Importance of Communicating with Project Stakeholders

stakeholder-management-project-management-pmp-featured1.png (600×312)

By PM Center Administration 

Project stakeholders are people who are involved in or affected by project activities, and include the project sponsor, project team, support staff, customers, users, suppliers, and even opponents of the project.  Project stakeholder are considered to be an individual or the group of the people who dream, plan, convey, and change the intentional forthcoming of the organization.

Knowing who your stakeholders are is important and the process begins by developing healthy relationships. They help decide on issues from the beginning, during planning and at execution of the project. Therefore, stakeholders should understand how the project functions, including the project scope, milestones and goals.

Communication is a critical element that all project managers Acknowledge, strategically manage and overcome to ensure project completion and overall success of the project.  Development and implementation of a diversified communication plan which meets the needs of stakeholders from various companies and firms require an common understanding of language, tone, and terms of agreement.  A few examples the Terms of Agreement include instituting a common media form for all major communications, the responsibility for release of information, and the acknowledgment of receipt on information by stakeholders.

communication mgt.png (816×426)

Project Managers, by the nature of their role must be excellent communicators, additionally they must be adept relationship builders.  Relationships are key to understanding the culture and values of a particular company or firm, as well as the culture of a country where these companies are located, as the employees are typically sourced from the nation where the firm is located.  Implementing communications mechanisms will have to work collectively with the integration of people, devices and products.  Project Managers of course cannot simply build a communications infrastructure on a basis of phone calls and emails.  The employment of telephony devices, presentations, reports and a network of stakeholders contributing with one another and a control point for acquiring, collecting, tracking, analyzing data points and continuous strategy development are also necessary for ensuring a robust communication plan.

The project manager should consider the number of potential communication channels or paths as an indicator of the complexity of a project’s communication. Identifying stakeholders allows for clear communications during updates or project progress meetings. Knowing who the stakeholders are and where they fit in the development and deployment phases of the project is vital to understanding and effectively addressing their expectations or concerns.  After obtaining this understanding, the next course of action is to develop a sound Communications Plan. The project communication plan sets the standards for how and when communication takes place. As the project manager, you want to set the tone for all communication concerning the project. This allows you to maintain control of the project and ensure all stakeholders receive the necessary information (Frost, 2015).

References

Schwalbe, K. (2011). Information Technology Project Management, Revised Sixth Edition. Boston, Ma. Central Learning. (pp.10-11)

Frost, S. (2015) How Important Are Communication Plans for Project Managers? Retrieved August 30, 2015 from:  http://smallbusiness.chron.com/important-communication-plans-project-managers-37520.html

 

Healthcare and Project Management with Dr. Darrell Burrell

PM Center Insider

Interview with Dr. Darrell Burrell, Global Peacemaker Fellow and Professor/Director at Florida Institute of Technology

By Dr. Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell
Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell

Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell is a Certified Diversity Professional, a Certified Executive Coach, and a Certified Telemedicine Administrator. He is a full time faculty member at the Florida Institute of Technology and Global Peacemaker Fellow at the Claremont Lincoln University.

Dr. Burrell has a doctoral degree in Health Education in Environmental Public Health, and Executive Leadership Coaching from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences. He has graduated with multiple degrees (2) in Human Resources Management and Management from National Louis University and a third graduate degree in Sales and Marketing Management from Prescott College. He also has a 4th graduate degree in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University.

He has over 18 years of combined experience in leadership development, health care, diversity, marketing, and human resources management and organizational development experience. He can be reached at: dburrell@fit.edu and is also listed on LinkedIn as “Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell”.

  1. You specialize in healthcare administration and policy. Can you tell us how project management skills are important in the healthcare sector?

The US Affordable Care Act and health consumers are driving the need to use project management approaches to improve health care delivery and health care outcomes. When understanding how important project management skills are in health care, consider how humanitarian relief professionals provide medical assistance to those in need or even consider how professionals engage public health threats like Ebola. Many community public health programs engage in activities that are focused on utilizing health-oriented interventions and education programs to serve populations in need. The use of project management skills has become more important to ensure that resources are used properly and projects are managed effectively. The most common project management concepts that are applicable in public health, health education, and health administration include:

  • Assembling a team of assorted subject matter experts from clinical and administrative backgrounds to focus on defining project objectives.
  • These objectives need to be specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time limited.
  • Engaging in research, data collection, gap analyses, and data evaluation to create effective strategic project plans and performance measures that set priorities for improvement.
  • The identification of stakeholders who are those who will be affected by the project, who will contribute needed resources, and who will benefit from the outcomes of the project.
  • Determine scope, resources and major tasks–Identify what needs to be done to meet each objective and divide tasks amongst team members.
  • Budget and resources estimation based on the size and scope of the project.
  • Implementation of the plan.
  • The development of communication methods and protocol to share project progresses, obstacles, successes, and failures to critical stakeholders.
  • Risk management activities.
  • Evaluation of the project and results.
  • Project closeout.

Project management skills are critical for those in health care with strictly clinical backgrounds because their academic training is often absent of project management fundamentals.

  1. What other healthcare fields do people use project management?

Health administration, public health, clinical health research, health promotion, health education, medical device manufacturing. Also, health services is focusing a lot of attention on analytics. Hospitals and other healthcare service organizations are paying close attention to big data. Project managers already do a lot of analytics and now even offer a certification in business analysis.

  1. Can you give us some examples of industries outside of healthcare that are going more ‘project-ized’ in their business?

Higher education – especially as it relates to curriculum development, which really requires a project management approach to the development of learning objectives and content.

  1. You have written and conducted extensively on the topic of leadership and diversity management. Where do you see the profession of project management going in the next 5 years and how should students prepare themselves?

I see areas like project management and quality project management as becoming growing academic disciplines where you can obtain degrees from the undergraduate level all the way up to the doctoral level. Universities like Bellevue University, Florida Institute of Technology, The George Washington University now offer graduate degrees in project management. Several universities in Australia including The University of New South Wales (UNSW) are even offering doctorates in project management. Students really need to realize the importance of specializing on the graduate level. Specialized degrees in areas like project management allow graduates to stand out in ways that a general MBA degree does not. Professionals and students should also realize the development of solid project management skills are transferable and valuable in any professional field, not just healthcare, or construction, or manufacturing.

  1. Do you think a person without a traditional project management background can get into the profession? Can you provide some guidance?

Getting a Project Management certification from the Project Management Institute is very important. Other critical certifications include getting a Six Sigma certificate which is offered by universities like Villanova and the National Graduate School of Quality Management.

Cyber Security and Project Management with Dr. Maurice Dawson

PM Center Insider

Interview with Dr. Maurice Dawson, Fulbright Fellow and Professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis

By Dr. Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Dr. Maurice Dawson
Dr. Maurice Dawson

Maurice Dawson serves as an Assistant Professor of Information Systems at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Visiting Assistant Professor (Honorary) of Industrial and Systems Engineering at The University of Tennessee Space Institute, and Fulbright. Dawson is recognized as an Information Assurance System Architect and Engineer by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Research focus area is cyber security, systems security engineering, open source software (OSS), mobile security, and engineering management.

  1. You specialize in cyber security. Can you tell us how project management skills are important in the field of cyber security?

Dealing with cyber security in the life cycle means there is a form of project management occurring.  This could be at the systems or software level but a project or product is still being managed.  This means a lead needs to understand the concepts of scope, schedule, and cost.  One of the major problems has been connecting the goals of Chief Information Officer (CIO) to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  Project management skills allow me to deliver a product or project to my customer within budget, in scope, and within schedule.

  1. What other technology fields do people use project management?

Project management can be found in the following technology fields: cyber security, software engineering, systems engineering, Business Intelligence (BI), and acquisition management. Project management is embedded in many technology disciplines, as many science and engineering life cycles have a form of project management contained within.  The flow is project management, systems engineering, and then software engineering, in terms of development hierarchy.

  1. Can you give us some examples of industries that are going more ‘project-ized’ in their business?

For any Department of Defense (DoD) project it must follow the acquisition life cycle.  The DoD and the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) required the DoD to establish a process through which persons in the acquisition workforce would be recognized as having achieved professional status. Certification is the procedure through which a military service or DoD Component determines that an employee meets the education, training, and experience standards required for a career level in any acquisition, technology, and logistics career field.  In the civilian sector, to manage costs, schedule, and scope project management has become essential.  When obtaining customer confidence – being process-oriented is needed.  The Capability Maturity Model Index (CMMI) is a process improvement training and appraisal program and service administered and marketed by Carnegie Mellon University, and required by many DoD and U.S. Government contracts.  In software driven projects, CMMI is required, which has a project focus.  This could mean any items such as aviation management software, software to control tanks, and any other software, as the requirement is CMMI Level 3 for many organizations to meet.

  1. You have written and conducted extensively on the topic of project management, where do you see the profession going in the next 5 years?

In the next years I see cyber security being woven more into the project life cycle.  In previous years cyber security was an afterthought which resulted in significant costs to fix defects or vulnerabilities in code.  I foresee project management methodologies like a bag of tools for a mechanic.  One project will select agile while another is using a modified water fall method.

  1. Can a person without a traditional project management background get into the profession? Can you provide some guidance?
    A person who doesn’t have a traditional project management background has more likely participated in part of the life cycle.  This means in the stage of testing, integration, documentation, or even maintenance, participation may have taken place.  An individual simply needs to expose themselves to more of the project life cycle.  This can be playing an active role in more parts of the life cycle and taking on responsibilities such as a Cost Account Manager (CAM).  Managing small budgets is a method to become more involved in the financials of the project.  This will allow an individual to understand the scope, schedule, and cost further.

Project-Driven Technology in Organizations with Dr. Robert McGrath

PM Center Insider

Interview with Dr. Robert McGrath, PMI Author and PM Center Faculty

By Dr. Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Robert McGrathPMCenterDr. Robert N. McGrath began his career after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and served five years as an Aircraft Maintenance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer. Afterwards he worked in project-driven aerospace environments as a logistician, engineer and manager for Texas Instruments, General Electric Aircraft Engines, and the Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company. When the Cold War ended and with several Master’s Degrees accomplished, he completed a Ph.D. in Business Administration at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. As a full-time academic, his work has focused mainly in the areas of strategic management, project management, technology and innovation management, operations management, and logistics. He is author of the book Project-Driven Technology Strategy: Knowledge Technology published by PMI.

  1. You specialize in teaching Project-Driven Technology. Can you tell us how technical skills are important to project management?

It’s more correct to say that I specialize in Technology and Innovation Management (TIM), which is a track in the Academy of Management, ensconced in my Ph.D. in Strategic Management.  However, I have come to realize that the interface between this strategic concern, and the “operations” level of management, goes right through the Project Manager.  That is, it seems that the lowest level of expertise in TIM lies at barely discussing the hands-on management of projects, while inversely, the typical PM can barely articulate what Strategic Management is all about at that person’s ‘upper level’ without resorting to vacuous and poorly understood buzzwords like “competitive advantage.”  The strategist’s floor is the PM’s ceiling, then, and this is a ceiling that must be dissolved.  So along with the PMP and prior industry experience, nowadays, I have made this interface my specialty, so to speak

  1. What makes project management technology unique? Could you provide some examples in when being current in PM technology is important on projects?

As noted, my focus is not about Project Management technology per se, as much as the Management of Technology — any technology amongst the thousands that exist.  Here, of course, the dominant “process technology” is the PMBOK itself, a rather ‘soft’ technology in the normal vernacular, but fully compliant with the extant definitions of what technology is – human competence, and organizational capability.  Anyway, the PMBOK is an ANSI standard, the ‘spec’ of this profession so to speak, which is the smoking gun of this esoteric point.

  1. If technology competency is so important for project managers why do you think so many companies overlook it when assigning a person to lead a project?

Well, here definitions really do become important.  If we are speaking of engineering-style, education/training-based degrees and certifications as technology competencies, then I’m sure this statement would vary in application tremendously across industries first and foremost.  This would be especially true in industries that define themselves using technology boundaries in the first place, which has important limitations when it comes to managing innovation in the age of technological convergence amongst and across industries.  One of my favorite expressions to hate is “THE Technology Industry,” which simply does not exist in any clearly-bounded fashion that is managerially useful except in the most casual sense.  There are thousands of technologies and hundreds of ‘technology industries’ – not one of each!  So to answer the question, one really needs to identify which technology competency(ies) are at issue in the given industrial context.

  1. You have written and conducted extensively on the topic of strategy and technology, where do you see the project management profession going in the next 5 years?

“Follow the money.”  This applies especially to large capital projects, whether they be privately funded or publicly (or hybrid forms).  US companies continue to hold back massive, massive amounts of Retained Earnings, waiting for the day when capital projects can be planned in an atmosphere of acceptable balances between overall (Investment) Risk and ROI.  Right now, companies are getting so tired of waiting for real recovery, they have switched growth strategies from internal development through capital projects, to Mergers and Acquisitions.  In other words in order to grow, which is an incessant corporate demand, the project-level “numbers” just aren’t there yet to foster “Internal Corporate Entrepreneurship” economy-wide, leaving the one other traditional option — to simply merge with and/or acquire other firms.  The year 2015 looks to be a record-setting year in M&A, especially in Healthcare.   But this is not so good.  The history of M&A fads is very bad in the long run.  The “synergy” unicorn is just that in many errant M&A schemes, that wastes billions in real wealth.

  1. Can a person without a traditional project management background get into the profession? Can you provide some guidance?

I’m not sure what a “traditional project management background” is!  More to the point, I don’t know where the boundary lies between PM being a true profession, and a job.  Some people get dragged into “management” almost against their will, almost as if they will accept the role only because they know what’s good for their careers.  Turning down a promotion, even an informal one, can be a disaster.   The term sometimes heard is the “Accidental Project Manager.”  I think we all know many practicing managers, usually low-level managers, that hold contemptuous views about “management stuff” being so much “common sense.”  Until they run into that crisis where lack of a key people skill, typically, shocks them into adopting a more mature and professional attitude.  The moral of this story?  Get enthused about the full range of human skills demanded of any professional manager early, accept these accountabilities fully, and let nature take its course.  Executives are ALWAYS looking for the real pros, not the cynics.  And sooner or later, get trained or educated.

Social Capital Management for Aspiring PMs

PM Center Insider

By Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Emad RahimDr. Emad Rahim, PMP®, OMCP®, serves as the Endowed Chair of the Project Management Center of Excellence and Associate Professor for the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. He has earned fellowships at Fulbright, Beyster Institute, Kauffman Foundation and the Jack Welch Management Institute, and has been invited to serve as a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University, Oklahoma State University and Syracuse University.  He co-authored Foundations of Social Responsibility and Its Application to Change, Leading Through Diversity: Transforming Managers Into Effective Leaders, and The 4-Tions: Your Guide to Developing Successful Job Search Strategies. Emad has also contributed columns for Forbes, CEO Magazine, IntelligentHQ and TweakYourBiz.com, and has been featured in the Huffington Post, US News & World Report and NY Post.

Connect with him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim

Project managers are nothing without a fine-tune team and a rolodex of social capital that is committed to your project success. Who are you going to call when you need project resources, solutions for complex problems, expert advice, and additional workforce or when you are dealing with a crises that no one of your team knows how to handle it?

“Social capital” means fame, goodwill, reputation or recognition you have amassed because of your work, achievements, professional network or social activism.

Traditionally, social capital meant goodwill a project manager – or any individual, for that matter – has gathered from various segments of professional networks and society. But in the Internet age, social capital also includes goodwill and reputation a project manager garners from social media, or more generally, from every digital platform.

If you are an aspiring project manager, here are 10 easy yet effective ways to build social capital before embarking on your project management career.

  1. Have Not One, But Several Social Media Pages

To build social capital, you need to be social. We are not talking about just saying ‘hello’ here and there, vanishing for a few weeks, and then coming back when you feel like it.

You should formulate an effective social media strategy in which you open – and maintain – pages on more than one platform.

At a minimum, you must have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter…and Pinterest if you have time.

  1. Engage Your Friends and Followers

Once you open the pages, maintain them. Post relevant content, information that improves people’s lives, entertains them or educates them.

If friends and followers see you posting value-adding information, you could boost your social capital over time, strengthening your moral authority over them.

The idea is to provide good information consistently, so people can see you as a trusted of education and information they can rely on.

  1. Follow What Is Going on in Your Area and Industry

Educating others is good, but educating yourself is better. Familiarize yourself with your niche, your industry or whatever interests you.

Learn as much as you can, read and find out the key trends that are shaping your industry. That kind of research will pay off exponentially later on when you embark on your business career, because you would know exactly what works, what does not, and what rivals are doing.

  1. Cultivate the Company of Prominent People

Don’t waste your time with the wrong people – online and offline. ‘Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are,’ says the axiom.

The idea here is to amass social goodwill by forming solid ties with prominent personalities in your niche.

That way, you can indirectly benefit from their social capital whenever they mention your name or refer you to their friends and business contacts. Don’t reinvent the wheel; just copy what the best are doing, and you could be on your way to business stardom, too.

  1. Surround Yourself With Other Project Managers

Surround yourself with other project managers if you want to simultaneously gather social capital and boost your business aspirations.

 The good thing is, when you hang out with other similarly minded people, their expertise and talent spread on you, thus expanding your own knowledge. You, too, share your inner potential with them, thus completing the virtuous circle you can use one day to advance your respective businesses.

The idea of crowdsourcing is similar, although it applies to a large group of people – a crowd, that is.

  1. Convince Others You Are the Best – or One of Them

You can quickly garner social goodwill if you consistently produce top-quality content, share good ideas with followers, and are seen as a rising star because you work with prominent people.

To convince others you are the best – or one of the best – you need to work, work and work. No talk – just work. Prove your excellence through hard work, and before you know it, others will give you the accolades you need and want.

  1. Do Good Offline

Doing good is excellent online – but so it is offline. Doing good is good for your karma, which is not a bad thing when it comes to social capital.

Accumulated much goodwill through volunteering and charitable activism can also translate into online recognition, because the people and organizations you helped also have an online presence – and they would be more than happy to return the favor you initially granted them.

  1. Establish Thought Leadership

Establish thought leadership by writing a book, giving a speech, penning several blog articles or mentoring others.

All these activities serve to set  you up as an expert in whatever field you choose, as long as it fits nicely with your future business aspirations.

Remember that people generally ascribe expertise and intellectual authority to someone who writes a book or delivers a comprehensive speech or presentation on a topic – and does so not just once, but several times.

  1. Think About Project Management, Too

As an aspiring project manager, you are probably thinking about business growth and the ROI of your project success only. That is okay, but don’t forget socially conscious projects that you can support.

This world also needs smart, competent and poised people who want to improve the lives of millions through social activism.

Earlier, we said you can build social capital by doing some good offline. Here we are saying you could actually take the path of social project management altogether, building an organization – nonprofit or business – focused on social welfare. I volunteer on several nonprofit and community projects every year. This helps me stay connected, grounded and expand my network outside of the workplace.

  1. Let Others Shine

Humility is the gateway to stardom, so let others shine whenever you can. As much as possible, mention others in your social posts, blog articles and other messages.

Shedding light on other people’s work will benefit you, not only in terms of social goodwill, but also in terms of personal connections you could use offline to jumpstart your business.

Final Word

As an aspiring project manager, you should cultivate your relationships offline and online, at all times, and wherever possible. Always provide relevant and value-added content, and your peers and followers gradually will elevate your status in the industry. This also rings true for established project managers that are seeking to grow their social capital.

Last but not least, don’t forget also to put the limelight on others – they will return the favor in due course.

Risk Response Strategies for Negative Risks or Threats

PM Center Insider

By Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, contributing blogger

Fahad Usmani

Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, is founder of PMstudycircle.com and the author of A2Z of PMP Certification Exam. He has over 10 years of global portfolio management experience, specializing in leading complex corporate projects. He currently serves as an Inspection Engineer in Kuwait and facilitates project management training programs throughout the Middle-East.

As we know, risks are not always bad; sometimes they can bring some opportunities as well. Negative risks or threats have a negative impact on the project objective and positive risks have a positive impact on the project objective.

Therefore, risk response strategies to manage positive and negative risks are different.

In the PMBOK Guide, we have following strategies to manage negative risks:

  • Mitigate
  • Transfer
  • Avoid
  • Accept

The following strategies are used to manage positive risks:

  • Enhance
  • Exploit
  • Accept
  • Share

In this blog post we are going to discuss the negative risk response strategies in detail. For the positive risk response strategies, refer to my next blog post.

Okay let’s get started.

Mitigate

In this type of risk response strategy, you try to minimize either the probability of the risks happening or the impact.

For example, you find that a team member from your team may leave for a certain duration during the peak of your project. Therefore, to minimize the impact of his absence, you identify another employee with similar qualifications from your organization and inform his boss that you may need him for your project for a period of time.

Transfer

In transfer risk response strategy, you transfer the risk to a third party to manage it. Please note that the transfer of risk does not eliminate the risk; it only transfers the responsibility of managing the risk to the third party.

For example, in your project there is a task to install some equipment and you don’t have much experience in this type of task. Therefore you ask a contractor to come and install it and sign a fixed-price contract.

In this way you have transferred the responsibility of the whole task to a third party, and now it is his responsibility to complete the task within the agreed time and cost.

Avoid

Here you try to eliminate the risk or its impact on your project objective. You do this by either changing your project management plan, by making some changes to the project scope, or by changing the schedule.

For example, you observe that during certain periods of your project there is a chance of rain and you have some work planned outdoors at that time. Therefore, to avoid this risk, you move these activities to some other time to avoid the effect of rain.

Accept

This risk response strategy can be used with both kinds of risks, i.e. either positive risks or negative risks.

Here, you don’t take any action to manage the risk but you do acknowledge it.

You can accept the risk either by actively acknowledging it or passively acknowledging it.

In active acceptance you keep a separate contingency reserve to manage the risk if it occurs, and in passive acceptance you do nothing except note down the risk.

Summary

You have four risk response strategies to deal with negative risks. You will select the strategy to manage the risk depending on the type of risk. If you see that you can manage the risk, you will go for the mitigation risk response strategy. If you see that a third party is better equipped to manage the risk than you, you will go for the transfer risk response strategy. If you find it difficult to manage the risk in any way, you will avoid it. And in the accept risk response strategy, you just acknowledge the risk and note it down and decided to manage it only if it happens.

The Road To Becoming a Certified Professional

PM Center Insider

The Road To Becoming a Certified Professional

By Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence  

Emad Rahim

Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP®, OMCP®, serves as the Endowed Chair of the Project Management Center of Excellence and Associate Professor for the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. He has earned fellowships at Fulbright, Beyster Institute, Kauffman Foundation and the Jack Welch Management Institute, and has been invited to serve as a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University, Oklahoma State University and Syracuse University.  He co-authored Foundations of Social Responsibility and Its Application to Change, Leading Through Diversity: Transforming Managers Into Effective Leaders, and The 4-Tions: Your Guide to Developing Successful Job Search Strategies. Emad has also contributed columns for Forbes, CEO Magazine, IntelligentHQ and TweakYourBiz.com, and has been featured in the Huffington Post, US News & World Report and NY Post.

Connect with him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim

While the objective of a degree program is to help students build knowledge and skills in a particular area of study, a certification program goes beyond that. Degree programs must meet standards set by regional and national accrediting organizations, the Department of Education and state licensing agencies. In an engineering, project management, or computer science program, for example, you’ll gain a thorough education. At the same time, these disciplines have industry-related certifications, and though you may complete a degree program, you’re not guaranteed to successfully pass a corresponding certification exam.

The typical full-time accounting student pursuing a master’s degree, for example, completes education in topics like business accounting, statistics, economics and financial management for two or three years, but along with hundreds of other accounting students, a graduate still has to pass the CPA exam to become a Certified Public Accountant. Certification exams specifically test for professional competencies and knowledge gained outside of your college education. They often require you to have significant career experience within your discipline, perhaps along with professional references and other requirements beyond those needed for graduation from a degree program.

Here are other examples of professional certifications that require a significant amount of study hours after earning the academic degree:

PE (Professional Engineer): http://ncees.org/exams/pe-exam/

PMP (Project Management Professional): http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification.aspx

PHR (Professional in Human Resources): https://www.hrci.org/

Also law students must pass the Bar exam after graduating before they can practice law, and there are dozens of medical licenses and credentials for those pursuing a career in healthcare.

On the other side of a professional certification, however, are some real advantages: employers respect the accumulated years of high-level work that underlie a certification, and they see you as more accomplished in your field than the average graduate. Certifications are based on having relevant experience in addition to college knowledge, and they let employers know you can get the job done well.

If you’re interested in pursuing a certification after earning your degree, keep  in mind that you may first need to put a few years into your field to gain the kind of real-world understanding it takes to pass the exam. Make an excellent name for yourself in the small pond of your professional career, and you’ll be poised to move ahead of the class as a certified professional.