How Does CompTIA's Project+ Compare to PMI's PMP?

Project management concept jigsaw puzzle

So you are a project manager — you run large projects, small projects and everything in between. You gather resources from all corners of the business, you have your budget set, and you understand the time-frame for the project. You consider yourself very good at managing projects.


So how do you get better? How do you improve your performance? The answer is simple — get certified. The salary range for project managers is between $80,000 and $116,000 (U.S.), and certification is a great way to move the needle.


Currently, there are two widely respected project management certifications available in the marketplace: CompTIA's Project+ and PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP). While the overall focus of both certifications is "Project Management," their details are significantly different.


PMP is perhaps the largest, most popular certification out there. It is the gold standard for the industry, with bragging rights for increased salary and breadth of adoption among credentialed individuals. 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. As a PMP, you can work in virtually any industry, with any methodology and in any location." PMP is popular, currently boasting a certification base of 713,000 individuals.


CompTIA's Project+ is considered more of a stepping stone. Much like CompTIA's other certifications, it is more humble in aspect, with little bragging done about it raw numbers, or overwhelming quality and popularity. Project+ certifies the knowledge and skills of professionals in project management and "validates the ability to initiate, manage and support a project or business initiative." Project+ isn't just for experienced IT professionals — it's designed for individuals looking to validate project management experience in many different disciplines.


Certifications, at their core, are measured in a standard format. A set number of questions, a finite time allotted to answer them and a score for doing so correctly. Comparing sometimes comes down to taking a view of ancillary factors: cost to certify, benefits of membership among the certifying organization, and so forth.


Costs and Perks


Currently, the PMP exam will cost you $555. The exam itself consists of 200 multiple-choice questions (MCQ) to be answered in a four-hour time limit. In comparison, Project+ is a brief 90 minutes with a maximum of 100 MCQs and drag and drops. The exam will set you back $285.


If your pocket-book is tight and your employer isn't footing the bill for your certification, then you may want to start out with the less expensive Project+. It should be noted that you can get $100 off the cost of the PMP test if you become a member of PMI, the sponsoring organization.


With respect to PMI membership, an added bonus is that the more than 700,000 PMPs have formed a national chapter and a number of local city chapters where the members meet and discuss topics relating to project management. These chapters can be a great resource for support and information about the certification and the exam, and even leads for job opportunities. (Further details here.)


When deciding between Project+ and PMP, you also need to consider your job and future career outlook, and carefully weigh which certification best meets your needs. Do take note of how much time you will also have to commit to study — Project+ takes approximately 30 days of self-study, where the PMP typically requires 90 days or more. Also take care to consider your cash outlay during study time. While some of these questions may seem trivial or evident, careful consideration will put you ahead of the game.




Confident woman in project management

A trend in project management certifications is to have a set level of actual work experience under your belt before being permitted to sit for the exam. For Project+, it is recommended that you have one year of experience "managing, directing or participating in small to medium-scale projects." On the other hand, PMP requires a much greater amount of education and experience — candidates need to have a four-year degree, a minimum of 4,500 hours of project management and 35 hours of project management education. Pursuing the PMP is going to be at least a two-year effort. And you can't just claim on your application that you've worked in project management — you have to submit evidence, and those claims will be verified by PMI.


Career Suitability


Project managers are a diverse bunch. Some are old, some young; some are just starting out, while others have been doing stand-ups since the 70s ... they just didn't know it. When evaluating what you want to achieve with a project management certification ask yourself — and answer honestly — how much real-world experience do you have in project management? Newer PMs will want to shoot for the Project+. Then, as they gain experience, they can step up later to the PMP.


Typically, Project+ certifications are awarded to junior PMs, business analysts or managers that want to keep up to speed on what goes into all those projects they see running throughout their organization. If you are a budding project manager and just dipping your toe into the PM water, then Project+ is your best option. Know this though: You WILL want to step up to a PMP at some point in your career.


PMPs are seasoned veterans of project management. They are battle-hardened, know the process by heart and have an innate sense of when their project is running right or is off the rails. They have so much experience that they have a solid grasp of what works and, more importantly, what doesn't. If you want to really prove your skill, be able to apply to every job that says "PMP required," or just impress your peers, then the PMP is right for you.


Other Considerations


Once you have picked the certification you want to achieve, how do you go about studying for and ultimately passing the exam? There are as many ways to study as there are certification candidates — you just have to find what works for you and your situation.


Each certification has a standard set of study materials offered through their web sites. PMP's Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is a very large, verbose book that, in this writer's humble opinion, does little to ensure an individual's success on the exam.


Project+ is much easier to study for because, frankly, it covers less material. For me, purchased quizzing engines, easy to read books and peer study groups were the path to success. Again, in my opinion, this blueprint will work on any test, anywhere, anytime. Just take care to understand your situation, your current level of experience and knowledge of project management and how much time you can devote to studying.


In my experience, there is a reality for every certification, a pinnacle of the skillset and a way to prove you have reached it. When you think cybersecurity, you think CISSP; for hacking, it's the CEH; and PC hardware, CompTIA's A+. When anyone thinks project management, they think first of PMI's PMP. While Project+ is an excellent and less expensive alternative, (a stepping-stone) it will never overtake the big-dog of project management certifications — the PMP.


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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.