9 July, 2018

PMI Education Contact Hours and PDUs: Your Essential Guide

The PMI is currently the most widely used source of professional project management accreditation. To win your coveted CAPM, PMP, or PMI-ACP, to will need to chalk up enough education Contact Hours. And to maintain them, you’ll also need Professional Development Units, or PDUs.

But just what are contact hours and PDUs?

What are the rules, and how can you get them? In this article, we set out to answer all your questions.

What are Contact Hours and PDUs?

The ideas behind contact hours and PDUs are similar. They are all about ensuring that project professionals take your professional learning and development seriously. In that way, they are just the same as other professions like accountancy and the law.

The Project Management Institute, or PMI, is the largest professional body for project managers, and provides several tiers of accreditation for professional status. Its qualifications are widely recognized across the world. This video answers a lot of the questions you will have…

What are Contact Hours?

Educational Contact Hours are a measure of the formal time you spend learning project management as part of your preparation for a qualification.

Project Management

You can record any course you take. But the time you record must refer only to time that you spend on content related directly to Project Management. If you do a general training course or formal learning program, you can only record those hours you spend on project management.


The PMI has deliberately chosen the term ‘contact hours’. It might have chose ‘education hours’ but it did not. To gain your contact hours, you must send time in contact with instructor-led training and learning material. If you carve out your own ‘self-directed’ learning program, from books, articles, and one-off videos, these will not count.

PMI Contact Hours and PDUs
PMI Contact Hours and PDUs

What are PDUs

Professional Development Units, or PDUs, are a measure of the time you spend in formal continuing professional development (CPD), once you have achieved a professional qualification. Like other professional bodies, the PMI recognizes that a professional qualification cannot be a static, one-off event. To maintain its own professional standards, it requires you to keep learning.

What’s at stake…

For a PMP, for example, you’ll need to maintain a regime of learning at an average rate of 20 recorded hours per year. If you cannot do this, you will use your PMP accreditation. What a waste that would be!


As you’d expect, though, the range of sources and types of PDU the PMI recognizes is wide. This reflects both:

  • the breadth of interests and sub-specialties that Project Managers may have
  • the range of different ways you can develop your professional capabilities

Indeed, once you are qualified, the PMI is deeply trusting of your judgement about what learning will further your own professional excellence, and how you can get that development. We’ll see plenty of examples later on in this article.

Comparison Table: Contact Hours and PDUs

Let’s compare Contact Hours with PDUs in a simple table.

Contact HoursPDUs
Required for...Achieving a PMI professional qualification.Maintaining a PMI professional qualification.
When you need themBefore taking a PMI professional qualification exam.After achieving your PMI professional qualification.
Time equivalence...1 Contact Hour
= 1 hour of contact with appropriate instructor-led learning
= 1 hour of PM learning, or 1 hour of contribution to the PM profession
Appropriate contentSpecific to your study and the qualification you are taking.Broad scope covering the three sides of the PMI's Talent Triangle.
Suitable activities (examples)Instructor led:
- live training
- webinars
- online courses
Instructor-led learning
Self-directed study
Meetings and informal learning
Sharing knowledge
Creating content
Evidence you'll needMust be fully documented.
Subject to random audit.
Subject to random audit.
Documented guidanceCAPM Handbook
PMP Handbook
PMI-ACP Handbook
Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Handbook

What are the Rules for Contact Hours and PDUs?

You’ll find details of the rules for Contact Hours and PDUs in the handbooks listed in the last row of the table above.So, here, I just want to summarize the key points.

The Commonest Question: How many?

The commonest question people ask about contact hours and PDUs is:

How many do I need?

PMI give clear answers, which I have summarized for you in this table…

QualificationContact Hours you'll need to get your qualificationPDUs you'll need to maintain your qualification
CAPM23 hours
or 1,500 hours of project experience
Not Applicable.
Renewal by exam every 3 years.
PMP35 hours
as well as educational and experience requirements
20 PDUs per year
60 PDUs every 3 years
PMI-ACP21 hours
in Agile practices
10 PDUs in Agile topics per year
30 PDUs every 3 years

You may also like our articles:

What are the Rules of Documentation and Evidence?

When you are submitting contact hours ahead of applying for your qualification examination, you will need to provide documentary evidence for your hours. You need to record them and have any course work you need to complete done by the time you apply for examination.

The PMI describes the evidence you’ll need:

‘Copies of certificates and/or letters from the training institute(s) for each course recorded on the application to meet the required contact hours of project management education’


The PMI will select a sample of all applications to audit the evidence for Contact Hours, academic qualifications, and work experience. If they select yours, you’ll get an email before you need to pay your certification fee. Then, you’ll have 90 days to submit supporting documentation such as: 

  • Copies of your diploma or global equivalent 
  • Signatures from your supervisor/s or manager/s from the project/s in the experience verification section of your application 
  • Copies of certificates or letters from the training institute for each course you count towards the required contact hours of project management education in your application. I’d also suggest you keep any other supporting information, like course syllabuses, test results, and even purchase invoices and course descriptions.

The audit will take a week or so, and only once it is complete does your one-year examination eligibility period begin.

