Destination: CEO/Senior Management! PMP Certification – How You Get There

Jul 26, 2018 | Articles

Are you considering becoming the boss? If so, you’re probably already researching the qualifications you’ll need to land the perfect project manager (PM) position.  

You might not think you’re familiar with project management or the PMP credential.  Or, you may be studying project management concepts in a college class. Better yet, you’re totally immersing yourself in project management methodology and best practices by taking a Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam preparation course.  You could be an accidental project manager, leading projects as part of your job, and you want to move into a formal, full-time PM role.  

Or, you are already progressing down the path toward earning your PMP certification— gaining authentic project management experience in your job, working on your PMP application, and/or preparing to take the exam.  

As you have probably figured out by now, there’s a significant amount of rigor involved in the PMP certification process, and for good reason. The PMP is the most valuable cross-industrial credential in the world.  Also, the PMP “is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers.  As such, the PMP has become a game-changer, not only for getting hired into formal PM positions, but also for advancing careers of the credential holders (whether PM’s or not), PM careers and evolving PM value to align with new business domains, changes to operations, and advancing technologies.    

To learn more about the qualifications for PMP certification, read the PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP®) Handbook.

Even if you’ve been only minimally exposed to project management fundamentals, you probably know that the acronym ECD stands for Estimated Completion Date.  Can we estimate the date when you will obtain your PMP certification?  Probably! But more on that in a future blog.

Now, to break down and clarify the PMP certification requirements, we are introducing a different definition for the acronym ECDExperience, Certification and Development.  


EXPERIENCELeading and Directing Projects

The PMI advises that only experienced project managers should apply for PMP certification.  In fact, your experience is the primary basis for determining whether you are eligible to sit for the PMP certification exam.  (Formal PM education is also required-we’ll cover those requirements later in this article).  So, gaining the required experience is the first step, and whether you’ve personally managed formal projects or not, you’re probably much more qualified to sit for the exam than you think.  What is the nature of this required experience, and how much do you need?

Experience must be Project-Related

First, let’s be clear on what a project is— for the experience to count toward PMP certification, the project reference for the experience must fit the PMI definition of a project, below:

“…a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result …”

(PMP Certification Handbook–revised 30 October 2017, Page 6)

Also, the projects you use to cite your experience must have been accomplished in a professional setting.  In other words, you can’t use projects you completed at home or in school as reference projects for your experience.

Experience must demonstrate “Enough” Time and Hours

How many hours of project-related experience are enough?  The answer depends on your educational background:

If you have a four-year degree …

such as a bachelor’s degree (or the equivalent of a BS or BA), you need experience leading and directing projects over a minimum of three years or 36 months.  Also, this experience must be non-overlapping, which means that you can’t sum the total duration you worked on two projects that were, in whole or in part, occurring simultaneously.

In the example below, Project A’s overall duration is two months, and Project B’s is three months.  The yellow-shaded circle shows the timeframe where the two projects overlap. The total non-overlapping timeframe for the two projects is four months-only these four months count toward the three year/36 month requirement.

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With a four-year degree you also need 4,500 hours of experience leading and directing projects.   This experience is specified by project and by the domain areas of:

Initiating the Project

Planning the Project

Executing the Project

Controlling and Monitoring the Project

Closing the Project

The 4,500 hours may be totaled for concurrent projects.  In our illustration above, the Project A tasks occurring in August for the PM will likely fall under the Executing, Controlling/Monitoring, and Closing domains.  The Project B tasks occurring in the same timeframe will likely be in the Initiating, Planning, and Controlling/Monitoring domains. All hours for these projects count toward the total 4,500-hour requirement.

If you don’t have a four-degree degree …

but you have a secondary degree, like a high school diploma or AA, you need experience leading and directing projects over a minimum of five years or 60 months.  As we explained previously, this experience must be non-overlapping.

You also need 7,500 hours of experience leading and directing projects.   This experience is specified by project and by the domain areas listed above. As with the four-year degree requirement, all valid hours for multiple concurrent projects will count toward the total 7,500-hour requirement.

In an upcoming blog, we’ll provide some real-life examples of PM experience as it should be documented in the PMP application.  

Experience must be Recent

How recent?  That’s easy–your experience must have occurred within the last eight consecutive years prior to your application submission.  

CERTIFICATION— The PMI Stamp of Approval

Gaining the right type and amount of PM experience will be the center pole in the PMP certification tent, in terms of your overall time commitment.  So now that you have the experience, what comes next?

Project Management Education

You must be able to demonstrate that you have completed at least 35 contact hours of instruction in project management.  One hour of formal instruction (e.g., classroom or online) is the equivalent of one contact hour.  

