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PMP or MBA: What to Choose? Here’s the Answer!


Got confused? What to do? Nothing to worry about. Let me try and help you with my experience. 

I have been working for the corporate sector for the last 27 years and have done both MBA and PMP. Hence, let me share my experience with you so that in case this helps you to decide what to prioritize and how to select one.

Let me take you through my MBA journey which happened before PMP. I did my MBA from an elite institute in India and those days there was a great amount of craze for an MBA, everyone who was MBA used to get rated amongst the best in the breed category by employers. I took my entrance test and got selected in two institutes and then went along with one of these (of course the relatively better one). 

I came from a core engineering background and worked in the technical field, MBA was completely new to me, too many varieties of subjects, different examination patterns, a new methodology of measurement, presentations, case studies, brainstorming on complex and difficult situations, role play and of course a primary level of research too, something I wasn’t used to in the engineering. Hence, I got fascinated by this and worked very hard during my tenure for MBA and would always cherish that experience in the future, it was amazing, challenging though however enjoying the journey

Immediately post MBA I got a good break into the higher level of management and Project Management was my passion hence I didn’t select any other area under the management but started my management career with Project Manager as a role. Started doing various projects, learned a good amount of project management basics and started interacting with various colleagues, friends on this very topic. This was very interesting because I used to correlate what I had learned in my MBA days. So far so good.

However the challenges of the corporate world had a different calling for me, slowly and steadily I realized that although I go in a mechanical way getting the projects planned and executed however the global world of project management was much beyond my thoughts and I thought I am just like a tip of an iceberg and the actual 90% of growth the beyond my small horizon of 5 years of work experience

This is where I would say a “Miracle” happened. I got in touch with the name “PMI” (Project Management Institute), the largest not for profit, volunteer driven organization in the field of Project management and allied topics. PMI worked through REPs (Registered education providers and various chapters globally). I got an opportunity to get in touch with the local chapter board of directors. They were anyway looking for core volunteers for one of their branch expansions projects and I got involved in the local chapter activities. I used to support 2-4 hours per week, and we used to meet once a month in person in the chapter office.

The experience of PMI got me into my futuristic dream that I never dreamt, however it happened relatively by a push from the organization I was working for and that’s “PMP” 

The GREAT WORLD OF PMP Certification 

The global organization that I worked for, announced that all the project managers working on various projects must be PMP certified and there came a pressure on our department (I used to be part of the Dept of PPM (Portfolio and program management). I wasn’t too keen or inclined to take this certification, always asking the question on value and money to be invested to grab one. While doing thorough research, I came to know about the GOLDEN POT (amazing depth of this profession). I dug into it more and more and got somehow attracted to it. My organization called a local chapter trainer to conduct the 5-day PMP training session in-house. 

My First Failure

Although I was quite aware of the value of this certification by now, I did procrastinate jumping into this and finishing my PMP Certification. I dragged it for various reasons for One year and by then I had almost forgotten all concepts that I had learned during my five-day course. Since the organization was ready to absorb 80% of the fees for the course and certification upon first passing the exam, I got back all my energy and focused on this and concentrated on this very certification. 

While doing the preparation here are the core differences that I found between MBA and PMP 

Focussed on core project management principles Focussed on general management
Apply Body of knowledge principles to the live projects in real life situationAcademic study and research and application to simulated situations
Need minimum 3 years of experience in projectsFresh graduates can do MBA
Assess you on situational based questions related to project management Assess you on general managerial skills especially with reference to your specialty in one of the functions
Since most of the organizations embark upon various initiatives and endeavors and strive hard to stay afloat and ahead of the competitive game, the value of PMP is Increasing day by day There is oversupply across the globe and everyone is doing MBA hence this post-graduation master’s degree has diminishing value day by day
The PMP certification authenticates your prowess as project professional having an edge over non certified professionalsMBA doesn’t talk very specifically about the project management (it’s a subject as a part of the operations management subject) hence there is no depth, just the overview of project management covered.

  • One of the research says: 37% of professionals do both the PMP and MBA
  • This was the most common theme with the many respondents giving the logical advice to  get the MBA for broader general business education, then the PMP after working a few years in a project management capacity if your goal is to manage projects. Also was the theme that this was the ticket to moving up the executive ranks such as a future position as a PMO director or VP of Program/Portfolio Management.
  • Get the MBA only (9%) Vs getting PMP only (6%), Unsure or no comment (32%) and others
  • My experience says: getting an MBA indicates various subjects, lectures, academic requirements, dealing with academic professors, reading the books, big libraries hence lots of periodicals and research compendium, etc and finally trimester or semester-based exams for 5-6 subjects per term. So far so good till I became PMP certified. 
  • It was Mark Twain who said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education” and in that same light, the MBA used to be more of less general management exposure (covering breadth- via different subjects and functional areas) whereas PMP covered depth in specific domain and knowledge areas and processes related to the projects (through Project management body of knowledge), though both have their individuality hence they are very, very different things.

My Recommendations:

  • If you ask me which one to do first, the answer is it’s immaterial. The point is since both are different, I always recommend professionals to do both one after another (in sequence OR in parallel depending on how much time you can spend, if you are working professional already) or if you are a fresher right out of your graduation then obviously you will need minimum 3 years of experience to get into PMP, whereas MBA can even be done by fresh grads just out of the college or university. 
  • The reason I say that you should do both, basis on my experience. It gives you a wider lens and focuses to look at project management in specific and functional management in particular. Both of these to me are complementary to one another being driven through the professionals in the business. 
  • MBA provides you broad visibility across all functions (in addition to your core function such as marketing/finance/HR/Supply chain/Artificial intelligence/IT etc) whereas PMP can help you narrow down the specifics within one function or cross functions however only towards a unique endeavor at a time so that you are completely focussed towards the vision and mission of the same and you drive it with the core purpose and drive yourself to the finish line.
  • Though the value of the project management is getting diminished by the day and on the contrary the value of PMP is increasing by the day. If you “Google: Top 10 certifications” you will inadvertently get PMP into the front page. You are still better off doing both.
  • These are my personal views based on my experience.


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