Interested in earning your PMP® certification? Read this quick guide first

- select the contributor at the end of the page -

If you're serious about taking the next step in your career and becoming a project manager, you probably already know that earning a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is key toward reaching that goal.

The PMP is a globally recognized certification with a curriculum broad enough to apply to project environments in nearly any industry, while offering enough specifics to directly sharpen your everyday project management skills. It has been ranked as the number one IT certification in recent years by a number of publications and studies including CIO Magazine and the IT Skills & Salary Report. On average, PMP-certified project managers earn about $10,000 more per year than those without the certification. More importantly, many, if not most, project management positions require you to either have a PMP before applying or to earn it within six to twelve months of accepting employment.

The value of the PMP may be clear, but how to earn it is a little more complex. There are a number of prerequisites you must meet prior to applying for the exam. If you have a bachelor's degree or higher, you must have at least 4,500 hours and three years of project management experience under your belt. Those lacking a four-year degree can still apply, so long as they have a high school diploma or associate's degree, but must meet a more rigorous requirement of 7,500 hours and five years of project management experience before doing so.

This experience doesn't have to be accrued as the sole manager of a project; simply overseeing a portion of a project or serving as part of a project management team can help you accrue the necessary experience to sit for the exam.

In addition to the educational requirement, you'll need 35 hours of formal project management training prior to applying for the PMP. Our series of project management courses will fill this requirement once complete; the first few courses are already available.

Any quality training regimen will cover many of the same core concepts. First, you can expect to learn more about the exam's structure and contents (spoiler alert: there are 200 questions covering the five key phases of project management). Next, you'll learn more about how organizational structure can impact the project environment, and the different kinds of roles and responsibilities that most often fall to the project manager and other key stakeholders.

After that, you can expect to spend a substantial amount of time learning about the 10 knowledge areas covered in the "Project Management Body of Knowledge," the guidebook released by the Project Management Institute on which the PMP exam's questions are based. These include managing a project's scope, time and cost, as well as how the entire project is integrated into one cohesive whole. Other core knowledge areas include quality and human resource management, as well as managing communications, risk, procurement activities and stakeholder relations.

Each of these 10 knowledge areas house a variety of different processes that speak to the actual work that must be done in managing a project. Developing the project charter and sequencing project activities are two examples of such processes. Each process has a variety of inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs associated with it, which provide a general framework for managing just about any kind of project. In any project environment, many of these processes may be more or less useful or critical than others. Often, the processes project managers focus most on align with their project's unique constraints or priorities, whether that means placing a heavy emphasis on quality, budget, time or other factors.

There are 43 of these processes in total. While that number may sound staggering, the majority will come naturally to those with much experience in project environments. That's why the rigorous experience requirements are so important when studying for the PMP: well-prepared candidates will be able to connect what they learn to their own experiences. You can see what you've done well in the past and in what areas you could be more effective with the new knowledge and skills you acquire in studying for the exam.

The PMP is not a certification goes well beyond simply adding another line to your resume. Like a good graduate program, studying for the PMP can better prepare you for the rest of your career, introducing you to many of the formal concepts and tools that can help mold past experience into future wisdom.

If you feel like you have the technical acumen required to lead projects in your organization, but lack some of the general management, business or people skills that would help you be most effective, you may be particularly well-suited for the PMP, since it focuses on these skills. You'll gain a new appreciation for how delicate the project environment can be and how small changes in one area can have vast repercussions in others. You'll learn how issues like budgeting, scheduling, resource availability and project scope intertwine, and how to best balance a project's constraints. Most importantly, though, you'll learn how to be a better leader for your project team and to be more effective in taking a project from its beginning to completion, successfully.

Get our content first. In your inbox.

Loading form...

If this message remains, it may be due to cookies being disabled or to an ad blocker.


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.