With most project management certifications, actually gaining project management experience can come before or after. Some students treat training as the first step in their careers, whilst others use it as a chance to validate their experience or take their skills to the next level. Needless to say, a certification is not a substitute for having a solid track record of successfully completed projects, and any students who expect a single exam to entitle them to six-figure-salaries will inevitably end up disappointed.
However, this typical interchangeable order for certifications and experience is not present with 'Project Management Professional', better known as 'PMP'. This is one of the world’s most highly respected certifications for project management, not because its contents are any more effective than other frameworks, but because the prerequisites to even qualify for the PMP exam are uniquely onerous. Simply having an official PMP certification on your resume can instantly score you points with organizations all over the world - but why?
Qualifying for the PMP exam requires thousands (yes, thousands) of hours spent leading and directing projects, as well as years accumulating project management experience. Candidates must also have spent a substantial amount of time officially studying project management, demonstrating that they have the drive and ambition to develop their knowledge and skills beyond the standard demands of their day jobs. For many, a PMP certification is a badge of honor - one which can immediately validate their abilities and qualify them for higher-tier leadership positions and even six-figure salaries.
Indeed, the value of a PMP certification would be greatly diminished if there were shortcuts towards it. But meeting these requirements does not have to take decades (especially since experience older than seven years won’t even be recognized in the auditing process).
Instead, it simply requires a well-structured approach towards ‘leading and directing’ projects. You do not even need to have the title of ‘project manager’, so long as your work meets the criteria outlined by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
With that in mind, let’s look at the best ways for you to accrue all the hours you need to qualify for the PMP certification exam!
What are the Requirements for the PMP Examination?
The experience requirements for qualifying for the PMP exam vary depending on a candidate’s current qualifications:
Four-year degree (bachelor’s or equivalent) - To qualify, candidates must have at least three years (36 months) of unique and non-overlapping experience in project management. They must also have spent at least 4,500 hours leading and directing projects. Finally, they must have spent at least 35 hours in project management training/ education
Secondary degree (associate’s degree, high school diploma or equivalent) - To qualify, candidates must have a minimum of five years (60 months) of unique and non-overlapping experience in project management. During this period they must also spend at least 7,500 hours leading and directing projects. They will also need at least 35 hours of project management training/ education
What Constitutes PMP Project Management Experience?
PMP hours usually fall into one of five stages of project management:
Initiation - Introducing the project and discussing its scope
Planning - Defining the full scope of the project
Execution - Beginning work on the project
Monitoring and controlling - Tracking, reviewing and regulating project progress
Closing - The goals have been reached and the client signs off on the project
Taking charge during any of these stages can create hours to contribute to your exam qualification. You can compile experience during several stages, or even just one. Indeed, most PMP applicants have more experience in some categories than others.
It is also worth pointing out that these hours can come from a variety of different sources:
Work experience - Take the initiative to ask how you can accrue experience in your current job role. It will be ideal if you can ask a colleague who is already PMP-certified for help with this
Side projects - If you do not have management opportunities in your day job, you may want to consider taking on additional work, such as freelancing gigs. You may even find it easier to find management positions if you are willing to step outside your nine-to-five position
Volunteering - While putting in unpaid time can seem grating, the benefits of PMP will ensure that your dedication pays off! People will usually be happier to put you in management positions if you are willing to work for free. If you do the work alone, you may even be able to gain experience in all five management stages
While you are stacking up experience, it will be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the PMBOK guide. The 'Project Management Body of Knowledge' contains excellent tools and advice on project management best-practices. Much of the theory covered in the publication will be covered in the PMP exam.
How to Record PMP Project Management Experience
Unfortunately, the only thing harder than accruing PMP hours is accurately recording them! When you make your PMP exam application, your hours will need to satisfy PMI’s auditing process, or they simply will not count. If you don’t make the cut, your money will be refunded, minus a $100 processing fee.
Given how long it will take for you to collect these hours, it is absolutely crucial that you start documenting everything early on. This will make it much easier when the time comes to actually make your application, particularly as your records will also need to be signed and verified by a manager or project leader.
An important thing to keep in mind at this point is that your experience must be non-overlapping. This essentially means that you cannot collect additional hours just because projects occur at the same time. Eight hours spent managing two projects would still only be eight hours, not 16, and so on. Candidates also cannot log more than 40 hours per week or 2000 per year.
When recording your PMP hours, you will also need to describe the projects you have been working on, as well as your role in them (in relation to each of the five stages described above). You will want to provide high-level summaries using standard project management terminology. Simple and non-ambiguous details will be more than sufficient, so do not waste time with complex descriptions.
During the PMI audit process, you should receive information on exactly what is expected from you. This will include:
Certificates from any courses or institutions you have attended
Official certification from registered project management training providers
References and signatures from managers and supervisors for projects you have worked on
Why Study PMP With Good e-Learning?
The hours requirements for qualifying for the PMP examination may seem daunting, but trust us when we say that there is no shortcut around the PMI auditing process. Achieving your PMP certification will unlock excellent networking and career opportunities, regardless of your industry, sector or even your location - this simply wouldn’t be the case if you could achieve it in a week!
In order to qualify, you will need to spend at least 35 contact hours in project management education. Our Project Management Professional (PMP)® course offers just that, as well as 12 months of course access to help you stagger your training around your day job. You can enjoy practice exams to help solidify your knowledge, as well as 24/7 tutor support to ensure that you understand the key concepts covered in the PMP exam. The course is also fully accessible even on mobile devices and tablets, making it easy for students to return to training any time, anywhere.
Good e-Learning offers a variety of top-tier and fully-accredited online project management courses. Our award-winning portfolio covers the most popular standards on the planet, and we work to ensure that our students can enjoy the best quality training possible.
Our Project Management Professional (PMP)® course comes from the ILX Group. Based on the PMBOK Guide, it comes complete with numerous practical examples to help users understand how to implement project management best-practices in real-world organizations. Students can also enjoy a variety of engaging learning tools, including animation, audio-narratives and practice exams to solidify their new knowledge. We even offer 24/7 tutor support from our own team of in-house experts.