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Getting Your PMP: FAQs Answered

by Sara Gallagher | November 15, 2020

Note: This article has been updated on 11/16/2020 to reflect the new PMP® Certification Exam, which is effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Are you thinking about getting your PMP® certification? Whether you’re just beginning to explore the process or are in the final stages of writing your application, this article contains important information you need to know about this significant credential.

What is the PMP credential?FAQ PMP Certification

The PMP® (Project Management Professional) designation is a globally recognized certification for project managers. It is awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a not-for-profit professional membership association for the project management profession. The PMP® credential is one way to demonstrate to potential employers that you have the experience, education, and competency needed to lead projects.

The PMP® is considered the “gold standard” in project management certifications, though others do exist through both PMI and various awarding bodies. The PMP® is industry agnostic, which means that to earn it, you won’t need specialized knowledge about engineering, construction, IT, marketing, or any other specific field.

Is the PMP just for “titled” project managers?

No! It’s not necessary to have the job title of project manager to earn your certification, but you do need to be/have been performing the role of a project manager. A project manager is defined as, “the person hired by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.”

If the work you’re doing meets that role definition—and you meet the other minimum qualifications to earn the credential—you may benefit from certification.

In fact, many of today’s project managers were “accidental”—people with technical or business expertise in another area who gradually developed a reputation for successfully leading projects within their department. If this describes you, you might benefit from formal training and certification in project management.

Will the PMP help me get a raise?

It might! The impact of obtaining your PMP® on salary varies by industry, geography, level of education, and years of experience. PMI publishes an annual salary survey that reports data on project manager salaries across many industries, regions, education and experience levels. Note that, if you are a PMI member, you’ll have free access to this document when you log into your account after clicking the link.

PMP® certification holders report higher median salaries in most countries included in the study. In certain countries (such as the Philippines and Indonesia), PMP® holders report a median salary over 80% higher than those who do not hold the certification. In the United States, as of 2020, PMP holders earned 26% more than non-PMPs.

Do I have to have project management experience to get the PMP?

Yes. Experience is one very important aspect of certification! It is one thing to learn the discipline academically and another to apply project management principles to the real world. The amount of experience you need varies depending on your educational background.

The chart below illustrates the experience you need based on your education:

Educational BackgroundProject Management ExperienceProject Management Education
Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent)Minimum five years/60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience35 contact hours of formal education unless you are an active CAPM holder
OR
Four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or global equivalent)Minimum three years/36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience35 contact hours of formal education unless you are an active CAPM holder
OR
Bachelor’s or post-graduate degree from a GAC accredited program (bachelor’s degree or master’s or global equivalent)

 

Learn more about the PMI Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC).

Minimum two years/24 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience35 contact hours of formal education unless you are an active CAPM holder

All your project management experience must have been accrued within the last eight consecutive years prior to your application submission. Your experience does not necessarily have to be paid work, but it does need to be in a professional setting. Activities such as school projects or planning personal events would not qualify. Also, all project experience must be recorded by individual project (regardless of the number of projects you include).

Do I have to take a test to get the PMP?

Yes. After your application has been reviewed and your payment has been made, you will be cleared to take the exam. You will have one year from the date of the application to take and pass the exam, with a maximum of three attempts during that year. The exam is offered at Pearson VUE testing centers, but you can also take the test from home!

PMI does not provide detailed information about how many questions you need to answer correctly to pass the exam. Here is what they do say about the exam:

“The PMP passing score for all PMI credential examinations is determined by sound psychometric analysis. PMI uses subject matter experts – project professionals from around the world and many different disciplines- to determine how many questions you must answer correctly to pass the exam. Each scored question in the exam is worth one point; and your final score is calculated by totaling the points you have earned on the exam. The number of questions you answer correctly places you within one of the performance rating categories you see in the report.”

The exact passing score for your test will depend on a number of factors. Since each candidate doesn’t get the exact same set of questions, the passing score is adjusted up or down based on the level of difficulty for the exam version you get.

We recommend that you score consistently over 80% on PMP practice exams before scheduling your formal exam.

What is the PMP test like?

Each test is 200 multiple-choice questions, and you’ll have four answers to answer them. Of those questions, 25 are “experimental” and don’t count toward your score. Unfortunately, you won’t know which 25 questions will be discarded, and they are placed randomly throughout the exam.

Each question will have four choices, and it’s often the case that all answer choices are “correct.” You’re looking for the “most correct” response—the right thing to do at the right time in the right way. This is why reading the PMBOK® Guide is usually not sufficient to pass the test. Answering questions correctly takes practice, practice, practice!

In terms of content, you can find PMI’s exam content outline here. Each exam question will pertain to one of three domains: People, Process, and Business Environment.

DomainPercentage of Items on Test
People42%
Process50%
Business Environment8%

 

About half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches, and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches. Predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches will be found on any question type, from any domain.

To get an even better understanding of what the exam is like, many people choose to kill two birds with one stone by getting their 35 education contact hours through a PMP® exam prep course. Be sure to search for one taught by an Authorized Training Provider (ATP). These are the only companies who are teaching PMI’s official exam prep content and are best prepared to help you pass!

Do I have to have any project management classroom hours to get the PMP?

Yes. Before you can qualify to take the exam, you must document 35 “contact hours” of project management instruction. Courses offered by your employer or training companies can count toward this goal, but they are not pre-approved by PMI. To ensure your hours count, it’s a good idea to get your training from an Authorized Training Provider, like The Persimmon Group, or your local PMI chapter.

Later, after you obtain your credential, you’ll need to accrue PDUs. PDUs can come from a range of sources, not just classroom instruction. For example, volunteering at your local chapter can help you accrue PDUs.

Can I pass without taking a PMP prep class?

Absolutely! But it is a lot more difficult. A PMP® prep class taught by experienced instructors ensures that you’re learning all the content you need to pass—not just the content in the PMBOK® Guide. Also, a training class gives you the practice you’ll need to decide the correct answer on the challenging multiple-choice exam.

What do I need to know about the PMP application process?

The application process can be completed online. Once you register for an account, the website will guide you through the application process. You’ll need to submit your application, including documentation of your education, experience, and training, before registering to take the test. For PMI members, the cost to take the test is $405.00. For non-members, the cost is $555.00.

It is prudent to become a PMI member before registering for the test; the discount makes up for the cost of membership, and membership affords you access to free electronic copies of the PMBOK® Guide, the Salary Report, and other publications and articles in the Reference library. Joining your local chapter usually requires paying an additional small annual fee. You can become a PMI “global” member without joining your local chapter.

How long is my PMP credential valid?

Your PMP® certification is valid for three years, at which time it must be renewed. As long as you’ve maintained your PDU’s, you will not have to retake the exam to extend your certification.

Do you have PMP® questions we didn’t answer? Contact The Persimmon Group and talk to one of our PMPs. We are happy to help!                                          

The Project Management Professional (PMP), The PMI Registered Education Provider logo, and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

                                                                                       


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