PMP Certification: Your Complete Guide

Author: Karolina Matyska

Are you ready to elevate your project management skills to the next level? Look no further than the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification.

With over 1 million certified professionals worldwide, this esteemed credential validates your expertise and opens doors to new career opportunities.

Discover everything you need to know about the PMP Certification requirements, key benefits, testing centers, certification exams, and the PMP certification process, and take the first step toward advancing your career in project management.

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What is a PMP Certification?

A PMP Certification is a globally recognized qualification awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

But what does that mean?

Well, it means that an individual has demonstrated proficiency in project management by meeting specific education, experience, and examination requirements.

The great part about the PMP Certification is that it is widely respected in various industries and is an acknowledgment of a person’s competence in leading and managing projects effectively.

pmp certification

The benefits of a PMP Certification

Many project managers aim to advance their careers and increase their earning potential through PMP certification. However, this pursuit involves significant challenges such as years of experience, additional education, and a rigorous exam.

Despite these obstacles, obtaining the PMP certificate offers various benefits, including career enhancement, increased confidence, and greater value in the job market.

Companies also tend to prefer hiring PMP-certified individuals, and in Europe, such certification leads to a 14% higher median salary compared to non-certified counterparts.

If you need more reasons to consider it, here are additional benefits of PMP certification:

pmp certification benefits

Credibility boost

A project management professional certification provides a substantial credibility boost in the competitive job market. When pursuing new opportunities, your resume becomes a key player, and PMP certification serves as a badge of honor.

It distinguishes you by showcasing not only your experience, skills, and knowledge but also your commitment to your career.

Successfully passing the PMP exam is a testament to your mastery of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, solidifying your expertise for potential employers.

Even if you’re sticking with your current employer or client base, getting a PMP certificate becomes a recognized symbol of dedication. It signals your ambition to ascend the ranks and be a standout project manager in your field.

Increased income

Now, let’s talk about money. PMP-certified professionals rake in a sweet 20% more in salary, according to PMI’s salary survey. That’s not just loose change; it’s a tangible return on your investment.

The instant recognition of credibility that comes with PMP certification translates into higher earning potential and a smoother climb up the career ladder.

Companies value PMP certification and are willing to invest more in professionals like you who possess this coveted certificate.

Enhanced job opportunities

PMP certification also opens doors to enhanced job opportunities. It’s like a golden ticket to securing those top-tier positions across various industries that everybody dreams of.

Employers are on the lookout for professionals with the training, experience, and knowledge that PMP certification brings to the table.

Broader networking opportunities

PMP certification isn’t just about you; it’s about joining a community locally and globally. Coupled with membership in PMI, it unleashes networking opportunities that can change your career.

Being part of this international community isn’t just a checkbox; it’s a game-changer for professional growth.

Professional language proficiency

It’s not just about acing an exam; it’s about internalizing the concepts and articulating them with finesse. PMP certification preparation courses solidify your understanding, turning you into a pro at using specific terms effectively in your daily responsibilities.

Access to more challenging projects

PMP certification isn’t just a piece of paper; it’s your ticket to more challenging projects. If your current projects are starting to feel a bit boring, PMP certification opens doors to opportunities that demand effort and commitment, injecting fresh excitement into your career.

Versatility across industries

PMP certification isn’t industry-specific. It’s your passport to versatility. Finance, insurance, manufacturing, construction, utilities, oil and gas, information services, publishing, etc.

The knowledge gained through PMP certification makes you an asset anywhere effective project management is the key to success.

Job security assurance

In uncertain economic times, job security is on everyone’s mind. Here’s the good news – project managers, especially those with PMP certification, remain in high demand.

The global gap between the need for skilled project management professionals and the availability of qualified individuals is widening, creating a favorable job market.

Who should pursue a Project Management Professional Certification?

If you find yourself nodding along to any of these – experienced managers, team leaders, project coordinators, aspiring project managers, professionals in related fields, or even cool entrepreneurs and business owners diving into project-driven initiatives – you might want to consider diving into PMP certification.

