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Earning the Program Management Professional Certification

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The Program Management Professional Certification from the Project Management Institute is for experienced program managers. It certifies that the individual has years of program management experience, competency in project and program management, and has passed evaluations of their professional experience. In this article, project management expert Joseph Phillips shows you how to earn your PgMP.
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If you like complicated and expensive certifications, then you might like earning the Program Management Professional (PgMP) designation from the Project Management Institute (PMI). This PMI title is an elite certification that has strict requirements[md]even to apply for the examination and review process. It’s based largely on PMI’s book The Standard for Program Management and your professional program management and project management experience.

First, let me define what a program is: It’s a collection of projects that are orchestrated to realize benefits that couldn’t be realized any other way. The construction of a skyscraper is a good example of a program. Think of all the different projects in the skyscraper that must work together: architectural design, framing, elevators, interior design, landscaping, and so many more. It wouldn’t make much sense to complete these projects independent of one another, because of the integration of these projects help the timing, costs, and even the overall quality of the skyscraper.

A program manager is the person who oversees the benefits and management of each of the individual projects in the program. There are still project managers, and generally the program manager stays out of their way, but the program manager can trump the project manager when it comes to timing, project decisions, and change control. The program manager is the head honcho, the big man on campus, and the god of all things program-related.

Qualifying for the Exam

Not just anyone can appoint him- or herself as a program manager, stroll in, and pass this examination. You have to qualify for the PgMP certification process first. Candidates who have only a high school diploma must document four years of project management and seven years of program management experience. Candidates who have a bachelor’s degree must document four years of project management experience and four years of program management experience.

Note that PMI is serious when it requires project and program documentation. The candidate must, as part of the certification application, document what happened in each project and program, what was created, and provide contact information for projects and programs the candidate managed. It’s a grueling application process.

Once the certification application has been completed and submitted to PMI, PMI will review your application. This first review of the application can take up to five days, and it’s just a check that the application is complete before it moves into the more serious review of the initial competence evaluation process. (PMI calls this the initial competence evaluation process[md]a sign of the verbiage and legalese-likeness in your future as a PgMP candidate.)

The initial competence evaluation process is a review of all your application claims by a group of program managers. These PMI-approved program managers review the education, projects, and programs that you’ve provided on your application. There’s a chance that this review may prompt the program managers to audit your claims. The audit requires that your referenced managers sign off on the work deliverables and programs that you said that you led and created. Not every application is audited, but the possibility helps maintain the value of the certification.

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