is pmp certification worth it project management

Is PMP certification worth it? Does it have enough value to improve your career prospects and increase your salary?

PMP certification is definitely worth the money and effort. As per the PMI’s project management salary survey, median salary of a PMP certified project manager in North America is 25% higher than those without the certification. This way you can recover your money in as little as 2 months of passing the PMP certification exam and after that you can enjoy your salary increment.

Many project managers don’t pursue the certification because it is a costly exam. It needs an investment of about $1000 to cover the cost of project management training and application fee.

Frankly speaking, you should not worry about the cost of doing PMP because monetary benefits (higher earning) far outweigh the expenses involved.

Let us do a scientific cost-benefit analysis and measure the true worth of PMP certification. In this post, you will find a comparison of the expenses involved in the PMP exam against the potential increase in the income.

What is PMP (Project Management Professional) Certification?

PMP is globally recognized project management certification. The certification is awarded by Project Management Institute (PMI) after a project manager passes the PMP exam.

PMP certification exam is mostly based on the concepts written in the PMBOK Guide (A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge). It tests your knowledge and skill about both predictive and agile project management approaches. PMP exam preparation requires 2-3 months of rigorous study.

PMP exam has stringent eligibility requirements. Only those project managers who have undergone 35 hours of project management education and have requisite project management experience can apply for the exam. Project managers from any industry can appear in the exam.

If you do have experience of managing projects then you can apply for the other PMI certification – CAPM certification (Certified Associate in Project Management). This can give you a platform to become a project manager.

Apart from the monetary benefits discussed earlier, there are numerous other PMP certification benefits. You can read my article on reasons for pursuing the PMP certification to understand these benefits.

Even though PMP exam prep is a tedious job that requires a lot of effort, the end result is well worth the effort.

Is PMP Certification Worth It for a Career in Project Management?

There is no denying the fact that the cost of pursuing the credential is extremely high. But cost is only one side of the equation. As a project manager, you should weigh the cost against the potential benefit. You should ask yourself – Can I recover my investment after becoming a PMP certified project manager?

Let’s see how the potential salary benefit outweigh the cost involved.

PMP Certification Cost

The total cost of PMP certification can vary from about USD 750 to 3000.

You can look at the following video to understand how much it costs to do PMP certification.

Or, you can look at my other post on expenses involved in pursuing and maintaining the PMP credential for a detailed analysis.

The post talks about various factors that can influence the total cost of doing PMP. Some of the important factors are country of your residence, mode of training, and choice of study material.

The post explains two cost scenarios:

  • Scenario I – for a person who is willing to spend on the best preparation resources that includes a good PMP boot camp. Such a person would spend about USD 2900 for getting PMP.
  • Scenario II – for a person who wants to pass the credential test by enrolling into an online PMP course. Such a person would spend about USD 750 for getting PMP.

Let us consider USD 2900 for our calculations as it is at the higher end of the spectrum.

Whatever may be your peculiar situation; it is highly improbable that you would need to spend anything more than USD 2900 for getting the credential. So, let us do a cost-benefit analysis considering USD 2900 as the total cost of doing PMP.

PMP Salary

Let’s understand the second part of cost benefit analysis by determining the potential increase in salary.

You can watch the following video to determine your earning power.

Refer to page 9 of the PMI Salary survey. The annualized salary of a PMP certification holder is USD 123,000 whereas those without PMP certificate earn USD 93,000.

This essentially means that, on average, a certified PMP earns USD 30,000 per year more than a non-certified professional. This translates into a potential increase of USD 2,500 per month.

By using the data from the above statement and previous section, we can do a cost-benefit analysis for a professional working in the USA.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Let us compare the cost of USD 2900 against the potential benefit of USD 2500 per month. It can be easily deduced that you can recover your investment of USD 2900 in less than 2 months.

You need about 2 months of increased salary to recover your investment in the PMP certification.

