Salary Survey Extra: Time to project management certification
Posted on
May 13, 2016

Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Project management certification might not take as long as you'd think.

As noted a few weeks ago in this space, we're going to be jumping back and forth for a while between disclosing further results of the most recent annual Salary Survey and digging into additional findings of the Project Management Salary Survey PLUS featured in our Spring quarterly issue. Today, we'll be presenting some new findings from the project management side of the ledger.

Project management practices and the application of those practices to business endeavors is far from being a new sensation, both in the IT realm and elsewhere. Project management certification, on the other hand, is considerably less long-lived, mirroring the rise to prominence of project management as a profession in the 1990s and 2000s.

So it's not particularly surprising that a considerable number of our survey respondents achieved certification in project management fairly recently. A considerable 86 percent of those surveyed got their first project management certification during or after 2003, and  a little more than half (51.4 percent) of respondents got that first credential during or after 2010.

Many (though not all) project management certifications bear an intimidating prior work experience requirement. So while a confident (or perhaps foolhardy?) 13.8 percent of respondents worked in project management for less than a full year before completing their first certification, that's far from the norm. Roughly 20 percent of those surveyed gained between one and three full years of professional experience before certifying, while an additional 17 percent worked in the field for between four and six years before being certified.

Everyone else — 48.3 percent of all respondents — worked professionally in project management for at least seven years prior to getting their first project management certification.

One benefit of professional experience is likely a reduction in the amount of time needed to prepare for and pass a certification exam. We asked survey respondents to report the longest interval they've ever needed, from start to finish, to get a project management certification. A solid 54 percent of those surveyed have never needed more than three months to prepare for and pass a certification exam, and it's never taken longer than 4-to-7 months for an additional 23 percent of those surveyed.

A modest 15.4 percent have needed a full year to certify on at least one occasion. The remaining 7.7 percent of respondents are spread between 13 months and two years, but nobody at all, among the entire body of more than 350 certified project managers who responded to the survey, has ever needed more than two years. Most of our respondents also report succeeding on their first exam attempt. Just 8 percent of those surveyed have ever needed more than one attempt to successfully pass a project management certification exam.

So take heart if you're unnerved just by the mere intimidating configuration of acronyms like PMBOK. The odds are in your favor.

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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