11 September, 2023

PMI-RMP: All you Need to Know about PMI’s Risk Management Certification


For many Project Managers, certification is an important part of their professional development. And one certification that is growing in popularity is the PMI-RMP. This is PMI’s Risk Management certification.

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So, let’s look at what it is, who it’s for, what it involves, and more. I’ll try to answer all the questions you have, about the PMI’s PMI-RMP certification.

The Questions I’ll Answer

Before we start, you may like to watch my interview with PMI-RMP expert and trainer, Harry Hall.

What is the PMI-RMP?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the largest professional and certification body for Project Managers. And PMI-RMP is its certification for Project Risk Management.

RMP stands for Risk Management Professional, echoing PMI’s premiere certification, the PMP: Project Management Professional. The syllabus is intended to provide Project Management professionals with a thorough understanding.

Who is the PMI-RMP for?

The PMI describes the PMI-RMP certification as being for project managers, risk managers, functional managers, and C-suite executives. It represents both a specialist technical knowledge base and also a valuable strategic skill set.

However, it is not for everybody. To pass, you’ll need a fairly broad understanding of Project Risk Management. And, for most people, that will mean a significant amount of study (which I’ll return to). PMI also sets minimum eligibility requirements.

Prerequisites

There are three bases under which you can be eligible to take the PMI-RMP exam. The starting point is your educational background.

Option 1

Secondary degree

  • High school diploma, Associate’s degree, or the global equivalent
  • Minimum of 36 months of project risk management experience within the last 5 years
  • 40 hours of formal education in project risk management

Option 2

Four-year degree

  • Bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent
  • Minimum of 24 months of project risk management experience within the last 5 years
  • 30 hours of formal education in project risk management

Option 3

Bachelor’s or Postgraduate degree from a GAC Accredited program*

  • Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, or the global equivalent
  • Minimum of 12 months of project risk management experience within the last 5 years
  • 30 hours of formal education in project risk management

* The PMI Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC)

The PMI Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC) is PMI’s accrediting body for project, program, and portfolio management programs. It assures accredited programs are relevant to the needs of PMI.

How Useful is the PMI-RMP?

We will look at the syllabus for the PMI-RMP shortly. But my assessment is that it is rock-solid. It covers all the bases for Project Risk Management – although it does not go especially deep. There is little or nothing on the syllabus that extends beyond the content of the videos and articles on this website, for example. Unfortunately, however, PMI specifies 30 or 40 hours of ‘formal’ education in risk management. So, you’d need to check whether you can build your own syllabus from my content.

Without a doubt, there are project (and operational and strategic) roles for which the knowledge in this syllabus and the credibility of this certification will help you in both:

  • Securing the role
  • Fulfilling the role requirements

On big projects, there will be Risk Manager roles. And on any project, a PM with substantial risk management experience will have an advantage over one with less.

What does the PMI-RMP Involve?

In this section, I’ll summarize:

  • The syllabus
  • How to Study for your PMI-RMP
  • The Resources that will help you
  • The PMI-RMP exam

The PMI-RMP Syllabus

The PMI sets out the syllabus for the PMI-RMP in the Examination Content Outline (ECO). You can download this from the PMI website. You should always check for the latest version before you start your preparation, because PMI changes these from time to time, with substantial changes approximately every 4 years.

The syllabus is divided into Domains, Tasks, and Enablers. Each Domain is defined by the tasks we need to be able to carry out. And each task is described by a series of bullet points that PMI calls enablers.

I have illustrated the Domains below…

The PMI-RMP Exam Content Outline

The list of tasks under each domain will give you a sense of the scope of knowledge, and I have linked to some of the content on this website that can help you with some of the elements.

Domain I: Risk Strategy and Planning

6 Tasks – worth 22% of the exam.

  1. Perform a preliminary document analysis
  2. Assess project environment for threats and opportunities
  3. Confirm risk thresholds based on risk appetites
  4. Establish risk management strategy
  5. Document the risk management plan
  6. Plan and lead risk management activities with stakeholders

Domain II: Risk Identification

4 Tasks – worth 23% of the exam.

  1. Conduct risk identification exercises
  2. Examine assumption and constraint analyses
  3. Document risk triggers and thresholds based on context/environment
  4. Develop risk register

Domain III: Risk Analysis

3 Tasks – worth 23% of the exam.

  1. Perform qualitative analysis
  2. Perform quantitative analysis
  3. Identify threats and opportunities

Domain IV: Risk Response

2 Tasks – worth 13% of the exam.

  1. Plan risk response
  2. Implement risk response

Domain V: Monitor and Close Risks

3 Tasks – worth 19% of the exam.

  1. Gather and analyze performance data
  2. Monitor residual & secondary risks
  3. Provide information required to update relevant project documents
  4. Monitor project risk levels

There are plenty of articles and videos that I have not linked to here, because they don’t fit neatly into PMI’s structure.

Studying for the PMI-RMP

I have no doubt that many experienced Project Managers can study for the PMI-RMP without the need for a formal training program.