ROI of PMP Certification

We can also calculate Return on Investment (ROI) by using the above two numbers.

In our example the Return in USD 30,000 (potential increase in annualized salary) and Cost is $2900 (expenses involved in PMP certification). Hence, ROI comes out to be 30000/2900. This is equal to 10.34 or 1034%.

I considered salaries of persons working in the USA to do the cost-benefit analysis and arrive at ROI.

These figures may not hold true for you. Your own personal ROI would be different. It would depend on your industry, geography, & role, and your current emoluments. Your salary might be less or more than the median salary presented in the PMI salary survey.

You can follow a similar approach for doing the cost-benefit analysis and calculating ROI. Here is what you should do:

  1. Write down how much you are currently earning.
  2. Open the PMI salary survey to find out your (considering your country, role, industry, and experience) earning power i.e. how much you can potentially earn by doing PMP.
  3. Find out the potential increase in your salary i.e. the difference between #2 and #1.
  4. Do cost-benefit analysis.
  5. Calculate your personal ROI.

This way you can do your own analysis to determine if PMP is worth for you or not.

Some of you may feel that PMI’s report may be biased because PMI is the governing body for PMP credential. So, let us look at some quotes from other independent sources.

Salary ranges represent a 20-22 percent increase over non-PMP project manager salaries.


Not earning your PMP is expensive. PMPs typically earn $10,000 more a year than their non-PMP counterparts.


Final Thoughts

We have deduced that one can recover the investment in a few months. Our calculation suggests that the recovery can be done in little more than 2 months. In my opinion, you should set aside a budget equivalent to 3 months of potential increase in your emoluments for attaining the PMP credential.

PMP is an extremely difficult exam. It needs a lot of hard work and perseverance. You should not worry about its cost. You should buy only good quality study material; otherwise it could lead to the failure in the PMP exam.

To prepare for PMP, you should attend a good training program, invest in a good study book and do mock tests from a good simulation software.

Don’t lose sleep over the cost of PMP certification. You are losing lot of money by delaying it.

Over To You

What is your take on the overall cost of doing PMP? Is it too high? Does potential salary increase justify pursuing this credential? Or, do you think there are better ways to get a salary boost?

I would love to hear from you.

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  1. The article is more a marketing material than an actual cost benefit analysis. In order for this to be an actual article, the following information should have been assessed in it:
    1. Other certifications out there.
    2. How true is the PMI statement around the higher salary? Should you rely on the promo material?
    3. Did you take into account taxes on the increased portion of the salary? You are comparing taxable income to the potentially non-taxable expense.

    Very shallow analysis of the situation.

    1. Loved this response and agree 100%, was going to write up a response but yours actually says much of it already. This write up also excludes the time involved spent jumping through these hoops to get this, which is a huge gap in analyzing the true final cost. This is a persuasive piece meant to prop up this money grab…not to mention, many degree programs already have program management built in but this cert route has become trendy and now it is self- propagandizing itself into “necessity”.

      1. Hi G, Probably you are mistaken. I am not selling anything here so this article is not a money grab as you say. I would suggest you to to read it again because it provides a statistical analysis.

  2. Hi Duncan,

    Thank you for your comment. I would love to hear more from you. Maybe you know a little more. It will help not only me but also other readers of the blog. You can write an article and I will share it as a part of this article.

    Let me share my take on your 3 points.
    1. It is a PMP specific article. Just look at the title of this article. I have nowhere suggested that this article is for comparing certification. Its only purpose is, “is PMP worth the expenditure”.
    2. I don’t know how true is PMI statement. I believe PMI’s data is the only scientific statistical data out there. Please share why you think PMI’s statement is not true or if you think that they have published promo material.
    3. Regarding taxes – I am no tax expert and this blog is not about taxable income. But, many countries do provide tax deductions to professionals for educational expenses. Furthermore, if someone starts thinking about taxes, she/he will never strive for an increase in salary.

    Will look forward for your comments.

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