Accept No Substitutes: PMI Project Management Certs Are All You Need

Project management is an increasingly vital IT skill.

Project Management is one of the most prolific and most sought-after skills in IT today. Just a cursory glance at any job board will tell you that everyone is hiring a project manager and for all types of activities.


They can be called by many different names but project managers are becoming integral to how IT gets down. The ability to "run a project," or at least have some project management skills, is going to be essential in IT, going forward.


So what skills should aspiring project managers focus on to build up their project management muscle? What are some of the credentials that we, as project managers, should seek to show both our current employer and the rest of the world that we are the cream of the crop?


The Project Management Professional (PMP) cert from the Project Management Institute is the first credential everyone thinks of. Yet is PMI the only way to go? Are there other credentials that a project manager can pursue to build or maintain credibility? And What is the best point of entry for an aspiring project manager?


Why Project Management Matters


It is important, for starters, to understand why project managers and project management is so important to modern organizations. What do project managers do that has them considered one of the most important components of any organization?


First, they define and organize the chaos. Let us face it: If you are doing anything in IT, there is chaos. If you do not have a little chaos, then your company probably has nothing going on. Project managers play a vital role in keeping things calm.


Time, although a man-made construct, is very important to keep track of, and project managers help everyone know and follow the schedule of every project. If you have a good project manager, they match up the schedules of the human resources who are working on the project.


Speaking of resources, the people who work on any project will need some degree of teamwork to accomplish anything. Project managers establish, promote and influence a cooperation and collaboration throughout their teams, and across the company as a whole.


Integration points and cross-division communication is another area where project managers should (and do) excel. If you need to plan and control a project that touches other divisions, or even other companies, then employing a project manager is your best bet.


Finally, every project comes with overriding financial considerations. Cost is always an issue with projects in general, but a good project manager will have enough business acumen and financial knowledge to keep costs on track or under budget.


Perhaps most importantly, project managers are important because the good ones will retain knowledge from, and build on the success of, a project long after that project is over. Want to know how you can spot a good project manager? They never repeat the mistakes of past projects.


Start Small


Project management is an increasingly vital IT skill.

Every project has three constraints: time, resources, and cost. Even if you a particular work task is not labeled a "project," or thought of as being a project, it will still be shaped by time, resources, and cost.


A company may not have a designated project manager, but they will still have group efforts that need these constraints managed. Because of this fact, a lot of companies are looking for any information technology employee to have or acquire project management skill set.


For aspiring project managers, I side with the folks who believe the PMI is the only route to take in order to prove your skillset with project management. You can run quite a few projects and gain a lot of experience without being certified. Validate those skills with a credential, however, and you open the door to new opportunities and new jobs.


The formula is simple for aspiring project managers, or for anyone who wants to prove their worth. First, log on to PMI's web site. You will see the clear track for project managers, and that is the one that you need to follow. Start with your Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). It will prime you for PMP success.


PMP is the certification that yields tens of thousands of job hits more or less wherever you look. Once you have achieved this certification (which takes time and patience) every project management door that was previously closed will suddenly open up.


PMP Is Where You Should Be


There are so many benefits to gaining a PMP certification. Every company and every country recognizes this certification. As PMI literature states, not at all grandiosely: "You can find PMPs leading projects in nearly every country and, unlike other certifications that focus on a particular geography or domain, the PMP is truly global."


The PMP certification can be used in any industry and across any project. Want to run construction projects? You can use a PMP. Want to run a server migration? Go get yourself a PMP. Want to run any project? PMP is the key to success.


If your pocketbook needs a bump, PMP can also provide a significant advantage when it comes to salary and earning potential. Among survey respondents to PMI's Earning Power Salary Survey, those with a PMP certification garner a higher salary (20 percent higher on average) than those without a PMP certification.


Beyond PMP


If you like what PMP does for you, then you can even aspire higher. Above PMP, you can work toward with a PgMP (for Program Management Professionals), which prepares the holder to manage multiple projects simultaneously. PfMP is even higher up the PMI food chain, and prepares the holder to run projects across companies and with advanced financial understanding in the mix.


In the end, everyone knows that project management within companies is needed. It is so needed that your employer wants the skillset, even if you are not a PM. The best, quickest and most reliable way to show your employer and the world you are ready to step up to any project they throw at you is to become certified with PMI's certifications.


There are others out there, but I would not get confused or waste time. Go with the gold standard, get the four certs in a row and become a project management hero. As always, I wish you the best of luck and happy certifying.


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About the Author
Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive.

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.