Value of the PgMP® credential in the working world
Jeffrey G. Hodgkinson, PMP, PgMP, PMI-RMP, Intel
In October 2007, the Project Management Institute (PMI) launched the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® credential. The PgMP® credential is intended to “recognize advanced experience, skill, and performance in the oversight of multiple related projects and their resources, aligned with an organizational objective” (PMI, 2010a, p. 5). The authors of this paper—two members of the initial PgMP credential pilot group in 2007—have experienced firsthand, the benefits of achieving the PgMP credential but wanted to understand, as the credential is becoming more recognized, the value it has provided to others. This paper presents the results of an informal survey of 225 PgMP credential holders, conducted from 1 January 2010 to 1 May 2010. The first part of the paper provides background and context for the survey. The second part explores the results of the survey, which affirm the value of the PgMP credential in the marketplace, demonstrated not only through the numbers but also through the personal stories of the respondents.
“For individuals who obtain and maintain PMI credentials, you not only get recognized for your skills and knowledge during the vigorous credentialing process, but also show your dedication to the profession and professional development” (PMI, 2010b, para. 2).
Project Management Institute (PMI) acknowledges the importance of earning PMI® credentials to an individual's career development. The benefits of a PMI credential are further articulated in Top 10 Reasons for Earning a PMI Credential (PMI, n. d.). Although these benefits apply specifically to project management practitioners, the same could be said about the benefits of the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® credential.
- PMI credentials show your commitment to the project management profession. When you earn a PMI credential, you show peers, supervisors, and clients your commitment to the profession, PMI's Code of Ethics and your ability to perform the functions of a project management practitioner to a certain level.
- PMI credentials recognize your knowledge, skills, and abilities. PMI serves as an unbiased endorsement of your project management knowledge and professional experience on a global level.
- PMI credentials reflect achievement. The credentials show that you have demonstrated excellence in the field by meeting standard requirements established by global project management practitioners.
- PMI credentials can lead to greater earnings. Many credential holders experience salary increases because of their certification status.
- PMI credentials can lead to career opportunities and advancement. Our family of credentials identifies you as a practitioner who has demonstrated competency in project management processes or in knowledge and experience in specialty areas of practice based on industry standards.
- PMI credentials prepare you for greater job responsibilities. The credentials indicate your willingness to invest in professional development. This enables credential holders an awareness of changing processes and terminology in the field.
- PMI credentials improve skills and knowledge. Preparation for a PMI credential requires study and review of current project management processes. Earning a credential highlights your knowledge, competence, and proficiency in your practice.
- PMI credentials build self-confidence. With a PMI credential, you define yourself beyond a job title while gaining a sense of personal satisfaction.
- PMI credentials allow for greater recognition from peers. PMI credential holders gain increased recognition from their peers for taking the extra step in professional development.
- PMI credentials enhance the profession. PMI's certification program promotes practitioners and supports ongoing professional development
The authors of this study wanted to go beyond the theoretical and provide empirical evidence—albeit in the form of an informal survey—of the value of the PgMP credential, supplemented by anecdotal evidence. Responses were provided by practicing PgMP credential holders who described the impact the credential has had on their careers and their lives. The results of our informal survey confirmed the value statements above, primarily through the anecdotal evidence. The empirical evidence—the responses to the survey questions themselves—provided a somewhat less compelling view:
- Responses relating directly to the value of the credential were mostly neutral in nature, primarily because of the “newness” of this credential in the marketplace. Consensus was that the credential is not well known enough in the marketplace yet.
- At the same time, the respondents enjoyed the “exclusivity” of the credential. Respondents acknowledged that the PgMP credential is very challenging—and relatively expensive—to obtain and is unlikely to become “diluted.”
For many, it was a personal decision to pursue the credential, regardless of the expected monetary reward. However, compensation levels do appear to be higher for PgMP credential holders than Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential holders, sometimes significantly, as documented in the PMI Project Management Salary Survey–Sixth Edition (PMI, 2010). The responses confirm that program managers often hold higher-level positions within an organization and are compensated accordingly.
To understand the value of the PgMP credential, we strived to determine the cost and, indeed, the sacrifices made to attain the credential. We also wanted to explore the motivation behind the pursuit and determine the profile of the “typical” PgMP credential holder. To provide the most comprehensive picture of the PgMP credential holders and the journey, the survey requested:
- Demographic information—the “profile” of each respondent;
- Credential motivation—why the respondent decided to pursue the credential;
- PgMP credential preparation—the cost, sacrifice, and effort required to attain the credential;
- PgMP credential impact—the value derived from attaining the credential, both explicit and intrinsic;
- Credentials—the PMI and industry credentials that the respondents also possess; and
- Anecdotal responses—comments that further illuminate the survey results.
In short, we wanted to know the real value of the PgMP credential in the marketplace, beyond the hypothesis, providing empirical and anecdotal evidence. Ultimately, the measure of the value was not in the “numbers” but in the “stories” from actual PgMP credential holders, which illustrate the intrinsic value the PgMP credential has had on their careers and their lives.
As of 17 July 2010, there were 444 PgMP credential holders worldwide. On 1 May 2010, when the survey closed, there were 413 credential holders. Of those credential holders, 246 were invited to participate in the survey (the subset that we had contact information for). Of the 246 participants, 225 credential holders responded, an outstanding response rate of 91.5%.
Although not every respondent indicated their country of residence, we were able to collect responses from the following countries: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Kuwait, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Singapore, United Kingdom, and United States
The majority of respondents were from the United States (61.2%), followed by Canada (6.2%) and India (5.3%), which is fairly consistent with the distribution of PgMP credential holders worldwide. The results of this global survey, based on these responses, are presented in the following.