There are a number of ways to meet the education requirement.  The PMI provides a list of acceptable PM education providers in the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Handbook.   Attending a PMP certification exam prep course, such as the PMP course offered by Project Vanguards LLC, would be a great choice, because you will satisfy ALL of the education requirement PLUS you will learn the essentials for passing the exam on the first try!  

You can slice and dice these contact hours – for example, if you completed a project management course that was taught for 1 hour twice weekly for 10 weeks, you would be able to record 20 contact hours.  If you took a five-hour general management course, with one hour dedicated to the specialty of project management, you would be able to record one hour.

Note that any courses for which you expect to receive education credit must be completed at the time of your application submission.  The PMP Exam Prep Class offered by Project Vanguards LLC meets ALL 35 contact education hours required by PMI in order to sit for the exam.


Application Submission

The PMP application may be completed online here (you will need to register for username and password to get access to the application), or it may be printed and submitted on paper.  Online is the way to go—the entire process moves along much faster. And it’s FREE. You do NOT ever have to be a paid member of PMI in order to hold one or all eight of their trademarked credentials.

The online application process has a tidy and easy-to-navigate interface.  You will be asked to enter:

Personal information:  Your address, contact info, and educational background.

PM Experience:  (Each project is recorded as an “experience.”)  Project information, sponsoring organization, organizational contact info, the number of hours of experience per Domain Area, and a narrative summary of your experience on the project.  The online application saves your entries as you go, and once you have completed all of the required entries for a given experience, the application will prompt you to add the next.

PM Education:  Course name, start and finish dates, number of qualifying (PM-related) hours, and the institution conducting the training.


Application Review

Once you have submitted your application, the PMI will review it for completeness.  The primary outcome of the PMI review is to determine whether or not you have met the qualification requirements for project management experience and education.

PMI’s application processing time is approximately five calendar days, when the application is submitted online through the Certification Program and if the application has not been selected for PMI’s audit process.  

Once the PMI review determines your application is complete, you will be notified by PMI to remit your payment of the certification fee.  

On receipt of your payment, PMI will then send your PMI Eligibility Identification Number along with the instructions for scheduling your PMP exam.  


Audit Process

All PMP applications are considered subject to an audit, but only some applications are selected at random to be audited.  10% of all applications are audited as a form of quality assurance and quality control (you’ll learn more about differentiating these two in your Project Vanguards class!)

If your application is selected for an audit, you will need to submit supporting documentation for the experience and education you included in your application.  This is generally straight-forward, simply requiring you to get your “Project Point of Contact” to sign, and hence verify, that the work you described in your application for the respective project in question was in fact done by you.  You are given 90 days to provide the documentation to the PMI, and then the turnaround time for PMI to complete the audit is approximately five to seven business days.

You won’t be able to proceed in the certification process until the audit is complete.  At that point, PMI will notify you and the process will continue.  


PMP Examination

Okay, the home stretch.  You’ve scheduled your examination and you’re ready for the test.  But are you?

If you corral some PMPs and some PMP-hopefuls in the same space, the conversation will likely turn to PMP exam preparedness Q&A.  

“Did you study? How did you study?”

“How much time did you spend studying?”

“Did you only study the PMBOK?”

“Did you take a PMP exam prep course?  Which? How much did it cost?”

“Which guide should I get – Andy Crowe, Rita Mulcahy, only the PMBOK current edition, others?”

“Did you take practice exams?  Did they help?”

“Did you pass the first time you took the test?”

Soon we’ll do a deep dive into the factors that can help you up your exam game.

In the meantime, consider these questions when you define your PMP exam preparedness plan:

How much actual PM experience do you have?  Have you been a project manager “FOREVER,” at least been part of projects in some capacity (you don’t have to necessarily have been a PM on projects in order to become a PMP; your Exam Prep course instructor can explain this in better detail in class), or are you just now meeting the experience requirements, or somewhere in-between?  

How familiar are you with the content of the PMBOK?  How well does your PM experience demonstrate real-life application of the PMBOK methodology?

What kind of student are you?  Do you struggle with academic studies in general, or does comprehension of new information come fairly easy to you?

What kind of test-taker are you?  Does the mere idea of being tested on anything give you the heebie jeebies?   

A few Fun Facts about the PMP certification exam:

  • The test consists of 200 questions, 175 of which count toward your final score.  The remaining 25 are unscored. (you will NOT know which from which)
  • You are allotted four hours to complete the test.
  • You may take the test as Center-Based Testing (CBT) or Paper-Based Testing (PBT).  Paper-based testing is allowed only if you are not geographically close to an approved testing center, or cannot attend a CBT center for other reasons.
  • All of the five Process Groups, or Domains, are covered in the test questions. The percentage of questions assigned to each domain can be found in the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Examination Content Outline.
  • The Examination Content Outline also describes the domain-specific tasks that are evaluated through the PMP certification process and the knowledge/skills required to perform these tasks.  We find this publication very useful as a form of checklist one can use to self-check their strengths and weaknesses and focus their study time accordingly.
  • The Funnest Fun Fact:  You find out if you passed immediately after you submit your test for scoring!

