PMP® certification

a success story

Concerns of Project Managers

This article is partially based on information from a survey conducted between February and June 1993. Information was also obtained from the Project Management Institute Central Administration Office's historical re-cords and current files. During the period since February 1993, there has been phenomenal growth of the number of Project Management Professionals (PMPs) and a dramatic increase in corporate acceptance of the PMP as the basis for project management training and education. With a growth of more than twice the number of PMPs and approximately three times the number of corporate acceptances during the period between February 1993 and today, there may be some appearance of inconsistency in data. The authors have, however, made extensive efforts to interpret and represent such data in relation to the time period for which the data is representative, i.e., from 1984 through 1992.

Figure 1. PMP Growth (1984-1993)

PMP Growth (1984-1993)

Table 1. PMP Certification by Year

Year Number PMPs Cumulative Total Percent of Total
1984   43   43  2. I
1985   28   71  I .4
1986   35 106  I .7
1987   51 157  2.5
1988 109 266 5.3
1989 90 356 4.4
1990 138 494 6.7
1991 253 747 12.3
1992 502 1249 24.4
1993 811 2060 39.4


In June of 1982 when a planning meeting was held in Cullowhee, North Carolina, no one anticipated the potential impact of a certification program for project management. The overall goal was to determine if certification was possible and when it could be implemented. Once certification was determined to be feasible, efforts were made by many PMI members to develop test questions and set the procedures for the PMP Certification Program.

In less than 15 months, the first examination was held in October 1984 at Philadelphia in conjunction with the PMI ‘84 Seminar/Symposium. A total of 56 individuals made a bold step forward and 43 passed the examination to become the first to earn the PMP designation. Mr. Eric Jenett, a vice president with Brown & Root of Houston, Texas, and a founding member of PMI, earned PMP number one.

Since that planning meeting in Cullowhee, and the first examination in Philadelphia, the PMP Certification Program has grown substantially. Anew project management body of knowledge caused the examination to be restructured from six areas to eight. Initially under the leadership of Dr. M. Dean Martin and transferred to Dr. J. Davidson Frame in 1989, the program shifted from one of stabilizing policies and procedures to one of an outreach to build on the value of having the PMP designation. The administration of the PMP program has been handled from the PMI Central Administration Office by Mrs. Barbara Pattinson.

Table 2. PMP Survey Responses by Age Group

   Age Group (Years) Number of Responses
20-30   0
31-35   4
36-40 17
4145 16
46-50 17
5 1 and over 20

Table 3. PMP Survey Responses by Industry

Industry Number Percent
Engineering/Construction 18 24.0
Government (Federal and State) 12 16.0
Consultants (not further defined by industry) 12 16.0
Utilities   8 10.7
Computer Software/Hardware   7   9.3
Supplier/Manufacturer   4   5.3
Telecommunications   4   5.3
Defense Industry   3   4.0
Academic (College/University)   2   2.7
Other (Pharmaceutical, Banking,    
Chemical, Entertainment, Photographic)   5   6.7
Total 75 100

Table 4. PMP Survey Responses by PM Experience and Tenure With Employer

Years In Project Management In Current Company
Less than 1   0   2
1-5   4 25
6-10 13 11
11-15 17 12
16-20 17 11
21-25 11   7
26-30   8   5
Greater than 30   4   1

This report documents the current state of the PMP Program and gives the results of a 1993 survey to selected individuals who have earned the PMP designation prior to 1993. The survey results are another milestone on the ten-year road of one of PMI's most successful programs for members.


Viewing the number of PMP designations awarded each year and the cumulative totals shows dramatic growth. Figure 1 depicts, in histogram form, the number of individuals achieving PMP status each year and the cumulative total for each year. Of significance is the rate of growth since 1990. From 494 PMPs in 1990, the number had grown four times to 2,060 PMPs at the end of 1993.

Table 1 shows the numerical figures since program inception, the dramatic growth in PMPs in the last four years and, most significant, that 39.4 percent of the PMPs were earned in 1993. It was anticipated that the growth would be slow in the early years of the Program because of low visibility in companies and individual perception as to the value of putting forth the effort to become certified.

PMI has grown in the number of members and accepted its 10,000th member on May 9, 1994. Because PMPs are not required to become members of PMI, it is estimated that approximately 18.5 percent of current PMI members have earned the PMP designation.

To determine the value of the PMP designation to individuals currently certified, a survey was conducted in early 1993. Questionnaires were sent to 125 PMPs and 79 responses were received for a response rate of 63.2 percent. Responses were received from PMPs in Canada, South Africa, and the United States, with PMP respondents working in multiple industries. Because the selection of PMPs to send questionnaires was random, the result was not predictable and no prior information was available on those selected. All information was derived from the survey.