This section of the survey was intended to identify a profile of the “typical” PgMP credential holder. Because of the breadth of age ranges among credential holders, the survey results do not provide the definitive picture desire. This suggests that the credential appeals to a broad audience, from the minimum project and program management experience requirements to those with significant experience in these disciplines.
Age and Experience
Three different age ranges were tied for the highest grouping with 21.3% of responses each (Exhibit 1):
- 31–35 years,
- 36–40 years, and
- 41–45 years.
Exhibit 1. Age Ranges of Respondents
The median age range was 41–45 years old. However, more interesting than the median age were the outliers:
- Youngest—Two respondents were in the 26–30 age range, which is remarkably young to attain the credential. One respondent had years of program management experience with 7 years of project management experience, while the other had 6 years of program management with 10 years of project management.
- Oldest—Three respondents were over 65 years old and had a broad range of experience. Each had 15 or more years of project management experience but one respondent had only 5 years of program management experience. The other two had 10–12 years of program management experience.
The PgMP credential requires a minimum of four years of program management—seven without a bachelor's degree—and four years of project management experience. Most respondents had 14 or more years of project management experience (56.4%) (Exhibit 2) and 10 years of program management experience (20.0%) (Exhibit 3). The median experience levels were 9 years in program management and 15 years in project management.
Exhibit 2. Years as a Project Manager
Exhibit 3. Years as a Program Manager
Industry and Role
Consistent with PMI membership overall, a significant number of respondents were in information technology (45.3%), followed closely by professional services/consulting (17.8%), many of whom were consulting in IT. The information technology category may actually have blurred the lines in the survey. Some respondents, even if they were in IT, selected their primary industry (e.g., finance/banking) rather than IT. Conversely, some respondents selected the primary industry of their employer rather than their actual function in IT. The next highest industry was government/military (9.3%), which supports anecdotal evidence of the high percentage of program management practitioners in government agencies and contracting firms. Government/military was followed closely by finance/banking at 8.0%.
More telling was the distribution of roles, as indicated by the respondent's title:
- 32.4% were program managers,
- 16.4% were directors (many were IT directors),
- 14.2% were associate VP or above (up to CXO), and
- 12.4% reported their role as “other.”
The survey results indicate that PgMP credential holders typically hold higher level roles in the organization than project managers, which one would expect given PMI's description of the program manager role. The “write-in” titles that respondents provided for “other” are another point of interest:
- Program director (essentially, a manager of Program Managers)
- Enterprise program office manager (PMO)
- Global service transition manager
- Chief of support (at overseas based U.S.A.F. Space Command Satellite Tracking Station)
- Engineering manager
- Portfolio manager/senior manager
- Professional skills Instructor
- Owner/principal of Consulting Firm
Interestingly, 9.8% of respondents reported their role as project manager, although at senior levels given the years of program and project management experience for these respondents.
Survey respondents reported a median salary range of US$131,000–US$140,000 (Exhibit 4), which is higher than the highest median salary in PMI Project Management Salary Survey–Sixth Edition that reported, “In Australia, program managers earn a median salary of $128,993 (USD)” (PMI, 2010c, p. 10). That contrasts with a median salary of US$116,625 for senior project managers in Australia. The median salary reported by program managers in the United States was US$110,000, lower still than the median salary range reported in our survey. In fact, 22% of the respondents in our survey reported annual compensation of more than US$171,000, which is significantly higher than the median salary reported for the highest-level positions in any country in the PMI Project Management Salary Survey–Sixth Edition.
Exhibit 4: Compensation
Overall, 57% of our survey respondents reported salaries greater than the highest median salary (Australia) and 78.0% reported higher salaries than the median U.S. salary of US$110,000 in the PMI Project Management Salary Survey–Sixth Edition, (PMI, 2010c), also suggesting the elevated role in the organization that many of our respondents have.
This section of the survey was intended to identify the motivators to pursuing the PgMP credential. Responses were received from members of the original pilot group, who were awarded credentials from June–August 2007 to the more recent credential holders:
- 13.2% of respondents earned their credential in 2007,
- 28.6% earned their credential in 2008,
- 54.6% in 2009, and
- 3.6% in 2010.
Exhibit 5: Motivators
We asked respondents to rate their top three motivating factors (Exhibit 5), which are presented in the following along with the combined percentage reported:
- 80%—self-improvement/personal goal,
- 72%—career development,
- 66% —create new opportunities,
- 13%—salary increase,
- 4% —other (see the following comments),
- 4%—required for new job, and
- 4% —required for current job.
The comments provided respondents further illustrate the motivating factors:
- “Make it easier to ‘contract’ if leave permanent job.”
- “I anticipate that many job openings for certified program managers will open in coming years so I wanted to be certified before those jobs were created.”
- “Self-improvement was my personal goal; also, I pursued the PgMP because I was asked to pilot the process for the team of program managers I work with.”
- “Personal challenge and a desire to differentiate between my program management and project managementskills.”
- “Strategy for contract pursuit.”
- “Able to respond to RFPs requiring PgMP certification (on behalf of employer).”
- “To gain recognition for my company (it's cool to have a PgMP on board).”
- “Goal offered by my supervisor once I got the PMP.”
- “Contribution and peer networking.”
- “Learn PMI's program management methodologies.”
- “Work – aid in maturing the organization toward OPM3®—project/program/portfolio management.”
- “Looking for tools and techniques to manage my real complex programs and projects.”
- “Wanted to learn best practices.”
- “Market credibility (to give PgMP courses).”
- “Formalize my experience with recognized certification.”
- “Family—strengthen the family foundation for the future.”
- “Self-Improvement, help expedite my transition to the civilian world.”
- “Strategy for contract pursuit.”
