I have buzzed through the chat rooms and have seen many people ask the question – “Should I go for the PMP Exam or an MBA?”  I remember the first time I read this I had to take a couple of steps backward, lift up my eyebrows, and say, “wow”.  I remember the years I had to go through to attain my MBA.  I was working on teams and having to do others work all the while “life” happened.  We moved to a different state and we had our first child.  A lot of character went into that MBA. Was a PMP on the same type of level?  After all, the PMP is just one test that you have to get a mid-sixty percentile to pass.
As an MBA and PMP, I thought a little bit more about why the question was asked.  There was some merit.  
During my MBA study, I received a lot of higher-level knowledge from many subject areas. Without a doubt, I learned more in graduate school than from the PMBOK. I was tasked with many strategies, adventure scenarios, and competition events that would often support theories and best practices. A lot of practical knowledge was applied. I even learned a couple new Excel tricks, such as the “Goal-Seek”.
During my PMP study, my project management prowess became fine-tuned. I did not necessarily know in-depth material about some knowledge areas, but I could talk all day about process procedures and ITTOs. I did learn about some practical applications, such as critical chain scheduling and the Monte Carlo.
There are many applications that I learned from each source (MBA & PMP) that have not directly transferred to my work. I would say, however, that in my line of work (project management), the PMP criteria has more recognizable content with those whom I work. Even though I feel I learned more in my MBA, the PMP content transfers so well that it seems more practical to pursue. 
What is in an MBA? That all depends-- Where did you go to school? And even then, I did not go to your school, so how can I know you learned the criteria that I think is important?  There is a lot of variation that comes with an MBA. I believe that that is the reason for its watered-down appeal. Some companies pay attention to an AACSB relevant degree, but many companies/managers do not 
  • Care or 

  • Know what AACSB is.

The PMP provides a standardized level of knowledge for the project management subject area. The test is a definite stepping-stone in accomplishment that qualifies an applicant for criteria knowledge. Everyone who takes the test is challenged over the same type of criteria which is relevant to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. 
I did not go to Harvard, but I did go to a good state school where a good GMAT score was required for admission. Most people who are impressed that I went to the said school are those who live in the state of that college. Currently, I have been living in a different state and I do not think I have seen the potential of the school’s branding ability in my career.  
The PMI institute is respected worldwide as a standard for practice. Therefore, there is a universal acceptance when acquiring their brand. Actually, the PMP is the equivalent of Project Management as a CPA is for Accounting. The credential suggests that there has been
  • practice in the discipline

  • a level of knowledge has been achieved and 

  • continued learning is taking place.

When do I look at job boards, which credential was more required? For me, it seemed that employers were selective about a bachelor degree, but a PMP was more necessary than an MBA. Thinking about it from an employer’s perspective, employers include the PMP credential within their proposals.

I met a lot of good people in my MBA tenure. I even still see them every other week…on LinkedIn. Maybe something more will come of it in the future, perhaps.  I do network with others in PMI Chapter meetings.  Most people who attend have gone through the warfare of studying for and taking the PMP Exam. There is camaraderie in knowing that the guy next to you went through what you went through.  Further, the folks who are in the chapter are pretty much in the same type of work that we can help each other out.
In summary, my MBA was a real test of character that tested me over the long term with general application. The PMP was not an easy test, but it was one rich test. The PMBOK content is so practical that I reference it still today.  I also have to maintain PDU credits, just like my buddies.  
Which is best for you may depend on your circumstances.  If you can manage to attain both, then great!  If not, then weigh the pros and cons and decide which is right for you.  Either way, I am an advocate for continued learning and believe that you will be creating a brighter future for yourself.   

Author - Gregory Morrow

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Gregory Morrow