Beyond PMP: Taking your project management ambitions to the next level

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Go beyond PMP with PgMP and PfMP.Congratulations on achieving your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. You’ve worked hard to achieve one of the tech industry’s Top 10 certifications.

The PMP is part of the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) certification family. PMP has a prestigious pedigree — PMI is the world’s leading project management organization and currently boasts more than 450,000 members organized into 280 regional chapters.

As you have learned, PMP certification validates one’s skill in project management and the PMP credential has had a tremendous impact on business. PMPs are working in all types of industries across the globe. A large part of PMP’s popularity and prestige is that it qualifies you to work in virtually “any industry, with any methodology, and in any location.”

Your PMP is also going to increase your earning potential. According to the latest PMI Salary Survey, PMPs earn 20 percent more than their non-certified peers. Employers value the PMP for its cost savings — when more than one-third of their project managers are PMP-certified, organizations complete more of their projects on time, on budget and on top of their original goals.

Again, congratulations. You have the salary, the rank and the expertise to be called a PMP; you are in fact a “project hero.” But now what? Where do you go from here? Is there growth after obtaining this high-ranking cert? Is this the end of the road, or is there a way to go above and beyond in the project management domain?

The answer is yes, there is. Let’s take a look at two options that are open to you.


The first option for additional certification is as a Program Management Professional (PgMP). This credential signifies a program manager’s competency and advanced skills at managing multiple related projects in a coordinated manner, so as to achieve the strategic goals of their organization. A PgMP is skilled at efficiently managing, simultaneously and consecutively, multiple complex work streams and projects.

The certification process is similar to that required for the PMP — applicants fill out a detailed history of their experience in program management and assert that they have met the required prerequisites. Just fulfilling the prerequisites by themselves is a major career milestone. They are met in one of two ways:

Complete a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
6,000 hours of project management experience
10,500 hours of program management experience

A four-year degree
6,000 hours of project management experience
6,000 hours of program management experience

Once your detailed history has been compiled, you simply mail it off to the Project Management Institute (PMI) and then wait to hear back from PMI reviewers (a group of PMI certified professionals with extensive knowledge and expertise in program management).

If you’re lucky, then you won’t be one of the approximately 25 percent of applicants selected for an audit. If you are unlucky, then you will have to prove all of your experience by providing details surrounding your program-level management of projects. You will also probably have to back up your claims with some professional references (another good reason to keep accurate records and not burn bridges). Bottom line: Don’t fudge the numbers. If you claim it, be sure you’ve done it.

Assuming the reviewers approve your application, you will then be required to pass two evaluations that include:

A review by a panel of PMI appointed program managers who will go through your work experience and verify any “aspect” of your application.

An exam during which you will demonstrate your knowledge encompassing a variety of situations and scenarios by passing a four-hour long, 170 multiple-choice question exam covering five domains: Strategic Program Management, Program Life Cycle, Benefits Management, Stakeholder Management, and Governance.

Earning your PgMP certification is a tough slog, but having it will set you apart as a “senior-level practitioner at the forefront of your field” along with a commensurate salary and various other professional benefits.


A second certification option beyond the PMP is the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP). This credential takes program management a step further, aligning your enterprise by selecting the right programs or projects, prioritizing the work, and managing resources.

PfMP holders are skilled at balancing the never-ending conflicting demands among programs and projects, allocating resources based on organizational priorities and capacity, and managing it all so as to achieve organizational objectives. Think of the PfMP as the ability to align multiple programs, even across multiple organizations. A purveyor of this methodology has the skills and abilities to run a large project management office (PMO) at a very large company.

As with the PgMP, meeting the prerequisites for this cert is a significant accomplishment all by itself. Applicants must be able to claim one of the following:

A minimum of eight years of professional business experience
Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
10,500 hours of portfolio management experience

Four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent)
6,000 hours of portfolio management experience

The process for this cert veers off the path a bit in regards to the PMP and the PgMP. It adds two extra layers by having you thoroughly address a set of six areas that qualify you to take the test. You submit your answers for review by a peer committee and wait for their approval. Once that happens you can actually sign up to take the test.

It is this author’s experience that the peer committee review is no joke. I had to rewrite my answers to “Why I deserve to even apply to take the test” half a dozen times. It’s around a 20-day process.

The PfMP examination process is pretty much like the PgMP — a panel review and then the exam which is also 170 multiple-choice questions, to be completed in four-hours. The exams for both certs are a test of endurance and an ode to one’s commitment. The questions are long, and the scenarios detailed. They truly test the body of knowledge of each cert.

The cost of the exams is $1,000 U.S., but if you are a PMI member then it will only cost you $800 U.S.

Once you pass the exam and become a PMI member, plunk down the extra money and sign up for your local chapter. You can meet some great people at these gatherings. It is the single best way to network in the project management field. A good item to note is that students get an extreme discount for this also. If you are a life-long learner, then signing up for college classes will save you big money.

Go beyond PMP with PgMP and PfMP.Tips for the test and study material

As always, sign up for the test as soon as you can be ready for it. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “Nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of being hanged on a certain date.” I can’t stress how much it creates a go-live date in your mind and focuses you on the goal.

The material on the internet is vast. While a seminar class will be really effective, it will cost you more money. I recommend books and sample test questions for these two certifications. Anything off of Amazon will work wonders for passing the test.

PMI does offer excellent study courses via local chapters and Registered Education Providers (REPs). You can find an REP near you by clicking here.  Another good idea is get a study buddy; even an online-only compatriot will produce amazing results.

PMI, and I, both suggest that you review the PfMP handbook and the Standard Portfolio Management, and use the Exam Content Outline. You can find links to these publications here.

One final note, take the exams early after a good night’s sleep and a great breakfast; probably something with bacon, because bacon makes everything better (even funerals). And remember to take a break during the exam — it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Go for it

Moving past the PMP into the PgMP and PfMP will take your knowledge and skillset to the extreme. Gaining all three certifications will give you the famed hat-trick of project management and you’ll be the envy of your peers … if you have any, at that point.

I wish you the best of luck.

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Nathan Kimpel


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.

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