By Tim Dalhouse, MBA, PMP
The real answer is: It depends. But, then again, that’s the favorite answer for almost everything from any project manager who truly understands the art of integration management.
The cost actually depends on your choices in three areas.
- Will you join the Project Management Institute (PMI®)?
- Will you study on your own or attend some version of instructor-taught PMP certification training, commonly known as a PMP Boot Camp?
- If you choose to attend a PMP Boot Camp, which training provider will you choose?
PMP stands for Project Management Professional, and it’s arguably the most popular project management certification in the world today. The experiences of myself and many other project managers I know, also indicate that it can have a significant increase on marketability and one’s earnings potential.
To answer the first question, let’s look at what joining PMI is all about. PMI is the global organization who sets standards for project management, with their most popular being A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®), which is currently published in 12 languages. PMI also created and grants the PMP certification to approved project managers. When you decide to pursue PMP certification, you have a choice of whether to become a member of PMI or not; membership is not required in order to obtain the PMP certification. However, joining PMI has several benefits, one of which is a discount on certification testing.
If you choose not to join PMI, the initial testing fee for the PMP certification is $555. If you join PMI, that initial fee is reduced to $405, a savings of $150. There is also a difference in the retesting fees…yes, unfortunately everyone does not pass on their first try. The retesting fee for PMI members is $275 and for non-members it’s $375, if the retest is taken within one year of your initial approval to test. The cost for individual PMI membership is $139, but the special full-time college student rate is only $32. So, doing the math, any way you look at it, you will save a few bucks if you join PMI before you apply and pay for the PMP exam. There are many other benefits of PMI membership, besides reduced testing costs, which should be considered when making the decision, like access to resources and networking. For more details on those benefits, visit http://www.pmi.org/Membership/Membership-Benefits-of-Membership.aspx.
The second choice that affects your cost of PMP certification is whether you will do self-study or attend instructor-taught training, such as a PMP Boot Camp. To be clear, no official PMP certification training is required to take the PMP exam. While there is a PMI requirement for 35 hours of formal “Project Management Education”, it can be met from a multitude of sources; I met my education requirement by submitting courses taken in pursuit of an MBA degree. So, if you have some training related to project management, such as college business courses, you may not need any additional training to qualify. However…you should really do your research, and think long and hard about whether you can conquer the PMP exam without formal training from a quality instructor; most people cannot do it alone.
If you do choose the self-study option, you may experience costs related to books, self-study online courses, flash-cards, videos, etc. There are also some good helpful groups to network with on social media, such as on LinkedIn. The self-study option has a very wide range of potential costs, but ballpark figures are from $0-$500, depending on what tools you decided to use.
The Syracuse University Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP) is a free option for Military Veterans, which may work for some people, but keep in mind that this one falls under the category of self-study.
Self-study options may cost less than instructor-led options, but they will require a significant amounts of self-discipline. Plus, they don’t offer the interaction of a knowledgeable instructor to clarify difficult concepts, emphasize important points, provide expert insight on how to navigate the traps of extremely tricky PMP questions, and set you up with a targeted, post-class study plan. Only those with a strong academic background and well-developed testing prowess should expect to be successful by using just self-study.
If you are smart, in my opinion, and choose to take a formal, instructor-taught PMP Boot Camp, you have a lot of choices with a broad range of prices. The great thing is that most instructor-taught courses will help make you much more prepared for and confident about passing the PMP exam on your first attempt.
While the knowledge required to pass the PMP exam is universal, instructor-led options are certainly not all equal; and, the old adage that “you get what you pay for” does not uniformly apply. The purpose of this article is certainly not to disparage any certain course or provider, however, I certainly recommend that you do your research before choosing, because they are not all equal.
I have been teaching PMP certification training for about 2 years now, have taught for 7 different organizations, and used 6 different curricula. I have a favorite curriculum, but they all contain basically the same information, presented in slightly different formats, so any of them can result in you learning what you need to pass the exam.
The real differentiator is the instructor; but, you probably already know that from the myriad of courses you have taken since being a child. The teacher can make or break the learning experience. In general, most reputable companies use quality instructors and can get you where you need to be. Some providers, however, don’t really know their instructors and hire them at the last minute by doing a search through social media and resume sites looking for trainers after they already have students signed up for a class through their online marketing efforts. I’ve been contacted numerous times by companies who want me to teach a class next week after only looking at my resume and not even verifying my PMP certification. This type of practice results in hit or miss instructor quality, and is not where you should invest your money.
To avoid this, ask the training organization to provide you with the bio, credentials and references of the instructor assigned to your course before you register and pay them anything. If they are unable or unwilling to do that, then move along and choose more wisely.
A quick online search will show a range of prices for PMP Boot Camps ranging from $597-$3,000. Why is there so broad a range? Some companies are able to charge more due to their name-brand, and they really need to charge more due to their infrastructure cost. However, the price really has little to do with the quality, and you may be wasting your money by paying the higher rates, because quality instructors work for both the high-end and low-end cost providers. I teach my own courses to Militay Veterans and DOD agencies & contractors for $597 webinar and $797 classroom. I also teach periodically as a contract trainer for companies that charge over $2,000…the training and instructor are the same; the only difference is price. Why pay more? Great question; you should do the research and answer that question for yourself. Here are a few to check out:
www.velociteach.com at $2,447
www.vets2pm.com at $1197
https://timdalhouse.com at $597
Another consideration for Military Veterans is whether the training provider will purposely and effectively relate the curriculum and material to the military experience. The training should provide parallel military and civilian examples and analogies to ensure that Veterans make the connection between the Project Management Body of Knowledge, their military project experience and how they will apply it all in the civilian world. This targeted approach will ensure Military Veterans learn what they need to know to pass the PMP exam; and, that they are ready to bring immediate value to civilian employers as professional project managers. I do this as the foundation of my business model.
The last considerations in choosing a training provider would be to talk to prior students who have already passed the PMP exam; and, whether or not the training provider will allow you take the training again at no cost if you don’t pass on your first try. This consideration may be a huge one down the road if you don’t pass and find yourself in need of additional tutoring.
The cost of PMP certification is not cheap; but, if you do the research, you can find a great way to get prepared that works for your budget and your learning needs. Always keep in mind, though, that regardless of what amount of time or money you end up investing, the PMP credential will make you immensely more competitive in the job market, and generally result in higher compensation. The opportunity cost of not getting the PMP credential is less job opportunities and decreased pay. The hard work is definitely worth it to obtain your PMP; it’s why I have been successful in the civilian world after a 24-year career as an enlisted U.S. Marine.
One last thought, Military Veterans may be able to get some of the fees discussed here paid for by the Veteran’s Administration (VA), especially those in the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program, which is sometimes referred to as the Chapter 31 Program or through the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA). Talk to your VA benefits counselor or county Workforce counselor to see if you qualify.
Tim Dalhouse, MBA, PMP is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant who stumbled into a civilian career as a Project Manager and found it a perfect fit. He now makes it his mission to help other Veterans obtain the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) credentials, and help DOD agencies & contractors increase their organizational project management maturity. He’s trained over 500 students around the country to master and apply the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) for consistent, real-world success. Email: email@example.com. Website: is https://timdalhouse.com