Your Timeline to PMP Certification – Shorter Than You Might Expect!

Aug 30, 2018 | Project Management

You may already be plotting your course to your PMP certification and then onward to your ultimate career destination. 

At first, you might wonder … How long is it going to take to get my PMP, anyway?

Remember the key milestones that you need to achieve for your PMP:

  1. Gain project management experience (4,500 hours with a four-year degree, 7,500 hours without)
  2. Complete 35 hours of education
  3. Submit your application to the PMI for approval
  4. When you receive PMI approval of your application, send your payment
  5. When PMI acknowledges your payment, schedule your PMP certification test.
  6. Pass the test!  Good news — Your test is graded immediately after you finish  – you don’t have to wait days or weeks to find out the result! 

Now, let’s do some what-if math to see what the roadmap to your PMP might look like.

You will spend the most time gaining project management experience.  

Perhaps the biggest question mark — how long is this leg of your roadmap?   We can break it down and get a reasonable “guess”-timate.

First, we’ll assume that you’re starting from scratch— at the worse case, you currently have little or no experience leading and directing projects that will qualify for your PMP application. 

We’ll look at two scenarios under the above assumption:

  1. Scenario 1:  You anticipate opportunities to lead and direct projects in your current position, and these opportunities will grow from part-time PM roles in Years 1 and 2 to full-time PM roles in Years 3 and 4.  Your job title may not be “Project Manager,” but the work you’ll be doing is relevant to one or more of the project management domains/process groups. 

PV Blog 4 Img1 Table


In the above scenario, we look four years into the future and determine that you still start gaining qualified project management experience in Year 1.  Over the subsequent years, you will dedicate increasing effort to project management assignments, until Years 3 and 4 where you have reached a level of full-time engagement in project management work. 

if you are starting with no project management experience and you have your four-year degree, you will slightly exceed both the three-year/36-month non-overlapping experience requirement and the minimum 4,500 hours requirement in four years. 

If you are starting with no project management experience and you don’t have your four-year degree, you will still need nearly two years to meet the five-year/60-month non-overlapping experience requirement.  You will also need approximately 2800 more hours of project management experience. 

  1. Scenario 2:  You are moving into your first formal project manager role, and you will be leading and directing projects on a full-time basis

PV Blog 4 Img2 Table


In Scenario 2 above, you are still starting with no project management experience and you have assumed a full-time project manager role.  With your four-year degree you will exceed both the experience duration (three years/36 months) requirement and the project management hours requirement. 

If you are starting with no project management experience and no four-year degree, and you have assumed a full-time project manager role, you will naturally make more progress in Scenario 2 than in Scenario 1 toward meeting the experience and hours requirements.   At the end of four years as a full-time PM, you will only need approximately one more year/12 months and 1200 more hours of experience. 

Remember that the above scenarios are just hypothetical examples showing how to put together an estimate of the timeline for your PMP roadmap. Your experience leading and directing projects will be different, and you may have more or fewer average work hours per month.   Create your own roadmap and keep track of your progress!

REMEMBER:  Chances are you already have some qualifying PM experience.  You can adjust our Scenario 1 and 2 models to add in the experience you’ve already gained.  Also, Project Managers may spend a considerable amount of time estimating and what-if-ing schedules and hours projections for real projects – so, you might find this exercise good practice!

You will spend much less time meeting the education requirement and completing the PMP certification exam.

The education required for the PMP application is only 35 contact hours – depending on how you decide to meet this requirement, it could take you as little as one week!  PMP exam prep courses, such as those offered by Project Vanguards LLC, would be a great choice, because you will satisfy ALL 35 hours of the education requirement PLUS you will learn critical success techniques for passing the exam on the first try! 

The amount of time it will take for you to prepare for and sit for the PMP certification exam is really your call.  In our blog The PMP Exam – Up Your Prep Game for First-Time Pass!, we discuss how you can leverage your personal learning style to select the more effective study method(s) and tool(s) for you.  If you take some time to research, you will find many study approaches and plans on the web offered by PMPs based on their own experience.   

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