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Getting Your PMP: FAQs Answered

by Sara Gallagher | February 01, 2019

Thinking about getting your PMP®  certification? Here’s everything you need to know about this important credential.

What is the PMP credential?FAQ PMP Certification

The PMP® (Project Management Professional) 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.

Is the PMP just for “titled” project managers?

No! You don’t have to be a titled project manager to benefit from learning to manage projects, and the PMP certification is increasingly valued across many professions and occupations. In fact, many of today’s project managers were “accidental”—people with technical expertise in another area who gradually developed a reputation for successfully leading projects within their department. If this describes you, you might well benefit from formal training and certification in project management!

 

That said, you will need to demonstrate that you have project management experience in order to sit for the exam. That does not mean that you have to have held the title of “Project Manager,” or be a titled Project Manager today. You simply need to prove that you performed the function of a project manager within the last eight consecutive years prior to your application submission (see below for the specific experience requirements).

Will the PMP help me get a raise?

It might! The impact of obtaining your PMP on salary varies by industry. PMI publishes an annual salary survey that reports data on project manager salaries across many industries, regions, education and experience levels. This year’s survey revealed that the mean salary for project managers with a PMP is about 22% higher on average than those without a PMP certification. Those without a PMP earn about $12,000 less than those who have obtained the PMP within the last five years. It is also important to note that certification is increasingly being listed as a “preferred” or even “required” item for project management job postings, so the PMP might also afford you more employment choices in the long term.

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:

 

Educational Background Project Management Experience (In Years) Project Management Experience (In Hours)
High school diploma or Associate degree Five years/60 Months 7500 hours
Four-year degree or higher Three years/36 Months 4500 hours

 

It is important to note that you must have BOTH the requisite years and hours of experience. In other words:

  • If you worked 80-hour weeks for one year, that still counts as just one year of experience.
  • If you worked 80-hour weeks for one year, all of those hours do count toward your hours of experience.
  • In the above example, it is possible to hit your total needed hours without hitting the requisite number of years of experience.

All of your experience must have been accrued within the last eight consecutive years prior to your application submission.

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 daily at Prometric testing centers throughout the country. While the exact percentage needed to pass fluctuates, it is typically close to 61%. You will not be told your score after you finish the exam.

Instead, you will be given two levels of results. The first level simply indicates whether you passed the exam. The second level rates you as “above target,” “target,”  “below target” or “needs improvement” in each domain of project management. Note that even if you score “needs improvement” in one of the domains, you can still pass the test.

What is the PMP test like?

Each test is 200 multiple choice questions, and you’ll have four hours to answer them. 25 of those questions are “experimental” and don’t count towards 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 of the answers 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, most of the test questions come from the PMBOK® Guide. PMBOK® stands for “Project Management Body of Knowledge,” and the guide is PMI’s best attempt to summarize all of the ideas, concepts, terms, and best practices used by project managers around the world. It breaks project management down into five process groups (Initiation, Planning, Executing, Monitoring/Controlling, and Closing) and ten knowledge areas (Integration, Scope, Schedule, Cost, Risk, Quality,  Resource, Communication, Stakeholder, and Procurement Management.)

While PMI does not provide data on how many questions come from each knowledge area, we do know how many questions come from each of the five process groups:

Initiation 13%
Planning 24%
Executing 31%
Monitoring/Controlling 25%
Closing 7%

 

Although most questions are taken from content in the PMBOK® Guide, PMI reserves the right to pull questions from outside reading as well. For example, some of the content is derived from the PMI eReads and Reference library made available electronically to members. For a complete guide to the PMP exam content, PMI has published an Examination Content Outline.

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 towards this total, but they are not pre-approved by PMI. To ensure your hours count, it’s a good idea to get your training from a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.), like The Persimmon Group, or your local PMI chapter. You can also obtain your 35 hours online, so long as the training is offered by an R.E.P. Keep in mind, however, that regular PMI chapter meetings do not count toward your total.

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 distinguish the most correct answer on the 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 computerized 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 the entire eReads and 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 PDUs, you will not have to retake the exam to renew 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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