If you cannot (or choose not to) meet the audit requirements, you’ll not be able to re-apply for another year. They don’t say this, but I’d expect your chances of being selected for audit again to be pretty high!

Topics for your Contact Hours

PMI offers the broadest possible scope for Project Management-related professional development, in acknowledging PDUs. But, for obvious reasons, acceptable contact hours are limited to topics related to the qualification you are working towards. They must address the learning objectives of your course.

For PMP and CAPM…

The learning objectives are around the body of knowledge set out in the PMBoK and cover the 10 Knowledge Areas. So, the content hours may include content on: project quality, scope, time/schedule, cost/budget, human resources, communications, risk, procurement, and project integration management. See the relevant handbook* for details.


Your contact hours must explicitly cover agile practices. Agile training can include topics covering agile philosophy, methodologies, principles and practices. See the PMI-ACP handbook* for details.

Where can You Get Contact Hours and PDUs?

Once again, the ways to get PDUs are very many and widely varied. Sources of contact hours are generous, ut a little more constrained.

How to get Contact Hours

You can meet your education requirements by demonstrating you have completed of courses, workshops, and training sessions offered by one or more of the following types of education providers:

  • PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s)
  • PMI chapters
  • Employer/company-sponsored programs
  • Training companies or consultants (e.g., training schools)
  • Distance-learning companies, including an end-of-course assessment
  • University/college academic and continuing education programs

Pre-approved Contact Hours

Any relevant learning you undertake from one of the pre-approved suppliers will automatically count towards your contact hours. All you need to do is demonstrate your attendance and completion. These are:

  • PMI
  • PMI Registered education Providers (REPs)
  • Any PMI Component organization

Education that does not count towards Your Education Hours

The following do not satisfy the PMI’s education requirements for its qualifications:

  • PMI chapter meetings
    …although, if there is a formal instructor-led learning activity during the meeting, you can submit the time you spend at that session.
  • Self-directed learning
    This includes: reading articles and books, watching instructional videos, one-on-one sessions with a coach or mentor, note-taking and active learning  and exam prep
  • General academic, business, or management courses
    If a portion of a course dealt with project management, then you can apply the hours spent on project management towards your contact hours.

*If at least one hour of a chapter meeting is spent conducting a learning activity, the hour(s) spent in that activity can be counted towards the educational eligibility requirement.

How to get PDUs

Getting PDUs is altogether easier. Full details are in the Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Handbook, but the PMI has a very helpful webpage that summarises your options. They say:

Your PDU activities must relate to topics that are substantially consistent with the Exam Content Outline for your certification. Check your certification handbook to understand the PDU amounts needed and the qualifying activities for your certification.

There are tons of opportunities to earn PDUs. Choose the ways that work for you and make the most of your enrichment!

The best way to interpret this is using the PMI’s Talent Triangle® of:

  • Technical Project Management Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Strategic and Business Management Skills

Two Principle Ways to earn PDUs

There are two principal ways you can earn PDUs:

  1. Project Management Education
  2. Giving back to the PM Profession

You’ll find lots of examples and explanation on the PMI’s page, but I’ll summarise here.

Project Management Education

  • Courses, training, and formal learning
  • Meetings run by PMI, your own organization, or other organizations
  • On- or offline learning with videos and digital media – including ours
  • Reading (books, magazines, web-articles like ours)
  • Informal learning through discussions and meetings
  • You’ll find a great source of free content in our guide: ‘21 Free Project Management Reports to Boost Your Knowledge‘.

Giving back to the PM Profession

  • Creating and developing the PM knowledge base
  • Sharing your ideas with others, informally and through formal mentoring, coaching and training
  • Presenting your PM ideas at conferences and learning sessions
  • Writing books, articles, webinars, and blogs
  • Volunteering to organizations you don’t work for – including, of course, the PMI

Claiming your PMI PDUs

Here is our short guide:

How to Claim your PMI Professional Development Units

What is Your Experience of Gaining PMI Contact Hours and PDUs?

What is your experience of gaining Contact Hours for your PMI qualification, and Continuing Professional development with the PMI or any other professional body?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Put them in the comments section below, and I’ll respond to anything you contribute.

* Let’s remind you of those essential PMI downloads…

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”How we can Help You with PMP and CAPM”]

PMP® and CAPM® Exam Preparation

We offer everything you need to learn the PMBOK® Guide and be prepared to take the PMP or CAPM exam. This course is formally approved by the PMI as a PMP or CAPM preparation course and you can use it to satisfy the prerequisite for either of those exams.

Find out more about our PMP and CAPM Exam Preparation program.

To find out more about taking PMP, we have a complete review of the PMP Certification: PMP Certification: What you need to Know.

If you decide to prepare for your PMP, we can help further. We have a Project Manager’s PMP Exam Prep Guide, in two editions: Free and Premium.

PMP Exam Prep GuideOur PMP Exam Prep Guide Basic (Free) Edition has a guide with 12 sources of PDUs, and tools to help you with your CPD.

Our PMP Exam Prep Guide Premium Edition adds more ideas, plus a Contact Hours recording tool.

Compare the editions here.


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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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