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Within the field of project management, there are several professional certifications you can pursue. Among the most popular is the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification, which is geared toward helping professionals develop their project management skills through the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Whether you already work in project management or are thinking about pursuing a project management education, now is a good time to start thinking about the professional certification(s) you might want to obtain. With a better understanding of what CAPM certification is, what it entails, and how to obtain it, you can proceed with confidence toward your career goals.

What Is the CAPM Certification?

CAPM is an entry-level professional certification offered by PMI. It is often among the first (if not the first) professional distinction earned by project management professionals starting in the field.

Significance of CAPM Certification

Although CAPM certification is not required in the project management field, it is a very “in-demand” distinction to have—and obtaining your CAPM as an entry-level project manager could help your resume stand out from others. In fact, Entrepreneur ranked CAPM as #1 in its list of “The 9 Most In-Demand Professional Certifications You Can Get Right Now” as of June 2023.

Benefits of CAPM Certification

In addition to potentially improving your career prospects and helping you set yourself apart from your competition, there are many other reasons to pursue CAPM certification. For example, CAPM is often a gateway to other professional distinctions. Some who earn CAPM certification go on to pursue Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, an even higher designation.

Completing CAPM certification can also be a great way to expand your skill set in project management while putting some of the more complex theories you have learned in school into practice. In this sense, the very act of pursuing your CAPM certification can help you strengthen your project management skills.

How to Earn Your CAPM Certification

With so many potential benefits to reap from this professional designation, you may be wondering how to get CAPM certification. The process involves a series of steps, from fulfilling basic eligibility criteria to preparing for and passing the CAPM examination.

Step 1: Fulfilling the Eligibility Criteria

Before you can apply to take the CAPM certification exam, you must ensure you meet strict academic and professional eligibility criteria.

Academic Requirements for CAPM Certification

To be eligible to take the CAPM certification exam, you will need a high school diploma, GED, or global equivalent. You will also need to have a minimum of 23 hours of project management education completed before your examination date, which can include credit hours in a project management degree program.

You do not need to have a formal degree in project management under your belt to qualify for CAPM certification. Whether you are currently in school pursuing a project management degree or failed to finish school for any reason, you can still qualify to take the exam so long as you have the required hours of project management education.

Professional Experience for CAPM Certification

If you do not have 23 hours of formal education in project management, there are still ways for you to take the CAPM examination. The Project Management Institute, for example, offers an online course that can be used to fulfill the 23-hour requirement.

If you have extensive experience working in project management (at least 1,500 hours of work experience as a member of a project management team), you may likewise be able to forego the educational requirements and take the CAPM exam.

Step 2: Preparing for the CAPM Exam

After you have met the prerequisites to take the CAPM exam, you should prepare for the exam before you apply and register. After all, while you can take the exam multiple times to pass, you will also need to pay the registration fee with each attempt. It is better to do plenty of preparation ahead of time and maximize your chances of passing the exam on the first try.

Training Options for CAPM Examination

Even with some formal education in project management under your belt, you should not expect to be able to take and ace the CAPM exam without preparation. Fortunately, there are plenty of training and preparation options available to help you prepare for the exam.

Many third-party sources, including PMI and Project Management Prepcast, offer training programs, often including such tools as CAPM practice exams and study materials.

Resources for CAPM Examination Preparation

You do not necessarily have to pay for a training course to pass the CAPM examination. You could take studying into your own hands with the right preparation, planning, and discipline.

The CAPM examination is always based on the latest version of the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK), so having a copy of this book will technically provide you with all the material you need to study for the exam.

Some of the topics from PMBOK that will be covered in the exam include:

  • Project environment
  • Project scope management
  • Project communications management
  • Project risk management
  • Project cost management

Step 3: Applying for the CAPM Exam

Once you meet all the prerequisites for the exam and have taken time to prepare for it, it is time to apply for the exam through the PMI website. Once you are approved to take the exam, you can schedule a date and time that works best with your schedule. The exam can be taken at a registered testing center (recommended) or online.

The Application Process for CAPM Certification

When you apply for the CAPM exam, you will need to make a PMI account (if you have not done so already). From there, you will need to fill out a basic application that reviews your eligibility materials. You may need to provide documentation (such as transcripts) to prove your eligibility.

Once you pass your CAPM exam, you do not need to do anything further to receive your certification. It will automatically arrive at the address you provided when you registered—usually within just a few weeks.

Cost of CAPM Certification Examination

How much does the CAPM exam cost to take? This will depend on whether you are a current PMI member. As of January 2024, the cost for PMI members to take the exam is $225, whereas non-members must pay $300. You can take the test more than once if you do not pass the first time around, but you will need to pay the fee each time you attempt the exam.

If you are a current student looking to save money on exam registration fees, PMI offers a student bundle that can help you cut down on costs related to CAPM certification.

Step 4: Taking the CAPM Exam

Before you take the exam, it is also a good idea to get a feel for what the examination format will look like. Practice exams are a great way to familiarize yourself with the format.

Format of the CAPM Examination

The CAPM examination consists of 150 multiple-choice questions, all of which are based on the latest version of the PMBOK guide. You have a maximum of three hours to complete the exam.

Of the 150 questions you complete, 15 of these will be pre-test or unscored questions. You will not be informed which questions are pre-test, but these questions are important because they may be used in future examinations.

There is no “official” passing score for the CAPM exam, but you will typically receive a “pass” or “fail” score, along with areas of proficiency before you leave the testing center. Because PMI relies on subject matter experts to calculate the number of questions candidates need to score correctly to pass the exam, all you can do is try your best and hope for a passing score. However, with the right amount of preparation and planning, you should be able to pass the first time around. If not, your exam score sheet should give you a better feel for which areas you need to focus on before you retake the exam.

How to Approach the CAPM Examination

There are a lot of different strategies you can use to approach the CAPM examination, but it ultimately boils down to what will work best for you. For many test-takers, it is a good idea to go through the exam and answer all the questions you confidently know the answers to first. From there, you can return to more challenging questions with any time you have remaining. Your testing center computer should have an option that lets you “flag” unanswered questions so that you can easily find them later.

Another tip is to start by writing down any formulas at the top of your page before you begin while they are still fresh in your mind. This way, when you come across a question that utilizes the formula, you can simply refer to it.

What Comes After Earning the CAPM Certification?

Earning your CAPM certification can be very exciting, but it is important to understand that earning your certification is not the last step. You will also need to take measures to keep your certification active for the remainder of your career, which means earning at least 15 project development units (or continuing education credits) every three years. You can do this by taking additional classes, attending workshops and seminars, and even volunteering in the field.

Earning your CAPM certification can be a great way to build and grow your project management skills in a way that may also appeal to future employers. In some cases, CAPM certification is an end goal—though others may use it as a stepping stone to other credentials (such as a Project Management Professional certification).

Looking to take your project management certification even further? A graduate certificate in project management can allow you to build foundational insights necessary to define project scope and goals, manage project cycle risks, cultivate leadership approaches, and more. Post University is proud to offer a Graduate Certificate in Project Management that is available 100 percent online, so you do not have to put your life on hold to continue your education. Additionally, if you want to take your learning even further, consider the Master of Science in Project Management offered by Post University. Learn more about this program and other program offerings by reaching out—or start your application today.


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