The PMP and CAPM are the Project Management Institute’s two core general Project Management certifications. So, what’s the difference?
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PMP and CAPM Basics
CAPM stands for Certified Associate in Project Management.
It’s PMI’s entry-level certification in general project management.
PMP stands for Project Management Professional.
It’s PMI’s top-level certification for the project management profession.
So, the simple answer to the question, ‘What’s the Difference between PMP and CAPM?’ is simple:
CAPM is a simpler certification for people at the start of their Project management careers.
PMP is a tougher certification for experienced Project Managers. PMI asserts that it shows that successful candidates have ‘proven they have the skills to successfully manage projects.’
PMI also says that PMP certification ‘represents an elite group of project managers’. That is, at the same time as boasting that there are ‘more than 1,200,000 PMP certification holders worldwide’.
So, let’s dive deeper.
How do the certifications compare?
Pre-requisites for the PMP and CAPM
Before even taking the exam…
CAPM candidates need to show a secondary degree, such as a high school diploma, GED (general educational development), or global equivalent. And they must have at least 23 contact hours of project management education completed before the exam.
PMP candidates need either:
- A four-year degree and 36 months of experience leading projects within the past eight years – and the formal requirement is leading projects.
- Or a high school diploma or Associates’ Degree, and 60 months of experience leading projects within the past eight years.
You will also need either 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM certification.
PMP and CAPM Syllabus
Both certifications have their syllabus laid out in their Exam Content Outline (ECO) and you can download these documents from the PMI website. I will put links to the current ECOs in the description, but you should always check for the latest version, because PMI changes these from time to time (approximately every 4 years).
ALWAYS download a fresh copy of the ECO just before you start your preparation. My experience is that PMI makes small changes often, and does not record version control well.
Both syllabuses require an equal familiarity with traditional, predictive methods and agile, or adaptive, methods.
As you would expect, the ECO for the PMP is far more substantial and covers a wide range of topics beyond core technical Project Management skills.
Both are 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.
The PMP Certification has three Domains:
- People – the human aspects of project management: communication, team leadership, stakeholder engagement – 42% of the exam marks
- Process – the core project management disciplines like scope, risk, budget, schedule, procurement, quality, and delivery management – 50% of the exam marks
- Business Environment – a small part of the syllabus (covering the external business environment, along with project compliance and benefits delivery – 8% of the exam marks
The PMP exam consists of 180 questions, over 230 minutes, and two 10-minute breaks. Questions are a combination of multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hot area, and limited fill-in-the-blank.
The CAPM Certification has four Domains:
- Project Management Fundamentals and Core Concepts – 36% of the exam marks
- Predictive, Plan-based Methodologies – 17% of the exam marks
- Adaptive Frameworks/Methodologies – 20% of the exam marks
- Business Analysis Frameworks – 27% of the exam marks
The CAPM exam consists of 150 questions, over 180 minutes, and a 10-minute break. Questions are multiple-choice.
Maintaining Your PMP or CAPM Certification
Both PMP and CAPM require work to retain your certification.
The PMP expires after 3 years, unless you can complete 60 hours of Professional Development in those 3 years – or 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs). These must include a minimum of 35 education PDUs (with a minimum of 8 in each of the three sides of the Talent Triangle – Ways of Working, Power Skills, and Business Acumen) and a maximum of 25 Giving Back PDUs
The CAPM expires after 3 years, unless you can complete 15 hours of Professional Development in those 3 years – or 15 Professional Development Units (PDUs). These must include a minimum of 9 education PDUs (with a minimum of 2 in each of the three sides of the Talent Triangle – Ways of Working, Power Skills, and Business Acumen) and a maximum of 6 Giving Back PDUs.
Learn More about PMP and CAPM on the PMI Website
Recommended Videos to Help with PMP and CAPM
Carefully curated video recommendations for you:
- What is a Project Management Professional (What is the PMP)? | Video
- Introduction to the PMP Certification (Project Management Professional) with Cornelius Fichtner
- How to Pass Your PMP Exam [Project Management Professional] | Video
- New PMP Certification Exam: Discussion with Markus Kopko | Video
- What is CAPM? PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management | Video
- Top 10 Things to Know about PMBOK 7 – the 7th Edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge
- PMBOK 7: 7th Edition of the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – with Nader Rad
Recommended Articles to Help with PMP and CAPM
- PMI Certification Options: Is One Right for You?
- 2021 PMP Exam: For Candidates – All the Facts You Need to Know
- PMP or PRINCE2? Unraveling the Knot
- PMI Education Contact Hours and PDUs: Your Essential Guide
- PMI Talent Triangle: A Complete Guide [for members and non-members]
- PMBOK Guide 7th Edition: Your 20 Most Important Questions Answered (Update)
- 48 Top Tips, Tools, and Insights from the PMBOK’s 8 Project Performance Domains
What Kit does a Project Manager Need?
I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
Note that the links are affiliated.
Learn Still More
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For more of our Project Management videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.
For more of our videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.