What Season for the PMP?

Today is the first day of autumn, 2015. While the earth goes through its cycle of seasons, so do many other things in our world...which prompts me to ask, "Do certifications, like the PMP, also go through seasons?"

There are seasons of our lives, seasons for companies and cities, even seasons for countries. Here's how they typically map:

Spring - Birth, growing, first blooming.
Summer - Full bloom, peak of everything
Fall - Harvest, stability
Winter - Decline...but possible preparation for rebirth

"PMI Today" magazine publishes various PMI facts and figures, such as the number of active PMPs as of the end of each month. Below are the figures as of Dec 31 of each year (except 2006, which is Nov 30), which .


In the chart, the first column shows the year, and the figures are for Dec 31 of that year. The number of Active PMPs in column 2 is sourced from the "PMI Today" Facts and figures as of Dec 31 of that year. The third column shows the number of Active PMP's added for the year. The fourth column shows the % growth in number of PMPs year over year.

What I notice in the chart if that, first and foremost, the PMI is large and has grown tremendously over the past 10 years or so, nearly tripling the number of active PMP's. However, the number of PMPs added, except for an upward blip in 2013, has been steady or declining, and in fact the year over year percentage of new PMP's added has declined from around 20% to single digits.

This snapshot is very "PMI centric" - that is, it focuses on the numbers from the standpoint of the PMI. They still look healthy. However, an entire ecosystem has grown up around the PMI, including training and service providers. The PMI reports, for example, that the number of Registered Education Providers (REP) has risen to over 1,600 today, and while I do not have exact figures, I am guessing there were not more than 200 or so 9 or 10 years ago. When you consider that REPs provide PMP exam prep training, I observe that primarily the REP's of 2007 competed to educate a little over 50,000 new PMPs whereas many more REPs in 2014 competed to educate under 45,000 PMPs in 2014.

What is the total potential for the PMP? The PMI 2013 Annual Report states that 51 million people are engaged in the management of projects. Based on the figures above, that means that a little over 1% of them are certified PMPs. However, how many of the remaining people engaged in projects will earn the PMP? I cannot predict that number, but the growth rate appears to be slowing, not accelerating, and over a period of years.

In order for the number of PMP's to grow, there needs to be a large audience of potential PMP's - is it that 51 million number? - combined with a high return for the effort and cost of earning the PMP. Is the value compelling enough for individuals to continue to put forth the effort and expense in increasing numbers? the PMI published a report on the value of the PMP. See http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Certifications/PMI-Certification-Overview-Kronos.ashx .

In my view, there is clearly value in the PMP. I earned my PMP, and I learned some valuable things in the process that changed the way I think about and manage projects.

Companies also need to think about this on an enterprise wide basis, and many invest in training programs and Project Management Organizations (PMO) charged with delivering value within their enterprises. This is a complex and completely separate topic, but clearly there is potential value there...but how many people within those organizations need to actually have their PMP?

By way of comparison, in the technology world, there are a host of Information Technology (IT) vendor certifications. People generally benefit over time vy earning certification. However, these certifications are also subject to obsolescence. A technical certification with be of value usually for a few years at most and must be replaced by an additional current certification. The PMP, by contrast, is not subject to technological obsolescence.

As a result of the above analysis, it would appear that there is growth ahead for the PMP certification, and that it will continue to provide opportunity for good return on investment for practitioners and organizations. However, the growth of the "PMP industry" appears more limited, but at the same time has indicators of stability, and little indication of decline, especially if you think of PM certification generically, and not specifically of the PMP, which is the dominant leader in the field.

It appears to be mid to late summer for the PMP - and looks to be a long summer and fall.

2 Responses to What Season for the PMP?

  • Here is my two cents:
    - going through the training and certification motions, people get that initial boost in knowledge and understanding; like you, me and thousands others. After that, I do not see any palpable value to the PMP; similar to any other diploma or degree, it is up to the individual to manage their own career.
    - certain industries more or less require you to hold the certification if you want to work there as a [contractor] PM; governments in the US at all levels come to mind.

  • Specific focus to the line “Companies also need to think about this on an enterprise wide basis…”, I guess organizations are increasingly seeing value in managing projects more scientifically under overall guidelines, than managing by intuition alone.
    That said, a huge focus still needs to be developed for back office and PMO operations and their critical role in overall project management. More often than not, this role is still undermined.
    Further need to have some correlation study conducted between successful project percentage and number of PMP certifications over past 10 years. Not sure if there lies a relationship yet.
    Insightful article, though.

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