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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Do certifications always prove you're qualified to do the job?

Recently, I have come to the understanding that many certs fail to really certify whether or not someone can truly master material and do an effective job. There are quite a few individuals who are just very good test takers or students, if you will, and they study very hard or take expensive 'crash-courses' to help them pass with a high score.

There are a very few amount of certifications that I believe don't fail however. I can honestly say I have NEVER met someone that became an 'Oracle Master' that really wasn't at least a 7/10 on a 10-point scale. (Most DBAs being 3, 4 or 5.) Someone like Tom Kite or Kevin Loney being around the 10 range. This certification, of course, requires you to take hands on labs that are very difficult and stressful, along with prerequisite certifications and courses.

On the other hand, a very popular certification that seems to garner a lot of attention is PMI's PMP cert. This is for project management. Unfortunately, employers drool over this certification. PMI tried to do an extensive job of screening out people that are even allowed to TAKE the exams by having you fill out how much management work you've done, references, companies, and the whole 10 yards. Unfortunately, employers seem to feel that this means PMI has cleared this person as a top proj manager, and they don't have to have their own proven, top level project managers interview them on their PM skills and abilities.

Because of this, you have people that have 'hacked' their way through the PMI process unfairly by barely qualifying or by manipulating the system, then they take expensive crash courses, and they pass with a high score- BUT they have never truly managed a highly stressful and big-money project! They sometimes even ignore the holy trinity of constraints- resources, time, and project scope!

Does this mean a cert like the PMP is junk? Absolutely not. But it needs to be taken cautiously, and not frivolously. Interview these PMP's with your own proven top-level PMPs and see if they really can pull their weight. If you have a PMP with 20 years experience, vs one with 8-10...well, you can do the math.

Do your homework ahead of time, and make sure the PMP you're hiring is proven- and not just from the references THEY give you! Putting an PMP in charge of a project that could jeapordize the project is very dangerous, and you sadly don't realize this until the project is hitting it's critical points!


  1. I can only speak about Project Management certifications. It seems to me that seasoned Project Managers think that a PMP certification proves nothing, while new Project Managers think of it as a must-have asset. For an example, check this article: Project Management Institute's PMP qualification. Check the article itself and the comment, and you'll see what I mean.

  2. As someone who has a PMP title, I can honestly say that smart and strong observers can likely pick up most of the PMP's messages and teachings very quickly. Most of them are common sense. The teachings are not rocket science, not are they extremely detailed. If you've been on a handful of projects, you probably know where problems are likely to occur. You just need to balance the proactive and reactive approaches. I don't feel my PMP was worth my time and effort, and I lead large projects for a Big 5.

  3. As a PMP, I believe that Certifications should be an acknowledgement that one is proficient at successfully accomplishing your job. Certifications should NOT be taking a course and passing a test. An therein is the dilemma; certifications appear to be a pre-requisite to getting a job whereas experience should be the pre-requisite to getting a job.

  4. I have a PMP, and I believe that the process is worthwhile, but should only be one piece in evaluating a person's project management talent. It can not take the place of years and years of hard experience. There are plenty of people out there getting these credentials (over 250K people!) and one will eventually have to go back to the good old measuring stick- years of experience and amount and quality of large projects.