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Advanced Degrees, Credentials and Certifications: The CPSM is worth the ROI

March 7, 2013

Today’s post is courtesy of Phil Hammond, CPSM, Director of Graduate Programs – College of Professional and Continuing Education at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Phil can be reached at or you can follow Phil on twitter @hammondMIT.

SMPS CPSMTo CPSM or not to CPSM, that is the question. Does it really matter if I get more letters after my name (PE, FMP, CPM, PhD, CCM, CCE, and AICP), will a CPSM certification really help advance my career and make me more money? Professionals in technical and support roles in the AEC industry are worried that the time and money it takes to get a master’s degree, credentials or certification isn’t worth it. The ROI doesn’t pan out, especially after the cost of an undergraduate degree. At a recent International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Boston Chapter networking event for emerging young professionals, I talked about this value proposition. I got a glimpse of what emerging young leaders, just like those in SMPS, are thinking about relative to degrees and certifications.

I joined a youthful conversation on why young people are considering this path. Everyone can learn from this recent exchange, as IFMA/SMPS/CMAA/BOMA/AGC/BSCES members explore the value/ROI of obtaining a graduate degree or advanced industry credentials.

The snow was piled high from a snow storm and parking near CBT’s offices on Canal St. was a nightmare due to a Bruins game, but IFMA’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) attended and reflected, so for SMPS members on the fence about whether to take the CPSM exam, this is what I heard: The ELN are confronted with the identical career choices, comparable private thoughts about their future, and equivalent reservations about spending more money beyond their undergraduate degrees – in short the ROI of degrees and credentials. The ELN is a microcosm of the SMPS membership. Their discussions about being a FMP or getting a MS degree runs parallel to what SMPS’s young professionals are pondering, namely the value of CPSM certification.

The lessons-learned from the IFMA “Advancing Your Career Through Higher Education and Industry Credentials” event are transferable when thinking about the usefulness of completing a CPSM designation. The ELN listened to me and AEC industry professionals Guy Compagnone, director of Sustainable Practices at Chapman Construction, and Erik Kraemer, account manager at Aerotek. We talked about the meaning of advanced degrees and FM credentials. Is a graduate degree worth it? Do extra credentials make a difference in moving forward? Questions filled the room and sage advice was given by the panelists.

Just like that night at IFMA and for my SMPS friends my advice is unchanged. Increase you credentials/marketability! Get your master of science degrees and get your certifications like CPSM! Expending the effort shows to your boss, family and peers and that you are motivated, and illustrates you are ready to lead. Being a CPSMer is worth it because your marketing and BD knowledge is validated and because CPSM proficiency enlarges your career mobility. Certification helps at all levels, whether you are in design, engineering or if someday you land in a career totally unrelated to AEC (like me). Don’t think the value of CPSM is just within the context of the present, but picture yourself in twenty years armed with CPSM certification knowledge.

Is the time and cost associated with degrees and certification worth it? The bottom line, yes higher education and credentials do matter, but it depends on how you see yourself in 2013 and how you see your career progressing. Don’t get a CPSM or graduate degree if you desire to learn has stopped, you don’t subscribe to continuous improvement or if you view credentials/degrees as just placing extra letters on your business card. Don’t add credentials and superfluous acronyms to the end of your name because it is cool. Plan ahead, move forward and advance your SMPS career because you want it. IFMA panelists Guy Compagnone cautioned that one size doesn’t fit all, while Erik Kraemer noted that employers look for a blend of experience and education. Both agreed though about the career advantages of exhibiting initiative, bosses and peers notice. As a CPSMer of 10+ years, I counsel to proceed carefully. My advice for CPSM candidates remains the same; if your heart, mind and body are not committed to the challenge, don’t do it.

I offer these words of caution. Getting the CPSM can be stressful. The time and commitment it takes to pursue the credential could play havoc on your life, the people in your life and your body. Trying not to sound too spiritual, it is important that candidates remember to take care of their mind, their body and their heart while they go down this road. Focus on the CPSM tasks at hand, keep your mind clear of extraneous issues and concerns i.e. don’t sweat the small stuff; go to the gym, take a walk and keep your body in balance i.e. don’t sit around eating bon bons and watching TV; take care of your heart and don’t ignore the friends/loved ones around you because they are your support system. Read, sleep and connect with the world around you to remove the studying and test stress from your life when going after the CPSM. The ultimate goal for the ELN and SMPSers alike is your career and, to be crass, more money. The time it takes to study and take the CPSM exam will be short, a small price to pay for greater career benefit later. Remember continuous improvement will yield positive results.

So, still thinking about the CPSM test? Think about the amount of time it takes to get the credentials (less than a year); the cost of the credential (study sessions are free) and if you’ll see a salary increase due to your efforts (use as a negotiating chip). Consider this: word on the street is that some national AEC firms now require a CPSM credential for senior marketing and BD staff. So if you want a seat at that table, set aside the time and money to get your CPSM in 2013.

Studying and testing for the CPSM must be right for you now. Candidates may want to get more work experience, assess your career path and then think long term. So ask yourself;

  • Is it possible to have too many credentials like CPSM?
  • Will CPSM enhance my resume?
  • Can I “climb the corporate ladder” without this credentials?
  • Will my boss think more highly of me if I get my CPSM?

My answers, no, yes, no and yes.

  • No, you can’t have enough education and training.
  • Yes, graduate degrees, certifications and advanced credentials do matter.
  • No, remember continuous improvement, it will get you a seat at the table.
  • Yes, the CPSM increases your value, career and paycheck.

SMPS study sessions are starting now, so do a career self-assessment and create your own Individual Development Plan (IDP). Talk to your peers. Come to the upcoming CPSM training sessions in March/April and May. My SMPS network is my marketing/BD family and at times my unofficial group therapy partners. The CPSMers I studied with 10 years ago remain my friends and are the foundation of my AEC network. My CPSM designation has opened doors and advanced my professional career. For me taking this leap increased my skills and capacity.

From my vantage point I see those who expand their marketing and BD knowledge as the “new” AEC leaders. These trailblazers are adding value to their careers and grabbing hold of life! These trailblazers are recent college graduates looking for another challenge; emerging professionals with 5 years of experience looking to add value to their skill sets by becoming CPSM certified; and they are seasoned marketing/BD professional looking to jump start their career. The next class of CPSM graduates is now at the “right place” in their lives and is ready to take the leap. Be in the right place personally, mentally, and physically so you can step ahead with a new CPSM certification in 2013. Go ahead, take the plunge!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin Hebblethwaite permalink
    March 22, 2013 11:47 am

    This is a great piece. Thank you for sharing it Boston!

  2. March 25, 2013 10:51 am

    This was exactly the piece I needed today. I have a member who found out late last week they didn’t pass the exam, and from my point of view, for exactly the reasons you highlight. This will help me for the conversation that I will have with them today. Thank you!


  1. Diary of a CPSM Candidate: Finally Taking the Plunge | Outlook Blog

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