Nearly one half (48%) of the respondents listed “recognition” as a motivator. So what level of recognition did our respondents receive? Several respondents were recognized from multiple channels while a small fraction received little to no recognition.
- 52.0% —recognized by employer (those who were self-employed obviously did not select this option);
- 50.2%—recognized by family and friends;
- 29.8% —recognized by PMI® Global (members of pilot group and others who have appeared in PMI® publications and promotional material);
- 22.2%—recognized by local PMI® chapters; and
- 11.2% – selected “other” (see the following comments).
The comments relating to “other” further illustrate the recognition received, or lack thereof:
- “As a director and shareholder - recognition was not something that was sought.”
- “No formal recognition as hardly anyone knew about PgMP.”
- “Unaware of any “official” acknowledgement. More informal with friends/associates who I took to dinner as a thank you.”
- “None other than my wife, as she knows what I have been through. No one else really know what PgMP is.”
- “My friends and family were the only ones who recognized me; that's ok, they're the most important anyway.”
- “I was the first person at my company to earn the PgMP (and still am the only one) and was written up on the front page of the company intranet.”
- “As an REP we got more recognition.”
- “Once I obtained the PgMP credential, a host of individuals and like practitioners formally recognized this achievement.”
- “Jeff Hodgkinson.”
- “LinkedIn group for PgMPs.”
- “Company thru which I completed my certification.”
As previously mentioned, a universal consensus is that the PgMP credential is not yet well-established in the marketplace and would benefit from additional exposure and a more aggressive marketing effort.
Paying It Forward
Respondents also universally confirmed that the credential is very challenging—not to mention time-consuming and relatively expensive—and requires a high degree of self-motivation and perseverance to attain. Knowing the challenge of pursuing the PgMP credential, nearly all credential holders have helped others in their pursuit:
- 31.8% helped 2–3 others obtain the credential;
- 18.2% helped 4–5 others; and
- 14.5%—like your humble authors—have helped “countless” others.
Only 13.2% have not had the opportunity to help others obtain the credential. The median response was helping 2–3 others. This level of support will help the credential grow in the marketplace and, ultimately, benefit all credential holders. In fact, many of the current PgMP credential holders actively market the credential through speaking engagements, social networking, and other means.
Given the current growth, 29.1% of respondents expect there to be over 600 PgMP credential holders by the end of the year; the median estimate is 500–526. By the end of 2014—five years from the launch of this survey—62.4% of respondents expect there to be over 1,000 credential holders, the top range of options provided in the survey. This range was, admittedly, too low to get a more definitive response. Not surprisingly, 1,000+ was also the median range. It is interesting to note, however, that—given the fairly consistent growth rate over the last couple of years—14.5% of respondents expected fewer than 800 credential holders over the next 5 years. In other words, over the next approximately four and a half years they expected the number of PgMP credential holders to barely double from the 394 credential holders that existed at the time the survey was launched (1 January 2010).
The comments provided by respondents illustrate a more optimistic view overall:
- “PgMP will build on PMP success and market recognition.”
- “Better recognition, like the PMP in start phase...”
- “Once it is recognized for what it is I believe a lot more people will obtain it.”
- “Linear projection. however would expect a ceiling @ 5,000.”
- “…I would estimate that there are 25 people in my company who are qualified by experience but may not know the credential is out there.”
- “Approximately 200 certifications per year.”
- “I don't see the trend line turning upward- just straight.”
- “Exponential growth.”
- “As the value add of the PgMP is recognized, my belief is the number of credential holders will begin to exponentially increase.”
- “As differentiation and recognition of the program management role expands this will grow more quickly.”
- “As the certification is recognized there will be a larger push for individuals.”
- “The PgMP is a significant differentiator for PMs who have programme management capabilities and with the number of PMPs ever increasing this credential will become more important.”
- “There is an increasing demand for program managers. As people learn about the PgMP, many will get certified.”
- “Once the credential gains momentum, it will be seen as a more logical goal of existing PMP's.”
- “As the PgMP credential becomes more recognized, I expect the rate of certification to increase.”
One comment, perhaps, sums it all up:
- “This depends on the benefits that PgMP credential holders will realize. It also depends on the facility and integrity of PMI's application and approval process.”
This section of the survey was intended to quantify the cost, sacrifice, and effort required to attain the PgMP credential, which are necessary attributes to better assess the benefit and value the credential has provided. The PgMP Credential Handbook (PMI, 2010a, p. 7) describes the credentialing process:
Unlike other PMI credentials, you must pass a sequence of three evaluations to obtain the PgMP credential.
- Evaluation 1—Application Review: The initial evaluation occurs through an extensive application review during which a panel of credentialed program managers will assess your professional experience based on your responses to the Program Management Experience Summaries provided on the application. Most of the applications are audited as well.
- Evaluation 2—Multiple-Choice Examination: The next step occurs with the multiple-choice examination in which you will be called upon to demonstrate your competence in both definition and scenario-based questions.
- Evaluation 3—Multi-rater Assessment (MRA): Once you pass the examination, you will be moved to the third and final evaluation which is the MRA. Similar to a 360-degree review process, a team of raters that you select will assess your history of demonstrated performance of tasks that are pertinent to program management.
The PgMP Credential Handbook supplements this information with a flowchart of the process to help further manage expectations regarding duration (PMI, 2010a, p. 8). For the sake of brevity, the diagram is not included in this paper.
The median duration reported by survey respondents was 5–6 months from the time the application was started until the completion of the credentialing process (Exhibit 6). The most common duration reported was 3–4 months (18%), flowed closely by 10+ months (17%). The outliers, once again, paint an interesting picture:
Exhibit 6. Time to Receipt of Credential
- Longest—Twelve respondents (6%) took over 12 months to attain the credential. Based on the comments provided the primary reasons were: (a) “kinks” in the credentialing process that delayed processing; (b) respondents got too busy in their personal and/or professional lives to focus on it; (c) had to retake the exam.