I would argue that the 30 or 40 contact hours of formal education in the specialized area of project risk management is far more than needed for someone with the experience PMI expects. It is overkill.

This, for me, is a bit of a ‘WTF, PMI?’ moment. What it does mean is that you will need to check with PMI that your approach will be acceptable if you plan to rely on your own program of varied education activities. I simply cannot answer for how reasonable their approach will be on any given day. It’s a risk (pun intended).

The safest route is therefore going to be to find a trusted education provider.

PMI-RMP Resources

PMI recommends a number of references to support your learning. Two of these, I think, are indispensable. And they are available as free PDF downloads if you are a PMI member. They are also available as over-priced (to my mind) print copies (to which I have linked)

  1. The Standard for Risk Management in Portfolios, Programs, and Projects, Project Management Institute (2019)
  2. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Seventh edition, Project Management Institute (2021)

In addition, they recommend four other general risk management references. I have copies of (and have read) the first two of these and they are both excellent. I don’t know the second two:

In addition, I would recommend:

  • Effective Risk Management: Some Keys to Success, Edmund Conrow (AIAA,  2000)
    Note, however, that this is far more advanced than the PMI-RMP syllabus. But, if you want to specialize in Project Risk Management, this is THE go-to book.
  • Risk Happens! 2nd Edition, Mike Clayton (OnlinePMCourses, 2020)
    Yes, this is mine, and is written at the right level for PMI-RMP candidates.

The PMI-RMP Exam

The PMI-RMP exam currently (summer 2023) costs US$520 for PMI members and, should a non-member wish to take the exam, you’ll pay $670. Since full membership is just $129 per year, plus a one-time $10 application fee, why would you not just join?

When you take the exam, you can expect:

  • A 2.5-hour exam
  • 115 test questions (the first 15 are unscored)
  • A mix of multiple-choice and multiple-answer questions
  • An optional 10-minute break at around mid-way
  • Up to 3 retakes are available within the year of eligibility

Retaining your PMI-RMP

Once you have your PMI-RMP certification, you need to earn 30 professional development units (PDUs) in risk management topics every three years, to maintain it.

Alternatives to the PMI-RMP

As always, there are a number of alternative certifications that are broadly comparable. You should consider each of these carefully before selecting with one is right for you, based on things like:

  • Employer preferences
  • Time and cost implications
  • Syllabus content
  • Convenience

APM

Association for Project Management offers APM Project Risk Management Single Subject Certificate. This qualification has two levels: Levels 1 and 2. It’s designed to build on the knowledge gained in the APM Project Management Qualification or similar project management qualifications.

  • Level 1 is a 60-question multiple-choice examination that lasts for 1 hour. It tests your knowledge of risk management, sufficient to allow you to contribute to risk management within a project. The cost is GB£222.00 for APM members (£240.00 for non-members).
  • Level 2 is a 3-hour and 15-minute written examination, answering three questions, one compulsory and two from four optional questions. It is designed to assess your knowledge, understanding and capability in risk management, sufficient to allow you to undertake formal project risk management. The cost is GB£448.80 for APM members (£568.80 for non-members).

Axelos

Axelos is the owner of PRNCE2, PRINCE2 Agile, ITIL, Managing Successful Programmes, and others… including M_o_R: Management of Risk.

Although Axelos still retains M_o_R 3, it is transitioning to M_o_R 4. The Practitioner exam is 2 hours and 15 minutes, with 65 multiple-choice questions and a passing score of 33 (50% or higher).

My thoughts about the PMI-RMP

PMI-RMP – or any of the comparable alternative certifications – is a big investment of time and money. It can give you a substantial career bump, however, opening new opportunities.

So, as always, you’ll need to do an investment appraisal and risk assessment.

If you or your employer believe the certification is necessary to secure the roles you want, then this can be a good use of your time and money.

However, if what you need is the knowledge, then you can get that by studying without the formal constraints and exam costs that the certifications demand.

So, as always, the answer is simple to state: build the business case and examine it with care. Then make a decision. And, if you decide to opt for certification, go at it 100% When the time is right, set aside regular slots in your week, study hard, and do practice questions. Good luck!

What are your thoughts about the PMI-RMP?

Tell me in the comments below.

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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.
  • Is The PMI – RMP methodology /certification suitable to manage industrial operational day-to-day risks or only for risks in project environment?

    • Thank you for your question, Adalberto. I don’t know the answer to your question because I don’t know enough about your industry and the way you manage operatuional risks. What I would say is that the approach is pretty generic, so it is likely to have a lot of relevance and overlap. But that is not a certainty. However, you can download the syllabus from the PMI website and maybe make an assessment for that. Also, the main text PMI recommends is its Practice Standard for Project Risk Management. It is not cheap, but it is an excellent risk management refeerence and will show you how PMI approaches things, in detail. From that, you can certainly evaluate the relevance of PMI-RMP for your needs.

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