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Ready to grow your project management skills across various industries? Additional certifications and training could help you do just that. Specifically, the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is a common one offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). If you are prepared to put in the work to pass the examination, this certification could help enhance your skill set and authority within this field.

So, what is PMP certification, and what steps are necessary to earn it? By knowing what to expect, you could better determine whether PMP certification may be right for you.

PMP Certification Explained

Across the globe, more than one million project management professionals hold their PMP certification, making it one of the most sought-after designations among project managers in all industries. Because the training that comes along with PMP certification is so adaptable, it applies to those working in a wide range of project management settings.

What Is PMP Certification?

PMP certification is a globally recognized project management certification that covers a project manager’s skills and abilities related to managing people and processes as part of a professional project of any size or scope. PMI created the PMP certification to recognize project managers with proven project leadership experience and unrivaled expertise in their respective fields.

Importance of PMP Certification

The PMP certification is considered one of the most distinguished project management certifications in North America. Being able to put this designation on your resume demonstrates that you are skilled in the ability to motivate teams through all aspects of a project and know how to use predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches to lead a project to success.

Earning your PMP certification could also allow you the opportunity to network with professionals in your field, seeking insights from other project management professionals and even finding mentors to help guide you. In addition to the potential to expand your networking opportunities, PMP certification is simply an investment in yourself and your professional future.

The Path to PMP Certification

Now that you have a better understanding of this designation and its benefits, you may be wondering how to get PMP certification. First, note that not all project managers may be eligible to pursue this designation, as there are specific criteria you must meet.

The certification process requires you to pass an examination, too, so this is something you should prepare for.

Eligibility Criteria for PMP Certification

To be eligible for PMP certification, you need to have a four-year degree (such as a bachelor’s degree) as well as 36 months of project leadership experience and 35 hours of project management training or a CAPM® certification.

What if you do not have a college degree but still have plenty of experience in the field? Those with high school diplomas and 60 months of experience in project management leadership, along with 35 hours of project management training, or CAPM® certification, may still be eligible. If you do not yet meet these requirements without the certification, you might consider applying for CAPM certification instead—which is a common stepping stone to PMP, and helps equip you with the education and training hours needed to meet PMP eligibility requirements.

The Application Process for PMP Certification

If you do meet the eligibility requirements for PMP certification, the first thing you want to do is complete your online application through PMI. To do this, you need to provide information on the kinds of projects you have led as well as the institutions you have attended and courses you have completed. This may include copies of high school and college transcripts.

Once your application is submitted, you will be informed of your application status. Some applications are randomly chosen for an audit to verify eligibility materials. If this happens to you, you may need to provide additional documentation in the form of:

  • A copy of your degree or diploma
  • Verification of experience (signed by a supervisor)
  • Certificate or proof of 35 hours of project management training

Preparing for the PMP Certification Exam

When your PMP application is accepted, you also must pay your exam fee and schedule your exam. The fee for non-PMI members is $575, whereas the fee is $405 if you are already a PMI member. Once you have paid, you are able to schedule your exam either at a Pearson Vue Testing Center near you or online. It is also worth noting that you may take the PMP exam up to three times in one year. However, you are required to pay the exam fee with each attempt.

When scheduling your exam, be sure you are giving yourself plenty of time to prepare and study. The exam itself can be difficult—and although you may take it up to three times in a year if you do not pass, it is ideal to pass it on the first attempt to avoid paying extra exam fees.

Exam Specifics for PMP Certification

So, what exactly should you expect from the PMP exam? It is worth noting that the exam was updated in 2021, so there have been some changes over the last several years. By gaining a solid understanding of the overall format and pattern of the exam, you could have an idea of what to expect and how to best prepare for test day.

Overview of PMP Certification Exam Pattern

The PMP exam consists of 180 questions comprising a combination of multiple-choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, and hotspot question formats. You have three hours and 50 minutes to complete the exam, plus two 10-minute breaks built in.

The exam structure is as follows:

  • Process (50 percent of the exam) – This part focuses on processes and methodologies required to complete a project successfully, including scheduling and managing budgets.
  • People (42 percent of the exam) – This section of the test covers building teams, leading team members, handling conflict, and similar topics.
  • Business (8 percent of the exam) – This is focused on the business aspects of working as a project manager, such as industry regulations and compliance standards.

It is also important to keep in mind that PMI has not publicly released its process for determining a passing score on the exam. According to the PMP handbook, “The passing score for all PMI exams is determined by sound psychometric analysis.” With each new exam that is written, subject matter experts are brought in to determine what should constitute a passing score.

Upon completing your exam, however, you receive an exam score report that breaks down your performance on the exam. This section highlights which areas you performed at or above target as well as which areas were below target and need improvement. This score report may be extremely helpful if you do not pass the exam on the first attempt, as it could inform your studying and focus for future attempts.

Post-Certification Steps

In addition to earning your initial PMP certification, you would need to complete some post-certification steps to keep your designation valid.

Renewal of PMP Certification

First, understand that the PMP certification itself is only valid for three years before you need to renew it. This is done by earning 60 professional development units (PDUs). You also have the option of taking and passing the PMP examination again (in lieu of earning 60 PDUs) to renew your certification.

When it comes time to renew your PMP certification, you must enter your PDUs online in the PMI system and pay the renewal fee. Once your certification is renewed, it is valid for another three years from the original certification date.

PDUs and Their Importance in PMP Certification

While you do have the option of taking the PMP exam again if you wish to forego the 60 hours of PDUs for certification renewal, most people opt to complete their PDUs instead. After all, ongoing training and education is the best way to stay on top of the latest developments and innovations in the industry—so taking additional classes and pursuing professional development is a great way to keep yourself relevant.

PMP Certification and Career Opportunities

Clearly, a lot of hard work and dedication goes into obtaining and maintaining your PMP certification. With all this in mind, you might be wondering whether the effort is worth it.

Role of PMP Certification in Career Growth

For many working in project management, having the PMP certification may pay off many times over. This certification may both offer you a credentials boost and allow you to learn new skills that could make you a more effective and efficient project manager—whether you want to continue growing at your current company or seek positions elsewhere.

FAQs About PMP Certification

There are some questions people commonly ask about PMP certification, and we have done our best to answer them for your reference.

Who Should Opt for PMP Certification?

In general, any project management professional who meets the qualification requirements for PMP certification and is prepared to put in the work (including studying for the exam and completing renewal requirements every three years) could benefit from having this certification.

Even if you do not currently meet the eligibility requirements, you could take the first step by pursuing a CAPM certification that helps you reach the education and training requirements for PMP certification.

Expand Your Knowledge of Project Management

No matter which industry you find yourself in, PMP certification is an excellent designation to have as a project manager. Not only could preparing for the PMP exam help you expand your knowledge and skills, but maintaining your PMP certification could also keep you up to date on the latest developments in your field.

If you are interested in furthering your project management education, a master of science in project management or even a graduate certificate in project management could help. Post University is proud to offer both a graduate certificate and a master’s degree in project management—and each program is available entirely online for your convenience. Get in touch today to learn more about these programs, or start your application now.


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