2, especially when looking for a job, many experienced project managers are outraged that organizations place so much emphasis on certifications when screening résumés. They claim that experience is the one that counts, that no formal certification guarantees that a project manager can successfully lead a project, and that it is frustrating to see that organizations care for certifications more than they care about experience.

Experience vs. Certification

How important is to get a project management certification when you have years of experience and have led numerous successful projects for an organization? Which one counts more, experience or formal certification?

Whether you should get formally certified depends on your status. If you are a job-seeker with project management experience, the answer is definitely yes. If ten or 20 years ago acronyms such as PMP or PMI-ACP were mostly irrelevant for employers, an increasing number of organizations use these and other certifications as a selection criterion for candidates to a project manager position. And where the certification is not a requirement, it is definitely an advantage. In such harsh times for job seekers, no advantage is to be neglected.

Certification Gets You the Interview, Experience Gets You the Job

The frustrated experienced project managers are right when they say that experience should count more than any certification. What many of them seem to miss is that experience and certification are not mutually exclusive. It is not the certification that gets an experienced project manager the coveted position, it is his or her skills, training, experience, and so on. But while the certification may not get a candidate the job, it is likely to get him or her to be shortlisted.

Get Certified – Requires Time, Work, Money

Yes, it is true that getting certified costs money and time, requires you to demonstrate that you have thousands of hours of practical experience, tens of hours of formal project management training, and even a Bachelor’s degree, but this only means the certification is not easy to obtain, which makes it even more valuable. Certifications, such as the PMP, are valid for many years, but they do require the certified project managers to undertake a number of formal education hours in project management during the following years of obtaining the certification in order to maintain it.

Attaining a project management certification is hard work, and many experienced project managers do not have the time for this, so it is not a rule that all experienced project managers must get certified. However, many organizations do pay for their employees to get formally certified, so you may not have to pay for the training and exam yourself. While nobody guarantees you a raise just because you got a certification, it can be an advantage when you re-negotiate your salary.

The fact remains that employers place emphasis on project management certifications. However frustrating this may be for an experienced project manager, it is the employers’ right to pick the selection criteria and you as a candidate cannot tell them which criteria to use.

The “Cherry on Top”

So you have the proper certification and the necessary experience that make you the best candidate for the project manager job. But to be really productive, the right project management products are essential. With the proper tools, the project manager can fully take advantage of the skills obtained through experience and training.

You may find yourself a job seeker tomorrow and you want your résumé to go through the first HR screening when you apply for a project manager position. The PMP, among other certifications, may help you do that. Finally, if going back to the textbook only seems like a burden, do not be narrow minded and think you cannot learn anything new. Get the most out of the preparing for the exam. Do not study to pass, study to improve your skills and become a more valuable project manager for your organization.

Cristina Neagu

Cristina Neagu, PhD, is a freelance editor and proofreader, and a Certified Associate in Project Management. She loves creative writing and managed a virtual team of writers for three years. When she's not working, she likes to read, spend time outdoors, and travel. Visit her website, www.languageediting.com, or contact her on LinkedIn.