As the new year approaches, you may be considering how best to achieve your career goals — such as pursuing PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential. Often touted as “ideal targeted training” for the PMP® exam, many people find PMP® boot camps an attractive option for exam preparation. While boot camps are designed to deliver noticeable results with a high-output of effort in a compressed amount of time, the drawbacks of choosing this path for exam preparation often outweigh the benefits.

Bootcamps may work for some because the instructors are usually highly qualified with master’s degrees, prior training, and years of industry experience. Most also offer a pass guarantee and will assume financial risk if you fail. They may offer to pay for your exam re-take or provide custom coaching and feedback.

Quoting high first- and second-time pass rates, boot camp programs claim to be the ideal package for exam preparation, often including a prep guide, test-style prep questions, and meals and snacks during classroom sessions. If you would like a surefire way to pass the PMP® exam in a short period of time, then a boot camp may be just what you’re looking for.

However, PMP® boot camps definitely have their share of drawbacks and these drawbacks are the reason why I never recommend a bootcamp to any of my students.

Reason #1: Boot Camps are Expensive

Designed to be the ideal all-in-one exam preparation experience, the sheer cost of boot camps make them less-than-ideal for those of us on a budget. The intensive four-day course can run anywhere from $1,900 to $2,900, depending on your location, whether it’s a busy time of year, and the availability of included amenities. While the up-front cost may seem astronomical, check to see if it includes the actual PMP® exam fee and comes backed with a pass guarantee. Most boot camp companies will offer to cover tailored tutoring and re-take exam fees if you fail the first or second time. If you fail a third time, they may even offer to let you take the entire four-day course over again for free.

But all of this comes at a cost. Essentially a pay-to-pass program, boot camps pump a large amount of students through a short-term, high-yield course. Boot camps may only be a viable option if time is more valuable to you than money.

Reason #2: Boot Camps are Inconvenient

Unless you live in a large urban area where a course is offered, boot camp will usually require travel and hotel accommodations. For most project managers with jobs and families, dropping their responsibilities for nearly a week isn’t only inconvenient, it’s impossible. Work and life doesn’t stand still (or even slow down!) just because you have an important exam to pass. Most project managers require — and work best with — a study schedule that fits with their lifestyle instead of interrupting it.

Reason #3: Boot Camps Focus on Memorization

As you already know, the PMP® exam is based on concepts from the PMBOK Guide. Specific principles include communication, cost management, human resources, integration, procurement, quality, risk, scope, and time management. The material is broad and the data is often in-depth. So, how do boot camps ensure you thoroughly master and understand these concepts in a mere four days? They don’t.

There is absolutely not enough time in four days to extensively cover concepts and in-depth data. Instead, boot camps focus on rote memorization of high-yield material. While they may be able to guarantee a “first-time pass,” boot camps cannot and do not offer an education that will help you with project management beyond the exam.

Reason #4: Boot Camps Have Limited Schedules and Openings

As noted in reason two, the inconvenience of boot camps is often rooted in their location and need for travel away from home. On top of that, many boot camps have limited space and are only able to offer sessions at certain times of the year. If you thought taking time off from work and your family would be difficult, try doing it around their schedule instead of your own. The only available times may be during a busy work crunch or stressful family situation. At best, this may be inconvenient. Often, it’s impossible. Project managers with home and work commitments will usually have better success with a study schedule or workshop that still allows them to fulfill their home and work responsibilities.

Reason #5: Boot Camp Training Focuses on Passing the Exam, Not Learning Concepts

The material on the PMP® exam is broad and in-depth. If you’re not already familiar with concepts covered in the PMBOK Guide, boot camps can’t help you in a mere four days. As noted in their “guarantee,” boot camps only promise to help you pass the exam. They don’t offer an education that will guide or assist you through your career.

One of the secret ingredients to doing well on the PMP® exam is understanding project management principles, both individually and how they work together. Instead of focusing on competency, boot camps rely on memorization techniques. While this may result in a high first-time pass rate, it doesn’t ensure that the project manager has learned any skills or gained experience that will help their career beyond exam day.

If your goal is simply to pass the PMP® exam without learning new techniques to improve your project management skills, then a boot camp may be just what you’re looking for. If you’re unemployed, single without familial commitments, have more money than you know what to do with, and are simply looking to add credentials to your CV, then a four-day PMP boot camp will probably serve you well. However, if you’re genuinely interested in becoming a better project manager on the road to excelling on the PMP exam, then a more in-depth study approach is what you want.

Successfully passing the PMP® Exam and achieving lasting and positive effects on your project management skills involves daily study time for 10 to 12 weeks. Individuals that choose to study on their own should read the PMBOK Guide twice, use additional PMP® preparation guides, and tackle as many sample exam questions as possible. If you prefer the structure of a classroom, look for a schedule that meets regularly for several weeks. Self-study at home will complement the in-class lectures and further solidify the information. Following this approach will ensure that you not only pass the exam, but become a superior project manager along the way.

Do you hold a different impression about PMP® bootcamps? Share your thoughts in the MPUG discussion forum.