Published here July 2005.


Musings Index

Project Management as a Professional Career

There has been a lot of "academic" discussion recently on the question of whether project management is a profession or a discipline. Indeed, we are told repeatedly by some organizations, presumably to their advantage, that project management is a "profession". Perhaps this is with the notion that project management should be aligned with the engineering, accounting or even the long-standing medical and legal professions. In our view, this is more than a bit of a stretch.

However, whatever your view on this issue, project management is definitely a worthwhile and satisfying occupation. But at the end of the day, the question is: "Is it for you?" And if so, how well are project management training and certification programs recognized by your local employers?

By Email, Robert A. asks this very question. Perhaps these thoughts will help you, too.

11/17/04 Robert A. wrote:

Mr. Wideman,
I am considering entering the project management field. There is a certification course offered at a local University. It's a 12-week course, twice a week, 3 hours per session. In terms of gaining the credentials to become a project manager, is this a good idea to pursue? Would employers recognize this as legitimate credentials, or would they look for more?

Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

11/18/04 Max responds

Dear Robert:

It is difficult to advise without knowing more about your situation. However, here are some things I think you should consider:

  • Are you personally suited to working in the project management field? Not everyone is.
  • What field of PM application are you contemplating?
  • What opportunities are there for you in that field? And/or are you willing to travel?
  • What experience or background do you have in that field already?
  • What credential is your local university offering?
  • How well is this recognized in your field of choice? I.e. what is the course's standing?
  • What experience of projects do you have already?

It may be that you should get some exposure to projects first in order to benefit more fully from the material to be presented in the course. If you have little or none, you may well have difficulty digesting the course material. If that is the case, perhaps the best opportunity for exposure is through voluntary work of some sort, but where there are initiatives that can be treated as projects.

You might also try getting some advice from someone who is already a project manager in the field of your choice and have a chance to talk over your prospects. The people who are running the university course may be able to put you in touch with someone suitable.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider. When you have gathered all this information, sit down with a piece of paper and draw a two-column table showing pros and cons. Then rank or weight each pro and con according to how important they are to you. The arithmetic results will not necessarily give you the answer you are looking for, but I suspect that your gut feel at this point certainly will!

You might also review my paper "Dominant Personality Traits Suited to Running Successful Projects (And what type are you?)"

Hope that helps,


11/18/04 Robert A. replies

Yes, that was very helpful, thank you.

I have actually had a fair amount of exposure to project management. I worked as part of a systems implementation team for a company in NYC where I worked very closely with the project manager (though that wasn't his exact title). He also didn't have a PMI certification. It seems there are a lot of individuals out there who serve in a project manager capacity but don't have formal training. At least that is in my experience.

Thanks again for your advice. At least I know how to analyze whether the field is right for me.


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