- Shortest—Six respondents (3%) reportedly attained their credential in less than a month, an incredulously short duration. It could be that the respondents did not understand the question or, as even the pilot group actually took 3–4 months until the credential was actually conferred. A portion of that time was required for PMI to establish the passing “score” for the exam going forward, based on the pilot group's scores.
A range of 3 to 6 months seems to be the consensus to get through the process, although 11 PgMP candidates (5.1%) did complete the entire process within 1 to 2 months, demonstrating that it can legitimately be done in less. One PgMP credential holder, in fact, documented how it can be achieved. Another respondent took very meticulous notes that provide insight into his journey:
“The whole process took place from 25 September 2008 till 1 August 2009: first boot camp in Paris 25 Sept. 2008, Application Submission 2 April 2009, Second Boot Camp in Paris 8 June 2009, Application Completeness Review 9 April 2009, Audit Process from 9 April 2009 till 8 May 2009, Panel Review from 8 May to 21 May 2009, Exam ok the first time 8 July 2009, MRA sent 11 July 2009, PgMP credentials granted 1 August 2009 (the Swiss National Day!)”
Now that we have a sense of the expected duration, we will describe the effort required to complete the process. We asked respondents to break down the number of hours they actively spent in each of the three phases and overall. The median effort reported by survey respondents to complete the entire process was 96 to 120 hours of effort, while most respondents (35.2%) reported more than 144 hours of effort from end to end (Exhibit 7).
Exhibit 7. Hours to Obtain Credential
Respondents reported the following by phase:
- Evaluation 1—Application Review: The median effort was 16 to 24 hours of effort in this phase, while most respondents (21.3%) reported 4 to 8 hours.
- Evaluation 2—Multiple-Choice Examination: The median effort was 73 to 80 hours of effort in this phase, while most respondents (47.4%) reported over 80 hours.
- Evaluation 3—Multi-rater Assessment (MRA): The median effort was 8 to16 hours of effort in this phase, while most respondents (25.7%) reported 4 to 8 hours.
A sampling of comments once again provides interesting commentary:
- “Very thorough in application process which included writing response. Kept all relationships up to date with my progress which was very helpful as several changed jobs in mid-stream.”
- “I included peer review and mentoring in the application process.”
- “My application was accepted on first submission and passed exam on first try. Took a 3-day boot camp and exam on 5th day.”
- “Application process was made longer because the references were audited = extra days to chase/gather the auditing material.”
- “10 hours of research/planning, 10 hours for the app, 10 for MRA, 70 for studying for the exam.”
- “Had to dig through archives for verification material. Contacts and references were difficult to verify.”
- “All phases require a critical amount of time and effort, based on requirements per phase.”
- “Fairly grueling application process, which I failed the first time (said I sounded like a project manager vs. a program manager). I had not read the Standard for Program Management prior to the first time I applied.”
- “The MRA and follow up process was very tedious.”
- “Took approx 1 day for application; MRA prep and follow up - between creating and monitoring; plus sent Thank You (notes).”
To prepare for the examination, 79.2% of respondents indicated that they purchased preparation materials while 69.0%—with some crossover—attended a “boot camp,” with mixed results.
- Of those who purchased preparation materials, 32.4% felt that the materials were very helpful; the median suggests that they were somewhat helpful, while 11.8% reported that the materials were not helpful at all.
- Of those who attended a boot camp, 48.5% felt that the materials were very helpful; the median confirms that the boot camps, in general, were very helpful, while 3.2% reported that the boot camp experience was not helpful at all.
Comments regarding third-party preparation materials ranged from “worthless” to “I don't think I would have been able to pass the exam without studying 3rd party material.” Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are few sample examination materials on the market that reflect what the examination is really like, specifically, the situational style of the exam's questions. Comments regarding boot camps included:
- “I attended two different boot camps; one was very helpful and another one which was not. They had different philosophies on what material to study.”
- “Attending workshop lent study discipline and moral support.”
- “None were available.”—this was especially true for early pilot participants
The cost to obtain the PgMP credential—assuming the candidate passes each phase the first time is $1,500 (USD). Most respondents (74.1%) exceeded that amount because of additional expenditures for study materials and courses (as discussed previously) (Exhibit 8).
Exhibit 8. Cost to Attain Credential
- Many respondents (17.1%) who did incur additional costs were able to spend under US$100.
- Median total cost was US$1,601–US$1,700.
- Over one fourth of the respondents (29.4%) spent over US$2,000 while 13.5% spent over US$3,000.
- Twelve respondents (5.6%) spent over US$4,000 to attain the PgMP credential and 26 respondents (12.0%) had to spend an additional US$500 to retake the examination.
- 6.0% incurred additional costs to retake another step in the process.
Fortunately, 38.4% were reimbursed for 90% to 100% of their costs; some were reimbursed for the US$1,500 only, not for study materials or additional expenditures. The next highest group (37.0%) were self-employed or unemployed at the time and, consequently, were not reimbursed.
It should be noted that 33.8% of the respondents felt the $1,500 charge for the credential was just right, while 62.1% felt it was somewhat to very high, and 4.2% felt it was somewhat to very low.
This section of the survey was intended to quantify the value derived from attaining the credential, as well as anecdotal evidence of the intrinsic value. This section is really the heart of the matter. Now that we have dissected cost, sacrifice, and effort required to attain the PgMP credential, we will explore whether the respondents have directly or indirectly realized any benefits since obtaining the credential.
