Is the PMP® Credential Right for Your Industry?

Searching the Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), you’ll find no reference to any specific industry. Indeed, the guide is industry-agnostic. In fact, surprising to many people, it’s even methodology-agnostic. Except in the broadest senses, it’s a toolbox for project managers. Being “industry-vanilla” has some drawbacks, but also a plethora of advantages, especially in terms of applicability in most companies in most industries worldwide.

Oh, some say, software development is an exception because it’s where the agile movement began and agility is paramount. Well, PMI has addressed the agile issue with a related credential, the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner®. Of course, once we move beyond issues of agility, even remaining within IT-concerned business units, we find other issues that are inevitably related but comparatively business-oriented, which will benefit from the full PMBOK Guide. So the Guide’s toolbox is applicable to every company.

The industry-agnostic aspect is exemplified by the far-ranging group “Communities of Practice,” under PMI’s umbrella and housed at Consider the list of areas of interest to this group:

  • Aerospace and defense
  • Agile
  • Change Management
  • China Project Management
  • Construction Industry
  • Consulting
  • Earned Value Management
  • eBusiness
  • Energy, Oil, Gas and Petrochemical
  • Ethics in Project Management
  • Financial Services Industry
  • Global Diversity
  • Global Sustainability
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Human Resource Project Management
  • Information Systems
  • Innovation and New Product Development
  • International Development
  • IT and Telecom
  • Leadership in Project Management
  • Learning, Education and Development
  • Legal Project Management
  • Marketing and Sales
  • New Practitioners
  • Organizational Project Management
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Program Management Office
  • Project Management Quality
  • Project Risk Management
  • Requirements Management
  • Scheduling
  • Service and Outsourcing
  • Utility Industry

But Industries Apply Project Fundamentals Differently

Even though the PMBOK Guide is the same for every industry, there are still differences in how the same techniques are applied in various sectors.

Information technology is an oft-cited example, a fact also borne out by the multitude of project management certificates targeting practitioners in the information technology sector.

Furthermore, even if primo certifications in a given industry may be more applicable, such as the Microsoft Certified IT Professional, the need for project management expertise still remains. For example, Larry Digman wrote for ZDNet that “Some accreditations gain value by targeting specific skills and expertise. The Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is a great example.” Digman rated the PMP credential as number 7 for IT professionals. We can probably agree that the ranking should be higher when we take into account the specific needs, expertise and job of an individual, because there are overlaps among those credentials that end up rated higher.

As another example, even terminology can vary from industry to industry. In the financial and insurance industries, for example, “risk” refers primarily to financial risk, and highly specialized techniques are applied which, no doubt, could be related to the generic risk concepts espoused in the PMBOK Guide. Less of a departure is apparent in the medical device industry, where even though more generic approaches may apply, nonetheless the risk discipline is far more important in assuring that a device such as a pacemaker is reliable.

Industry Extensions to the PMBOK Guide

So while the PMBOK Guide is applicable to all organizations in all industries, further adaptation is possible. Years ago, PMI recognized the unique nature of the construction and defense (Department of Defense or DoD) industries by publishing an official extension to the PMBOK Guide for each. Clearly, these extensions should be updated with each new version of the Guide. Some, due to their nature, are more timeless in applicability. Primarily for funding reasons, the DoD extension, while considered quite valuable, has not been continued. The construction industry is more fortunate.

Today there are three official PMBOK Guide extensions available at Note the PMBOK Guide version for which each is written.

The Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide Fifth Edition

This standard, developed by PMI jointly with IEEE Computer Society, provides guidance on the management of software development projects, and bridges the gap between the traditional, predictive approach described in the PMBOK Guide and iterative approaches, such as agile development, more commonly used in software projects.

The Construction Extension to the PMBOK Guide Third Edition

A good portion of the PMBOK Guide is relevant to construction projects. However, project management concepts and practice have broadened within the global construction industry. The changes differ enough from other industries and applications to warrant this updated extension.

The Government Extension to the PMBOK Guide Third Edition

The Government Extension is described as a “standard [that] outlines the guiding principles for government projects and provides a framework to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. It provides an overview of the key processes used in most public sectors, defines key terms, describes how government projects operate, and reviews government program life cycles.”

The PMBOK Guide is thus applicable to every company and every industry. And it’s not implausible that you have the opportunity to find new ways to implement and benefit from the PMBOK Guide’s foundation, even extending the PMBOK Guide. As mentioned elsewhere on this site, you can even gain Professional Development Units in the process. Here’s where registered users of the PMI site can find more information about volunteering.