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PMP Certification: What You Need to Know [Complete Review]

PMP Certification - What you need to know

The PMI is the largest professional body for Project Managers. It’s PMP® Certification is the most widely regarded qualification. If you are considering a career in Project Management, you also need to consider PMP Certification.

In this extended article, we’ll look at that decision from all angles:

  • What does it mean?
  • Why should you seek PMP Certification?
  • What does it take to become a PMP?
  • How to become a PMP
  • What do you need to know?
  • What sort of resources will help you become a PMP?
  • Some brief PMP exam preparation tips

– Updated for PMBoK 6th Edition –

We have a lot to cover, so, let’s kick-off…

What is PMP®?

PMP Certification - What you need to know

PMP Certification – What you need to know

PMP stands for Project Management Professional. It is the principal qualification of the PMI, the Project Management Institute. This is the world’s largest professional body for Project Manager. Consequently, PMP Certification is recognized and valued by organizations everywhere.

You will gain your PMP Cerification by taking a demanding exam. And you will need to maintain it with significant continuing professional development (CPD) activities. Because of these, PMP certification also provides a real validation of your level of knowledge, and therefore competence, to manage and lead a project.

Of course, you can expect the PMI to have a bias in favour of PMP Certification. However, they are so widely respected, we must take their research finding seriously. PMI asserts that;

those with a PMP certification garner a higher salary (20% higher on average) than those without a PMP certification.’

PMI also asserts that organizations with more PMP-certified project managers perform better in project delivery.


So, PMP Certification is a highly-regarded professional qualification, all over the world. It gives you a solid grounding in all the basics of project management, and a status that will often be reflected in your employability and salary expectations.


However, beware. This is not going to be equally true everywhere. The closer you are geographically and culturally to the US, where PMI is based, to more these things will be true. They are also the case when working in a US-based global organization, or in places and industries that do not have other, competing qualifications. For example, in the UK, where the Association for Project Management (APM) is the dominant professional body, its APM Professional Practitioner Qualification is at least as highly regarded.

Investment Analysis: The Business Case for Becoming a PMP®

This article will not compare the relative merits of PMP Certification and other competing qualifications, like the APM Professional Practitioner Qualification. So, to a degree, the arguments that follow can equally be made for equivalent qualifications.

As a Project manager, you would not expect your organization or client to undertake a new project without a robust business case. So, let’s look at why you should become a PMP (the benefits), and what it will take to do so (the costs).

Why Should You Become a PMP®?

We cannot assume the value you will apply to the benefits of PMP Certification, so we’ll just give you a list of the benefits you might consider.

  • Long-term career development
    – PMP certification can kick-start this
  • Short-term access to jobs
    – but note that many employers value experience over qualifications. However, it may get you that interview.
  • Suitability for bigger, more complex projects
    – but note that, once you are an active project manager, it’s your rack record and reputation that will have the biggest impact
  • Achieving the qualification signals your commitment, determination, and diligence
    – but not necessarily your suitability to lead projects
  • Enhanced salary expectation
    – dependent on sector and geography
  • Thorough grounding in the craft of Project Management
    – or, at least, traditional project management – see our article Why You can No Longer Ignore Agile Methodologies
  • Professional recognition and respect
    – you’ll be part of an exclusive club
  • Fellowship and networking
    – not only does gaining your PMP Certification put you on the inside, but you may meet lost of your peers while working towards it

What does it Take to Become a PMP®?

Okay, let’s start with the cash. We’ll work in US Dollars, as that’s what the PMI does.

PMI Membership

You’ll probably want to join the PMI. This will save you more than the cost on your exam fee. And you’ll save more money on the absolutely necessary PMBOK® guide. It will also be the basis of your CPD and maintaining your PMP certification. And anyway, why wouldn’t you. This is the club you’ll be applying join as a senior member.

Cost: $139

PMP Certification Exam Fee

This is non-negotiable. No exam: no certification.

Cost: $405 (PMI Members) or $555 (non-members – so there’s your membership fee and more!)