Although age would not normally be a criterion for the PMP designation, it was considered of interest to determine the age groups pursuing the PMP designation. Of the 74 individuals indicating age on the questionnaire, the number by age is shown in Table 2.

The few number of PMPs in the age groups less than 36 years is not surprising because of the requirement for experience and service in qualifying for the PMP designation. The relatively even distribution of respondents over all other age groups is believed to be typical of those in age 36 years and over.

Industry distribution of the PMP respondents takes on some significance in the relative number by industry.

The distribution of PMP responses across the industries shown in Table 3, at the time of the survey, maybe indicative of the general trend for industry and individual with in industry recognition of the value of the PMP designation. It is interesting that more than half of the responses (56 percent) fall into three major areas: engineering/construction, government (federal and state), and consultants. Engineering/construction and consultants have been highly visible within PMI, but government representation has been considerably less. However, the government representative responses (16 percent) as PMPs suggests a greater interest in PMP Cefica-tion than had been anticipated. Recently, the increased emphasis on project management training for government employees by several federal agencies and congressional mandates that project managers possess in-depth acquisition training may account for this relatively high number of government employees attaining the PMP designation.

Table 5. PMP Survey Responses for Benefits Derived from PMP Designation

Benefit Area              Number of Responses
(Multiple Responses from Individuals)
Professional Standing 53
Recognition 46
Job Performance 38
Monetary Reward 10
Promotion   8
Personal Satisfaction   4
Assist in Marketing   4
Getting Work   2
Additional Responsibility   1
Self-Confidence   1
Company Values It (PMP)   1
Personal Growth   1
Career Broadening   1
Gave Me The Edge (Job)   1

Prior to the survey, the value of the PMP designation was assumed to be a function of the number of years a person had worked on projects and had been with his/her present company. Table 4 presents a different picture. While the respondents are distributed as a symmetrical bell-shaped curve, there is an obvious skewing of the number of years in the current company toward the 1-5 years category. No reason is offered for the skewing of this distribution toward shorter tenure with the current employer other than the observation that project managers are highly mobile individuals.

Respondents were asked whether the PMP designation was of value to their company and recognized by their supervisor. Of the 74 responses, 45 (60.1 percent) indicated that the PMP designation was recognized. One individual made a comment that it was doubted the company even knows about PMI or the PMP

To determine the value of the PMP as a means of obtaining a work position or achieving a promotion, the question was asked: “Did the PMP help you get your present position?” Of the 73 responses, 20 (27.4 percent) indicated Yes, 49 (67.1 percent) indicated No, and 4 (5.5 percent) indicated that the question was not applicable. This significant percentage, i.e., 27.4 percent, answering “yes” to the question shows the emergence of formal recognition of the PMP's importance as early as 1992. Currently, the number of corporations formally adopting the PMP as the basis for their project management training has more than tripled and the number of individuals obtaining the PMP has more than doubled.

To further explore the value of the PMP designation to individuals, the question was asked, “How has the PMP designation helped you?” Table 5 shows the responses, ranked in order of frequency of response.

The cost of achieving the PMP designation includes the fees charged by PMI for administrative review and managing the certification process, purchase of materials for study, and formal or informal courses of instruction. Often corporate monetary support is given and on other occasions individuals bear the full cost for the PMP certification. Of the 66 responses to this question, 20 (30.3 percent) received no monetary support and 46 (69.7 percent) received payment for fees. Of the 46 individuals receiving payment for fees, 34 received reimbursement for study materials and 24 received reimbursement for formal training.

This suggests that most fees are paid by the individual's company. Other types of support were provided by the companies, as indicated by comments, that ranged from paid time for activities, use of company facilities, and making available the study materials. Overall, there appears to be good support for PMP candidates.

To obtain candid comments from the PMPs in the survey, remarks are not identified with any person. The pointed question was asked of the respondents, “Why did you obtain the PMP designation?” Some of the more interesting and insightful comments are shown below.

•    It's the “only game in town” for a professional PM looking for association certificate.

•    A good client coerced me.

•    Professional standing and recognition plus, of course, knowledge.

•    Improve PM skills, to improve chances of being selected into the Army Acquisition Corps.

•    I obtained a PMP to prove my credentials as a project manager.

•    PMBOK = Broader knowledge base and greater awareness of issues involved in project management profession.

•    The company wanted to secure as many PMPs as possible to “beef up” resumes. The company encouraged all of the project managers, project engineers, and engineering managers to prepare for and take the examination.

•    At suggestion of our corporate division.

•    To demonstrate to clients a proficiency in the field.