We have already discussed the compensation level of the respondents. However, how has that compensation changed? And, assuming a positive change, has attaining the credential had a direct impact on the increase? A recent press release from PMI titled Research Shows Project Management Salaries are Growing, Despite Recession (PMI, 2010d, para. 1–2) states, in part:
Amid a global economic climate plagued by high unemployment and a lack of organizational resources, project managers, instead of suffering income losses like so many other professionals, are actually earning more than they were two years ago, according to the latest salary survey from Project Management Institute (PMI). How much more depends on location, experience and certification level.
Of the nearly 35,000 project manager practitioners who responded to the survey, 51 percent reported an increase in their total compensation…
One can infer from the survey results that the same phenomena impacted credentialed program managers as well. The majority of respondents (65.4%) reported no increase in compensation at all; 8.3% actually reported a drop in compensation, with four respondents reporting a decrease of over 20%. On a more positive note, 26.3% of respondents reported an increase, with most (7.4%) reporting an increase of 5 - 10%; ten respondents (4.6%) reported an increase of over 20%. However, it cannot necessarily be inferred that this is directly due to the impact of the credential.
The comments provided by the respondents illuminate the situation more:
- “Company-wide 2% pay cut across all levels of exempt management.”
- “I was promoted, received no raise, and participated in a 5% across the board pay cut.”
- “Because of economic reason, internal compensation and merit increases are frozen.”
- “No change in anyone's compensation at my company due to the recession.”
- “Market conditions were not favorable to get a better compensation increase.”
- “This is more to do with the economy than my obtaining the credential.”
- “No change due to credential, other factors had impact.”
- “My credential has had no direct impact on my compensation, yet.”
- “Not yet seen the compensation changes, but will expect this to create opportunities to change.”
- “I got a 2% bump for attaining the PgMP.”
- “1 promotional raise, and 1 standard annual type raise (both small but add up to 5%–10% range).”
- “…due to promotion to Director; indirectly.”
- “I moved from a project manager position to a program manager position and received a $20,000 raise, in part, due to my PgMP.”
Of those receiving a promotion or improved opportunity (37.9%), 25% felt that attaining the PgMP credential had a direct impact; 75% felt that it had an indirect impact. Of those who expect a future promotion or improved opportunity (73.7%), 40.0% feel it will have a direct impact, while 60.0% feel it will have an indirect impact. The related comments provide some excellent insight (Exhibit 9).
Exhibit 9. Post PgMP Confidence Levels
- “Not a new job but additional responsibilities in starting up a PMO.”
- “Experience, achievements and credential portfolio must be taken together - PgMP is one of the credential highlights.”
- “I feel I'm given assignments where the customer needs to know a highly qualified person has been assigned. My PgMP has been pointed out more than once to customers by my employer.”
- “It is certainly an asset in my consulting activity : it offers me opportunities especially in the training area.”
- “Not new title - currently being asked as SME to provide input to strategic PMO direction/alignment (Higher/stronger credibility).”
- “Company laid off another instructor who did not have PgMP instead of me.”
- “Most employers don't know what it is or what it takes to get it.”
- “I am now being considered for programs which now require PgMP credentials.”
- “I have the same job but it has expanded my role slightly and I have a greater role in more proposals due to using the credential.”
- “It has widened my set of clients.”
- “Do think it was one of factors that helped set me apart of others who applied for director position, I received.”
- “Foreign client was very impressed with the credential and it was a factor in my company's selection.”
- “It gets you in the door, but then results are what matters.”
As the preceding comments suggest, the PgMP credential provides, perhaps, more intrinsic value than quantifiable value, at least in terms of increased compensation. In fact, the majority of respondents (60.6%) reported that they feel more confident in their career, work, and performance; the remainder feels about the same.
When asked explicitly whether they have received any intrinsic value from obtaining the PgMP credential, 80.3% confirmed that they did.
Exhibit 10. Intrinsic Value of PgMP
To determine the intrinsic value we must once again review the comments provided by respondents, which predominantly indicates “credibility” as the primary benefit (occurrences of which have been eliminated from the following list):
- “Invited to speak at local PMI chapter, and invited to 2 PMI.org initiatives. Neither of these ever happened before.”
- “Others in the industry recognize this as a differentiator. I receive many questions about the differences between Project and Program Mgmt.”
- “Confidence in dealing with peers / associates at other organizations.”
- “Received recognition in emails from my management chain, a personal note from the president of the company, and a nice write up in the company paper.”
- “Primarily recognition among PM peers.”
- “On top of the certification I could mention the following benefits: networking (I have added more than 100 valuable people in my network); learning (review of program management concepts); sharing—meeting top notch people—good preparation of my business creation.”
- “Gained more program management knowledge and able to increase contacts with peers in other industries.”
- “The PgMP credential is similar to a specialized undergraduate degree in some circles, something akin to CPA, although it would be very nice if PMP or PgMP had legal standing as CPA does.”
- “Respect of my peers who are considering pursuing the certification, and respect of the project managers who report to me.”
- “Nothing tangible, but being the 2nd PgMP in the entire [company] of 130k felt pretty good.”
- “I love going to my PMI chapter meetings with my PgMP credential visible on the name tag. It is a proud accomplishment and it is one of the few places people recognize it.”
- “I don't feel that the PgMP credential is as recognized as it should be.”
- “Sense of personal achievement.”
- “I let other project managers know that I have a PgMP and that gives me a significant amount of professional recognition.”
The “Real” Question
While we have assessed the impact of the PgMP credential, either directly or indirectly on compensation and career opportunities, the real question is, “How would you rate the value that you received from the credential, given the cost?” That question really sums up how the respondents—225 credential holders representing 91.5% of those who were asked to participate—felt about the value received. The responses are provided below:
Exhibit 11. Value of PgMP Based on Cost of Attainment
- 16.2%—felt that the value received was very high,
- 13.4%—felt it was moderately high,
- 8.3%—somewhat high,
- 19.9%—neutral (not high or low),
- 25.9%—somewhat low,
- 6.9%—moderately low, and
- 9.3%—very low.
