Benefits of Obtaining Cross-Certification for Project Managers

Benefits of Obtaining Cross-Certification for Project Managers
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The Farmer and the Educated Son

A farmer sent his son to college to learn things that the farmer would not have the time, or the inclination, to learn. When the son returned home after his first semester, his father sat him down and asked his son to tell him something of what the son had learned in college.

The son thought for a moment and then said


The father put his head in his hands and started to moan.

“Son,” he said, “maybe I should have sent you to cooking school. Everyone knows that pie are round.”

What does this have to do with cross-certification? Plenty, if you consider that the father had neither experience nor knowledge of the most straightforward math concepts, which led him to believe the son did not have any knowledge. If the father had some knowledge of those concepts, or if the son had some knowledge of what his father would know as a farmer, the communication would have been much smoother.

And so it goes with cross-certification.


Cross-certification can help to make one more astute to the combination of knowledge and help to make one even more employable with certain companies or other entities. However, it is very important to note that there is NO WAY a certification makes you a subject matter expert, even though some that have certifications would have you think otherwise. A certification is a piece of paper backed by an organization that sponsors the certification. One certification exam, some of which is “fed” to the candidate, does not an expert make.

It is vital to understand that there is no substitute for experience. Nothing is more compelling in an interview than describing the type of work you do, not simply how you learned it.

Description of Cross-Certification

Cross-certification is the obtaining of certifications in several knowledge areas, such as a project manager who gets a certification in human resources. Although these are different, they are interrelated. If you are an HR specialist, you have undoubtedly worked on projects. Conversely, if you are a project manager and have worked human resource issues (which is part of the project manager’s responsibility as manager), then you have done some of the duties of an HR specialist. Therefore, the cross-certification can work in a variety of ways to present a “value-added” benefit to your experience and knowledge.

To take an example of how this enhances your value is to picture a ladder with two sides that are cross-linked with rungs. The rungs are the similarities between the two certifications (the two sides of the ladder). The cross-certifications strengthen your ability to use different knowledge to strengthen your overall competency. It is also vital that the person gaining the different certifications also uses that knowledge in their daily work.

Another benefit of having cross-certification strength is the pure mathematical logic of getting those certifications. Let me explain.

By The Numbers

First, a number of assumptions are in order regarding project management jobs. Let’s first say that there are approximately 5.5 million project management jobs in the United States. Currently, there are approximately 700,000 individuals with the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. In addition, there are approximately 8,000 individuals with “Agile” Project Manager Certification (PMI-ACP).

Second, let’s make a number of assumptions concerning computer security jobs. This is because, for the purposes of this paper, we are using a computer security certification as part of the cross-certification argument. There are approximately 240,000 cybersecurity positions in the United States and there are approximately 65,000 individuals with the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), according to ISC-squared (ISC2), the sponsoring organization for that certification.

Now that we have those numbers available, let’s do a little elementary probability analysis on those numbers to illustrate the cross-certification theory.

If there are 700,000 individuals with PMP, that would be 700,000 divided by the 5.5 million project management opportunities in the US. This would be (700,000/5500000) = .127 which would be 12.7%.

If there are 8,000 individuals with Agile certifications, that would be 8,000 divided by 5.5 million project management opportunities, which would be 8000/5500000 = .002 which would be .2% (it is VERY good to have this certification since you would be very unique).

Finally, if there are 65000 individuals with CISSP, that would be 65,000 divided by 240,000 cybersecurity opportunities, which would be 65000/240000 = .278 or 27.8%

Therefore, if you have any one of these certifications, you could be unique (Agile) or unique (PMP) by these numbers. However, similar to someone taking a cutting of a flower and adds it to another flower, both strengths are sometimes fed into the resulting unique flower. In the same way, you can formulate how unique you will be by some probability formulas.

The way to determine the final probability of three differing events occurring in the same timeframe is to multiply the resulting probabilities.

You would take .127*.002*.278, multiply them together and come up with the resulting probability of .00007, which would be .007%. I would call unique for an individual with several certifications.

Let’s say that you decide not to get the Agile certification and still get the PMP and the CISSP. You would still be relatively unique with a probability of .127*.278 = .035, which would be 3.5%. This is still much better than the 28% or 13% in either of the previous certifications.

Visual Display

In order to simplify the calculations above, and make this a little more visual, I have borrowed some Venn Diagrams to better illustrate the numbers.

This is what the above looks like if we were to visualize the data:

The bottom line in all of this is that cross-certification serves a twofold purpose. First, by cross-certification and having that experience, you show that you have a horizon that is expansive and growing. Second, it is just good number sense to show your unique experience and knowledge.

Although not much has been written about cross-certification, the basic logic behind this concept is that certifications help to prove value. Therefore, it follows that certifications in different areas might increase that value. The skills and experience, coupled with the simple probability of the matter, does help to provide a future employer that a person is well rounded, has job and skill diversity and competency in a relatively wide range of knowledge areas. Cross-certification might be a preferable method to focusing on one competency area.