Finally, something else to consider:  The PMP certification exam is not a superficial test of your memory.  It requires that you not only understand the PMBOK terms, processes and their inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs, etc., but you must also able to “connect the dots”—analyze information, form conclusions, and decide the BEST (or LEAST effective) course of action for a given scenario.

You will need both broad and deep knowledge of the PMBOK’s Process Groups and Knowledge Areas, and you need to understand the relationships between the two.

Our bottom line– No matter where you see yourself on the scales of PM experience and knowledge, you will need to study for the PMP exam.  

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The method(s) and tool(s) of study you use are up to you.  You can get ideas for tips, tricks and tools simply by searching the web – there are thousands of examples from PMPs around the world.  You may find these common threads running through the PMP exam advice out there

  1. Study.  
  2. Use a methodical approach and plan what you’ll do during your study time.
  3. Set aside the time and stay focused.
  4. Attend a PMI-approved PMP exam prep course offered by a PMI Registered Education Provider (REP), like the one taught by Project Vanguards, or your employer or local PMI chapter.  Naturally, there may be costs associated with formal training courses, but PMP certification is definitely a tangible return on your investment! And beware ANY REP that says they teach directly out of the PMBOK!  The PMBOK is a technical manual, NOT a study guide for prospective PMP hopefuls!

Also, please note that PMP exam prep courses count toward your 35 contact hours of project management education.  In order to get the education credit for these hours in your application, you would take the course before you submit your application.

If you have questions about PMP certification- the whats, hows, whens, and whys- or any PM topic for that matter–– contact us anytime.


DEVELOPMENT—What Keeps You Keepin’ On

So, you have gained the right amount of the right kind of PM experience.  You have completed the PM education requirements, submitted your complete application, paid your fees, taken and passed the PMP certification examination.  You’re a PMP!  Happy dance! You’re done!  

No. You’re not.

The PMI requires that everyone who earns their PMP certification must actively maintain that certification.  This is accomplished through PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program.  (Hey, this is an invaluable life and career changing/enhancing credential. MD’s have to keep up on the latest and greatest for their clients/patients, and so do you!  People won’t give you millions of $ (or billions $) of responsibility unless they know you maintain your knowledge on a regular basis)

The program is detailed in the Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Handbook.  In this handbook, we learn how to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) to fulfill our continuing certification requirements.  The GREAT news about this program is that, within the PMI guidelines for the CCR program, you can tailor your program to define your own development path.   

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The PMI Talent Triangle is an illustration of the three main competencies that must be attained and maintained by the certified PMP.  In the CCR program, you must earn a minimum of PDUs in each of the three “legs” of the triangle – technical project management, leadership, and strategic and business management.  We’ll break this down for you in a future blog.

You are required to earn 60 PDUs overall per three-year cycle to maintain your PMP certification.  A minimum of 35 PDUs must be earned through continuing PM education.  Educational activities that are eligible to earn PDUs are PMI-sanctioned training courses offered by Registered Education Providers, PMI chapter education sessions, and other formal courses.  However, at Project Vanguards LLC, you may attend their PMP Exam Prep Courses, once you’re a PMP, and sit through their classes for FREE; one hour is worth one PDU (one student-hour), self-reported always at  So, right there are 35 of your 60 PDUs! What’s more, you may be able to teach part of the class too! And guess what, one hour per teacher (one teacher-hour) is worth 10 (ten) PDU’s!

The remainder, 25 PDUs, are earned through your participation in “Giving Back” activities.  Examples of “Giving Back” are working in your certified role, creating knowledge sources (like creating website or blog content, and authoring articles), giving presentations, sharing your knowledge, and providing volunteer services.

You can submit your PDUs for PMI credit toward your CCR program anytime during the three-year cycle.  At the end of the cycle, having all required PDUs submitted, you will be notified by PMI to submit your application for renewal of your PMP certification along with the renewal fee.  You must submit the renewal fee payment via the online certification system.  Once PMI processes your renewal, you will receive a new certificate with updates to your certification and CCR program dates.  


You’ll probably agree that achieving PMP certification is no minor undertaking.  We’re here to help you reach your PMP certification goal! Keep an eye out for this month’s weekly blog posts-they will elaborate on some of the information provided in this article.  

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