Considering that 54.1% rated the value as relatively neutral (somewhat low to somewhat high)—which seemingly contradicts the comments and anecdotal evidence we have seen—we once again have to review the comments associated with this question to better evaluate the responses, many of which express the need to more aggressively market the credential.
- “Contributed to new employment/contracts, society participation, etc.”
- “So far zero (monetary, opps), but high from personal growth perspective…”
- “I have not yet been able to leverage my certification but expect to do so in the near future.”
- “If PMI markets this credential correctly, it will be received as high-value in industry. It's about communication.”
- “The value is too new to rate. I expect it to be moderately high after time.”
- “PMI could better promote the need for PgMP certification by sharing success stories of PgMP-certified professionals.”
- “It's a unique credential to hold and I think that adds to the value of it. People seem genuinely impressed that I have the PgMP.”
- “Most people don't know what it is (includes execs in my company) and therefore do not know how to value it.”
- “PgMP is not very recognized yet. PMI must do a better job of promoting this certification and differentiating it from the PMP.”
- “I'm happy I completed the certification and would happily make the same choice again even though there's no evidence of corporate value as of yet. My primary perceived value is in personal growth.”
- “Expect it to gain value as it becomes more widely accepted.”
- “I think that the value will increase as time goes on.”
- “Career and personal value —high, comp value low.”
- “The credential is not well known or recognized. As the credential becomes better known (like the PMP credential) I expect a high value on earning the certification.”
- “PgMP being so new hasn't received the market recognition that the PMP has, but this should change over the next decade.”
- “It is not recognized through PMI enough to gain global momentum yet.”
- “…I think it will grow as more people are aware of the certification.”
- “At this point low; because this certification is still not well known, many employers don't place a high value on it.”
- “Credential is not currently well known and needs to be explained.”
- “Not yet enough recognition of the certification or demand for it in the marketplace.”
- “Not a marketable credential, gives mostly personal satisfaction only.”
- “Recognition of PgMP Accreditation remains low.”
- “I don't think it is being recognized by employers yet but I hope this will change over time and they will value the credential.”
- “There's a lack of understanding of the difference between this and PMP in client community.”
- “Since it is a rare certification at the moment in comparison to the PMP, it is a nice differentiator and accomplishment for my personal development.”
- “Still not much requirement or formal opportunity available for PgMPs equating to salary/compensation.”
- “The PgMP credential is rather obscure and poorly understood -- I do think it will continue to grow in value.”
- “I have not yet harnessed the full value from obtaining this credential.”
- “It has easily paid for itself many times over.”
- “PMI exposure of credential needs to be expanded greatly.”
This section of the survey was intended to develop the profile of a PgMP credential holder by identifying the additional credentials that the respondents possess or plan to attain later. The results revealed that:
Exhibit 12: Other PMI Credentials
- 87.7%—hold the PMP® credential and 0.9% intend to attain it in the future;
- 0.8%—hold the CAPM® credential but none intend to attain it in the future;
- 3.9%—hold the OPM3® credential and 17.0% intend to attain it in the future;
- 6.3%—hold the PMI-RMP® credential and 17.2% intend to attain it in the future; and
- 4.8%—hold the PMI-SP® credential and 7.1% intend to attain it in the future.
All respondents hold at least one other credential outside of those conferred by PMI, primarily a master's degree and/or a bachelor's degree or another credential, such as an ITIL or Six Sigma credential.
Exhibit 13. Other Credentials
In terms of interest in future credentials, three potential credential offerings stand out, in order of interest:
- portfolio management,
- PMO, and
- earned value.
The final section of the survey allowed respondents to provide general comments regarding the PgMP credential, primarily success and/or “horror” stories relating to the credential or the credentialing process. These comments, which have been edited for clarity and brevity, can be seen in the Appendixes 1–3; comments relating to the testing centers or not directly related to the value of the credential have been removed. Several miscellaneous comments also stress the need for PMI—and PgMP credential holders—to market the credential actively so it becomes more recognized and, ultimately, more valuable to the credential holder.
To understand the value of the PgMP credential, the authors endeavored to evaluate the cost and sacrifices made to attain the credential. We also wanted to explore the motivation behind the pursuit and determine the profile of the “typical” PgMP credential holder. To provide the most comprehensive picture of the PgMP credential holders and the journey, the survey requested the following information from 246 credential holders, 225 of whom responded (91.5%):
- Demographic Information—the “profile” of each respondent;
- PgMP Credential Motivation—why the respondent decided to pursue the credential;
- PgMP Credential Preparation—the cost, sacrifice, and effort required to attain the credential;
- PgMP Credential Impact—the value derived from attaining the credential, both explicit and intrinsic;
- Credentials—the PMI and industry credentials that the respondents also possess or plan to try to attain in the future; and
- Anecdotal responses—comments that further illuminate the survey results.
In short, the authors of this study wanted to go beyond the theoretical and provide empirical evidence—albeit in the form of an informal survey—of the value of the PgMP credential, supplemented by anecdotal evidence. The responses were from PgMP credential holders who described the impact the credential has had on their careers and their lives. The results of our informal survey confirmed the value statements above, primarily through the anecdotal evidence. The empirical evidence—the responses to the survey questions themselves—provided a somewhat less compelling view:
- Responses relating directly to the value of the credential were mostly neutral in nature, primarily because of the “newness” of the credential in the marketplace. Consensus was that the credential is not well known enough in the marketplace yet.
