It pays to be certified – at least in the realm of project management.
Certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs) outearn their uncertified peers by 23 percent, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI).
You likely already know this though. The challenge is figuring out how the heck you actually become certified. Where do you start? What are the project management certification requirements? Which certification should I get? And how does GoSkills and other project management course providers fit into the picture?
In this overview, we’ll answer all of the above. After reading, you will have a clear understanding of the precise, step-by-step path you must take to get certified and increase your salary.
Before we dive in, a quick note: While we briefly discuss the different types of project management certifications available, the majority of this resource focuses on the king of project management certifications – the PMP® certification.
What is the PMP certification?
PMI awards several project management credentials. The PMP credential, which demonstrates the utmost knowledge and experience of project management, is the most widely recognized across the globe.
How to get your PMP certification
Step 1: Meet the PMP Certification eligibility requirements
First and foremost, you must meet the eligibility requirements set forth by PMI. PMP eligibility is based on three things:
- Academic education: Prove that you have a secondary degree by providing the name of your educational institution, your year of graduation and what you studied (major).
- Project management experience: Depending on which category you fall under, you’ll need either 4,500 or 7,500 hands-on experience managing and directing projects professionally within the last eight years.
- Project management professional training: Last but not least, you’ll need to complete 35 hours of project management specific training from an Authorized Training Partner (ATP). You can view the number of PDUs each of our project management courses is worth here.
|Eligibility requirement||Four-year degree||Secondary degree*|
|Years of Project Management experience||3 years (36 months)||5 years (60 months)|
|Hours leading & directing projects||4,500 hours||7,500 hours|
|Hours of Project Management education||35 hours||35 hours|
* A secondary degree is defined as a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or global equivalent.
Step 2: Complete the application
Next, you’ll need to complete the online certification application on PMI. Before you begin, PMI recommends collecting the following information:
- Phone number
Attained education information
- School attended
- Level of education attained
- Degree date
Domain experience information
Details of the projects, programs, portfolios you’ve worked on including:
- Qualifying hours
- Dates of employment
- Role, organization details
- Experience summary
- Details of the projects, programs, portfolios you’ve worked on including:
Domain education information
- Names of courses completed
- Institutions attended
- Dates attended
- Qualifying hours
Step 3: Wait while PMI reviews your application
Once you submit your application, it will be valid for 90 days, while PMI validates that you are in fact eligible to take the PMP exam.
Expect an email response back from PMI within five to 10 days with information on next steps, assuming everything you submitted checks out.
Fun Fact: Regardless of certification, PMI audits a random percentage of applications so be honest! Read more about the auditing process here.
Step 4: Pay to take the PMP exam
Once your application is approved, it’s time to pay PMI to take its exam, which you can do through its online certification system.
If you’re a PMI member, the PMP project management certification costs you $405. If you’re not a PMI member, then you’re looking at $555 to take the exam.
Upon payment completion, PMI will email you an “eligibility number” that you’ll need in order to make your appointment to take the exam.
It’s important to note that you’re only eligible to take the exam for up to one year after approval. And you only get three chances within that year to pass it.
Step 5: Make appointment to take the PMP exam
Finally, it’s time to make your appointment to take the exam at your local Pearson VUE.
I’m sure you have a lot of questions about step five, like: What’s the exam like? How should I prepare? The list goes on and on. Here are your answers.
Must-Know Information About the PMP Exam
The exam contains 200 multiple-choice questions that you must complete within four hours. Here’s a category breakdown of the questions:
- Initiation (13%)
- Planning (24%)
- Executing (31%)
- Monitoring and Controlling (25%)
- Closing (7%)
If you pass each of the five categories above, you’ll immediately be a PMP for the next three years (every three years, PMPs must renew their certifications).
Immediately upon exam completion, you’ll know if you passed or not. If you fail the exam, you can retake it two more times – each time will cost you either $275 (PMI member) or $375 (PMI non-member).
As you can see, failing will cost you – literally – so it pays to prepare well the first time.
Step 6: Maintain your PMP certification
As we mentioned above, every three years, you’ll need to renew your PMP certification in order to still be a recognized PMP by PMI.
To maintain your certification, you’ll need to:
- Earn 60 PDUs over the span of the next three years. You can complete this requirement with any of GoSkills project management courses.
