For some, the road they take to the top of the corporate ladder goes through the mountain that is project management. Like other professions, it makes good sense to earn a certification as a project manager to help you stand out from the crowd. A great way for project managers to stand apart is to earn the Project Management Professional®️, or PMP®️, certification. PMP is the premier global, industry and methodology-neutral project management certification that can give you, among other things, a marked increase in earning potential.
This article will answer three questions that are probably at the top of everyone’s list at this point:
- What are the prerequisites for taking the PMP certification exam?
- How long does it take to prepare for the PMP certification exam?
- What steps do you have to take to become PMP-certified?
By the time you reach the end of this article, you should have a much clearer picture of how the PMP certification process will go and it may even convince you to pursue the certification. Either way, buckle in and enjoy this exploration into how you can become PMP certified. To assist candidates PMI released a PMP Credential Handbook, which can be found here. Read on for our summary of the most important information.
What Are the Prerequisites for Taking the PMP Certification Exam?
In order to be eligible to take the PMP certification exam, there are educational and professional prerequisites that candidates must meet. The type of requirements depends on the educational level of the candidate.
If the candidate’s highest educational level is a secondary degree, such as a high school diploma, the candidate will need to have accrued a minimum of five years, or 60 months, of unique, professional project management experience. This experience must be non-overlapping. During this experience, the candidate needs to have lead or directed professional projects for at least 7,500 hours.
Additionally, candidates at this educational level need to have had accrued at least 35 contact hours of formal project management education by the time they submit their exam application. PMI considers one hour of classroom instruction to be the equivalent of one contact hour. Please note that if only a portion of the class covered professional project management, then only the time spent actually covering the subject matter will count towards the 35-hour total.
If the candidate’s highest educational level is a four-year degree, such as a bachelor’s degree, the candidate will need to have accrued a minimum of three years (36 months) of experience of unique, professional project management experience that is non-overlapping. During this experience, the candidate needs to have had lead or directed professional projects for at least 4,500 hours.
Just like a candidate with a secondary degree, candidates at this educational level need to have accrued at least 35 contact hours for formal project management education by the time they submit their PMP exam application.
How Long Does it Take to Prepare for the PMP Certification Exam?
Another burning question that potential PMP certification candidates have is how long will it take to prepare for the exam? This is a difficult question to answer as you begin to prepare for the exam, but it becomes clearer the more you study. One esteemed expert on the PMP certification exam has said that you will not know how long it will take you until about halfway through studying.
As helpful as this may be, I am sure that you want a more definite answer. Fortunately, one exists.
A recent survey of candidates that have successfully passed the PMP certification exam asked them how long it took them to prepare for their exams. Some candidates needed only one week to study, while others needed at least six months. Boiled down to a workable average, the average time to successfully prepare for the PMP certification exam boiled down to two months of studying where the candidate studies for three hours daily.
Let’s say you are a student who is not looking at a study schedule that allows you to keep a schedule like this. If you prefer to view studying strictly in terms of hours spent studying, you will need to study for 180 hours to pass the exam.
What Are the Steps to Becoming PMP-Certified?
The path to becoming PMP certified is a four-step process.
Step 1 — Prerequisites
The prerequisites have been touched on above. Prerequisites fall into categories of education and experience.
Step 2 — Application Process
The first part of the application process is to visit the PMI certification web portal and become a member of the Project Management Institute. The PMI web portal can be found here. Click Register to create an account. Becoming a member of PMI will save you money, as you will be charged less for exam fees if you are a member.
After creating your PMI membership account, you can use the PMI online certification system to apply and pay for your PMP certification exam. The PMI online certification system is where you add the information about your prerequisites that was mentioned above. Please note that email is the preferred method of communication between PMI and exam applicants.
Once you have submitted your application online, the estimated processing time is five days. This processing time does not apply to paper applications sent via the United States Postal Service or if an application is selected for audit, which will be discussed below.
After your application has been submitted, you can log into your PMI account and pay the respective exam fee. The total amount for exam fees varies, so please refer to the PMP handbook to determine the fee that is appropriate for your application.
At this point, candidates whose applications have been approved by PMI will receive an authorization email. Approximately 5-10% of applications are selected for a random audit, with the audit pertaining to the PMP prerequisites explored above. If an application is selected for random audit, the candidate will have 90 days to product three types of audit documents. These audit documents are:
- Proof of degree
- Proof of 36 hours of professional project management experience
- Signed verification forms of professional project management experience
After PMI has received the requested audit documents, the processing time of the audit can take five to seven business days.
If your exam application is approved, you will be sent an email containing your PMI Eligibility ID and examination scheduling instructions.
Step 3 — Exam
The next portion on the path to PMP certification is the take and pass the exam itself. To take the exam, you of course have to first register for the exam. Candidates are given one year from the time that their application is approved to pass their exam. Within the one-year timeframe, candidates will have three chances to pass the exam.
To set up your test day, go to www.prometric.com and enter the password sent to you in your authorization email mentioned above. Please note that there are multiple testing sites available to take the PMP certification exam — visit the Prometric website to see which testing center is closest to you.
At this point you have reached the final step to earning your coveted PMP certification: the certification exam itself. The exam is composed of 200 questions. Of these questions, 25 are unscored pretest questions and 175 are scored questions. Candidates have four hours to complete the exam.
You probably want to know what exactly will be covered. Well, excuse the pun, but we have you covered. Below is a breakdown of the different domains and the percentage of the exam that the domains comprise:
- Initiation — 13%
- Planning — 24%
- Executing — 31%
- Monitoring and Controlling — 25%
- Closing — 7%
If you passed your PMP certification exam, you will receive an email from PMI informing of the good news. A great aspect about the PMP certification is that you can use it immediately.
Step 4 — Maintaining Your Certification
The last step to becoming PMP-certified is to maintain it. In order to maintain their PMP certifications, certification holders must earn at least 60 Professional Development Units, or PDU, every 3 years. To report their PDUs, certification holders should go to https://ccrs.pmi.org and enter your PMI account login information, which will bring you to a page to enter your PDU information. Certification holders will also be required to pay a renewal fee every three years to maintain their certification. This fee varies, so please check the website for current prices.
A way for project managers to differentiate themselves from the pack is to earn a professional project management certification. Premier among these certifications is the Project Management Professional certification, or PMP.
This certification can give holders a boost of about 20% to their earning potential (on average). After you have acquired the prerequisites, follow the steps above to map out your path to victory in conquering the certification exam and earning the coveted PMP certification. Your resume, and bank account, will be thanking you for earning it.
Project Management Professional (PMP) Handbook, Project Management Institute
Project Management Professional Certification, Project Management Institute
PMP Certification Requirements, Project Management Academy
How Much Time, Effort and Money is Required for the PMP Credential?, Edward Designer