I am wondering for a person who wants to advance his career from the development to management level in IT sector, what will provide him the suitable foundation or knowledge for him?

MBA or PMP ?

What will be the best choice for him to prepare for his upcoming career?

14 Answers 14


The MBA degree and the PMP (or similar) credential can't really be compared in an either-or way, as they have different goals and requrements.

Speaking very generally now, it is reasonable to assume that someone with an MBA and not a PMP credential may not have a skillset that reflects the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), and someone with a PMP credential and not an MBA may not have a skillset that reflects business analysis and operations (or another area of specialty). Neither an MBA degree nor a PMP credential are required for success and growth in IT management, although one or the other (or both) certainly provides more opportunities and of course provide you with more knowledge to better perform your the job at hand.

Bearing in mind that you can't go get a PMP (or CAPM) credential just by taking a test -- there are time-in-service requirements as well as education requirements specific to the PMBOK before you can even take the credentialing exam -- you'll have to think about what your goals are, as well as the time and money you have available to you. For example, if you are able to work as a PM in your company or another without PMP credential, then perhaps take that opportunity in conjunction with PM-specific education (webinars, seminars, courses at local colleges, etc) and work your way toward gaining your credential; you can't get your credential without experience anyway. If you want a broad and formal education in all things business, by all means get an MBA -- it would also open doors that a PMP credential by itself might not -- but that degree itself is not necessarily a path toward becoming a PM, especially if you're applying to jobs that still want that PMP!

To give you a personal example, I've worked in IT/software development for more than 15 years now, and I have neither an MBA nor (yet) a PMP credential. About halfway through my career when I wanted to do more management and less development, I got a BA (not MBA) in Business Management to fill in some knowledge gaps. Now, as I'm making a more definitive switch from SW Architect/Application Development Manager to more straight PM jobs, I filled in the gaps again with PMBOK-specific coursework and I'll soon take the exam. I haven't been limited by my lack of MBA or PMP credential, but having the PMP as a representation of that knowledge I've gained through time as a PM and coursework I've recently taken will be more beneficial to me than an MBA.


MBA, hands-down. An MBA will open up new perspectives on management and entire new areas. The PMP is focused on project management. Of course, as others have mentioned, there is a massive difference in cost and time commitment.

  • +1 for the approach taken by Mark. MBA offers a broader market understanding while PMP is focused on PM. Besides, as he's shifting to the management now... PMP is not an option.
    – Tiago Cardoso
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 11:55

PMP is focus only on Project Management. Project could be in any industries not only software or Information Technology. PMP PMBOK Book provides a guidance to manage any projects from initiation to closure.

It talks about 5 basic process groups

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Closing

and 9 knowledge areas

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management

Whereas MBA focus on different industrial streams eg Information Technology, Human Resource Management, Financial Management, Banking, Quality Management, Project Management, Production / Operations Management, Marketing Management etc.

Either PMP or MBA will help to situate from development to management vertical


Agree with both @jcmeloni and @morons on their take. Here's something to consider:

Cheapest option with potential $ gains quicker? - Maybe ask your management what it would look like to take on some management roles so you can get your 'feet wet.' Look internally for some job opportunities. This would help because you would already know the environment, people, etc. The big PLUS is that you get job experience.

You may find that you hate management! (I did). I was a developer for 3-4 years and then moved to management. I hated it.

I would have you say that experience will be your best learning tool on three fronts: 1. You may just learn that you're not really meant for management, or that you DO like it. 2. It won't cost you any upfront costs (unless you quit and find a management job) 3. You'll be better prepared for the future because your experience will be a big part of your future endeavors and future prospects.

Good luck!


I have been developing software since 1995, and have been managing its development since 2006. I also hold both an MBA and PM from a reputable university.

Honestly, I don't think you need either.

If your intention (as you describe) is to "prepare" for an upcoming career in management, then I'd suggest you find an existing manager and shadow them, and, if possible, get your hands dirty practising management as well. Based on what I've seen over the years, this approach is, without a doubt, the best way to prepare for a career in management.

(consider for a moment that you might not enjoy management at all, in which case this approach also helps you minimise your costs associated with learning)

For what it's worth, and as other posters have touched on, I found the MBA to be a great capstone course, that provides you with a strong set of generalist skills across all aspects of business. It will equip you with both knowledge and a sense of confidence that will certainly help you over the long-term, and will probably open many doors - due to both the reputation that preceedes it as well as the network of peers in your MBA alumni network (the latter will vary depending on where you study, and if you do go ahead with the MBA, I suggest you strongly consider the strength of alumni networks when surveying business schools).

The PM on the other hand is highly specialised. Whilst its body of knowledge is very thorough, I find that it is often overkill in a practical setting - although that all depends on the size of your project(s), the size of your team(s), and the extent to which your organisation practises textbook project management techniques. As a simple rule of thumb, unless you're in an organisation that explicitly seeks to employ qualified PMs (and abides by all the classic PM processes and procedures), you're better off avoiding this qualification.

