The PMP or Project Management Professional exam is created to assess just what the name suggests – a professional’s experience in project management. You’ll need to demonstrate both a knowledge of project management theory as well as real life work experience.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) provides a good, brief overview of the PMP prerequisites needed to sit for the exam. To ensure you meet these prerequisites, PMI created a formal application process, which asks you to outline your background in the following areas: education, work experience, and project management education.
PMP Prerequisite #1: Education
To qualify for the PMP, you must have at least a secondary degree (classified by PMI as a high school diploma, GED, or associate’s degree) or a postsecondary 4-year degree. Depending on either your secondary or postsecondary degree, you’ll face different requirements for work experience.
Your secondary or postsecondary degree can have any focus, and it does not have to be related to project management (although as you will see, it could save you time if it is related). As long as you have your diploma, transcript, or ability to prove the successful completion of your degree within your application you have met this requirement.
PMP Prerequisite #2: Work Experience
Work experience is arguably the most important part of your application process. If you have a secondary degree, you must then provide evidence that you have led projects for 7,500 hours.
If you are like me and don’t think about work in hours, but instead in days, weeks, months, or years – 7,500 hours is roughly 3 ½ years of project management experience.
Conversely, if you have a postsecondary 4-year degree, the management hours you need are reduced to 4,500 – or roughly 2 years experience.
One very important qualifier for work experience, is that you can only count one project within a given timeframe. For example, if you are leading two projects that overlap for 6 months, you can only count one of those projects during the overlapping months. So, in this example you would get 6 months of experience (roughly – 1,040 hours) versus 12 months (roughly 2,080 hours). This means thinking about your experience in years will make it easier to determine if you meet this requirement.
Finally, when documenting work experience within the application process, you need to provide the following:
- The name of the project you led
- The timeline, including the hours you spent leading the project
- The contact information of your supervisor on this project
When completing this section please consider this important fact: PMI randomly selects students for audit, if you are audited, the contact you provide per project must be able to sign off on the experience you outlined! Don’t jinx it, keep this section honest!
PMP Prerequisite #3: Project Management Education
Now on to your actual project management education. Regardless of degree obtainment or work experience, you must have at least 35 hours of project management education. There are multiple ways in which you can obtain theses hours, PMI even provides a handy list of programs that count towards this PMP prerequisite:
- PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s)
- PMI local chapters certification prep programs
- Employer sponsored programs
- Training companies or consultants
- Distance-learning companies, which include an end-of-course assessment
- Higher education programs and continuing education programs
And what doesn’t:
- PMI chapter meetings
- Self-directed learning (i.e., reading books, watching instructional videos or meeting with coaches or mentors)
You must be able to prove you successfully completed this education by providing an official transcript, a certificate, or a printout of an end-of-course assessment.
As I noted above, if you have a bachelor’s degree in Project Management, you can meet both the education (degree) requirement as well as the 35 hours of project management education. However, it is not as easy as simply noting that you obtained a degree in project management, instead you have to call out the specific courses you completed that contained content related to project management.
PMI requires this because degrees contain some courses that are completely unrelated to your major, so they want to ensure there is at least 35 hours of project management education within the program.
If you meet all the PMP prerequisites outlined above, you are ready to move into the requisite steps needed to sit for the exam.
These include creating a PMI account – I would argue it is worthwhile to pay for the membership at this point – membership reduces the assessment fee and provides access to a professional network and free resources – including the PMBOK. The cost for individual membership is $139. Many employers are willing to support this cost, so ask before you purchase on your own.
Complete the application for the PMP – you may start the application and save it for later – as long as you submit it within 90 days of the day you started it. This is actually a nice feature because entering all that work experience can be monotonous.
Upon submission, PMI will review all your PMP prerequisites and provide feedback within five business days.
It is at this stage that PMI will notify you if you will be audited. Again, this is why it is so important all of your prerequisites are met and entered honestly. You have 90 days from notice of your audit to provide supporting documentation for all your education and experience.
Once this is complete, you will select a test date and pay the assessment fee. The assessment costs $405 for members and $555 for non-members – which is a prerequisite all its own. Similar to your membership fees, fees for the assessment will likely be covered by your employer as well. Don’t forget to ask.
Now get ready for test day!
Final Thoughts about PMP Prerequisites
If you are ready to take the next step in your project management career, but are worried that you do not have the work experience necessary, here is an excellent option for you.
PMI has a first step credential called a Certified Associate in Project Management. There are lesser requirements for this certification, including a secondary degree – as defined above – and 1,500 hours of project management experience (roughly ¾ of a year experience) or 23 hours of project management education. All of these requirements will eventually translate to the PMP application.
The world of project management is excited to have you, so find the path that works best for your current experience and let’s get started!