What a 20-year difference will do to the PMP certificate

In the last article, we wrote about the PMP and if the PMP exam represents the real world.

Then, a post on LinkedIn triggered this post where a person posted his newly achieved certificate claiming that he is now “A Certified Project Manager.” A quick look at his profile on LinkedIn shows that this is a young professional, 3-year out of college, and his experience has been pure engineering; technical roles, not a project management role.

As I result, I read the certificate to remind myself of what PMI is telling us on the certificate. The wording led me to dig up my certificate from about 2 decades ago and read what it said.

The following image shows the two certificates side by side.

Comparing a 1998 with a 2016 PMP Certificate

I posted this image on LinkedIn to see what people thought. I will share one comment before giving our views.

The Comment

With permission from the person who posted the next message and wished not to be identified here: “I don’t believe that the 2016 certificate is accurate in its statement i.e. I recently interviewed a fresh college graduate (22 years old), who proudly stated that he/she was a Project Management Professional, and showed me her PMP certificate. When I asked what experience he/she had, I was told that he/she took part in a College project during the summer vacation and also worked part-time on the project for six months (with two others students on the team). It turns out that they are also PMPs.”

The First Certificate

The PMP Certificate from 1998Notice the wording of the first one. It only says that the person met the requirements for achieving the PMP; a project management professional. It does not explain what these requirements, one will have to refer to the guidelines. However, it is clear that it does not say the person is (1) project manager, (2) … read about the second image next.

The second image has a lot of BIG words – which raise many questions.

The Second Certificate – 1

The PMP Certificate from 2016First phrase: how can, or did PMI verify that the person has “demonstrated experience”?

Yes, the applicant does submit 4500 hours of work experience, but does PMI verify this experience? Do they verify that (a) the person has actually 4500 hours and (b) that those 4500 hours are relevant to the PMP? The example listed earlier (in The Comment) is not very uncommon. We have seen people who only had an internship in accounting or working in a computer lab on campus, only, and they have the PMP.

Once again, what triggered this post is the person posting his PMP certificate on LinkedIn is an engineer – with three years experience but in technical roles – not project management. What he posted is that NOW he is a “Certified Project Manager”.

The Second Certificate – 2

The second phrase says that the person has “knowledge” (OK) and performance?

Same question, how does PMI evaluate performance? All they ask for on the PMP application is that the person worked on project related activities. They do not ask how the person performed. The person could be the best and most qualified person on the team or close to being the mail clerk. Again, with no questions on performance in the application, how does PMI verify it?

I know, some will say “but Mounir, the person passed the test”. Passing a test is a proof of knowledge, not performance.

The Second Certificate – 3

The third phrase is even more grandiose. It says that the person is achieving “organizational objective“. How? Did PMI evaluate that? Did they ask the applicant’s manager? Some will say but there is audit; (a) Audit is likely about 5% of


Did PMI evaluate that? Did they ask the applicant’s manager? Some will say but there is audit; (a) Audit is likely about 5% of

Did they ask the applicant’s manager? Some will say but there is audit; (a) Audit is likely about 5% of

Some will say but there is audit; (a) Audit is of about 5% of applicants and it is not likely to be more than 10% (b) it is to verify documents and a person saying yes this person works here.

Does PMI calls the manager to verify experience – or performance – or achieving organizational objectives?

The Second Certificate – 4

The last phrase. I love this and it says that the applicant is “defining and overseeing projects and resources” All I say here is back to The Comment.


Our view is that the second certificate is overblown and does not accurately represent reality. It may represent the intent of the PMP but not the practice of awarding this certificate. I would not be surprised if this certificate is not in violation of (1) certification standards, (2) marketing laws, (3) ethics and PMI own code of conduct.

The statements are not true – there is nothing in the application or exam that verify (evaluate) a person’s “performance” on the job or his/her ability to meet the “organizational objective”.

A while back a graduate from a university sued her university for not being able to find a job. Would someone sue PMI one day for misrepresenting reality? Does PMI care to protect its certification?

In closing, let us keep in mind this scenario.

To achieve an engineering degree (or any field of study), let us assume the minimum passing requirement in a typical USA university is a GPA of 2.0 which would be equivalent to 70%. However, whether the graduating engineer has 70% or 90% or even 100% that does not mean the person is a competent engineer. All it means that this person either barely passed engineering school (70% graduates) or has mastered the knowledge of what he studied (90%+ people). This is why in many countries and states in the USA they require a Professional Engineer License to designate a person as a competent engineer. The PE usually require extensive exams and references by professional engineers who can vouch for the person expertise.

If one compare this to the PMP – no one knows the passing score for the exam but the last published one was 61% and before that 68%. Notice this is lower than the passing requirement for an engineer. At these levels, a person cannot graduate from a typical engineering school; it is a failing grade. Further, this grade is only from a 4-hour exam and not a four-year degree and 40+ courses.

We must close by saying that there is significant value in studying to become a PMP and the PMP as a certificate has value in the professional community but once again, PLEASE understand what the PMP is and what it is not.

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About Mounir Ajam

A Project Management thought leader, who believes that project management touches all people, in all aspects of life; personal and professional.Initiated and led the formation of SUKAD Corp to develop the Uruk PPM Platform.An advocate of real-world, practical and applied project management.Champion of adaptive project management, tailored methods, and organizational project management.Available anywhere in the world to advise executives and organizations on the strategic value of project management. Ready to help organizations build and sustain the Project Management Function and the capacity to lead projects successfully.