Want to begin or enhance a career in project management or complement your Microsoft Project certification? Earning the Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)® certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI)® could be the direction to head. This new credential, introduced in May 2008, offers a professional level certification for anyone who specifically wants to demonstrate knowledge in the skill of scheduling.

Earning the PMI-SP® proves a level of knowledge and experience in the area of scheduling. If you’re new to the field, this might be a great start to a career in project management. It allows you to hold an internationally recognized credential while accumulating the experience hours needed to apply for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. Plus, you’ll gain experience applying for and testing for a PMI® credential.

If you’re trying to break into a career in IT project management and the only certification and training you currently have is technical, the PMI-SP® is a good credential to earn for two reasons. You’ll most likely already have the software experience to complement this credential, plus you’ll learn about some generally accepted project management principles.

We’re two people who work in the field of project management. In the course of deciding to pursue this certification, we formed an international study group. During the course of this process we discovered that figuring out the new certification — and the preparation process that went with it — was challenging, confusing, and even frustrating. Recently, we became the first two people in our study group to earn the credential. In this three-part set of articles, we share our experiences and impressions about what it takes to earn the PMI-SP®.

Basics of the PMI-SP® Certification

According to the PMI-SP® Handbook, individuals holding this certification can create and maintain the project schedule, are able to analyze the project schedule, and should be able to report and communicate the schedule to the project team.

To qualify to tackle the PMI-SP®, you need to possess one of the following sets of qualifications:

Option 1

  • A high school diploma/associates degree/recognized international equivalent.
  • 5,000 hours of scheduling experience within the prior five years (equating to about 25 weeks of full-time scheduling work per year).
  • 40 education hours.

Option 2

  • A bachelor’s degree/recognized international equivalent.
  • 3,500 hours of scheduling experience within the prior five years (equating to about 18 weeks of full-time scheduling work per year).
  • 30 education hours.

The exam domains as listed by PMI®’s Scheduling Professional Exam Specification and the percentage of exam questions consist of the following:

  • Domain 1: Schedule Mission Management, 9%
  • Domain 2: Schedule Creation, 23%
  • Domain 3: Schedule Maintenance, 23%
  • Domain 4: Schedule Analysis, 22%
  • Domain 5: Schedule Communications/Reporting, 23%

If You’ve Already Earned Certifications…

If you already possess the PMI® Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, you may be wondering if the scheduling credential is something you should pursue. The fact is that you may not need this additional credential because you’ve already been tested on scheduling during your PMP® exam. However, if you want to illustrate a specialization or enhanced understanding of scheduling, this certification is one way to do so.

If you have some type of Microsoft Project certification, your current certification demonstrates expertise in a particular scheduling tool. If this meets the needs of your career, you may not need an additional certification — it will complement, not replace, your Microsoft credential. However, if demonstration of scheduling project management concepts is important to your job role, then go for it!

Cindy, who took the exam in January 2009, sums up her experience this way: I think this certification is really geared towards testing your understanding of the scheduling process from a project management perspective. Just being an expert at Microsoft Project won’t give you sufficient knowledge or experience to pass the exam. To get through it, you really have to understand how to manage a schedule beyond using a given software tool. That understanding needs to encompass such areas as communicating with individuals, establishing processes to handle changes, managing risks, obtaining authorizations, and archiving of records.

Prakash, who took the exam in March 2009, has this to say: Many project managers in real life use scheduling tools like Microsoft Project as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)® or as a timesheet system. They rarely venture into project tracking and communicating the performance of the projects to stakeholders in a timely manner. These reasons are manifold:

  • Quantification of percentage complete is subjective. This discourages project managers and even entire organizations from relying on project status and forecasts where percentage complete is used.
  • Scheduling tools such as Microsoft Project lack the sophistication to handle resource requirement challenges like Resource Constrained Project Scheduling Problem (RCPSP)®.
  • Padding the estimates and unrealistic buffers don’t help either.
  • Tapping into the many add-ons to Microsoft Project to handle some of these challenges can become a costly proposition.

The PMI-SP® credential exam tests you on scheduling practices and its influence on project management as a whole. It’s no magic wand for solving some of the aforementioned scheduling issues, but can arm you with ideas to turn these challenges to opportunities. We consider it a useful add-on for project managers who already have PMP® certification to refine their skills on best practices surrounding project scheduling through PMI-SP®.

Read Part 2 of this series