Why Engineers in the AEC Industry Need the PMP


Fellow engineer-managers, listen up. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the engineers and project managers working for us are trained and equipped to perform their assigned duties. When we fail at this task, then we fail not only the next generation who will lead our industry, but we fail our clients as well.

By Christian J. Knutson, P.E., PgMP, PMP

Senior Civil Engineer | Program Manager

One thing I learned from my years of service in the military is the importance of training. In the military training ensures that the individual is up to speed in the tasks they will be expected to perform. This is not only in combat, but also in their day-to-day tasks; what we called “in garrison”. As a civil engineer, the in-garrison tasks were not much different from the tasks engineers in the AEC industry perform. From developing project requirements, to design, to construction, engineers needed to be trained to properly manage engineering work.

To ensure the engineers who worked for me were fit for purpose, I advised my engineer-officers to earn their professional engineer license. The process of preparing for the exam ensured a re-grounding in the basics of engineering, as well as indicated one’s capacity for self-motivation, learning, and desire to serve our great profession.

Additionally, I strongly advised my engineers to earn the Project Management Institute’s foremost credential, the Project Management Professional (PMP). Since most engineers in the AEC industry move into project management roles at some point in their career, I viewed it as essential that my engineers have a grounding in the basic framework of project management.

When it comes to project management, I don’t believe on-the-job training is sufficient. To be worthwhile, it needs to be supplemented with structured training that is industry accepted. Here are some reasons your engineers need to take the PMP.

For more information about earning or renewing a PMP credential, view our accredited project management training courses.

AEC Engineers Benefit from Project Management

On the program I currently direct I have numerous project managers. Each of them is experienced, most with over a decade of engineering project management behind them. There is a definitive difference, however, between those who have had formal project management training and hold a PMP and those who do not.

Here are the three main reasons AEC engineers need to take the PMP.

Common Language. The PMP is based on Project Management Institutes Project Management Book of Knowledge®, or PMBOK. The process of preparing for the PMP certification examination drives one to learn the language of project management. This is extremely important to me as a program director. Since my project managers have a common language around project management, when I ask questions related to the project life-cycle, stakeholder management or CPI, they know what I’m talking about.

Framework for Project Delivery. Building on the common language, AEC engineers with the PMP are armed with a framework for project delivery. If anything, the PMBOK® is exceptional at providing a structured methodology for project delivery that can be adequately laid on top of AEC projects. Even on international programs, this common framework is understood (the UK Association for Project Management uses a similar framework), so engineers working outside the U.S. will be able to effectively communicate project concepts to their foreign colleagues and clients.

Skills for Effective Project Management. Finally, engineers who earn their PMP certification will pick-up skills they can use for more effective project management. The skills range from technical (e.g. EVM or Lean tools) to soft (e.g. communications and leadership). These are all skills that fall outside the professional engineer license requirements, however, are vital for engineers to be effective.

Perhaps one of the most important benefits you will experience from your engineer’s earning their PMP is the increased capability to present to your clients. While a certification, or license for that matter, is no indicator of project success, both are useful in articulating skills and capability to a client. They are a marker of an organization that is staffed with motivated, skilled, and structured professionals that are serious about their craft. This builds trust, and in the AEC industry, relationships and trust are what drive project wins and repeat business.

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