This feature first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
It takes time to make a life-altering change. Real-estate mogul Donald J. Trump has been pondering a four-year rental at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. since at least 1987 and, almost 30 years later, it still may not be in the cards.
Given that some project management credentials are off limits to anyone with fewer than 3.5 years of professional experience, it's no small undertaking to commit to certification. Even if you meet the prerequisites, it takes time to actually study for — and pass — the exam. We asked survey respondents what is the longest it has ever taken them to earn a project management credential.
For most, the start-to-finish interval required to prepare for and pass an exam is highly manageable. More than half of those surveyed (54 percent) have never needed more than three months. There's no shame, of course, in taking a little more time. Life happens at different speeds, for different reasons, so it's not surprising to learn that, on at least one occasion, some (14 percent) have taken as long as a year to certify, while others (8.1 percent) have needed as much as two years.
While many people seek certification to either gain knowledge and skills, or gain increased earning power, there are numerous other motives in play. Asked to look past those obvious incentives and name the most important secondary benefits of getting a certification, 61.5 percent of survey respondents said they view certification as a means of becoming qualified for a future job with a different employer.
Many project management professionals, on the other hand, have set their sights a little closer to home. Roughly 54 percent of respondents view certification as a means of becoming better qualified to perform their current job, while 38.5 percent would like to move up the ladder at the company where they work.
Other much valued benefits of certification include the self-improvement rationales of gaining greater confidence in one's own skills (16.2 percent) and gaining greater stature in the eyes of coworkers and colleagues (38.3 percent percent). Employers are also driving project management certification, with 15 percent of those surveyed saying that certification is a job requirement.
It is definitely worthwhile to get an entry-level project management position, or perhaps pursue an internship, while working toward certification. Past work experience was cited by survey respondents as being the most influential factor in being hired by their current employer. Certification and personal or business connections are also deemed important, while education is generally viewed as being the least significant factor.
Whether or not your boss is impressed, however, certification training is quite likely to impact your job performance. A considerable 35 percent of those surveyed said they use skills learned or enhanced through certification several times a day at their current job, while an additional 41.4 percent rely on their certified skills either several times a week (21.4 percent) or several times a month (20 percent).
Some respondents did report that project management certification is useful in the workplace only occasionally (17.2 percent) or rarely (6.9 percent).
If you still aren't convinced that certification has value, then it bears pointing out that a notable 58.6 percent of those surveyed either agree (48.3 percent) or strongly agree (10.3 percent) that becoming certified has helped them be more productive in the workplace. Additionally, 65.5 percent of respondents either agree (51.5 percent) or strongly agree (14 percent) that project management certification has improved their problem-solving skills.
TABLE TALK : How do certified project managers feel about their certification experience? We asked survey respondents to evaluate their journey to certification: