The PMP Certification: What You Need to Know
Managing projects is what engineer officers do on a daily basis—they can validate that workplace experience as part of their professional development by pursuing Project Management Professional certification.
By Col. Stewart R. Fearon, PMP, USA
Army Engineers have different buttons on their uniforms and are known to wear scarlet socks, bow ties, and suspenders to formal functions. But there is more to being an Army Engineer. One way we set ourselves apart is through professionalism.
Not every engineer officer has an engineering degree from an ABET accredited program, which makes it difficult to earn a Professional Engineer (P.E.) license. Most Army Engineers, however, can qualify for a professional credential that can be very valuable to their current position and future career development: PMP certification.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) credential is awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI). It is an industry-recognized certification for project managers and demonstrates that you have the combination of experience, education and competence to lead and manage projects.
As an Army Engineer you will interact with contractors, subcontractors, engineers, superintendents, project managers and project engineers. The PMP credential instantly builds your credibility. In an effort to modernize the Engineer Corps and promote a more professional branch, HQ Department of the Army, G-1 (Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel), merged the three engineer officer areas of concentration into one (12A Engineer, General) and created Additional Skill Identifiers (ASI). PMP certification is recognized with an ASI (W5) for captain through colonel. This ASI will make an engineer more competitive for key project management assignments as they progress through their career.
Given the responsibilities and mission assignments required of their job, Army engineer officers should have a greater knowledge of project management. Next to a P.E. license, the PMP can set officers apart from their peers. As a member of the Engineer Regiment, engineer officers are expected to know how to initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close a project properly. By becoming a PMP-certified engineer you will earn a detailed understanding of integrating all the phases of a project, dealing with the triple constraints of scope, time and cost. PMP training and continued professional development will help you better manage quality, human resources, communications, risk and procurement.
Additionally, the PMP certification may help in transitioning after leaving the service. Whether you get out after your first commitment or stay in for 30 years, at some point all soldiers leave the Army. The knowledge, skills and experiences as an engineer officer are valuable to the civilian sector—but do not always translate into something they are familiar with. PMP certification is internationally recognized and allows potential employers to quickly single you out for an interview so you can better translate how your military experience is what they are looking for.
In order to take the PMP exam, a candidate needs to meet certain pre-requisites. Those with a bachelor’s degree will need a minimum of three years of total experience, and 4,500 hours of project management experience. Those with a high school diploma only can still apply for and take the PMP exam. They are required to have 7,000 hours of project management practice and five years of experience. Almost all of the time an engineer officer or NCO spends in their position can be applied toward the project management experience. All applicants must also have at least 35 hours of formal project management training. The Engineer Officer Basic Course, Engineer Officer Captains Career Course, and Engineer Senior Leader Course will meet the 35 hours of project management education requirement.
Once you submit your application and pay for the exam you have 90 days to submit your audit materials and one year from the date the application is approved to take and pass the exam. You can retake the exam twice for a reduced price during the one-year eligibility period.
The PMP Exam is up to four hours long. It consists of 200 questions covering Project Initiating (11 percent); Planning (24 percent); Executing (30 percent); Monitoring and Controlling (25 percent); and Closing (8 percent). It will test your knowledge of processes; understanding of commonly used terms; ability to apply scheduling, costing and estimating formulas; and your project management professional responsibilities.The good news for engineers, is that this is what we do on a daily basis. One particularly helpful reference in preparing for the PMP exam is “The PMP Exam, How to Pass on Your First Try,” by Andy Crowe. It walks you through the PMI project management process framework and helps translate Army processes and project management practices into the industry language.
A PROFESSIONAL CREDENTIAL
Once a candidate passed the exam they will need to continue professional development by taking training courses or writing professional articles to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs). This is part of being a professional in the Army or the civilian sector.
Engineer Officers in the grade of captain through colonel will want to get their W5 ASI in their personnel record, as it can open up opportunities for unique assignments within the Army. For more information on how to add the W5 ASI to your Official Military Personnel File, see Department of the Army Pamphlet 611-21.
The PMP certification is a recognized credential for project management professionals. It not just adds to your credibility and enhances your capabilities, it can open up career opportunities both inside and outside the Army. And it is something that almost all engineers can strive to attain.