The Complete Guide to Project Management Certification
The undisputed number 1 project management certification is the PMP from the Project Management Institute. Becoming a Project Management Professional is the most well-respected form of education within the discipline and with that, it is quite a demanding certification to earn.
This article will give a brief overview of the certification and touch on the other options before going on to break down the PMP certification and provide resources to help you acquire it.
To begin with, it’s important to understand the term ‘PDU’.
What is a PDU in Project Management?
A PDU stands for a Professional Development Unit; a way to measure ongoing professional development.
Once you’ve earned your Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, you’ll need to fulfill your PMP PDU requirements to maintain your credential.
As a Project Management Institute (PMI®) credential holder, you’ve proven that you have acquired the knowledge and experience necessary to meet certain eligibility requirements.
In addition, your PMP certification shows your dedication to your profession, vocation, organization, and clients.
Now that you’ve received this credential, you need to enhance your professional development to remain in ‘active’ status. PMP holders need to earn 60 professional development units (PDUs) over three years to maintain the credential.
Your certification and/or Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) cycle starts the day you pass the PMP certification exam and ends on the same date three years later.
There are two general ways you can earn PDUs:
- Ongoing education: Take in-person or online courses, attend seminars/webinars, industry events, or get into self-directed learning and take it at your own pace. Just make sure the course you’re taking is officially sanctioned to give out PDUs.
- Give back to the industry: Create content that can be added to the body of knowledge, volunteer to provide your project management services outside of your company, or simply do your job (practicing project management daily counts toward your credentials). More details are on the Project Management Institute (PMI) page.
PM.com is an excellent resource in general and features an excellent way to track PDU acquirement through your study of their resources.
Five Tips for Retaining Your PMP Certification
Earning 60 PDUs over three years is manageable, especially if you map out a plan for when and how you will attain your PDUs.
From taking an e-learning course to getting involved in the PMI chapter and community activities, there are many ways to gain these valuable PDUs.
Typically, you will earn one PDU for every hour (60 minutes) spent on acceptable professional development activity.
The Project Management Institute provides these five tips for maintaining your PMP credential:
- Start early. Establish a strategy for attaining your PDUs before your cycle begins.
- Maintain a personal folder for all your PMP PDU claims documentation.
- Report activities soon after completion. PDUs can also be reported online through the Continuing Certification Requirement System (CCRS).
- Take advantage of the opportunity to transfer PDUs from one cycle to the next. If you are a PMP credential holder, you can transfer up to 20 PDUs earned in the last year of your current cycle.
- Make sure you have the registered program number for R.E.P. classes, which is required on the Continuing Certification Requirement System.
Project Managers who aspire to take the PMP exam need to have 35 hours of documented training in the area of project management.
However, there is some level of misunderstanding around just how they can achieve this. Many believe they must take specialized and expensive courses, and some are not aware that some of the training and education they already have may qualify.
Others think they need to acquire a single 35-hour certificate.
The Requirement in the Project Management Professional (PMP) Credential Handbook states that the candidate must Document 35 contact hours of project management education.
This requirement applies to all applicants, regardless of degree or project management experience level.
So, just what must the candidate do to satisfy those “Contact Hours of Project Management Education,” where at least 35 contact hours of specific instruction addressed learning objectives in project management?
Documenting Project Management Training and Education
The first step is to document all education hours regardless of when they were accrued. Project management education hours for these purposes do not expire and do not need to be within any recent time frame.
However, the coursework must be completed at the time you submit the application.
PMP Prep coursework does qualify, as it is project management-oriented, but it would need to occur before the candidate actually submits the application.
Note that one contact hour is equivalent to one actual hour (60 minutes) of training or instruction received, as per the PMI.
After documenting all hours, PMP candidates need to “classify” the content of the courses according to the PMBOK knowledge areas, including project quality, project scope, project schedule, project budget, project communications, project risk, project procurement, and project integration management.
If all hours add up to 35 or more, the candidate has already satisfied the requirements.
In many cases, the candidate will have either no hours or less than 35 hours of PM training, and they will need to fill that gap with additional project management training.
PMP Educational Requirements Examples
These educational requirements can be met by demonstrating the successful completion of courses, workshops, and training sessions offered by one or more of the following types of education providers:
- PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s): Pre-approved courses offered by PMI R.E.P.s. These can be classroom instruction, live instructor-led training online, or pure online packaged courses that are available 24×7.
- PMI Component organizations: PMI chapters, specific interest groups, colleges, or the PMI.
- Employer/company-sponsored programs: As long as content can be logically mapped to the knowledge areas.
- Training companies or consultants: As long as content can be logically mapped to the knowledge areas.
- Distance-learning companies, including an end-of-course assessment: Can include live instructor-lead training online, or pure online packaged courses that are available 24×7, as long as content can be logically mapped to the knowledge areas.
- University/college academic and continuing education programs: As long as content can be logically mapped to the knowledge areas.
Note that one hour of classroom instruction equals one contact hour. Non-classroom instruction, such as online training, also must comply with the rule that one hour of classroom instruction equals one contact hour.
Project Management podcasts can also satisfy all or a portion of the requirement.
The important thing is to be able to provide complete and authoritative documentation of the training and education, such as certificates, tests, syllabus, course descriptions, and transcript to properly support your claim.
