We live in a world where certifications, degrees, and titles have been developed for almost every profession and skill set imaginable. Although these designations may or may not mean you are the best at what you do, it does put you a step ahead of your peers.
The field of project management is no different, offering the coveted PMP certification. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the organization responsible for the certification, the PMP is “the most important industry recognized certification for project managers across the globe.” In fact, many organizations are even requiring their project managers to have the certification. If this doesn’t grab your attention, PMP certification holders earn 17% more than their non-certified peers according to the Project Management Salary Survey—Eighth Edition. In short, earning a PMP certification will make you more money, increase marketability, connect you with a community of professionals, and put you a step ahead of your peers.
Project management is what we as military professionals excel at. Many transitioning veterans find successful and satisfying careers in the civilian sector as project managers. They are able to accomplish this by simply transferring their skills developed in the military into their civilian career. By earning your PMP you will establish a bridge to walk across into civilian project management positions. It will open doors for you, quickly establish rapport, and command a higher salary. A simple Google search shows that the average national salary for entry-level project managers is $89,286.
The prerequisites to earn your PMP can be found on the PMI website. You must either have a four year degree, 4,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education OR a secondary degree (high school diploma or equivalent), 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education. You may look at this and think there is no way you would qualify. However, almost anyone with at least 3 to 4 years in the military will be able to meet these requirements. For more information on how to make this happen I’d recommend reading this article by Eric Wright, How to Translate your Military Operational Experience into Civilian Project Management.
Now that we’ve determined that earning your PMP is worth it, where does one start? Here is a four step approach for tackling the PMP.
Step 1: Commit
The first step to earning your PMP is committing to it. Like anything in life earning this certification does not come without some hard work. Recognize that a little hard work and sacrifice will be required, but it will be worth it when you come out on the other side successful. I’ve seen many transitioning veterans overlook this step firsthand, and after a few months of dabbling with the idea they finally give up. Don’t overlook this step. In fact, don’t waste your time if you aren’t willing to commit to it.
The final step of commitment is paying for and setting up your test date once your application has been approved through PMI. I’d recommend setting this test date up before starting Step 2. This will give you an incentive and a timeline to work off of. Do NOT wait to schedule it.
Step 2: Develop a Study Plan
Every individual learns differently, but establishing an individual study plan is essential to your success. I would advocate setting up a plan 2-3 months out from your test date. In order to earn my PMP I allotted 3 months of preparation, and this was sufficient for me. Others may need more or less, based on an individual assessment. There are many resources out there to prepare you for the exam. For a comprehensive guide for setting up your own PMP plan I’d recommend visiting here. There are multiple organizations that offer PMP prep courses costing thousands of dollars. In my opinion, these courses are not necessary if you are disciplined in your study habits. However, if you are the type of person who needs this structure you may find these courses beneficial. If you are located at a large military installation I’d recommend contacting the transitioning office. There are actually organizations that offer this course for free to transitioning military members.
The Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP) offered through Syracuse University is a great resource for earning your PMP. They offer a free training curriculum, and I am told will cover the cost of your PMP, over $400 in savings, if you have completed the entire course. I personally did not use this platform, but for more information visit this article here. Additionally you can visit the program’s direct page.
Lastly, I would recommend ordering at least one exam prep book. I found Rita Mulcahy’s book extremely helpful, and a vital component to passing. You can order it on Amazon here.
Step 3: Practice Makes Perfect
The most important part of your study plan should be taking hundreds and hundreds of practice questions. Nothing will prepare you better than this. For a list of websites that offer free PMP sample questions visit PMI-Mad.org.
In the app store on your phone you will find many PMP exam prep apps. I’d recommend using them to offer you the ability to practice on the go. To review apps available on your phone visit pmpro.org.
I’d recommend at a minimum taking TWO full mock exams before the real exam. This will be cumbersome, but vital to your success. I would go as far to say that if I had not done this, I would have certainly failed my first time taking the exam.
Step 4: Take the Test
The exam is taken at a local testing center and will not be the most comfortable testing experience you’ve ever had. For more information on what the testing center process looks like visit here. Like any exam you will be nervous and wondering what you got yourself into. You should walk into that exam center confident in your abilities. Confidence in yourself is a vital ingredient to your success on testing day. Believe in yourself, your preparation, and most importantly remember that you are doing this to better yourself and your career. In the words of General George S. Patton: “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.”
In summary, the PMP certification is an investment in yourself and your future career. Earning this certification helps you command a higher salary, increase your job opportunities, connect you with a network of professionals, and put you a step ahead of your peers. The benefits are apparent, and I urge you to take the next step if project management is a potential career choice.
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