So yes, in summary, your best bet is to seek out existing managers and learn from them. But you can't go wrong with an MBA (provided you choose your school wisely based on the criteria I've outlined above), and PM is overkill unless your organisation is PM-oriented.

On a side note, I find your choice of words interesting. You say that you'd like to "advance your career from development to management", when in reality, it's a sideways (as opposed to an upwards) move. But perhaps I'm being overly analytical on your choice of words.

Good luck :)


You can get your PMP in a few weeks and 405$ assuming you have the 3 years PM experience Prerequisite. (and in this case "the person" doesn't)

An MBA takes years and 1000s of $...

Really these should be two separate decisions as opposed to choosing one over the other.


I have an MBA and I am getting ready to take the PMP test next month. My MBA was focused on general management and finance whereas the PMP focuses directly around PMI-specific processes and knowledge areas. If you want to move forward in project management, I recommend the PMP. The PMI material is actually tailored to the project management profession, and the credential itself actually means something to people that work in and hire for project managers. For example, some of the best PM jobs are in organizations that have fully-embraced the concept of professional project management to the point where they opened a Project Management Office (PMO). It is unlikely that the person who heads the PMO isn't going to have the PMP credential, if not others (e.g. ITIL, PRINCE2).

On the flip side, if you're looking to advance your career as a functional manager (or general business operations), the MBA is probably the better degree. You receive training in non-projectized management philosophies, as well as a well-rounded view of the business operation in general. The MBA is also better for networking opportunities.

The MBA, though, will cost what $40k? You can get a PMP certification in a few months and some intensive studying. If you are willing to drop the $40k on the MBA, you should also be willing to drop $42k on an MBA and a PMP.

  • I concur with the last point wholeheartedly. If money is tight, then do the PMP. But if you can afford the MBA, then do them both. Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 6:37

It's like comparing a BS degree in Computer Science to a technical vendor certification - such as Microsoft's technical certs. One has nothing to do with the other. People shouldn't confuse degrees with certificates.


I am software developer, i been through certification in IT and also did bachelor in software engineering. Degree gave me wide range of knowledge where as certification gave me know specific in core subject(Same applies for PMP and MBA). Secondly job requirement, companies prefer to take MBA candidate as campare to PMP or non MBA, so the MBA would open few more doors in industry. where as PMP would help you to compete with other candidates who have MBA and qualify the job requirement. Project Management position not always required MBA but when market is stuff and 100 people for single job MBA and PMP would really help you to get in. Beside that experience factor plays it's own role if you are not MBA and/or not PMP.


I think if you can do both (MBA and PMP), it will be great benefit. It also depends what your undergraduate degree is in. For instance, if you have an engineering degree and do an MBA or PMP, it compliments each other. Technical and management skills. Also what you want in a career. Both MBA and PMP credentials perhaps are "over saturated" due the hard economy we are facing and a lot of people are just collecting credentials, with little work experience.

Personally, both are great to have along with experience!


It depends on the country you live and the accepted norm of educational qualification that is considered in that country.

However, if you have completed your Bachelor's and have no project management experience then going for MBA would be a good choice. PMP is a professional certification - not domain specific and is mainly helpful for people who are into projects and project management. PMP certification has certain eligibility criteria of number of project management hours.

Also to appear for the PMP Exam, a minimum of 35 hours of specific instruction that addresses learning objectives in project management is required.

Hope this information helps.


Both different, that's why I did each of them. Some people did their MBA with a focus/specialization in Project Management- that might be middle of the road for you.

  • 2
    Hi Jill, welcome to Project Management Stack Exchange. Can you elaborate a bit in your post? Our Q&A model works better when people provide answers with explanations of why or how. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 3:31

I think first you should analyze your career goals and aspirants. MBA is a management degree which includes many areas like marketing, finance, hr, etc and hence understanding of all the domains. If you go for PMP, that will mean you are a certified Project manager as it is a Project management certification. So, in my understanding you should go for MBA first which will definitely give you new career opportunities and better salary package. There are some MBA courses that have Project Management (PMP) as a part of the curriculum so you can take it from your college. The other thing is time and budget. If you cannot invest much time, go for PMP. You can also take PMP training online which is light on pocket and is a preferred way for many professionals. I hope my answer helps! Good Luck to you!


I have both the MBA and PMP and presently sitting for the ITIL certification. After my MBA skills began to get stale, I was looking for a way to refresh them. I found that the PMP certification is an abbreviated version of the MBA. Everything that was covered in the MBA is covered in the PMP prep so it was a good refresher and has been very beneficial to me, monitarily. I do think, that you probably need both to advance your management career. The latest fad is ITIL and it's nothing more than the PMP and/or the MBA, but someone thought of another way to make money by selling the same credentials with a different label. In another 10 years, another MBA candidate will write a thesis that will make ITIL obsolete and we'll have to get certified in something else that is the same thing as the MBA and PMP and ITIL.

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