35 Hours of Project Management Education

This is a mandatory requirement, but you may choose to count training you’ve already taken, if you’ve recorded it properly. It’s hard to quantify the cost, as classroom-based training can cost anything from $150 to $800 per day (around 7 hours). This can also include face-to-face or virtual coaching, online training (like OnlinePMCourses project management courses), and courses run by local PMI Chapters.

Cost: PMI estimates $200, but this can vary widely and you may need to budget nearer to $500.

However, our ‘PMP and CAPM Exam Preparation program’ is formally approved by the PMI as a PMP or CAPM preparation course with 48 education hours, and you can use it to satisfy the prerequisite for either of those exams.

PMP Exam Prep Study Guides

You’ll need some form of study guide to help you prepare. This will take the dry content of the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK®) and present it in a more easily assimilable way.

Cost: These books range from $40 – $70 and in our PMP Exam Prep Guide, we recommend you buy two, so budget $100 – $150

PMP Exam Simulator

Practising exam questions is perhaps the most valuable way to learn and prepare for your PMP exam, as well as testing your readiness. You can buy or find online and in apps, exam questions. These are valuable in the early stages of your preparation. In the closing part of your PMP exam prep, you will benefit a lot from an exam simulator that gives you questions under mock exam conditions.

Cost: whilst there are plenty of free resources, you do get what you pay for, so budget anything from $0 to $100, or look for bundles of study guides, education resources, sample exam questions and a simulator. A budget of $250 will get you into some of the best available.

However, our ‘PMP and CAPM Exam Preparation program’ includes an exam simulator with over 1,000 questions.

Exam Taking

If you live around the corner from your nearest PMI test center, then your cost is likely to be little more than a bus fare. On the other hand, some people have to make long journeys and may choose to stay overnight to ensure arriving on time and refreshed on the morning of their PMP exam.

Cost: Anything from $0 to $several hundred, depending on your circumstances.

Total Cost

Your budget is going to look like $1,000 – $1,200 all in (and maybe more if you need to travel for your exams).

This may sound a lot, and it is. Your judgment will be how this compares to the impact of PMP Certification on your long-term career. The simple fact is that many thousands of people have chosen to make the investment. Whether you should be one of them, is up to you.

Time and Effort

Before you make your decision, however, you do need to think about the time and effort you will need to commit. Studying will be a big part of your life for anything from two to six months. Some do it in less, or take longer, but this is the normal range. The exam is (rightly) hard. And the content you need to learn is big.

You will typically be spending 2 to 3 hours each day reading, learning, and practicing exams. That means anything from 100 to 300 hours of work – the figure of 180 is often cited on the internet.

Before you make a decision, consider your circumstances. What are your work and family commitments? Do you have the time and energy to do this properly? And, if you do, how will you spread it out; a quick sprint of 3-4 hours a day for 2 moths, or a steady pace of 10 hours a week 6 months? You’ll also need to budget for your 35 hours of direct learning.

You also need to understand yourself, and how easy you find learning and understanding new material. If you are new to project management, a lot of that material can seem complex and difficult. For some, you may be able to assimilate all the knowledge in 120 to 180 hour. But for others, you may need 200 to 300 hours to fully understand and learn it all. Be brutally honest with yourself.

How to Become a PMP®: The PMP Certification Process

As you’d expect of Project Management, getting your PMP Certification is a matter of following a series of steps, in a logical process. So, here they are.

For full details, download the PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP®) Handbook.

Are you eligible?

PMP sets a number of criteria, with alternatives based on your highest level of educational attainment. You need to give PMI evidence of this, along withe the additional pre-requisites.

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education


  • Four-year degree (or equivalent Bachelor’s degree)
  • 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education

Apply for PMP Certification

If you believe you can meet the eligibility criteria, submit your application to the PMI. They will ask you for:

  • Contact information
    — email, address, phone number
  • Education attained
    — school attended, level of education attained, degree date
  • Domain experience
    — details of the projects, programs, portfolios you’ve worked on including qualifying hours, dates of employment, role, organization details, reference, and experience summary
  • Domain education
    — names of courses completed, institutions attended, dates, qualifying hours

Get this together before you apply. Your application will stay open for 90 days.

