What is the value of PMP certification?

Did you know that project managers who hold a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification earn on average more than their uncertified colleagues?

It’s true: the median salary for PMP certificate holders is 16% higher than salaries for people who haven’t yet earned their credentials - and that’s the average across 40 countries, according to research from Project Management Institute (PMI).

In this article, we will break down the PMP certification benefits from a financial and career perspective to answer the question: What is the value of PMP certification? By the end of this article, you’ll know if the PMP is worth it for your career aspirations. We will explore the cost of the training and how to recoup that investment.

What is the PMP certification cost?

The cost of the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification varies depending on your location and whether you are a Project Management Institute (PMI) member. The cost of the PMP certification exam is $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members. Since membership is $129 plus a $10 one-off application fee, it is marginally cheaper to join PMI just to apply for the exam.

Even if you didn’t use any of the other PMI benefits, such as participation in events, the fantastic magazine, or the networking opportunities, it would still be the financially smart choice to join for a year.

However, it is important to note that these fees are only for the exam itself and do not include any other expenses you may incur while preparing for the exam, such as study materials or courses—which we’ll detail more later.

Are there any additional costs associated with obtaining PMP certification?

The three most important pieces of information regarding additional costs associated with obtaining PMP certification are:
  • Exam preparation courses or PMP training, in-person or online, that are designed specifically to prepare you for the PMP exam.
  • Study materials such as books or additional resources that depend on the quality and quantity of materials.
  • Continuing education, since once you have obtained your PMP certification, you will need to evidence your ongoing professional development to maintain it. Continuing education courses can also range in price, depending on the provider and the course content.
Let’s dig deeper into each of these costs to find out if the cost of a PM certification is worth it.

The cost of PMP exam prep courses

The cost of training can vary depending on the provider, but in our case, PrepCast PMP Training typically ranges from $279 to $389. Meanwhile, a PMP exam simulator is at an affordable price of $119.

In our experience, it’s a mistake to self-study without proven training materials and an exam simulator because they increase your chances of passing on the first attempt. To maximize the return on investment, you want your acquisition costs (passing the test) to be as low as possible, which means no resit fees! Practicing the different types of PMP questions improves the likelihood of only needing to take the exam once.

The cost of PMP study materials

The cost of PMP study materials can range from minor to significant, depending on the number of resources and tools you use. Generally, those who choose to purchase physical copies of coursework and study guides can expect to pay anywhere from $50-100, while digital versions of the same material may cost between $30-70.

However, you can often find secondhand or discounted physical copies of PMP study materials and books through online marketplaces, which could reduce the overall cost substantially.

Ultimately, it is essential to consider the value of a PMP certification before exploring the costs associated with obtaining it; this credential carries a high salary premium over your peers which should more than offset any associated investments in educational resources!

What is the cost of maintaining PMP certification?

Once you have obtained PMP certification, there is an ongoing cost to maintain it. As of 2023, the cost to renew your PMP certification is $60 for PMI members and $150 USD for non-members. You will also need to earn a certain number of professional development units (PDUs) every three years to maintain your certification.

Is a PMP certification worth it?

We think so! However, the balance is in the upfront costs compared to the longer-term benefits that you will see paying off for many years. You can see that in the table below.
Short-term investment Long-term benefit
Cost of training and studying Increased salary
Cost of exam fee Improved marketability
Cost of exam simulator Able to apply for a wider selection of high-paying jobs
Cost of taking time off work to study Better job stability
Commitment to taking the exam Career recognition, increased credibility and reputation at work

In the short term, you have to pay for training, a PMP exam simulator for test practice, and the cost of the examination fee.

We have a free PMP exam prep guide, so don’t feel you have to invest in a lot of extra ‘how to pass’ information, as our website has plenty of guidance to get you started.

Financial payback of PMP Certification

Let’s say you are an uncertified project manager in the United States with an average salary of $79,400. Your certified colleague who sits at the next desk to you earns the average salary for a US-based certified project manager, which is $100,170.

Over the next five years, that individual will take home $20,770 per year more than you, which is $103,850.

That’s a lot of skinny lattes and almond croissants on the way to work. Or a sizable chunk of your housing bill.

Case Study: The Financial Gains of A PMP certification

If you are still asking yourself if PMP certification is worth it, think about your future career opportunities.

When a certified professional goes for a promotion or earns a bonus, pays into their pension, or gets a pay raise, it will all be calculated on their base salary. Overall, the financial benefits of being able to command a larger salary are huge throughout your working career.

Past student Deborah Jacques, PMP, reports that she got a 25% salary increase after passing the test. She spent around 80 hours answering PMP exam prep questions in an exam simulator. That sounds a lot, but once the test is done, as Deborah says, she “got her life back.” It’s just a one-off investment of time compared to the benefits you can reap throughout your career. Higher salaries are definitely within your reach!

What’s the return on investment of a PMP Certification?

Here’s how to work out the return on investment for your personal situation in whatever country you are studying and working in.

Step 1: Work out the cost of passing the exam, including the examination fee, training course, exam simulator, and any PMP exam prep books you need.

