The complexity and rate of change in today’s business environment requires businesses to manage multiple projects at all times. A study by the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that high-performing organizations across multiple industries successfully completed 89% of their projects, while low performers completed only 36% (“The High Cost of Low Performance,” PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, 2014, For companies who may be low performers, this could represent significant costs and risks.

While many factors can contribute to project success, high-performing companies believe a scientific, structured approach to project management is one of the most influential. According to another PMI study, three out of every five respondent companies report that standardized project management practices are used throughout their organizations. Nearly 70% of those who use standardized practices base them on the PMI Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide (“Highlighting Key Trends in the Project Management Profession,” PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, 2010, A project manager can further refine understanding of the best practices taught in the PMBOK by obtaining a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

However, PMP training and implementation requires an investment of time, effort, and money. Is it worth it for a CPA to pursue this credential?

PMI and PMP Overview

The PMP credential is offered by PMI, a not-for-profit professional membership association for the project, program, and portfolio management profession. Founded in 1969, there are over half a million PMI certification holders around the globe spanning every industry. PMI sets project management standards, oversees the project management body of knowledge, and administers the PMP designation (among other professional certifications).

PMP candidates are extensively trained and tested in each area of project management. This training provides PMPs with a precise and strong methodology that complements the CPA skillset. This methodology is based off of the PMBOK, developed by project managers for project managers. It begins with establishing the project foundation and then articulating and defining each project cycle, including planning, initiating, executing, monitoring and controlling, and concluding. This structure allows project managers to adapt to almost any situation, increasing success rates.

Cost and Time Commitment

A PMP certification requires both a monetary and time investment. Candidates are required to document at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 contact hours of project management education, as well as pass a comprehensive exam. Many candidates attend preparatory courses prior to the exam. PMPs must also meet continuing education requirements by earning and reporting professional development units (PDU) to maintain their certification. PDUs can be earned through various activities, including but not limited to education, organizational meetings, and volunteering.

Why Should CPAs Pursue a PMP?

CPAs regularly participate in complex, high-impact projects with significant cost pressures. Already recognized for their accounting and finance technical knowledge, CPAs who have also obtained the PMP credential are well equipped to better ensure successful service delivery and implementation.

The planning methodologies learned through PMP training can be applied to a range of circumstances, including both internal and external projects and audits. By developing a proper project or audit plan, a CPA can vastly improve the efficiency of an engagement. Firms with employees who have both CPA and PMP designations will similarly be able to provide better quality service to their clients.

Consider the following real-life example of the value of PMP credentials: The acquisition of a financial institution required a global financial services company to integrate the entity’s financial systems. This included financial operations, regulatory, management, and financial reporting. A project team including both CPAs and PMPs managed the $16.5 million effort. The team used PMI project methodologies to create and execute the project plan, ensuring that a 150-person project team located on three different continents remained on schedule for the duration of the migration and integration. The team’s efforts resulted in reduction of unplanned downtime, accelerating the timeline, and reducing errors, as well as minimizing the IT footprint and support staff required to perform the reconciliation process. Due to this structured approach, the financial operations were successfully migrated from a legacy mainframe system to a modern Oracle Financials platform on schedule and under budget.

Projects led by PMPs have higher success rates and frequently result in substantial savings. CPAs who are also PMPs offer both essential technical knowledge and a precise and strong methodology for completing complex projects, making the credentials a worthwhile pursuit for CPAs.

Brett Johnson, PMP are consultants with WeiserMazars LLP in New York, N.Y.
Jim Liu, PMP are consultants with WeiserMazars LLP in New York, N.Y.
Michael Flagiello, CPA are consultants with WeiserMazars LLP in New York, N.Y.