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The question

I have a question about the project management designation. I am thinking about taking a continuing education course in project management with the hopes of obtaining my PMP. I have a newly minted PhD in medical sciences and biochemistry. My experience is both in academia and industry at a small biotech company in St. Catharines, Ont. I know that in the future I want to work in a research and development position, probably in industry, where I am managing both people and projects. Now the question is do I need to go and get a PMP in order to fulfill this goal? In other words, is there a need now or in the future for scientists who wish to manage R&D projects to have a project management certification?

The answer

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Congratulations on completing your PhD and for gaining valuable experience both in academia and in the biotech industry. I recommend that you do your research. Talk to people in the industry who have a PhD and others with a PMP about their experience in completing the PMP and the advantages or benefits of doing so. Ask them if they would do anything differently if they were in your position at the start of their career. Also, ask your current and other prospective employers how they view the PMP.

Contact the Project Management Institute (PMI) and check out their website at PMI has been offering the project management professional certification for over 25 years. It offers four other certifications besides the PMP, so decide which is best suited for you and your career aspirations. Ask PMI officials for statistics on the number of PhDs with the PMP designation and career progression and salary levels.

Benefits of a PMP certification include: flexibility of skills and employment – they are transferable among industries and geographic locations; credentials reflect current skills, knowledge and best practices; increased compensation and marketability. Those with the PMP make 10 per cent more than those without certification according to the PMI Salary Survey from 2009.

Think short and long term: The PMP appears to provide many benefits for you at this stage in your career. A number of introductory diploma courses allow you to ladder into the PMP or other PMI credential programs. If you are interested in working in executive and senior management positions later in your career, you may also want to investigate executive MBA programs (some have a biotechnology or high-tech industry specialty) offered at universities across the country.

Bruce Sandy is principal of and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting.

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