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August PMP Certification Numbers

Diffusion of ideasI know what you’re thinking.  Derek, why oh why do you post these PMI numbers ever month?  Where’s the value?

Well, I’m kind of fascinated by a theory called diffusion of innovations. It’s a theory of how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures.

There was a book published in 1962 by a fellow named Everett Rogers, who defined an adopter category as a way to classify individuals within a social system.  The adoption of an innovation follows an S curve when plotted over a length of time. The categories of adopters are: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards (Rogers 1962, p. 150)


Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures. (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282)

Early Adopters

This is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).

Early Majority

Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283)

Late Majority

Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation, have below average social status, very little financial lucidity, in contact with others in late majority and early majority, very little opinion leadership.


Individuals in this category are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”, have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends, very little to no opinion leadership.

Certification as an Innovation

So, what does a certification have to do with innovation?  I’m trying to draw a parallel between the industry adoption of the credential compared to diffusion of innovation.  Every month I get a copy of PMI Today and I traditionally annotate data points.  I have them as far back as September 2006.

January February March April May June July August
New PMPs (Overall) 3,714 3,713 5,344 4,718 3,985 4,630 3,687 3,965
Total Active PMPs 367,619 371,014 375,959 381,111 385,096 389,726 393,413 397,378

PMI Credentials August 2010
When I look at the data from the last 4 years, the certification velocity has remained relatively consistent. (send me an email if you want the spreadsheet) For the month of August, those with the PMP certification increased to 3,965. There are now a total of 397,378 active PMPs.

The questions that I pose to you, the reader, are

Where do you think the PMP credential is on the chart listed above?

Where are we on the bell curve?

Is the PMP in the early adopter, early majority, or early stage of the late majority?

About Derek Huether

I'm a Transformation Consultant at LeadingAgile. I have a goal to take the hand waving out of Agile, Kanban, & Scrum. I’m a strange combination of a little OCD, a little ADHD, a lot of grit, and a lot of drive. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

8 Responses to “August PMP Certification Numbers”

  1. September 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I think a stable market is what you call a mature market…..and as it is the market leader then it would be a cash cow…….although I am sure this will upset some people. It would be interesting to see the total trend. Also some markets in the world may be mature while other markets in the world are in the early adopter phase.

  2. October 1, 2010 at 9:25 am

    If you give credence to the research done by The Standish Group, published as The Chaos Report, another interesting point is that, although the number of PMPs has increased more than 10-fold over the last 8 – 10 years the percentage of projects classified as meeting their objectives has dropped slightly, from 34% to 32%.

    • Anonymous
      October 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

      Bill, I do appreciate your comment. This could lead to an enlightening conversation. I am familiar with the 1995 Chaos Report by The Standish Group but don’t necessarily agree with it. But I’m still curious about your statistic. Where did you get the specific numbers of 34% and 32% of projects meeting their objectives? In this case, I don’t think correlation implies causation.

    • Collinq
      October 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      And, I would bet that the number of frustrated Project Managers has gone up as well. Yes, the credential can be obtained without the PM being competent. BUT, I think that there are some situations where a competent PM is put in charge and they aren’t given the tools to do the job that they know they should do – and so they are frustrated (and projects just keep rolling on with poor “meet objectives” statistics).

  3. October 3, 2010 at 2:42 am

    If we are less than 400.000 in a world of +6billion, I think we still have some competitiveness! But not for a long time. I’ve been thinking about what’s the next step, do you have a clue?.

    • Anonymous
      October 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

      According to PMI, back in 2007, there are an estimated 16.5 million people worldwide who consider themselves project managers. So, we just shrank the pool down from 6+ Billion. I really think the next step is to put more emphasis on competence and less on getting a credential. Dennis Stevens wrote an awesome piece titled Certification, the Dreyfus Model, and Tilting at Windmills. I think he nails it. http://www.dennisstevens.com/2010/08/25/certification-the-dreyfus-model-and-tilting-at-windmills/

  4. Bill Duncan
    February 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Derek — you’ve got to look beyond PMI. I left PMI more than 10 years ago because of what I saw as a lack of concern over quality. I am now involved with asapm and IPMA and have become a big believer in performance-based competency assessment. As well, you might be interested in a recent article published by PMI that found **no difference** in results when comparing IT project managers who were certified with those who were not.

    • Anonymous
      February 17, 2011 at 1:49 am

      Bill, thanks for the post. Looking forward, I’m not looking for any other certifications. But, for those looking to get into project management, I do hope they entertain all options. I know some really smart people who don’t have a certification and don’t need it. I think most get the certification merely for marketing reasons. Depending on your employment status, you look to have whatever the hiring managers are looking for. In a perfect world, I think they should all be performance-based competency assessments. Until then, I think employers just need to do a better job of interviewing and not rely too heavily on certifications.

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