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Skills, Experience and Accreditations for Project Management

September 24, 2018

With this post, I am finishing this current series on IT project management. In this series, I have discussed some of the major reasons why projects fail, referenced some analysis and research, and I have discussed some of the key trends in project management. In this post, I will cover the role that skills and experience play and what certificates and certifications are available.

Getting Started in Project Management
Most of the advertised project management jobs are at the lowest salary and experience level, so there are more than a few opportunities to get an entry-level position. Those hiring managers would be happy to find a Project Management Institute-certified professional, but they know that early career jobs at the bottom of the pay scale won’t be attractive to more experienced and certified individuals. So what do you need to get a project management job?

Already Working in IT?
Assuming that you already have an IT job, you could tell your employer that you want to move into the project management profession and ask to be mentored to learn how to do it. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds and it assumes that you know what to expect from the job, which is likely. As an experienced IT professional, I earned a certificate in project management from George Washington University. To earn this, I took ten different employer-sponsored courses over a two-year duration. The classes were focused on managing projects that brought commercial software products into the marketplace. I needed the training even though I was a seasoned IT professional who had previously carried out some basic management tasks.

Certificate and Certifications
A more typical approach might be to take courses to get a project management certificate, and then look to find a project management job. Not all certificates are the same in scope and content. For example, Cornell University has a set of five online courses that require three to five hours of work a week. When you complete the courses, you get a Cornell Engineering certificate that you can use to help get an entry-level job. You also get 40 professional development hours and 50 project management education hours towards your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

Earning a certificate is not the same as getting certified. When I received my project management certificate, I had earned it. I completed the courses and took exams at the end of each of the classroom courses. The exams were a deliberate effort to put pressure on the students to take the class seriously even though they already had a job with the employer sponsoring the classes (paying the bill). The university conducting the courses had a reputation to maintain—after all, they were going to send each student a certificate that would indicate that they knew a lot about managing projects.

Certifications are given after a practitioner has demonstrated certain skills and experience and has passed a comprehensive exam. Before you take an exam, you must meet certain eligibility requirements. Here are the eligibly requirements for PMP certification:

Requirements from the “Project Management Professional Handbook.”


As you can read, certification is something you can strive for after you have done some good work as a project manager. Although employers look for certification, they would admit that they don’t need PMPs for all the project management work that needs to get done. Also, they might not have the financial resources to pay the salaries that come with employing a large number of senior and certified professionals.

What to do?
If you are an early career individual, you have a lot of options, as there are more jobs available than can be filled. According to the Project Management Institute, “Demand over the next 10 years for project managers is growing faster than demand for workers in other occupations. Organizations, however, face risks from this talent gap.” This 2017 report predicts significant (33 percent through year 2027) job growth and anticipates a serious talent gap. So, if you didn’t take some project management courses in college, get a certificate, find a job and start your career.

If you already have a job in IT and want a change and desire to move into project management, ask your employer to be mentored. As I wrote earlier, this is a potential way to make the transition with your current employer. Some IT jobs are a hybrid of team leadership, project management and technical tasks. If you have a situation like that, you should go for it, understanding that hybrid jobs like that can be a challenging balancing act. I had a job like that once. It was exciting and rewarding—I learned so much and made a difference in the marketplace—even if sometimes unwieldy.

Posted September 24, 2018| Permalink