PMP vs. MBA or PMP & MBA
I recently saw an article that called the PMP the poor man’s MBA. I see the MBA and PMP credentials far differently. Lets look at how each credential can enhance your career:
PMP – When you earn the PMP credential, you demonstrate you have five to seven years relevant project management experience (PMI does a very good job of vetting PMP candidates), and the basics of Project Management education. It also shows you can synthesize your experience to answer the complex questions on the very difficult PMP exam to a level of proficiency that enables you to pass the exam. It prepares you to better lead projects in a global economy with other PMP’s all speaking the same project management language. It also gives your resume an added boost when looking for Project Management positions because while over twenty million people call themselves project managers, less than 5% carry this prestigious credential. Learn more about the PMP with the Cheetah Smart Start Guide to the PMP.
Project Management positions are typically mid-level management, tactical in nature – very important yes, and quite possibly, if you maneuver your career correctly can even put you on an executive track. But you’re going to have to do more than just do a fantastic job of managing your projects to do make it to the “C” suite.
MBA – Where you earn your MBA, your area of focus, and your grades all make a huge difference on what the MBA does for your career. For example, if you get your MBA with a concentration in finance from Harvard Business School vs. if you get your MBA with a concentration in marketing online from the University of Phoenix, you will have demonstrated vastly different capabilities and be able to pursue much different opportunities. So lets look at the MBA in finance from Harvard – typically in MBA oriented programs, there is a strong emphasis on strategy. Strategy is the purview of the executive track. Making sure your projects are aligned with your strategy and doing well in executing your projects does give a company a strategic advantage, but this is where an MBA’s interests end with respect to project management.
So, it makes more sense instead of saying do I get the PMP or do I get the MBA, the question needs to be – which one do I do first – as both are very important if you want to move up the ranks into the executive suite in your career.
I would recommend you get the PMP FIRST – and get some solid experience leading projects of increasing complexity under your belt. In discussions with recruiters over the years, they found it much more valuable people who had some experience then got their MBA. In learning, having context for why you are learning what you are learning makes a big difference in what you will take away from your educational experience.
Becoming a PMP is relatively inexpensive and gives you a very fast return on investment (MBA speak). In PMP lingo, you learn how to do an Expected Value Analysis (EVA) – that is the cost vs. the benefits of specific events happening over the course of pursuing your goal. Below is the Expected Value Analysis of taking Cheetah Learning’s Accelerated Exam Prep for the PMP four day course, vs. studying over a six month period. You will see the results are pretty remarkable if you put your pursuit of the PMP on the fast track – which makes sense considering you could be getting a pay raise that much faster (not to mention the Cheetah approach substantially reduces your risk of failure).
The MBA is a much longer term effort and a far greater financial commitment – but actually very helpful if you want to move into the executive ranks in business. And not just for the pedigree – for what you actually learn in business school. If you can get into a good program that has a solid track record of their MBA’s moving into executive positions, you have more assurance the program will help you develop the skills you need to lead a business. Read our White Paper – Better Projects Better Business to see the role Project Managers play in improving a business.
From my personal experience, I got the PMP first, then I want to Harvard Business School for their three year program called Owner President Managed (OPM). The program was designed for successful second stage entrepreneurs to learn the strategy skills to grow their companies even further. Having the solid foundation of knowing how to get projects done fast, and in alignment with the global standard for doing project management first did make a big difference when I went to Harvard. I was better prepared for then taking the next very important step as an executive – making sure the projects we did pick were in alignment with our strategy. Knowing how to both pick the right projects and do your project right is critical for the long term viability of any business.