Here are some scenarios of what should satisfy the PMP Educational Requirements
- Completion of a 15-week university or college course on project management that met for three hours per week would qualify for 45 contact hours.
- Completion of a university or college course that was approximately 50% on the subject of project management that met for two hours per week for 15 weeks would qualify for 50% x 30 contact hours or 15 contact hours. The additional 20 contact hours could be earned with an 8-hour REP classroom training, and 12 hours of REP 24×7 online training.
- Completion of a single REP classroom or online, 24×7 set of courses that add up to 35 hours or more.
- Completion of some combination non-REP classroom project management training, live instructor-led online project management training, online 24×7 project management training courses, or project management podcasts, as long as they are clearly documentable.
What does not satisfy the PMP Educational Requirements?
The following do not satisfy the education requirements:
- PMI chapter meetings, unless spent conducting a learning activity.
- Self-study (e.g. reading books).
- Degree program, such as an MBA, in its entirety, but many of the classes within the program will apply and must be documented individually
There are many ways to satisfy the PMI requirement of 35 hours of project management training.
Any training must be in the areas of project quality, project scope, project schedule, project budget, project communications, project risk, project procurement, and project integration management.
The PMI rule is that one hour of training equals one of these contact hours. Applicants must be able to clearly document the training with proper proof.
There is another resource that can not only aid in achieving your PMP but helping PMs of any level become more well-rounded and informed. That, of course, is the PMBOK.
What is the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)?
PMBOK stands for “Project Management Body Of Knowledge.” The definition of what PMBOK means, directly from the 1st (1996) Edition of the PMBOK Guide, is as follows:
“All those topics, subject areas, and intellectual process which are involved in the application of sound management principles to… projects.”
The PMBOK is an abstract idea meant to encompass all the knowledge project managers around the world use to successfully manage projects.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has published five editions of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, more commonly known as the PMBOK Guide. The most recent version came out in 2017.
The PMBOK Guide is often incorrectly described as the embodiment of the general PMBOK. This guide does not contain everything in the PMBOK — you can never hope to capture everything worth knowing in one document — but it’s a great place to start.
It covers the context in which projects operate along with detailed processes for running projects, and it has been collaboratively compiled by many studied project managers.
The PMBOK Guide is a hefty read, at just short of 600 pages. As such, there are many, many ‘guides’ to the guide.
These resources will help you understand PMBOK, the PMBOK Guide, and how it differs from its biggest rival; the aforementioned PRINCE2.
Overview of the PMBOK Guide
Here’s what’s new in the 6th edition, according to PMI: Each knowledge area will contain a section entitled Approaches for Agile, Iterative, and Adaptive Environments, describing how these practices integrate into project settings.
It will also contain more emphasis on strategic and business knowledge—including discussion of project management business documents—and information on the PMI Talent Triangle™ and the essential skills for success in today’s market.
Haven’t purchased the PMBOK Guide yet? You can buy it on PMI’s website.
If you’re looking for a general overview of the PMBOK Guide, see the following resources:
- A recommended overview of the 5 Process Groups
- An Introduction to PMBOK Guide: Knowledge Areas, Processes and Process Groups
Online Project Management Courses
While PMP and PRINCE2 are the two main go-to’s for certification, there are alternatives.
Coursera, a MOOC platform, offers a specialization in project management. Students can pick and choose individual project management courses (like Budgeting and Scheduling Projects and Managing Project Risks and Changes) for $49 for each course, or do the entire specialization for $196.
Coursera only offers a certification for those who have completed the entire program. For those interested in free coursework, they can take the first three classes without paying a dime.
The program isn’t a cakewalk. It’s hosted through the University of California-Irvine and taught by Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP.
Students are expected to put in 2-4 hours a week for each four-week course and demonstrate their overall understanding of project management in the capstone class.
The idea behind Brain Sensei is that most project management certification training is boring (and I can’t disagree). It takes a fun, modern approach to PMP exam prep, where project managers learn from animated stories and examples about what project management is and how to implement it effectively.
In spite of how fun Brain Sensei’s course is, it doesn’t skimp on exam prep. The courses offer over 900 test prep questions with 35 hours of prep material.
For $399 CAD (about $305 USD), this course is one of the most affordable, enjoyable options available online.
Online schooling has changed the way education is undertaken by brick and mortar schools, leading to an expansion in courses offered online. Colorado State University now offers the same project management certification class taught at the university in a condensed, 16-week instruction.
The class prepares you for the PMP exam for a tuition price of $3,395, which leads to PMI certification as well as the Associate Project Manager certification. Possible funding of the course can be awarded through the Colorado Workforce Development Center to aid in mitigating costs.
The online format in no way detracts from the lessons, and those who complete Colorado’s course will be well prepared for project management in a multitude of fields, from architecture to telecommunications.
Even though the Master of Project Academy is relatively new to the PM field (it entered the marketplace in 2012), its courses cover everything you need in a direct, accessible manner.
I recommend looking at its project management All Courses Bundle. It includes 27 online project management courses, including:
- PMP certification training
- Agile Scrum certification training
- ITIL Foundation certification training
- CAPM certification training
- Cisco CCNA training (full course)
- Microsoft Project training.
All the reviews of Master of Project Academy are overwhelmingly positive. Students call out their favorite teachers and rave about how easy passing the PMP exam is following the Master of Project Academy’s instruction.