Hey, project managers! Now that you’ve got a degree and landed a job, you thought you were done studying for exams, right? Well, if you want to stay competitive, it might be time to hit the books.

Becoming a certified project manager can give you a serious leg up. It’s good for businesses, because it shows clients that their PMs really know their stuff. And it’s good for individuals, because it can mean the difference between getting a job offer…and getting passed over for someone who did get certified.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the proverbial gatekeeper of this coveted resume-booster. There are a few different levels of qualification, though the distinction of Project Management Professional (PMP) is the most common and most respected in the field.

PMPin’ ain’t easy

So what does it take to become a bona fide PMP? It’s not for the faint of heart (or of wallet). Before you can even think about taking the test, you’ll need a four-year bachelor’s degree, at least 4500 hours spent leading projects, and a minimum of 35 hours of professional education outside of work.

Between registration and testing, you can plan to drop about $1500—and that doesn’t include travel to seminars, extra test-prep help—or the coffee runs you’ll make while studying for the exam. When you pass the exam (or, should I say, if you pass—less than three-quarters of applicants do), you’ll have to keep your certification fresh by logging professional education hours every three years.

Working your way to the top

It’s a tall order—but the rewards are pretty sweet. On average, project managers with PMP certification make between $15,000 and $20,000 more than those without. Certification also means membership in the PMI—which gives you access to the latest industry insights, networking opportunities, and leadership positions in local PMI chapters. It’s more than just another line to put on your resume. PMP certification shows you’re serious about your work. (Would you spend years working towards the title if you weren’t?)

I, for one, hope the PMP is worth the hype. I’m still racking up hours, and then it’s exam time for me. For a small company like Atomic, having a PMP around is especially handy, because it shows we’ve got the credentials to compete with big-name firms.

If you’re a project manager and want to get noticed, go for the PMP. It’s hard work, but the payoff is worth it. My advice: pay attention to everything. You never know what could end up on the exam.

How does an (almost) certified PMP get things done? Give Atomic a ring, and witness project management panache.

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