While between jobs Nov/Dec/Jan 2010/2011, I prepared for and passed the Project Management Professional exam to obtain the PMP credential (#1385079). One of the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide's (PMBOK Guide) best practices is writing up a "lessons learned" as part of closing a project or phase. What follows are some notes and lessons learned from my experience.
I felt it would be valuable to obtain the PMP to broaden the number of positions that I could apply for and that has definitely panned out to be a benefit. The credential did not significantly enhance my earning potential, but for many project managers it may do so. I enjoyed the process as a review/capstone of the project management I've done over the years.
NJ One-Stop Center
Part of unemployment support in New Jersey at the present time includes possible retraining grants. There are evidently a bunch of different programs and the "One-Stop" counselors understand the details. I found them to be very helpful.
There are a series of orientations I had to attend and visits I had to make to put the grant in place. I've been to the One-Stop probably a half-dozen times now. On the plus side, I've always found the staff helpful and even most of the people you encounter there are OK. Lots of tension/frustration/fear is present of course. I approached the situation with compassion for others as well as myself.
Training Hours Requirement
I took an online Project Management Certificate course at Rutgers. There are other options, but I liked being able to put a recognized name on my resume and Rutgers knows the process with the One-Stop grants. I also wanted a certificate for my resume, though the PMP is the thing obviously. Rutgers was helpful. I had to make one in-person visit there, but otherwise have done everything via email and phone.
The online course was somewhat time consuming, but you really need to spend the time to absorb the material. The PMP exam is a lot of terminology and even having managed projects for years I learned a good deal and would not have passed without immersing myself in the content.
I usually set aside 2 to 3 hours in the morning for course work. I knew the November/December months would be slow for the job search anyway. I used the afternoon and evening for job search. Closer to Christmas I put in a few two-session online learning days. That was enough for my brain. Online lessons are audio with basic question types. Nothing fancy, but the quality was pretty good. There are some optional lessons (3 are required) that were not as good, but they are phasing those out. SkillSoft is the courseware provider that Rutgers used.
In addition to the online course work there was a book report (I did mine on Scrum) and a Project Charter document required. Rutgers assigns an individual instructor for the course that is available to help and assigns and reviews the book report and project charter.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has the PMP process laid out in a PDF you download from their website.
The PMP application requires documenting 4,500 hours of project management experience. You can go back up to 8 years, and you need to have at least 3 years of history. I pulled mine together from three different companies. PMI has you categorize the hours on the application in an online form. I put together a Word document with the project description, hours claimed, and sent the document to my reference for each project before applying to make sure each reference was OK with it. I was not audited, but I was prepared for it if it happened. The decision on whether you will be audited happens after you pay the application fee.
Once approved, I scheduled the PMP for about 10 days out and took a practice test (200 questions) with minimal prep a week in advance and got a 79%. The Rutgers course and the Head First PMP book did prepare me well. The PMBOK Guide is a reference and not a study guide. I took another practice test a couple of days before the exam (82%).
I took the exam at the Curtis Center (Prometric) in Philly. The exam has 200 questions, of which 25 are seeding for future tests and don't count. Web search turned up 106 out of 175 as passing (61%). I found the exam to be harder than the practice tests, so I'm glad that I had some cushion. My exam results showed three categories better than average and three categories average. Pass is all that matters though. My name showed up at the website registry after a few days, but PMI says you can use PMP by your name right away.
Expenses for the PMP included Rutgers course ($2,600), PMI membership ($129), exam fee ($405), and miscellaneous books and study materials ($150) for a total cost of roughly $3,300.
It took me about two focused (1/4 time or so) months from start to finish.
The Project Management Institute: http://www.pmi.org
PMP Headfirst Practice Exam: http://www.headfirstlabs.com/PMP/free_exam/