There are many posts in the forums and blogs on the topic of whether it is better to go for a PMP or MBA. I think there is great value in both, but I think they serve 2 different purposes. Having earned both a PMP and an MBA, I have some definite thoughts on this, but of course in the end it is a personal decision.
MBA and Education
“Education” is more what an MBA is all about. It helps to teach us how to think about a broad set of situations. It provides us with exposure to many different ways of thinking, many situations, and crosses virtually all business functions. It also builds skill in areas such as finance, marketing, operations, and more. It is certainly much closer to the business world than a liberal arts education, which is ALL about thinking, but nonetheless is has a great deal of breadth.
Certifications and Qualifications
Certifications became very popular a while back in the IT field, where companies like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and others created certifications around their products. They needed a highly qualified and consistent-thinking implementation community in order to support their complex products. Becoming certified was not and still is not easy, and requires hard work and experience.
Certifications like the Project Management Professional (PMP), have become popular and are similar, yet also different in some important ways, that the technical certifications. They provide a framework for dealing with a certain common problem set, they challenging to earn, and they are clearly a skill. But this is where they diverge from the education provided by an MBA. They provide a clear "skill" for the workplace. Education does not necessarily do that, although it provides great background that can help someone perform better. The certification provides employers with an indication of a minimum level of knowledge and achievement, and professionals with a distinguishing and proven minimum skill set.
What an MBA or Certification Can Provide
Certifications are a way to gain formalized learning is less familiar areas, or in areas where I want to focus and develop some specialized knowledge and skill. Thus they have applied directly to immediate and medium term career goals. I previously have earned technical certifications, specifically in Lotus Notes Application development and Administration, and several years ago earned the PMP certification. I n both cases, they helped me with more immediate career goals, especially the technical certifications. The PMP certification has helped in very practical ways, and also opens doors.
It’s a Personal Decision
In conclusion, in a choice between PMP and MBA, I would recommend going for the MBA, but again that depends on the person. It will serve anyone in the long run. However, in the end, experience is the best teacher. A degree will make it easier to earn certifications at the appropriate time, but it is not necessarily required. The MBA will shape thinking in a broader and more valuable way for the long run. Earning the certification can help in the short term to establish or anchor a career. But in the long run, I think an MBA would serve most people the best and provide the most options.
John Reiling, PMP
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