A Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is something many project managers aspire for, but you don’t need it to do your job. On the contrary, many of the best project managers in the business don’t have that kind of certification, or even any kind of Project Management-related degree at all!

Non-Exclusive Skills

A project manager’s most valuable skills—organizational, planning, and social skills—are not exclusive to the field. Other industries value these skills just as much, and even schools try to arm students with these over the course of their academic life. And although the PMP program educates you on proper project procedure and emphasizes best practices, it still relies heavily upon your own personal experiences and abilities.

If you’d like to enter project management but don’t want to shell out the money for a PMP course, you can try assessing your project management skills first, and/or gaining a little more experience handling projects. Only apply for PMP certification once you’re sure it’s the career for you.

The Accidental Project Manager

Not everyone consciously decides to be a project manager. Sometimes things just turn out that way. Perhaps you’re filling in for a senior team member while they go on vacation. Maybe your manager is not providing the leadership you need and you step up to take the slack. In either case, you are left leading as an equal and have to learn project management as you go along.

This kind of situation doesn’t make you any less of a project manager than those with a PMP. In fact, I think it makes you more of one, because you’re starting from a much more difficult position and have to earn your lumps. The important thing is that you learn from your experiences and constantly strive to improve your game. Grab opportunities to lead and follow through on them, and you’ll be able to stand toe to toe with any of your PMP-certified peers. Some of those online PMP degrees are pretty sketchy anyway.

What Really Matters

At the end of the day, clients don’t really care what kind of certification you do or don’t have, or what kind of education you’ve been through. What matters to them is that you deliver a project that is on time, within budget, and of decent quality. Performance is the true sign of a project manager, not arbitrary certificates or initials after your name.

What do you think? Do you have a PMP certificate? Look for someone with one while hiring? Have you been able to be successful without? Leave your comments below.

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