It’s the golden ticket to leveling up your project game. Here is a more in-depth explanation:

  • Experienced managers

For individuals who already have project management experience and are used to leading and managing projects, it provides a formal recognition of their skills and expertise

  • Team leaders

Professionals in roles involving the leadership of project teams and coordination of project activities can elevate their leadership capabilities.

  • Project coordinators

Those working in project coordination roles, aspiring to take on more substantial responsibilities, can use it as a pathway to career growth.

  • Aspiring managers

Individuals aiming to transition into project management roles can pursue it to establish their credentials and stand out in the competitive job market.

  • Professionals in related fields

Individuals in fields closely tied to project management, such as business analysis or quality management, can leverage it to broaden their skill set and enhance career opportunities.

  • Entrepreneurs and business owners

Entrepreneurs and business owners engaged in project-driven initiatives can gain valuable insights and skills, ensuring the successful execution of their projects.

The eligibility criteria for a PMP Certification from the Project Management Institute

Candidates must meet specific criteria set by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to be eligible for a PMP credential.

The eligibility criteria are designed to ensure that candidates have the necessary education and experience to demonstrate competence in project management:

PMI certification criteria

University or college degree

A bachelor’s degree or global equivalent from a university or college, such as an associate degree, as well as a high school diploma.

Experience in leading projects

A minimum of 36 months (3 years) of professional experience in the area. This experience must include leading and directing projects, and it should cover all the five process groups defined in the PMBOK: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing.

Formal education in project management

35 contact hours of formal education in project management. This requirement is typically fulfilled through formal project management training provided by Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s) or academic institutions.

Alternative eligibility for individuals without a degree

For individuals without a degree, PMI requires a minimum of 60 months (5 years) of professional project management experience. Additionally, they must fulfill the same 35 contact hours of formal project management education.

The steps to get a PMP Certification?

1. Check if you qualify

As we just explained, candidates must ensure they meet the eligibility criteria established by PMI before beginning the process.

2. Submit application

Once eligibility is confirmed, candidates need to submit their applications through the PMI online portal. PMI typically reviews and approves applications within five business days.

3. Pay examination fees

Upon approval of the application, candidates must pay the examination fees. PMI members and non-PMI members have different fee structures. It’s advisable to become a PMI member to benefit from reduced examination fees and access to additional resources.

4. Create a study plan

Preparation is key to success. Candidates should create a detailed study plan that covers all knowledge areas outlined in the PMP Exam Content Outline to make sure they are fully prepared. Utilize study materials and reputable training courses.

5. Engage in exam prep courses

Consider enrolling in exam preparation courses that provide comprehensive insights into the exam content, offer study materials, and may fulfill the required 35 contact hours of formal project management education.

6. Study and practice

Dedicate significant time to self-study. Understand the PMBOK Guide and familiarise yourself with real-world project management scenarios.

7. Schedule the exam

Once you feel prepared, schedule the exam through the PMI online portal or by contacting a Pearson VUE test center. Select a date and location that aligns with your preparation timeline.

8. Take the exam

The exam consists of 180 multiple-choice questions and spans five process groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. Candidates have four hours to complete the exam. The questions are designed to test practical application rather than rote memorization.

9. Receive exam results

After completing the exam, candidates receive preliminary results immediately. PMI conducts a thorough review to ensure the integrity of the exam process. Official results, indicating pass or fail, are typically available within a few business days on the PMI website.

10. Maintain certification

Upon passing the exam, professionals must maintain their PMP certification by accumulating Professional Development Units (PDUs) through ongoing professional development activities. This ensures that certified individuals stay current with industry trends and continuously enhance their skills.

Overview of the exam

Exam format

  • Duration: The exam is a four-hour test.
  • Question Type: Consists of 180 multiple-choice questions.
  • Passing score: PMI does not disclose the exact passing score, but it is determined through a psychometric analysis.
  • Content outline:

The PMP Exam Content Outline is a comprehensive guide that outlines the domains and tasks that candidates can expect in the exam. The exam covers five performance domains:

→ People (42%): Emphasizes the skills and activities associated with effectively leading a project team.

→ Process (50%): Focuses on the technical aspects of processes, tools, and techniques.

Business Environment (8%): Explores the connection between projects and organizational strategy.