- At the same time the respondents enjoyed the “exclusivity” of the credential. Respondents acknowledged that the PgMP credential is very challenging—and relatively expensive—to obtain and is unlikely to become “diluted”.
Ultimately, the measure of the value wasn't in the “numbers” but in the “stories” from actual PgMP credential holders, which illustrate the intrinsic value the PgMP credential has had on their careers and their lives. For many, it was a personal decision to pursue the credential, regardless of the expected monetary or “opportunity” reward. However, compensation levels do appear to be higher for PgMP credential holders than PMP credential holders, sometimes significantly, as documented in the PMI Project Management Salary Survey–Sixth Edition (PMI, 2010c). The responses confirm that program managers often hold higher level positions within an organization and are compensated as such.
It is our hope that this research can be leveraged by:
- Prospective applicants to make a more informed decision regarding the benefits and value of obtaining the credential, based on the real experiences of many program professionals;
- PgMP credential holders to recognize the benefits that others have realized in order to improve their personal and professional development plans.
Although the profile of the “typical” PgMP credential holder is a bit elusive, the median values from the demographics related responses do provide some interesting insights:
- Is 41 to 45 years of age;
- Lives in North America;
- Has a salary range of US$131,000–US$140,000;
- Has 9 years of program management experience;
- Has 15 years of project management experience;
- Functions as a program manager in an Information Technology related discipline;
- Has a bachelor's degree and may have a master's degree;
- Holds the PMP® credential as well and is considering other credentials;
- Would be interested in a portfolio management credential in the future;
- Has realized some intrinsic value in attaining the PgMP credential;
- Has not received a promotion or improved opportunity, primarily because of the state of the global economy; and
- Is still struggling to realize tangible benefit from the credential due to its “newness” and relatively unknown nature.
This profile is intended to summarize the results of the survey at a very high level. There are, of course, many subtleties and deviations from this “norm,” not to mention true outliers. The PgMP credential, after all, holds a very broad appeal.
Project Management Institute. (2010a). PgMP credential handbook [Electronic version]. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/PDF/pdc_pgmphandbook.pdf
Project Management Institute. (2010b). Value of a credential. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/CareerDevelopment/Pages/Certification-and-the-Job-Market.aspx
Project Management Institute. (2010c). Project management salary survey (6th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Project Management Institute. (2010d, 19 April). Research shows project management salaries are growing, despite recession [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/AboutUs/Pages/Research-Shows-Project-Management-Salaries-are-Growing-Despite-Recession.aspx
Project Management Institute. (n. d.). Top 10 reasons for earning a PMI Credential. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/PDF/Top%2010%20Reasons%20for%20Ind.pdf
Anecdotal Success Stories
“In a company with over 300,000 employees including thousands of project and program managers, I am one of less than 12 PgMPs. As with the PMP 11 years ago, I find myself at the leading edge and it feels good.”
“One of the major success story, directly related to obtaining the PgMP credential, was: with this credential, it proved instrumental in getting an R.E.P. - I.T. P. - status for the company which I work and also contributed to becoming the second in charge of the global IT PMO for an international organization. In this, programs and projects are now viewed differently in their start-up and lifecycle.”
“Earning the PgMP made me a better program manager and that translated into an increase in my value at work. That led to a bigger position, more money, more job security, and more interesting work. I expect this to continue as the demand for certified program managers will significantly increase in the next 1-2 years and beyond.”
“My company has been going through a major international integration/merger. Within a couple of months of obtaining my certification, I was approached to program manage an Operations Integration program. Being a member of PMO, which sets the standards on how to run programs/projects as well as my new certification, the pressure was on to deliver a shining example on how a program should be managed in our company. Faced with a very aggressive 7-month time line, the program delivered 15 projects netting a savings of $1.8M annually in operating expenses while keeping executive management teams in both companies engaged and satisfied with progress. I attribute this great success to the application of the skills and tools gained through my PgMP certification.”
“PgMP increase the number of my clients and it gives me more confident when I do consultation and training to my customers.”
“I work for the world's largest financial services provider and I was the first and still the only holder of the PgMP certification. The recognition has given me respect in my knowledge of Project Management that I did not have before. Because of my recognition knowledge, a new position of Director of Program Management was created so that I would apply my Program management knowledge to the oversight of all strategic projects for the business unit.”
“The PgMP has enabled me to teach at the University level Program and Project Management courses as well as to obtain a contract with DHS teaching Program Management”
“I started my own proprietary firm for consulting and training engagements. Earlier, I used to do only PMP classes, but now I am getting more inquiries on PgMP. Although the economy is bad and that limits opportunities, I definitely feel this will improve in days to come.”
“I can certainly tell the audience that obtaining the PgMP certification has opened several opportunities to me: I was asked to participate in several new international job openings in regions like North America, Latin America and the Middle East, in some of them I was given a firm offer and the PgMP certification was a requirement to get the position. Also, my self-confidence boosted up. I finally decided to make a change in my job moving from an American type-of-culture company in which I worked for +15 years to a Korean type-of-culture company just to put myself to the test. Although my previous focus was in Program Management, in my new position as Country Manager I have more focus in M&S but the interesting thing is that I am applying all Pjt/Pgm Mgmt tools and techniques in these areas…and with good results! My mindset, as I once stated in an interview for an article is: I do not have to make everything but make sure everything is done…Concepts involved here are: anticipation, risk assessment, control and monitoring, etc.”
“During oral interviews and tendering process for a major (>US$100 billion) foreign program management opportunity, my PgMP was brought up by the selection board as a strong positive influence in our selection as a company.”
“Nothing in particular but it has provided credibility with business partners and clients. Still have to educate others regarding the credential to have most impact.”