•    To enhance my professional qualifications, to increase job opportunities.

•    Opportunity for advancement and legitimacy in managing major interna-ational projects.

•    Challenge - “Just because the mountain was there.”

These examples of testimonials from the surveyed PMPs support the assertion that the PMP gives value to an individual and his/her company. It is the only formalized process open to the general public to structure the project management body of knowledge and have that knowledge validated by examination. Once achieved, the PMP designation has greater meaning because of the application of the knowledge in a more structured fashion.

Comments were also solicited to complement the specific questions and give respondents an opportunity to voice their opinions. These comments amplify other areas and are significant because the respondents have the insight to discern the importance of the PMP to themselves, their employers, and to clients.

    Becoming more valuable on my resume (based on interview comments). We hope to eventually link PMP with DoD Level III certificate in program management.

    The PMP certification is one recognized way for consultants to distinguish themselves from the competition.

    It's picking up steam (value) within DoD acquisition/program management community. I hope that I can eventually make it a requirement (not a prerequisite) for Principles of Program Management Department members/faculty.

    As PMI gains recognition, the value of PMP will improve. Our challenge is to be excellent PMs, educate others and promote PMI in a professional manner.

    Anyone who calls himself project manager should demonstrate his interest and competence by involvement in PMI and certification.

    In time it will be as valuable, if not more so, than an architectural or engineering certification.

•    The validation by an independent party of my knowledge and experience in project work.

•    Good exposure to other project managers in different businesses, but very limited in terms of business development potential, so far.

•    Value of recognition is greater within the profession as opposed to the company.

•    The study for and taking of the exam focuses thinking on the profession and gives one a yardstick for competence. It also publicly establishes one's competence and commitment to the profession.

•    I hope it is of value in future career changes.

•    A future necessity.

•    Encouraging that some major corporations (AT&T) are recognizing PMP?

•    Provides a good source of review for academics and a view of what is currently being emphasized in different companies.

•    Good to standardize project manager's requirements.

The future of the Project Management Professional Certification Program looks very promising, with continued growth. This growth is demonstrated by 257 individuals achieving the PMP designation in March 1994 and 750 individuals sitting for the PMP examination in June 1994. As of the June 1994 examination, a total of 2,630 PMP designations had been awarded.

Future value of the PMP is also demonstrated by the formal acceptance of the program for their employees by seven organizations: AT&T/NCR, Digital Equipment Corporation, EG&G, GTE Corporation, Rust International, The Analytical Science Corporation, and US West. Other companies, such as Electronic Data Systems, IBM, and Niagara Mohawk Power, have shown strong interest in using the PMP as a means of validating the knowledge of the project personnel. Others are in the process of making similar decisions.


The Project Management Professional Certification Program is now ten years old. It grew slowly in the first few years until its value was recognized by both individuals and companies. Significant growth has been achieved since 1990: figures show growth rates doubling and tripling each year. If the growth trend continues, the number of PMPs will increase by another 1,200 to 1,500 in 1994.

Individual testimony as to the value of the PMP to their professional knowledge and ability to better perform project tasks demonstrates that a strong PMP certification program supports PMI's members. The respondents' comments are data points, but bring forth the candid comments that the PMP program is a viable means of making the difference between a project team member and a certified project team member.

The trends and information from the survey of PMPs set a baseline for future evaluation of the certification program, while setting benchmarks from which to measure progress. These benchmarks will serve both PMI in advancing the PMP Certification Program and may be used by individuals and companies to assess the value of the PMP to them. Further, these benchmarks provide feedback to individuals and companies currently embracing the PMP Program.


Lewis R. “Lew” Ireland is president of L.R. Ireland and Associates, specializing in project management and total quality consulting. He is a director of Secure Network Associates and the Total Facilities Management Institute. Lew has more than 21 years' experience in planning and implementing projects ranging in value from $6,500 to $178,000,000 for both the public and private sectors. He holds a Ph.D. in business administration from Columbia Pacific University, an M.S. in systems managment from Florida lnstitute of Technology, and a B.S. from Benedictine College. Lew is a PMI Fellow and a recipient of PMI's Person of the Year and Distinguished Contribution awards.


Rushton (“Rush”) Williamson is with the Defense Information Systems Agency and has been a project manager with the agency for the last eight years. He has 20 years of experienence in planning and implementing telecommunications projects ranging from tactical, fixed plant and global systems. He holds a M.S. in systems management from the University of Southern California and in information systems from Capital College, and a B.S. from the Utah State University.

Rush has been active in PMI on both the local and international level. In 1991 he was a recipient of PMI's Distinguished Contribution Award.

PMNETwork • November 1994



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