This feature first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Project management as a self-contained specialization is hardly a new idea. The widely recognized Project Management Institute came into being in 1969, and its signature publication, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), first appeared in 1996.
The idea of a single individual overseeing a complex collaborative undertaking is as old as human civilization. Some of our most famous stories involve characters who are essentially proto-project managers. The ancient Greek hero Odysseus had the idea to penetrate the walls of Troy by hiding Greek warriors inside a giant wooden horse, but it was the soldier Epeios who got the horse built in just three days and directed its fateful deployment.
More recently, after it's discovered that the long-vanished humpback whale is key to the survival of Earth in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, James T. Kirk spearheads an elaborate "repopulation of the species" that involves time travel, whale capture and construction of a temporary aquarium inside a Klingon Bird of Prey. Just another savvy project manager solving problems and delivering a solution.
That sort of practical magic is increasingly demanded in the IT realm, where getting a single product to market often involves the coordinated efforts of dozens, or even hundreds of individuals. Like a gifted conductor leading a symphony orchestra, a good project manager keeps everyone on the same page and creates harmony between the various players.
In 2015, PMI reported that demand for qualified project managers just in the United States is projected to increase by 12 percent in the next five years. Prospective project managers who aren't persuaded by that statistic may be intrigued by a note from our own recent annual Salary Survey. Out of all survey respondents who hold PMI's Project Management Professional certification, 100 percent are employed full-time. Those are nice odds in an uncertain job market.
Project management professionals earn good money. Our survey of more than 350 certified professionals from around the world revealed a median annual income of $115,000 inside the United States. The figure is lower, but still impressive — $67,500 median annual income — for countries outside the United States.
Projects often have completion incentives, and certified project managers appear to be benefitting from that. In both of the last two years, more than 60 percent of survey respondents received bonus or incentive pay.
Most of those checks are being written to regular employees. While project management does offer the flexibility to work as an independent contractor, only about 8 percent of those surveyed are self-employed. It would appear that employers are anxious to keep project management talent in the fold once it's been acquired.
Getting a project management certification doesn't necessarily mean that you'll immediately make more money, but it does appear to have that affect for some. Roughly 31 percent of survey respondents said that they got a raise in the first year after earning their most recent project management credential.
On the other hand, when a project management certification does pay off, it can really pay off. For those who did get a raise in the first year after collecting a cert, an impressive majority (78 percent) saw their pay go up by more than 10 percent.
TABLE TALK : Salary isn't the only reason to get a certification, but it is an important piece of the puzzle. And judging by the incomes of Salary Survey respondents, certified professionals can count on a big payday: