One of the main reasons project managers take the Project Management Professional (PMP)(R) certification is because they know it will make a difference to their earnings.
It’s a big difference too: the median global average salary for PMP certificate holders is 16% higher than salaries for uncertified project managers.
The PMP certification salary is an attractive incentive for taking the exam in the first place. And when you think about the difference in earning potential over your whole career, a few thousand dollars (or pounds, or rupees, or euros) makes a huge difference.
In this article, we’ll discuss how PMP certification influences your salary and how you can leverage your exam pass to negotiate higher pay.
But first, let’s take a look at the career prospects for project managers more generally so you can see what kind of roles will help you earn a market-leading salary.
Project managers are definitely in demand! PMI’s in-depth research into this area has identified the need for 2.3 million people per year to enter project management related roles to keep up with demand. They are forecasting that globally, there needs to be another 25 million professionals by 2030 to meet business and industry demand.
The US Government’s own analysis agrees that in the United States alone there will be an increase in project-related jobs at the pace of around 7% a year, with upwards of 70,000 positions being advertised per year.
That’s a lot of roles!
There are a few reasons why project management is an in-demand job. From what we see, and the research we’ve read, the main reason is that business is becoming more and more projectized. More work is being done using project management processes and techniques because the pace of change is increasing. Project management skills provide the perfect way to deliver change in an organization, at pace, and in a way that is structured, measurable and repeatable.
In addition, many experienced professionals are retiring, and that is creating a knowledge drain across all sectors of industry.
Project managers are an integral part of today’s workforce and that isn’t going to change any time soon.
We bet you want to know how much is the average project manager’s salary, right? While they may love the job, being able to take home a decent wage is a key reason why many people go into the job in the first place. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median pay is $94,500 a year.
Let’s break that down further and take a look at project management roles in Canada as another example.*
The average salary for an entry level project manager without a PMP credential is CAN$82,918 including bonus.
Contractors on day-rate contracts and specialists with expertise in high-demand and technical subjects can command even higher salaries.
As with all jobs, the average salary you can expect depends on a number of factors including:
Take a look at the job adverts for positions in the industry you are interested in working in, and in the city or location where you would like to work. Look at the job requirements including what certifications or exams are listed as essentials or nice to haves. That research will give you a clear indication of the market value and what you can expect to earn. It will also come in useful later when you approach your manager, having passed your exam, to negotiate for a higher salary!
Going back to our Canadian example, let’s say you are in the early stages of your career and just completed your PMP certification exam. A certified project manager, still in a relatively junior role, can earn an average of CAN$91,986.
Once you have a few more years of experience, a project manager with PMP salary rises to CAN$104,529 including bonus.
A PMP-certified program manager could reach up to CAN$185,000.
The PMP certification value compounds over time. It increases your salary because it shows employers that you are serious about your career choice and that you have the skills to help them get great business results. They know you are a competent, experienced professional and the rate they pay should reflect that.
Generally, experienced PMs can earn more, and certification is an easy way to show that you have relevant work experience. Simply meeting the eligibility requirements to take the exam demonstrates that you have 60 months of experience leading projects within the past 8 years. Employers value experience because so much of delivering successful change relies on having been through the process and building good working relationships with colleagues and team members, so experience really does make a difference.
You can work with a PMP certification in pretty much any industry or location. Project management is a universal, transversal and global skill. Most large cities and centers of industry will have the requirement for skilled professionals - and many employers offer the option to work remotely so they can tap into the network of resources from overseas or out of town.
One of the PMP certification benefits is that it is a universally-recognized, globally respected certification and that can open opportunities for working in different countries or industries. This can result in some amazing career experiences if you are open to travel.
Project managers often find themselves in demand in the following industries:
In addition, there are often highly paid opportunities within consulting firms too.
We are yet to find an industry that does not require project management skills. You’ll also be able to find jobs in the education sector, hospitality, non-governmental organizations and charities, although these might not pay as well as other industries.
Your PMP exam prep is over and you’ve passed the exam. How do you go about negotiating a salary increase?
Unless you have an agreement with your current employer that they will increase your salary on passing the PMP exam, you are not guaranteed a pay rise. However, you could still be successful at securing one, if you effectively negotiate and explain your position.
Start by having an informal conversation with your manager about the possibility for securing a pay increase to reflect your certification status and new skill set. They may be open to putting the case to the remuneration committee on your behalf, especially if there is a precedent for salary increases already, for example if other members of the team passed the exam and then got a raise. (Ask them! If you have a good relationship with your certified colleagues, ask them if their exam success led to a pay increase. They don’t have to tell you how much, but simply knowing that they were offered a raise will help you justify your own ask.)
Find out what the process is for requesting a review of your salary. Be prepared to justify why you are worth the extra by stating what difference you have made to the organization since you started working through your PMP study plan.
Do some research into salary trends for your role to give an idea of the figure you could hope for. It may be reasonable to ask for a step-change in salary to bring you in line with the market average for your industry and area. Alternatively, an acceptable salary rise may be only a few percentage points - but longer term it all helps!
If it does not seem likely that you will secure a pay rise, there may be other options for negotiation instead, like increased benefits, pension subscriptions or a larger bonus.
The negotiation effort can take a long time and may not give you the result you desire. In that case, you may find it easier to secure your salary expectations by moving to a different employer.
Remember to check if there are any restrictions on your ability to move jobs without repaying your training and exam fees to your employer (assuming they paid in the first place). Some contracts specify that if the employer paid for your training, they expect you to stay in the role for a certain length of time after the training. If you leave prior to that period, you risk having to repay some or all of the training costs. The law on this varies so get some advice and check your contract.
Passing the PMP exam is only the starting point for a well-paid, responsible and rewarding career. You’ll also have to maintain your PMP status throughout your career to continue your ongoing professional development.
PMI makes this incredibly easy with an online system for logging professional development units (PDUs). One PMP PDU equals one hour of professional development. They can be made up of a huge range of practical and enjoyable ways to continue to boost your learning and skills.
Keeping your PMP status up-to-date shows that you are continuing to commit to the career, and that your knowledge is current. You’re demonstrating that you understand best practice and evolving business trends and can continue to add value to your organization.
There are lots of ways to earn cost-effective or free PDUs like listening to project management podcasts, attending webinars or even simply doing your job as a practitioner.
Ready to take the next step?
Now you know about the PMP certification salary expectations, are you ready to take the next step and secure that for yourself?
In this article, we’ve shown you what a career in project management can pay, and what a difference PMP certification makes to your potential earnings. The only caveat is that you have to take and pass the exam.
The PMP Exam Simulator is the fastest and most efficient way to confirm what you know so you can book your test date and get that exam out of the way. Find out more here.
* Data is taken from the PMI Salary Survey - Twelfth Edition (2021).
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