Certification: A Question of Value

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

What value does gaining a project management certification really give you? Last year’s PMI Salary Survey found that PMP credential holders in the U.S. earned an average of 16 percent more (approximately US$14,500) than their non-credentialed peers. So a PMP credential must be worth an extra $14,500 a year on your salary then, right?

But hold on...statistics can be misleading. The median salary for a BMW-owning household is around $160,000 annually, whereas Audi owners average $183,000. So would switching from a BMW to an Audi get you an extra $23,000 per year? Of course not. All we are really observing is a correlation not the causation.

Society is littered with similar questionable connections. Ice cream sales and drownings spike each summer, but ice cream is not a major cause of drowning (you would need a lot of melted ice cream). Also, with a decrease in the wearing of hats, there has been an increase in global warming over the same period. So, is global warming caused by people abandoning the practice of wearing hats? No, these are coincidently connected.

Yet the salary surveys are relentless and seductively appealing. According to a survey by ZDNET's Tech Republic, the following are the highest paying certifications to have in the IT industry:

  • PMI Project Management Professional (PMP): their survey measured an average annual salary of $101…

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