Step 2: Use the PMI salary survey data on their website to determine the salary difference between a certified and non-certified professionals.

Step 3: Divide the difference in salary (the increase in earnings you could potentially benefit from) by what it will cost you to pass the test.

Let’s work through an example.

Step 1: Cost of passing the exam

PMI membership: $129 + $10 joining fee

Examination fee: $405

Project Management PrepCast training bundle including exam simulator: $349

Total cost: $893

Step 2: Salary differential

Let’s assume you are a Project Manager earning in the 75th percentile on the salary survey, and based in Saudi Arabia. In US Dollars, your average salary could be $39,561 before you earn your certification and $45,816 (excluding any bonus) after certification. That’s a differential of $6,255.

For your calculations, use your actual salary data based on what you earn now and either the PMI salary survey data or equivalent information for your country or job adverts that show salary ranges for the kind of positions you could apply for if you were certified.

Remember, you are not guaranteed a pay raise of this amount on passing the exam. Negotiate your position with your employer, and consider the other benefits you may get as a result. We hear from past students that while some employers pay a step-change in salary, others do not. For those students, the financial benefit comes from being able to secure a new position in another company on a higher salary.

Step 3: Calculate ROI

Divide the difference in salary by the total exam cost. In our example, that is $6,255 divided by $893.

6,255 $893 = 700% ROI.

When you consider how many more years at work you have to go before retirement, that type of return starts to really add up! If you took a project to your boss and presented a business case with a 700% ROI, they’d probably tell you to get started immediately!

PMP Certification value: Added benefits

We’ve seen that there are significant financial benefits to be had for PMP certification holders. But is the PMP worth it from other perspectives too? What else goes into students' mental calculations before signing up for a training course?

Here are some additional career benefits:

  • Career stability
  • Improved confidence
  • Improved credibility
  • Evidencing your commitment to the profession

Career stability

The benefit of earning this certification is not just in earning potential but also in career stability. We’re in rocky economic times at the moment, and being able to evidence you are capable of doing your job can help you recession-proof your career.

Some clients specify that they only want certified project managers on the team. If you work in a fee-earning role like a consultancy, you may find yourself in greater demand than non-certified colleagues.

There are a lot of project management jobs around, but many firms are also making layoffs due to a difficult economic situation and uncertainty about the future.

If your employer decides to downsize the workforce, they will consider project success rates, personal and professional performance, skills, behaviors, and certifications.

Of course, simply having a certification and post-nominal letters is no guarantee that you’ll definitely stay in employment, but it all helps to make you the most marketable project manager you can be!

Improved confidence

You know your stuff, and testing yourself under exam conditions verifies your skills and knowledge in a way that can boost your confidence.

Sarah Fisher Poppe, PMP says, “I have since gotten a promotion and I am implementing PMI standard practices within my company’s Project Management Office. I am grateful I put in the time, and I feel very prepared for the workforce.”

Project management education and having an external body recognize what you know can really help you beat the feelings of imposter syndrome at work. Feeling prepared and confident in your ability spills over into how you interact with stakeholders and how you lead your projects.

Improved credibility

Timothy Kucejko, PMP says, “I found myself attempting to build my credibility in conversations by saying "Hey! I *COULD* pass the PMP exam if I wanted to." It didn't seem to have the same ring to it as "I have a PMP" would. After saying that enough times, I decided to bite the bullet and take the exam.”

Timothy passed his test on the first attempt and can now tell his colleagues he has passed! Earning your certification is a great way to build your reputation and credibility within your workplace.

It’s a challenging exam, and people know that. They know you have to create a PMP study plan, organize your time, balance a range of other commitments, and probably keep working at your job simultaneously. It’s a lot, but you managed it, and people recognize the effort that went into passing.

Evidencing your commitment to the profession

Employers want to know that their team members are committed to doing the job. For example, project managers who approach their work professionally demonstrate their business acumen, intent to break down silos within the organization to work cross-functionally as required, help the wider team make good decisions, and uphold industry best practices. Overall, having those skills helps the company deliver better results for customers and clients.

Jason Gonzalez, PMP says:

“In hindsight, the test itself was difficult and certainly a crucible of sorts, as much a test of endurance as of knowledge. In that way, it represents an important aspect of the PM trade itself – being able to stick with a challenging situation to find an equitable solution is the hallmark of many great project managers, as much as the timely application of the various processes and tools at their disposal. I feel honored to be included in this group, and look forward to a lifelong involvement with the discipline – the benefits are already apparent in both my personal and professional lives, and I will strive to uphold the principles of the trade.”

Ready to take the next step?

We can’t tell a lie: there is an investment in time and money to get certified. But all things considered, it is a worthwhile investment for project managers.

If you’re ready to take the next step and commit to taking the exam, the most important thing to do is to be as prepared as possible for the test. Then you will maximize your return by passing on the first attempt.

Many of our students report that the PM Exam Simulator was a huge help in ensuring they were test-ready. Check it out and see how it can help you get a head start on adding those coveted “PMP” letters after your name.

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