PMP® certification changes 2015: How to prepare

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Earning a PMP®certification isn't as simple as passing an exam. Being a true project management professional means committing to a lifetime of learning, and that's just what the Project Management Institute's Continuing Certification Requirement has in mind.

These standards are changing for the first time in years as of December 2015, and both current and future holders of PMI-issued credentials like the PMP must meet the new requirements going forward. These new PMP certification changes involve how you earn PDUs (Professional Development Units).


certification: what's not changing

Continuing education requirements must be met every three years to maintain an active PMP credential. Your first cycle begins the day you pass your PMP exam, with new ones following every three years after that. During each cycle, you must earn 60 PDUs, or Professional Development Units, and report these to PMI using an online tool.

PDUs may be earned in many ways, generally sorted into two categories: Giving Back to the Profession or Education. You can generally expect to earn one PDU per qualifying hour, and may earn them in quarter increments on a 15-minute basis. However, within these two categories is where we find the PMP certification changes:


Earning PDUs: Giving Back to the Profession

Authoring new information about project management, such as a book, article, webinar, podcast or blog post can net PDUs, as can giving a presentation on project management topics or serving as an expert on a conference panel. In the case of webinars, podcasts, presentations and panels, you may count both the time you spend preparing your materials and time spent actually presenting.

You may also earn PDUs by volunteering your project management expertise to a non-profit or to your local PMI chapter. Time spent mentoring colleagues or others new to the profession also counts. Finally, PMI has traditionally allowed time spent actually working in a project management role to be counted, as well. Here's what's changing:

Old PDU Giving Back to the Profession requirements: Up to 15 PDUs per cycle could be earned working in a project management role. Previously, all of the methods of Giving Back to the Profession (listed above) could be used to earn up to 45 of the 60 PDUs needed per accreditation cycle.

New PDU Giving Back to the Profession requirements: Work experience can only be counted toward up to eight PDUs per cycle. Under the new guidelines, only 25 PDUs may be earned in total in this category, including the maximum of eight PDUs that can be claimed from working in project management.


Earning PDUs: Continuing Education

With the new PMP certification changes and ways to earn PDUs, we see a major shift toward the Education component. Educational PDUs may be earned by taking select classes from PMI Registered Education Providers like Pluralsight, attending workshops held by local PMI chapters, going to training conducted by your company or organization, or taking relevant classes at a local college or university. Workshops and seminars at official PMI events may also be counted, as can certain kinds of self-directed study.

Old PDU Education hour requirements: Once, as few as 15 PDUs per cycle were required to maintain an active PMP certification.

New PDU Education hour requirements: Now, at least 35 PDUs must be earned, though you could earn all 60 PDUs exclusively from continuing education, if you'd prefer.


Changes on how to fulfill PDU Continuing Education requirements

Along with the shift in hours needed, how these Educational PDUs must be acquired is changing, too. Eligible education opportunities are now sorted into three broad categories: technical, leadership and strategic/business management. You must earn at least eight PDUs in each of these categories; past that mark, the rest of the educational requirement can be met using classes from any category as you see fit.



  • Technical PDUs: May be earned when learning about topics specific to project, program or portfolio management. This might include courses on how to create better work breakdown structures, how to more effectively optimize resources or other advanced project management topics.

  • Leadership PDUs: Can be fulfilled by learning about leadership-oriented skills that are helpful at an organizational level, often applicable beyond project management. Courses on negotiation or conflict resolution are among the potential options here.

  • Strategic and Business Management PDUs: May be earned when learning about topics related to your industry or organization that are focused on improving business outcomes. Broad courses on finance and marketing would apply here, as would ones related to product knowledge, such as a class on the programming language used on your project or a seminar specific to the project management software used by your organization.

Late this year, PMI will begin to outline, in greater detail, which courses from Registered Education Providers specifically meet each of these requirements. While this may be the most definitive route to earning eligible PDUs, simply use common sense and be prepared to justify your accomplishment if you earn PDUs from other methods. If an educational experience genuinely helps advance your project management career, it will almost certainly count toward your certification requirements.


PMP certification & earning PDUs: planning ahead

While these new standards might not take effect until December 1, 2015, there's no reason to hold off on earning PDUs right now. Any PDUs already earned by current PMPs will count toward recertification.

For those whose recertification cycles end in 2016 or 2017: You may amass all the PDUs you need for recertification prior to December 1, 2015 by following the old PMP recertification standards. If you still need to earn more credits after December 1, 2015, any additional Education PDUs must be in line with the new PMP certification standards to be eligible.

If you earn – or have earned – your PMP in 2015: You must follow the new standards, though you may begin reporting any earned PDUs right away, with no need to wait until December.

In the past, it's been possible to earn more PDUs than needed during one PMP recertification cycle and to roll over some of this surplus to the next cycle. That's still true: up to 20 PDUs may be transferred to the next PMP recertification cycle, though these PDUs must align with the new standards to be eligible.


PMP certification changes: good or bad?

There's no doubt the new PMP certification standards are stricter than in past years-requiring that PMP holders pursue more educational opportunities means more time invested than in the past, especially for those chasing the easier route. Simply claiming work experience for a substantial chunk of hours made earning PMP recertification easier than it will be moving forward.

Even so, this shift is great news for those who truly value the PMP. The bar is being raised for project managers with a PMP certification around the world. The more stringent standards will make the PMP even more valuable than it is today, an impressive achievement considering its current status as one of the most coveted credentials in IT – if not the top IT certification of 2015 – and other industries.

By choosing educational opportunities that help you improve your daily work, you're able to not only meet a requirement, but truly advance your skills while earning your PMP recertification. Given the wealth of educational options available today, there's simply no reason to see these changes as anything but a great opportunity to become an even better leader-start prepping for these PMP certification changes today, or check out my quick guide on how to begin earning your PMP certification.

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Casey Ayers

Casey Ayers is an independent project manager and strategic consultant, with experience leading projects in many fields, including healthcare, digital media, mobile app development, consumer product design, education, and event management. He has a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and earned an MBA from the Crummer School of Business at Rollins College. Prior to that, he received a Bachelor's of Business Administration degree majoring in Economics and Investment Finance from the University of North Florida.