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Is the PMP a better investment than the MBA?
In the short term, I think it is if you’re a project manager... there seems to be some indication that it may be a better investment than getting an MBA. Viewing it from a very general ROI perspective (getting back more than you invested), the amount of money and time needed to invest in an MBA compared with what is needed in money and time for a PMP, the difference on your return on investment can be dramatic.

For example, PMI’s 2011 annual salary survey indicates that getting a PMP will earn you an average of 16% more (approximately US$14,500) than if you were not PMP certified as a project manager. If you take into consideration that it costs around $600 to apply, about $900 – $1,500 to take a decent PMP prep class and about $200 more to buy books, additional prep material, etc., that’s a cost of around $2,000. If we buy into PMI’s survey, that means for $2k you can expect to increase your return to be around 625% in the form of a salary increase. In my own case, I spent around $2k total for my PMP and I got an increase of $30K going from technical lead to project manager which means my return was 1400%! Both the PMI salary survey as well as a survey by ZDNet Tech Republic indicate that PMP certified project managers earn on average $102,000.

Let’s contrast that with what the return would be to graduate from a top tier MBA program like Harvard, where it costs around $112,000 to make an average of $102,000 which comes out to a -8.9% return on investment!... it is a combination of soaring tuition costs, glut of MBA graduates entering the workforce and general dilution of the graduate degree... in the short run, if you are a mid-career professional and a project manager by trade, it might be better to get a PMP and hold off on or maybe entirely write off the MBA. But with any certification or degree that’s in flavor at the moment, you have to decide if what you invest in time and money will allow you to rise above being perceived as just another resource commodity and to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

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I think the answer to your question is "it depends".

In some companies or organizations, the PMP is recognized as the 'gold standard' for PM expertise; in others, it's a "that's nice' situation. In some companies where a PM is not a full time dedicated PM, then an MBA might be more desirable by the employer, but then again, it might--it depends on the situation.

I've had my PMP since 1999 (before it was cool to get a PMP) and earned my Master of Science in Management-Project Management in 2004. The PMP helped me in the salary area, but the master's helped me get a Federal program manager's job in 2008.


Great debate topic. Project Managers seeking new jobs usually get short listed if they have a PMP. If they are already on a job, then it helps them comprehend as well as enable them to recommend PM practices in their organization. This might give them chances of getting promoted and therefore some monetary rewards.

However, an MBA tells your organization that you are serious in pursuing your long term career goals. It also puts you in a different league as you have the potential to expand your network in a peer network that might have many leaders. Usually, MBA also gives you a cutting edge in thinking strategically and from a big picture perspective.

Jiju (Jay) Nair
Thanks for the great subject and provided statistic report.

Besides the impact on the salary and the associated income due to PMP certificate or MBA, each one has its own advantages for individuals as well as organizations, so can’t be replaced.

I do believe PMP is more focused on project management knowledge skills while MBA helps to improve the maturity level of general management for taking portfolio management capabilities.

In addition, it’s notable that leadership and innovation skills are quite more improving during the course of MBA than PMP and other PMI related certificates.
I agree with the answer 'it depends'. Getting a PMP is a cheaper option than an MBA, so in that respect the return on your investment is easier to recoup. But it also depends where in the world you are and what sort of job you are going for. If you want a senior PMO Director or Project Leadership type of role, the hiring organisation may well be looking for more rounded management skills. These days you can get MBAs and MScs with a focus on project management, so that gives you the general management background with the PM skills too.

In my opinion, most hiring managers will look for experience over a bit of paper that says you can do a job.
I'm not looking for a job right now as I work in the Federal civil service. I still help with networking, so I receive a lot of job announcements looking for PM candidates. With the exception of one last week, every job announcement I received from a headhunter in the last 12 months had "PMP" on it; not MBA.

The last time I read a job announcement for a PM that said "MBA preferred" and did not state "PMP required" or "PMP desired" was over 10 years ago.
I am with Elizabeth on this one; however it is interesting to see how in the US there is more an emphasis on PMP or MBA than there is in the UK. PM adverts in the UK do not usually require PMP, rarely MBA, they tend to be looking for suitable experience relevant to the project and the business sector. The requirement in adverts for PMP was overtaken by Prince2 a few years ago but that seems to be rapidly being dropped - I just looked at several PM adverts and none mention either PMP or Prince2. I couldn't find any that mentioned MBA either, but would more expect that to be at a more strategic level than PM. I find moving forward that qualifications relating to finance and HR would be useful for a PM too.
Just for laughs, I did two searches on to see how many project manager ads called out an MBA and how many called out a PMP. The results were:

"project manager" and MBA as keywords: 93 full time jobs

"project manager" and PMP as keywords: 654 full time jobs

Maybe my math is a bit rusty, but "PMP" appears to be more in demand today for PMs than "MBA", at least on

Where I come from, what employers are seeking drives the job market; not what employees think is important. Draw your own conclusions
For project work as an individual contributor project manager of some kind, I would say go for the PMP. For management work as a manager with responsibilities for business planning, P&L, people management, and all that goes with managing a team, department, business unit, or division, etc, I would say get the MBA.

In a sense, the comparison is an apples to oranges comparison, though an important comparison to make. Project management - business administration; they are too very different roles and skillsets. Does a professional project manager that loves project management really even want to get into business administration? Likewise, does a business manager want or need to get a certification in project management? As so often is the case, the answer is likely to be "it depends".

I would also say it depends on an individual's professional goals. I have a friend who is a project manager, only wants to be a project manager and is a fantastic project manager. He is much better served by the PMP than a MBA.

If the goal is to progress to higher levels of leadership, I say pursue the MBA.

However, I think in today's world the PM must have a sufficient level of business acumen to ensure project outcomes. So I would advise any PM working for me to pursue such knowledge.
I think we are not comparing the same thing.
PMP is a certification whilst MBA is education.

I have the Australian equivalent of the PMP and an MBA.

They serve two different purposes for me. The PMP equivalent proves to employers I am a competent project manager, whilst the MBA shows I have an understanding of how business works and can converse confidently with executives in the business terms they understand. Both have helped me in my career but in different ways.
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