Measuring Project Management Skills

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In any profession, certification provides a structured method of professional growth that can significantly enhance your personal and career goals. Within the project management profession, the organization of choice for certification is the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world’s leading nonprofit professional association in the area of project management.

The PMI certification program, launched in 1984, was created to develop, maintain, evaluate, promote and administer a rigorous, examination-based professional credentialing program of the highest caliber to promote and support project management professionals and the project management profession. The mission of the program is to:



  • Establish, implement and maintain global certification standards, policies and procedures.
  • Implement and promote professional credentialing and psychometric methods and procedures.
  • Initiate and foster cooperation and collaboration with other organizations to promote and sustain excellence in project management standards and methodology.


The PMI certification program supports professional growth and advancement while building greater project management knowledge and skills. PMI professional credentials are widely recognized and accepted by organizations around the world as evidence of a level of knowledge and experience in project management. The program has the distinction of being the first professional certification program in the world to attain International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001 recognition, a globally recognized mark of a quality manufacturing system.

Project Management Professional Certification
PMI’s globally recognized certification is the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. Certified Project Management Professionals are part of a successful group of practitioners who pursue this level of certification to enrich and advance their professional careers. Increasingly, many corporations require the PMP credential for personal advancement within the organization or for initial employment.

“The PMP is the project management credential of choice for many industries and companies,” said Laurie Cooke, director, PMI professional programs. “By attaining the PMP credential, one’s name is automatically included in the largest and most prestigious group of certified professionals in the project management community. Having this credential demonstrates to employers and other stakeholders that a person has a solid foundation of experience and education in project management.”

PMI’s work advancing the PMP certification is a worldwide commitment, as evidenced by the Institute’s growing influence in China. PMI has been working with China’s State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) to introduce PMI standards and certification on behalf of the project management profession in China. Its endeavors there have prompted PMI’s election to the 2003 Associations Advance America Honor Roll, an awards competition in the United States sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) in Washington, D.C. Nearly 3,000 people in China have taken the PMP exam, and SAFEA estimates that at least 35,000 people have taken project management training in China in the past two years.

“It’s been estimated that 5 million managers in China need knowledge of project management, and about 600,000 persons need immediate certification in project management,” said Cooke. “It’s projections like these that convince us that the PMI certification program can and should play an important and valuable role in supporting the global community of project management practitioners by objectively assessing and measuring professional knowledge and holding all candidates to the same credentialing process, requirements and examination.”

The PMP’s acceptance as an internationally recognized project management credential gained even greater momentum with its recent selection by Microsoft as the certification of choice for its Microsoft Services division. “We were in need of an internationally recognized project management certification that would support the professional development of our Services personnel,” said Joe Austin, chief operating officer, Microsoft Services. “PMI’s credentials parallel our own ongoing commitment to quality aimed at customer, partner and employee satisfaction.”

“By supporting the PMP credential program within their organization, Microsoft has clearly shown its commitment to advancing project management, both internally and around the globe,” said Gregory Balestrero, CEO of PMI.

Exam Development
PMI’s certification examinations are based on a role delineation study, a certification industry standard for establishing valid and reliable examinations. The PMP role delineation study investigates the tasks, knowledge and skills of project management practitioners on a global basis. Global individuals are represented in the process of developing and refining the tasks that are subsequently validated by thousands worldwide.

The role delineation study defines the knowledge domains that are to be assessed by the exam. A blueprint for the exam is created that reflects the number of questions needed per domain. Item-writing sessions then occur to create the questions for the exam. PMPs who are trained in item writing from around the world work collaboratively in a facilitated environment to write questions that are subsequently validated by a minimum of three other PMPs. These questions are then subject to additional rounds of review and are finally loaded into the item bank of questions from which exams are created.

After exam questions are finalized, routine maintenance of the items occurs using item-analysis statistics to review the performance of each question. Each question is scrutinized. How difficult is the question? Does it discriminate between those who know the materials and those who don’t? Are the distractors (answer options) performing properly? With the guidance of psychometric (exam development) experts, PMPs review the questions, editing as necessary.

PMP Eligibility
To be eligible for the PMP credential, a practitioner must first meet specific education and experience requirements. He must also agree to adhere to a code of professional conduct. The final step to becoming a PMP is passing a multiple-choice examination designed to objectively assess and measure project management knowledge. The examination is administered globally. At most sites, the examination is offered in a computer-based format. English is the official language of the examination; however, to assist candidates whose first language is not English, the PMP examination is also available in Brazilian-Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions in six categories: Initiating Processes; Planning Processes; Executing Processes; Controlling Processes; Closing Processes; and Professional Responsibility.

In addition to successfully completing an examination, PMPs must also demonstrate an ongoing professional commitment to the field of project management through PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program. This program supports ongoing professional development and the maintenance of the PMP credential. PMPs must accrue a minimum of 60 professional development units (PDUs) during each three-year CCR cycle.

Individuals who do not maintain the necessary professional development or adhere to the code of professional conduct may lose their PMP credential. Those wanting to regain it will have to reapply, demonstrate eligibility, pay the full fee and pass the examination.

Coming: A Brand-New Credential for Newer Practitioners
Beginning in early 2004, PMI will offer the Certified Associate in Project Management

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