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PMP versus CAPM: All You need to Know

PMP versus CAPM: All You Need to Know

PMP® and CAPM® are two qualifications issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI®). If you have started or are considering a career in Project Management, one of these may be right for you. But which one? In this article, we compare PMP versus CAPM, and give you the facts to base your decision on.

PMP versus CAPM: The Basics

Let’s start with the headline descriptions that the PMI themselves offer.

PMP versus CAPM: All You Need to Know


PMP stands for Project Management Professional

The PMI says about PMP:

The Project Management Professional (PMP)® is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers.

The PMP is the gold standard of project management certification. Recognized and demanded by organizations worldwide, the PMP validates your competence to perform in the role of a project manager, leading and directing projects and teams.


CAPM stands for Certified Associate in Project Management

The PMI says about CAPM:

Regardless of your career stage, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® is an asset that will distinguish you in the job market and enhance your credibility and effectiveness working on — or with — project teams.

The CAPM demonstrates your understanding of the fundamental knowledge, terminology and processes of effective project management.

So, we already have a sense of how PMI views PMP versus CAPM. Clearly, PMP is the senior qualification. It marks you out as a fully-formed and capable project manager. It says you are ready to take on and lead the management of a project.

CAPM, on the other hand, is about understanding project management. It demonstrates that you have the basic that a project manager needs. But it also suggests you are not yet ready to perform the role.

PMP versus APM: Let’s Compare the Facts



The Basics

Stands for…

Certified Associate in Project Management

Project Management Professional

What is it?

Entry-level Qualification

Professional-level Qualification

What it says about you (to people in the know)

I am committed to developing a Project Management career. AndI have a good base level of Project Management knowledge.

I am serious about my Project Management career. I have a good base level of experience and a solid grounding in the theory and principles of Project Management. And I am committed to continuing my professional development.

Likely impact on your career

Will open up a range of project roles. Some employers may now consider supporting you (in time and maybe financially) to pursue your PMP qualification. It may have a small positive effect on your reasonable salary expectations.

Will open up a range of Project Management roles. Some employers set this as a requirement; others will see this as an advantage. It is likely to raise your reasonable salary expectations.

Who should apply?

PMI’s statements

If you’d like to manage larger projects and gain more responsibility or add project management skills into your current role

Experienced project manager responsible for all aspects of project delivery, leading and directing cross-functional teams.

Our Interpretation

It is aimed at people starting their project management career. But is also suitable for: Project team members, Project Office staff, and returning Project Managers (who don’t meet the requirements of PMP).

Experienced Project Managers. They must already have all the basics consolidated through formal learning, and a delivery track record of at least 3 years.

Pre-requisite Requirements

Educational Qualification Requirement

Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent) or higher

Four-year degree.
In many countries, this is a Bacehlors degree, which takes 3 or 4 years. Check with your local center.

Project Experience Requirement

This has been dropped. 1,500 hours of Project experience.
We estimate this as approximately 200 days – or around a year of project work.

4,500 hours leading and directing projects.
We estimate this as approximately 600 days – or 2-3 years contiunous project leadership.

Project Management Education requirement

23 hours (before the exam)

35 hours (before the exam)

Alternative Pre-requisite Requirements

Educational Qualification Requirement

Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
This is the ‘non-degree’ route

Project Experience Requirement

7,500 hours leading and directing projects.
We estimate this as approximately 1,000 days – or 4-5 years continuous project leadership

Project Management Education requirement

23 hours (before the exam)

35 hours (before the exam)

The Examination: Getting and Keeping Your Qualification

Examination Requirement

3 hour certification exam with 150 multiple choice questions.
15 of the questions are pre-test questions, which are not scored.
Two opportunities for a re-test, within 1 year.

4 hour certification exam with 200 multiple choice questions.
25 of the questions are pre-test questions, which are not scored.
Two opportunities for a re-test, within 1 year.

Exam Emphasis

Knowledge of the PMBOK Knowledge Areas. The questions are factual.

Knowledge of Project Management and ability to apply it. It’s focused on the 5 PMBoK Process Groups. Many of the questions set situational challenges.

What we think you need

A thorough knowledge of the PMBoK Knowledge Areas and Process Groups. The exam content will remain within the scope of PMBoK.

An in-depth understanding of the PMBoK content, and how to apply it to real project situations. The exam can take you beyond the content of PMBoK.

Continuing Professional Development

CAPM certification holders need to earn 15 PDUs every three years to maintain the certification. (This came in in 2020)

You must earn 60 professional development units (PDUs) every 3 years.


Cost (PMI Members)



Cost (Non-members)



PMI Membership

US$129 per year
(+$10 for first application)

US$129 per year
(+$10 for first application) US$129 per year (+$10 for first application)

Copy of PMBOK
(PMI Members)

(+ free digital Download)

(+ free digital Download)

Copy of PMBOK



PMP versus CAPM: Which One is Right for Me?

In our comparison of PMP versus CAPM, the PMP® is definitely a higher level qualification. It is also more prestigious within the Project Management community. It is a badge that employers value too. So, it will help you with both securing a role, and achieving higher remuneration.

We Recommend…

So, if you meet the requirements, we recommend you try for PMP Certification rather than CAPM®. These requirements cover:

  • formal education
  • project management job experience
  • project management education

We’ve listed them in the table above.

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.

But if you don’t have the right experience, you may be eligible for the CAPM exam. It is easier to do, with a simpler syllabus and less demainding exam. So it also serves to boost your confidence, as a stepping stone to the PMP exam. CAPM certification will also help you get the roles you’ll need, to get the experience that the PMP requirements demand.

Happily, the exam prep materials and resources for both qualifications are the same. You can buy and use the same exam prep books and courses for both Certification exams!

If I don’t yet qualify for the PMP® Exam, is CAPM® worth Getting?

Yes. ‘PMP versus CAPM’ is something of a false choice. For many Project Managers, it will be ‘PMP after CAPM’.

CAPM will be a stepping stone to PMP. It can help you in many ways:

  • You can’t take the PMP exam at the very start of your career. You’ll need at least 2-3 years of project management experience before you can take it. Realistically, this can be nearer to 5 years.
  • CAPM is a valuable qualification in its own right.
  • The qualification will help you secure roles that will give you experience.
  • You’ll get a headstart in understanding the PMBOK Guide and the basic material.
  • Practice at taking the PMI exams, and therefore extra confidence.
  • Buying, trying, and owning some of the Exam prep resources.
  • You can score CAPM Contact Hours for your PMP application.


This is always going to be a personal career decision. For many readers, your PMP versus CAPM strategy will be obvious. But if it’s not, we hope we have given you the facts you need, to consider your choice carefully.

And, if in doubt, speak to some of the experienced Project Managers you know, or with people at your local PMI chapter.

Do you have a story to tell?

Do you have a experience that will help other project managers make their choice of PMP versus CAPM? We’d love to hear them. Please use the Comments below.

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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