How important are the diplomas and certifications?

Posted on September 1, 2013 by ThePMJournal

The only diploma, I found useful in my professional life, was the Bachelor Degree, because it helped me to get hired. The master diploma didn’t helped me to get a better job and didn’t make me smarter, but helped me to get a very cheap accommodation in one of the best student dormitories and I save the money for rent.

After the University graduation, the former students started the rush for searching jobs. The best students have received scholarships and academic jobs (usually from top universities outside the country), while “normal” guys, like me, who were not neither exceptional neither stupid, were “forced to fight” for a job. Many students were disoriented, because they didn’t know what job to choose. A small part of my colleagues, “scared” they need to find a job and give up the bohemian life of a student, have left the country in “the search of soul” or started a second University with the money from their parents.

For many students, it took months until they received a job offer (see the story of The Unwanted Employee), but finally all of them got one. The greatest challenge for most of the graduates was to find a job matching their academic profile. Actually very few have found a job reflecting their competencies and their academic background. The diploma, which we worked very hard to obtain it, was not a criteria to obtain the wanted job (No employer was asking you: What diploma do you have? but: What work do you know to do in order to obtain a profit from you?)

The real interesting thing about jobs was: the students with poor results have found a better job than those with good results. The reason was the weakest students have been forced to search for more opportunities and to take more risks than best students. (Here is a real case that happened with one of my colleagues: after he has failed the technical interview, instead of being rejected, he got a better job than he expected because the employer saw his potential: “You are not suitable to be a software engineer, but you are a very organized person! Do you want to become Project Manager?“)

I personally believe the diplomas help you to make the first step in career, but are not enough to become successful. Overall, diplomas represents just some pieces of paper. More likely, after we will die, our predecessors will make a big fire camp with all our diplomas.

How important are the certifications?

Certifications are those “papers” attest our professional competences. They are more valuable for employers, rather than for employees. Many companies are looking for certified professionals, not because they are better, but because they can prove a higher competence level than competitors in bid processes. Companies can allocate big budgets for their employees to get them some “exotic” certification. Because of this, over the night, an entire “industry” of certifications has arised. Accredited organizations providing certifications have been multiplied like “mushrooms” after the rain. And similar to mushrooms, some edible and some poisonous, some organizations provide recognizable certification and some offer “hollow” certifications. I am convinced, in exchange of money, nowadays you can buy any kind of certification, including certified “for living-being”.

There is a myth that certification guarantees a higher level of salary. In reality, the income are strictly correlated with the value of the employee and never with certification. I noticed a remarkable thing: the best professionals do not have a certification and there are not interested to get one. Competent people don’t need “papers” to prove their competences! You should ask yourself: How many people from top management are searching for certifications? Probably none. Certifications are the target for those people don’t have enough professional experience or are desperate to be remarked.

In conclusion, the certification are an indicator of your professional experience: The more you are close to the top of professional “pyramid”, the less relevant becomes certification.

About Project Management certifications

In Project Management,  many institutions are offering training programs but most appreciated certifications world wide are provided by Project Management Institute (or PMI): CAMP, PM-SP, PM-RM, PMP, PgMP, etc. In UK, one of the most appreciated certification in Project Management is PRINCE2 certification, representing the English version of PMP certification and is an “English trademark” (the English people always wanted to be a little different from the rest of the world… see how everything in UK is going in opposite direction…).

What is good to know about PMP? PMP require examination and the exam is a serious one. The examination room is so well guarded, is worthy the force-army. Before you enter in the exam room, you are searched even in pants, with metal detectors, because you are not allowed with pens, papers, glass of water, coffee, wristwatch, nothing… Thanks God you are allowed to wear the clothes. But despite the rigorous exam preparation, the exam itself is relatively easy. I personally was surprise to obtain a better result at knowledge areas I thought I knew less (!?) For who have read carefully the PMP Exam Prep, by Rita Mulcahy, for at least three times, the exam will be piece of cake. And for experienced Project Managers, I would recommend to try getting directly the PgMP certification, the next level of certification after PMP, because the documentation for the exam is almost the same. However, to be declared eligible for PgMP, you need a lot of proven professional experience: minimum 4 years in project management and also 4 years of program management; so minimum 8 years of project management; if we consider the fact to become Project Manager you need at least 4 years of junior positions, I could say, in many aspects, is more easy to become CEO rather than Certified Program Manager.

Product Management Certifications

There are many certifications in Product Management, but I will remind just the certification offered by AIPMM (Certified Product Manager or CPM, Certified Product Marketing Manager CPMM, Certified Innovation Leader, etc) because is the most recognizable international certification and offers a wide understanding of concepts from Product Management: what is a business case, what are the elementary notions in Marketing, what is a project planning, how the product specification is written, how a product life cycle look like, the “phase-gate” model, etc.). Although AIPMM certification is very important, unfortunately, the face to face training courses is available in very few countries world wide (generally in United Stated).

What about “Agile” certifications?

The reason I didn’t included “Agile” certifications in project and product management certifications,  is because, in Agile, there are no roles of “Project Manager” or “Product Manager”.

Some people propose an equivalent of Certified Project Manager with those of a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), but in reality, a Project Manager role corresponds in some ways to Scrum Master role but also with Product Owner role (Certified Scrum Product Owner, CSPO) from Scrum. Also, there is a wrong assumption a Product Manager role is the same as Product Owner role, because from organizational and functional point of view could be considered different roles.

Certification offered by Scrum Alliance (like CSD, CSM, CSPO, etc), in contrast with Project and Product Management certifications, can be obtained only with money, without any examination. This aspect could be seen as an advantage, but also as a disadvantage. The advantage is: without examination, the concept of Agile is easily spread in professional network, the disadvantage is anyone can obtain it in exchange of an amount of money and this decrease the perceptible value. An interesting thing is: even the perceptible value is low on Agile, the training courses have a great value. For example the CSPO course, although appear simple, treats one of the most “sensitive” issues managers are facing in project development: communication with the team and with the clients – see How Important is Communication?).

Although, the diplomas and certifications in most of the cases cannot guarantee your professional success, they can help you deepen your knowledge in multiple domain of activities.

Read next:  Product Manager vs Project Manager.

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