How to Become a PMP Certified Project Manager

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

certifiedOne of the top questions I like to be asked is, “How do I get certified as a project manager?” I love to talk with someone who is committed to project management. However, there’s a little confusion in the market about what qualifies as certification, and what’s required to become certified. There are universities or colleges that offer a project management certificate, and therefore people think maybe they become certified in those programs, but that’s not in fact professional certification. There are two certifying bodies: the PRINCE2 organization, which we will talk about in another article, and the Project Management Institute, which I want to focus on here.

Where Can You find the Criteria for Certification?

The Project Management Institute, better known as PMI, and on the web at pmi.org, is a certifying entity that offers a credential called the Project Management Professional. Project managers will often follow their name with PMP; this means they are certified. To qualify for the credential, applicants must meet a number of requirements. I often get calls from people who want to change fields and work as a project manager but don’t have project management certification. It actually works in reverse; to be eligible for certification PMI requires that project management experience before you can earn your certification. That’s where some of the confusion really begins. The clearest point of reference you should always look to is the most current version of the Project Management Professional Handbook, available for download at PMI.org. It details everything you need to know about certification—how to get it, how to qualify, and once you do become PM certified how to maintain your credentials.

What Level of Education Do You Need?

Eligibility is based on three areas: education, project management experience and formal project management education. PMI divides education into categories as it is an international organization with chapters all over the world, and recognizes that some people may have gone to college and some haven’t. First identify which category you fall in, starting with education background.

For those who have a secondary degree, meaning a high school diploma, an associate’s or the international equivalent, the project management experience required is a minimum of 7500 hours (5 years/60 months). In addition, you need 35 contact hours of formal project management training based on PMI’s standards as outlined in the PMBOK guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge). Testing comes directly out of that formal training, and the contact hours represents physical contact with instructors. Many online programs do not qualify as a result.

If you have a four-year bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent, some of the training you received earning your degree counts towards eligibility requirements. A minimum of 4500 hours (3 years/36 months) of project management experience is required in addition to 35 contact hours of formal education.

Hands-on Experience a Must!

In addition to the education and practical experience required, you also need to have managed projects from beginning to end. If neither your experience nor education qualifies you for credentialing, there is an alternative certification that you can learn about in the handbook on the pmi.org site: the CAPM, a certification earned prior to or as you are preparing for the PMP certification.

I’m excited for those of you who are on this path. We’ve found that credentialing helps job applicants stand out to employers, and it certainly trains you to manage projects better.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt) of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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