“Early Dec-08 learned of a force reduction at my company. End-Dec-08 received PgMP. Decided to leave in the RIF at that time, and to enter the open market (in the midst of the downturn). Left firm late Feb. Started on contract 1 week later (following PMI chapter training course). 4-month contract on processes was presented to Board of Directors who bought-in as PMO/process discussion resonated with their business experience. Brought on full-time 1-July to setup PMO. First project coached to funding milestones before year-end within process. Sponsors very happy. Internal business studies to improve operation also conducted. Invited to become Ex. Dir. Operations (chief of staff) to run HQ operations on behalf of President. This invitation came as a surprise. New role presents a strong position to further the PMO, project management, and processes into place as the Ex. Dir. role controls financial release. Tough challenges ahead, but a role that promises significant and positive impact during difficult business and financial times.”
“I was immediately asked by a Registered Education Provider to upgrade their PgMP Preparation course to the Second edition - and deliver the course.”
“Companies are more interested in knowing how to manage Programs better. However, it is seen the Programs - as classified by Companies are more diverse - as compared to Projects. An observation was noted that the Standard of Program Management was more applicable to coordination of multiple Outsourced Projects etc - but not very useful in Internal Projects and not useful for IT level Program Management.”
“I am 1 of 6 PgMP's in NZ and was first PgMP in South Africa. GM of Telecom failed his PgMP on first attempt - has shown much respect since learning that I achieved on first attempt.”
“Helping to add the PgMP to credential requirement for Oracle's highest PM ranking (Level 7).”
“I was very anxious to apply for my PgMP exam. I applied within 60 days of it becoming available to the public. I thought the application process was very detailed and appreciated the effort by PMI to ensure that the experience was completely quantifiable. I took my time over eight months to prepare and passed my exam with a score of proficient in all areas. It has been one of the most rewarding personal accomplishments that I have undertaken.”
“Post the PgMP I created the PgMP Credentialed Networking Group on LinkedIn and have met many peer PgMPs and helped others obtain the credential. I've received good recognition both in my company and external for the work I've done.”
“PgMP is a differentiator. Especially in these early years - people always look through my portfolio of credentials and highlight this one.”
Anecdotal “Horror” Stories
“I won't call it a “horror” story, but I would say: “Pursing the PgMP credential is not for the faint hearted!”
“My boss and the organization are jealous and it could cause damage my career.”
“No. It was a rewarding process. The only horror is the 3-5 seconds that you wait to receive back the results of your exam.”
”…one of their senior managers in org commented in a group meeting that PgMP is not of any value which I will never forget as it was very discouraging.”
“I was given the certification before the MRA results, and then was told that it was a glitch in the system that caused this and that it was void. I did get the actual certification a couple of months later, after I completed the MRA.”
“No particular horror story but the credential is very challenging to obtain…as it should be.”
“Studied hard using [name withheld] and was confident that I knew the material. At the boot camp we tackled 25 questions. Result was barely above 50% which shocked me, and led to a realization that this was going to be a lot tougher than anticipated. Revised study plan and while hard, it worked out fine on first exam try.”
“One of my students went through the whole process only to fall at the last (MRA) hurdle because he was not active enough in ensuring that his referees responded.”
“The cost of the PgMP is excessive.”
“I don't feel that PgMP has much value in the industry. I don't know of any organization that has placed any value on PgMP.”
“PMI should initiate a serious promotional campaign to companies and other organizations that employ or contract for program and project managers. They should be creative in their appeal and consider reducing the $1,500 fee - which I find unreasonably high.”
“The “bar” for the PgMP needs to stay high so this credential doesn't go the way of the PMP, which I believe has lost its stature over the years due to lax enforcement of the qualifications.”
“Thanks PMI for PgMP standard and for the PgMP credential. I hope the community and business will recognize the key differences in PM and PgMP approaches and will use both of them in proper way.”
“The credential needs to have additional Program Management subject areas including: Negotiating Skills, Business Development, and Contract Management. These are among the most important capabilities of a Program Manager in a consulting role.”
“Any effort to communicate the value of PgMP to senior management team in various organizations/MNCs might help as I feel that most senior managers (and most employees) do not have know about PgMP and do not appreciate the credential much.”
“I think the PgMP is a great credential. I haven't seen significant value in terms of immediate RoI, but the process is very fulfilling and enriching. Definitely all senior project managers and program managers should consider becoming PgMP and serve their profession better.”
“There are woefully few materials on program management. The standards are not enough, and the supplementary material from the market has not yet reached a level of strong usefulness. It would be helpful to maintain a public library (references) with end-user comments on the value of differing publications from past PgMP candidates. This would help new candidates.
The new standard creates an intimidating barrier to new PgMP candidates. Its volume suggests more rote knowledge (memorization)is needed than practical, and yet the exams are practice-based. If this credential is a world-class affirmation of experience and skill, then the standards must not give this sense of “memory test” or it will not work.
Higher levels of affirmation are needed. Cards and certificates are nice, but given the few people receiving these credentials it would be wise to highlight them each month on PMI.org and/or publications. The membership in this community has yet to follow the logo of one organization that says, “membership has privileges.”
“It is important to propagate the value of PgMP to Industry community; many companies are not aware of this fully - even where PMP is recognized.”
“Program management needs a formal unifying body to provide a basis for warranting best practices and ethical standards. Most important we need a mechanism for alignment of organizational talent needs and community practitioners. Lots of oranges are calling themselves apples and most believing they are.”
©2010 Brian L. Grafsgaard, PgMP, PMP & Jeffrey G. Hodgkinson, PgMP, PMP, PMI-RMP
Originally Published as Part of Proceedings, PMI Global Congress 2010 – Washington D.C.