Domains and tasks

→ Initiating (13%): Tasks related to defining and aligning project objectives with stakeholder expectations.

→ Planning (24%): Involves creating a plan and outlining project scope, schedule, cost, and risk.

→ Executing (31%): Tasks center around carrying out the plan and coordinating people and resources.

→ Monitoring and Controlling (25%): Encompasses activities to track, review, and regulate project performance.

→ Closing (7%): Involves finalizing all project activities and obtaining stakeholder acceptance.

PDUs (Professional Development Units)

Earning and maintaining PMP certification is not a one-time achievement; it requires a commitment to continuous learning and professional development.

This commitment is measured through the accumulation of Professional Development Units (PDUs). PDUs serve as a mechanism to ensure that certified professionals stay current with industry trends, advancements, and best practices.

Importance of PDUs

  • Staying updated on industry trends: PDUs enable PMP-certified professionals to stay abreast of the latest developments and emerging trends.

  • Continuous skill enhancement: Engaging in activities that earn PDUs promotes ongoing skill development, allowing professionals to enhance their capabilities.

  • Demonstrating commitment to professional growth: Accumulating PDUs showcases a commitment to continuous learning and professional growth, reinforcing the credibility of PMP-certified individuals.

Earning PDUs

how to earn pdus

PMP-certified professionals can earn PDUs through various activities, including:

  • Attending training programs and workshops: Participation in related training programs and workshops.

  • Volunteering in the profession: Contributing to the community through volunteer work.

  • Engaging in self-directed learning: Pursuing self-directed learning activities, such as reading related literature or taking online courses.


In conclusion, embarking on the PMP certification journey is not just about acquiring a credential; it is a transformative experience that projects a project management career to new heights. From understanding the importance of project management certification to navigating the whole process, it offers a world of opportunities and rewards.

The investment in time, effort, and resources required pays off in terms of increased credibility, as it is widely recognized, and helps improve one’s career.

As technology evolves and industries transform, the need for skilled employees grows every day. PMP certification ensures that professionals not only meet but exceed the expectations of the ever-changing project management landscape.

So, whether you’re a seasoned project manager looking to solidify your expertise or an aspiring professional aiming to break into the field, it is a beacon of excellence guiding you toward a successful and fulfilling career in project management!


What are the prerequisites for PMP certification?

Candidates need a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, along with a specific duration of work as a project manager. Alternative eligibility is available for individuals without a bachelor’s degree.

How long does it take to prepare for the PMP Exam?

The preparation timeline varies among candidates. On average, candidates may spend 3-6 months preparing for the exam, depending on their existing knowledge and experience.

Can PMP certification be obtained online?

Yes, it can be pursued online. Accredited institutions offer online courses and resources, making it convenient for professionals to balance their studies with other commitments. However, the certification exam is typically conducted at Pearson VUE test centers.

How long is the PMP certification valid?

It is valid for three years. During this period, certified professionals must earn a specified number of PDUs to demonstrate ongoing professional development.

What is the passing score for the PMP exam?

The passing score is not disclosed publicly. The exam is scored based on correct answers, with a predetermined passing proficiency level.

Are there any study resources available for PMP exam preparation?

A wealth of study resources is available, such as PMI’s official website, along with reputable training providers, offer guides, and online courses to help candidates prepare effectively.

Can PMP certification be renewed after it expires?

Yes, it can be renewed after expiration. The process involves accumulating PDUs through various professional development activities, showcasing a commitment to continuous learning.

What happens if I fail the PMP exam?

Failing the exam is not uncommon, and it is not the end of the road. Candidates can retake the exam, analyzing their performance, adjusting their preparation strategy, and persevering towards success.

How Does PMP certification benefit my career?

It acts as a catalyst for career growth. It opens doors to leadership roles, enhances credibility, and increases earning potential. The global recognition of PMP certification positions professionals as valuable assets in the competitive job market.

What are the alternatives to PMP certification?

While PMP is the gold standard in project management certification, alternatives exist, such as PRINCE2 and AgilePM, catering to specific methodologies. Exploring these alternatives can provide professionals with a broader skill set.