The PMI may choose to check your information as part of a random audit sample, so don’t be a fool and lie.

PMI will Review Your Application

The PMI will take one to two working weeks to check you meet the eligibility criteria. Then they’ll get in touch with you.

Cough up the Cash

Yup, now it’s time to pay. Once you do so, you’ll get your formal ‘eligibility number’. Now you will have one year and three goes at passing your exam. So you can go ahead and schedule your first (and, let’s hope, only) exam appointment…

Get a Test Appointment

PMI uses Prometric to administer computer-based test. They have test centers all over the world. Use your eligibility number to choose your location and schedule your test online, at

PMBoK 5th Edition or PMBoK 6th Edition?

The 6th Edition of PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, the PMBoK, came out in September 2017. And the PMI tells us that:

Anyone taking the exam prior to Q1 2018 will receive the current version of the exam that references the PMBOK Guide® – Fifth Edition.’

What PMP has said (…) is:

The Project Management Professional (PMP)®, along with all PMI certifications, is driven by current practices in the profession. Because project management is evolving, so is the PMP exam.’

As a result of the release of the PMBoK® Guide – Sixth Edition in September 2017, the PMP exam will change soon. These updates will ensure the exam content is consistent with the PMBoK® Guide.’

Active practitioners from around the world author our exam questions as well as the PMBoK® Guide to ensure the PMP remains relevant and reflects current practice.’

Build Your Project Study Plan

This is where our FREE PMP Exam Prep Guide will really help you.

You’ll need to consider what resources to use, how to schedule your time, where to study, and how to balance reading, learning, understanding, testing yourself, and sitting full exam simulations. Our PMP Exam Prep Guide will help you with all of that. Build your own structured study planLater in this article, we’ll list the types of materials and resources you can use. In our PMP Exam Prep Guide, Markus Klein, PMP, will tell you which resources he recommends.

Project Manager's PMP Exam Prep Guide - FREE

Project Manager’s PMP Exam Prep Guide | Click to get it now

We also have a Premium edition…

Our Exam Prep Guide Premium has a lot of extra content for just a small cost.

Please do check out the comparison between our free (Basic) and Premium editions of the PMP Exam Prep Guide.


Our Exam Prep Guide recommends many study aids, but there is none better than our ‘PMP and CAPM Exam Preparation program’.

PMP® and CAPM® Exam Preparation

This 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.

If you plan to study for PMP certifications, it will give you everything you need to learn the PMBOK® Guide and be prepared to take the PMP exam.

Practice Tests

It is not a mandatory part of the process, but we (and many, many qualified PMPs, recommend you do some practice tests, ideally under simulated exam conditions. There are many suppliers of these and, again, Markus recommends his favorite, in our free PMP Exam Prep Guide.

But, if you buy our ‘PMP and CAPM Exam Preparation program’, it has an exam simulator as part of the package, with over 1,000 sample questions.

These will show you what to expect, give you practice at taking the test, instil a sense of the timing, and – perhaps most importantly – let you know how ready you are. When you are consistently scoring 80%to 90%, there is a good chance you are ready and can feel confident (but not complacent) about doing the exam for real.

Take the Exam

Our free PMP Exam Prep Guide will give you lots of tips for taking the exam. But the top tip is to plan that day as if it were a mission-critical project. Markus recommends you even rehearse your travel route at the time of day you’ll be going, so you can gauge traffic or public transport timings. You can also familiarize yourself with the center and check on the local signing-in procedures.

My own number one tip is DO NOT stay up late the night before, doing last minute revision. review your notes briefly and get a good night’s sleep. It’s no use cramming more stuff into your brain, if it is functioning below capacity and can’t retrieve it quickly or accurately.

It’s Never Over! Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program

PMP Certification represents an ongoing measure of your professionalism. So the PMI requires you to maintain it by keeping your learning going. You will need to do 60 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) every three years. You can earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) for every hour of learning, in the three talent areas of:

  1. Technical Project Management
  2. Leadership
  3. Strategic Business Management

There are a huge number of ways to gain PDUs. That’s outside the scope of this article, but there’s plenty of information on the PMI’s website.