- Report your PDUs (repeat every three years).
- Pay renewal fee of either $60 (PMI member) or $150 (PMI non-member).
What is the CAPM® certification?
The Certified Associate in Project Management certification, or CAPM, is the Project Management Institute’s entry-level qualification for project managers.
According to PMI, the CAPM “is an asset that will distinguish you in the job market and enhance your credibility and effectiveness working on – or with – project teams.”
The qualification requires fewer prerequisites and experience than the PMP, enabling those who are early in their project management careers to demonstrate their knowledge and set themselves apart from other job seekers.
How to get your CAPM certification
Step 1: Meet the CAPM Certification eligibility requirements
In order to sit the exam, you must first meet the prerequisites set forth by PMI. Unlike the PMP Certification, the certified associate in project management (CAPM) eligibility is based on only two things.
- Academic education: Prove that you have completed a secondary degree (i.e. high school diploma, associates degree, or global equivalent) by providing the name of your education institution, your year of graduation, and what you studied (your major).
- Project management professional training: 23 hours of project management training from an Authorized Training Partner (ATP) completed by the time you sit the exam. GoSkills is an ATP and our CAPM® Certification Training course provides 26 hours of project management education.
Step 2: Complete the application
Step 3: Wait while PMI reviews your application
Step 4: Pay to take the CAPM exam
Once your application is approved, you can head over to PMI’s online certification system to pay for the exam.
For PMI members, the Certified Associate in Project Management certification costs $225. If you’re not a PMI member, you’re looking at $300 to take the exam.
Once your payment goes through, PMI will email you an “eligibility number” which you will need to book your exam date.
Step 5: Make an appointment to take the CAPM exam
The CAPM exam can be taken in-person at a test center, or can be taken online with a proctor. The exam has 150 questions, and you will have three hours to complete it.
Step 6: Maintain your CAPM certification
In order to retain your CAPM certification, you will need to retake the exam every five years.
What is the difference between CAPM and PMP?
Simply put, the CAPM certification is intended for those who are in the early stages of their project management career, whereas the PMP certification is for those who are more experienced.
The project management certification requirements for the CAPM Certification are far less difficult to meet than the PMP Certification, allowing people with less project management experience build up their credentials. In fact, as of August 28, 2019, PMI has removed the 1500 hours work experience requirement for CAPM, with applicants only needing a secondary degree and 23 hours of project management education.
The PMP certification is considered the gold standard of project management certifications and is recognized in more than 85 countries. The PMP certification is suitable for more experienced project managers who already have 3-5 years of experience leading projects, a secondary degree or four-year degree (this project management certification requirement varies depending on your years of project management experience), and 35 hours of project management education.
The PMP exam is a four hour long exam consisting of 200 questions whereas the certified associate in project management exam is a three hour exam containing 150 questions. Both exams are multiple choice and closed book. As the PMP exam is designed for experienced project managers, the topics covered are more advanced than in the CAPM exam.
The certification you choose will depend on what stage of your career you are at. Both are recognized industry-wide, and demonstrate your expertise in the field of project management.
How to study for PMP or CAPM?
Study in a way that suits your learning style best. These days, it’s convenient and cost effective for most people to study for their coveted project management certification online.
Here are some general pointers that apply to all test takers:
- Master the latest PMBOK® Guide - The PMP exam is largely based on the guide, so understanding all of the knowledge areas in there is essential.
- Take an online course like CAPM® Certification Training that includes practical exercise files and quizzes to test your knowledge.
- Do practice exams
- Create flashcards
- Study with friends
How much does a PMP increase salary?
According to PMI’s project management salary survey, certified PMP holders earn 20% more on average than their uncertified counterparts. The survey found the average salary of a PMP holder was $119,235 compared to $99,070 for an uncertified project manager.
Your post project management certification salary can vary depending on your role, your industry and the company you work for. PMI’s survey data found that some of the highest paid industries for project managers are engineering, aerospace, natural resources and consulting.
No matter the industry you work in, obtaining a PMP certification shows employers you have the experience and skills to be considered for management, leadership, and higher paying positions over peers who remain uncertified.
Ready to get certified? Browse our PMI® accredited Project Management certification online courses.
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PMI, PMP and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.