Project Management Certification: Professional Development Units

13 December, 2013

The great thing about getting a university degree is that you always have it. Another nice thing is that the grade you get becomes less important as you gain experience, so while scraping a bare pass might upset graduate recruiters, once you have experience built up, they do not worry too much about your exam results.

A professional qualification is a different thing. Anyone who obtains the Project Management Professional (PMP®) accreditation only has it for three years. In that time the PMP® must earn sixty Professional Development Units (PDUs) in order to demonstrate that s/he is continuously developing professionally and should keep the PMP® for another three years. For busy project managers, this seems like a lot of effort and has discouraged people from sitting the PMP® exam.

However, a different way of looking at this is to consider what being a professional means. Take professional sport as an example. When Rugby Union became professional, all the professional teams suddenly came under pressure to win and winning involved developing novel set pieces and increasing physical conditioning to a much higher level. Similarly, in motorsport, technology and physical fitness have changed perennial losers into championship winners. In professional sport, you cannot afford to stay still.

Similarly, as a project management professional, it is not enough to frame your project management certification and carry on doing what you always did. You need to keep in touch with what other PMPs® are doing and evolve your management of projects to improve all aspects of your work.

Unlike professional sport, PMPs® are not in competition with each other. For me to succeed, does not mean that you have to fail. To build that sense of community, it makes sense to give back to the profession. If you have stumbled on a neat way of identifying stakeholders, or formulating budgets, then it will benefit the overall profession if you present your findings or publish them. Your local PMI chapter will be delighted to give you a slot at one of their events and the Project Management Institute has many publication opportunities, from academic journals to magazines.

So how does this add up to sixty PDUs over three years? Well the good news is that the PMI will award you fifteen PDUs just for working as a project manager. So that leaves forty-five to get through other means. The most obvious one is through training. Taking courses is a very effective way of building up PDUs. As a rule of thumb, every hour of training equates to one PDU. So a two day course (assuming seven hours per day), will give you fourteen PDUs. The PMI would prefer that you take PMI approved courses, through Registered Education Providers, like Velopi. But the same PDUs are available for non-PMI courses. Thus PMPs® who want to study agile project management can opt for the PMI-ACP® (Agile Certified Practitioner) or the Certified Scrum Master and claim PDUs.

Self-directed learning is another way of clocking up PDUs. If a PMP® reads a project management book, or attends a project management-related webinar, these can be logged for PDUs. The same rule of thumb – one PDU per hour – applies. What makes this sort of exercise really convincing is if you write a review of the book and publish it somewhere – even as an Amazon.com book review. In this way, you have shown PMI you have really read the book and have given back to the profession.

Giving back to the profession is something that few people are comfortable with. Giving a presentation can be nerve-wracking and not many people are good at writing articles or academic papers. However, project managers should be good at both of these. Remember your PMP® training – project managers spend from 75% to 90% of their time communicating, so good communication skills are essential. Giving back to the profession by creating new knowledge will also serve as a means of honing your communication skills.

Another way of giving back is through voluntary service. There are many voluntary organizations out there who desperately need good project management advice. Sitting down with these groups and helping them to define scope, develop a schedule and determine a budget could make all the difference. While you will not get paid for this, you can claim PDUs. The amount of time you devote to this can vary. You might present a talk or a workshop on project management or you can serve as a committee member (for at least three months) - it is up to you.

So obtaining the sixty PDUs needed to sustain a PMP® beyond three years is not too arduous. Work as a PMP®, take two days project management training a year and read a few project management-related books. If you are a practicing project manager, you are probably doing this already. You might even be attending PMI chapter events to meet your colleagues in the profession – these can all be included in your PDU claims. For full details, check out the PMI’s PDU categories.

Hopefully, your concerns about PDUs have been laid to rest, so please allow me to recommend our training page for your project management certification needs. We run our project management courses in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. To get more details, please contact us directly. The number of PDUs you can claim on our courses is clearly given on the website.

By Velopi Seamus Collins
 

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