What Will You Need to Know?

Here is a topic that could fill a whole article and beyond… in fact, 200 hours of study!

Markus will tell you all you need to know in our FREE PMP Exam Prep Guide. Put simply, the syllabus is made up of the PMI’s:

  • Ten PMBOK® Knowledge Areas (KAs)
    1. Integration Management
    2. Scope Management
    3. Time Management
    4. Cost Management
    5. Quality Management
    6. Human Resource Management
    7. Communications Management
    8. Risk Management
    9. Procurement Management
    10. Stakeholder Management.
  • Five PMBOK® Process Groups
    1. Initiating
    2. Planning
    3. Executing
    4. Monitoring and Controlling
    5. Closing
  • 49 PMBOK® Processes
    Each of these covers one of the KAs, within one of the Process Groups, and are best represented on a matrix. Not every cell in the matrix has a process,and some have more than one

‘Wow, that’s a lot…’ you say

Yup, it is. And yes, you do need to know it all. No one said getting your PMP Certification would be easy!

Resources to Help Your with Your PMP Exam Prep

With so much to learn, you’ll need some help.

Number 1: You will need the PMBOK® Guide.

This is the source of all the content. Now (Jan 2018) in its sixth edition, I strongly recommend you buy a print copy. I know that, as a PMI member, you’ll get a free ebook version. But most people do learn better reader print editions.

You’ll be able to carry it with you, put sticky notes in, highlight the bits you choose to, and make your own notes in the margins. Yes, I also know that eReaders let you do all this, but the research evidence suggests the tactile impact of doing it ‘for real’, with pens, on paper, helps memory formation and recall.

And… Your dog-eared, well-thumbed copy of the PMBOK® will be a constant companion on your first few projects and will soon become both a badge of honor and a close friend!

More Books

In our FREE PMP Exam Prep Guide, Markus recommends his preferred books. The most widely-used books (in no order) are:

  • PMP Exam Prep, by Rita Mulcahy (US | UK)
  • Project Management Workbook and PMP / CAPM Exam Study Guide, by Harold Kerzner and Frank Saladis (US | UK)
  • The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try, by Andy Crowe (US | UK)
  • Head First PMP: A Learner’s Companion to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam, by Jennifer Greene and Andrew Stellman (US | UK)
  • PMP: Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide, by Kim Heldman (US | UK)
  • PMP® Exam Simplified, by Aileen Ellis (US | UK)

Other ways to Learn

There are lots of live PMP exam prep workshops you can sign up for and many PMI Chapters run some. You can also do PMP exam prep workshops online, and view video recordings. Many people also find study groups and discussion forums a big help. Again, your local PMI Charter may be able to point you to its own study group.

Practicing Your Learning

The starting place is to make yourself some flash cards, or buy a set. There are plenty available, both electronic and physical. The electronic versions can be eReader based – Amazon sell Kindle delivered cards – or you can get an app for your tabled device or mobile phone. Again, there are both paid and free versions available.

The next step up is to get yourself some exam questions and Markus recommends his preferred sources in our FREE PMP Exam Prep Guide.

When you are ready, it will be time to do a mock exam under realistic conditions. One more, there is a choice of exam simulators available and you can get Markus’s recommendations in our FREE PMP Exam Prep Guide.

PMP Exam Prep Tips

More than anything else, Markus has filled our FREE PMP Exam Prep Guide with tips and lessons learned – from his experience and those of many other successful PMP applicants. So my only tip is to get your Project Manager’s PMP Exam Prep Guide now. It’ll cost you nothing, and could well save you a lot of time, money, and stress.

Project Manager's PMP Exam Prep Guide - FREE

Project Manager’s PMP Exam Prep Guide | Click to get it now

Or, better still, check out the comparison with our low-cost PMP Exam Prep Guide Premium Edition.

If you do choose to seek PMP Certification,
all the very best of luck from Mike and Markus.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

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 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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