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Is Certified Project Professional (CPP) Certification Worth It?

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Recently, I was asked by a connection of mine to comment on whether he should take a local course being offered to obtain the Certified Project Professional (CPP) certification offered by the Institute of Project Management. I did some research and wanted to share my findings with you here, in hopes it may help someone else about to lay out $1,750 for this worthless certification…Oops, did I say that out loud? Well, now that you know how I really feel about the CPP, let me give you the reasons why I recommend you don’t spend a dime on it.

“True value of a certification: Will it help make you more competitive in the job market?”

First, let me characterize what I mean AND don’t mean by calling the CPP a worthless certification. I am simply not knowledgeable enough about the curriculum, certification process, or rigor of the CPP program to make a judgement call on it from any of those perspectives. It actually might be really good training and require a lot hard work to obtain it; I just don’t know. But, what I do know is that the CPP is not going to help you get a job, at least not anytime in the near future; and, to me, that is the true value of a certification: Will it help make Military Veterans more competitive in the job market?

I’ve never heard of the CPP certification

While I don’t know everything about the world of civilian project management, I’ve certainly been around that block at least a few times in the last 8 years, and I’ve heard of a lot of certifications that project managers should consider. The CPP isn’t one of them. The fact that I’ve never heard of it doesn’t mean the CPP is worthless, but it certainly made it suspect to me; and, so I  decided to research and find out if my suspicions could be supported.

The CPP online advertisement has errors & is misleading

Another thing that led to my suspicion about the credibility of the CPP credential was the blatant errors in their online ad, which I used as a header image for this blog post. The ad attempts to compare itself to the Project Management Professional (PMP®), but gets several points wrong. First, the ad calls out the requirements for the PMP as a “4 year degree & 4500 hours experience 35 hours’ project management education”. This is only partially true – In addition to the 4500 hours you also need to show that those hours occurred over the course of 36 months within the last 8 years. You can also qualify without a 4 year degree if you have 7500 hours across 60 months within the last 8 years. If you’re going to compare yourself to another credential, you should at least tell people the whole story. This ad implies that you must have a 4 year college degree to be a PMP, which is absolutely false.

The next error in the ad is the number of hours for the PMP Exam. It says 3 hours; but, the PMP Exam is actually 4 hours long.

The last error is that the ad says the PMP Exam consists of 200 theory questions. While they got the number of questions correct, the use of the term “theory” is a gross understatement. A PMP test taker certainly needs to know project management theory; but, the really tough part of the PMP Exam is how you must assess scenario based situations and make a judgement call about how to apply that theory correctly to achieve successful project outcomes.

Several misleading statements are also included in the online ad. To say that a PMP Prep Course only focuses on passing the test is a huge assumption because the Project Management Institute, who owns the PMP credential program, does not provide prep courses. PMP Prep courses are done by third party trainers who can teach whatever they want in a course that is as long and robust as they want it to be. The next misleading statement or implication is that there is an annual membership fee required with the PMP credential, which is false. PMI certainly offers memberships, but you are not required to be a PMI member in order to be a PMP. And, if you decide to join as a PMI member, your cost will be $139 for a standard 1 year membership or just $32 for students; which is far less than the $80-$250 the CPP online ad states.

The last misleading statement I’ll call out in the CPP ad is “Why do employers prefer CPPs?” Anyone viewing this ad would conclude that the CPP credential must be a sought after qualification by employers…I found that to be utterly unsupported by my research, which I’ll share under the next heading.

“If you want to be mistaken for a Certified Payroll Professional, and never have to work at improving your project management skill-set to maintain your professional status, then go ahead and spend $1,750 on the Institute for Project Management’s CPP credential.”

I can’t find any employers hiring for Project Managers with the CPP

I searched my favorite 2 job boards, LinkedIn and Indeed, to see what might pop up in a search for CPP. On LinkedIn, my search for CPP produced ZERO job postings for Project Managers. There were lots of jobs for Certified Payroll Professional, another certification that uses the CPP  acronym; but nothing for project managers. By contrast, a search for PMP, which the CPP ad compared itself to, yielded over 16,000 results, most of which had Project Manager in the job title.

Similar results on Indeed showed ZERO project manager job postings; but, a ton for Certified Payroll Specialists. The PMP search returned over 14,000 project manager positions.

Google apparently doesn’t know about the CPP either

Test me on this one and see if I’m looking at this correctly. I entered “CPP” as my search term in Google, and after looking at the first 5 pages of the results, I gave up trying to find anything in the results about a Certified Project Professional. Now, if Google can’t find it, what makes anyone think that many employers know about it or are hiring for project managers with that credential?

What I did find in the Google results for “CPP” were many entries for Certified Payroll Professional, Certified Photography Professional, and even Certified Protection Professional, none of which are remotely related to project management.

“If you want to be marketable to over 16,000 potential project manager job openings and participate in a rigorous program of self-improvement, then pursue your PMP.”

There are inherent quality problems with the CPP certification process

Read the ad in the header image closely and notice that there is no test involved, which many people would consider a great thing. But, look at what they replace it with – A “Project Reflection” consisting of a written project report, 10-minute presentation, and 10-minute question & answer period presumably by a project management expert. Now, think about that: If this is a global certification, which the ad certainly implies that it is, how will they (Institute of Project Management) ensure that every single CPP credential holder is assessed in the exact same way to the exact same rigorous standards in classrooms, hotel conference rooms and possibly even webinar meeting rooms around the world by hundreds or thousands of different facilitators?

The PMP credential mitigates, and almost totally eliminates this quality problem by requiring that all PMP credential holders pass the same standardized testing regimen anywhere in the world.

The second quality problem is that the CPP requires no ongoing education to maintain the credential, meaning that someone could become a CPP and never update their knowledge to contemporary project management practices, or even spend a day working as a project manager, and still be a so-called “Professional” in the craft. I find that laughable, and utterly ridiculous. By contrast, PMI requires that PMPs obtain 60 Professional Development Units of ongoing education, mentoring, and involvement in managing projects every 3 years to maintain their PMP credential.


If you want to be mistaken for a Certified Payroll Professional, and never have to work at improving your project management skill-set to maintain your professional status, then go ahead and spend $1,750 on the Institute for Project Management’s CPP credential.

On the other hand, if you want to be marketable to over 16,000 potential project manager job openings and participate in a rigorous program of self-improvement, then pursue your PMP.

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