The Complete PMP® Certification Guide

Are you interested in earning your Project Management Professional certification (PMP)®, but you’re unsure how to start the process? While this is a big step for your career, it doesn’t have to be a complex one.  This is the ultimate guide on PMP certification, and it can be your roadmap for navigating this process. Explore some common questions you might have about PMP certification, and learn what steps you need to take to become a PMP certification holder.

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How Do I Know If I Am Ready to Get My PMP Certification?

before you sign up

Before you sign up for your PMP® exam, there are a few prerequisites you have to complete. There are two paths to meeting the initial qualifications. You must have either:

  • A four-year college degree (bachelor’s degree or global equivalent), three years of project management experience, and 4,500 hours of on-the-job experience
  • A secondary degree (high school or associate degree), five years of project management experience, and 7,500 hours of on-the-job experience

In addition to meeting these requirements, all applicants must have at least 35 contact hours of accredited or formal project management education. These hours are also known as PDUs (Professional Development Units).

If you meet the criteria listed above, you’re eligible to take your PMP exam.



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How Do I Earn 35 Hours of Project Management Education?

Earning PDUs is an essential aspect of PMP training and exam prep. These professional development courses ensure that you’re up to speed on the most effective project management strategies.

PDUs develop your project management skills, so you’re equipped to thrive in your career. It’s imperative that you choose a course provider that not only prepares you for your future as a project management professional, but also prepares you to pass the PMP exam. Here is the criteria you should use when evaluating PDU providers to partner with:


The PMP exam requires more from its participants than having a surface-level knowledge of project management. Instead, you need a comprehensive understanding of the profession. To gain this understanding, you need access to the best PMP certification training resources. Evaluate the different exam prep companies you’re considering to determine which ones feature these best resources, including years of experience helping project management professionals pass their certification exams.

Also, if you can find a quality PMP prep course that not only prepares you for the exam, but also helps you earn 35 PDU credits, you’re effectively crossing two items off your to-do list at the same time. One important aspect to consider is whether or not the PDU courses provided are PMI-approved. This means you should only select PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.)® for your exam prep courses.

Course Materials

Course materials will be your greatest resource during the PMP exam prep process. Your study approach should go beyond a simple booklet, and should be as thorough as possible. Look for a PMP exam prep course provider that offers as many of the following course materials as possible:

  • PMP Main Presentation Coursebook
  • A PMP Strategy Guide
  • PMBOK® Guide - A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Sixth Edition (PMBOK® Guide)
  • PMP Quick Study Guide
  • PMP Process Group & Key Formulas
  • PMP Primary ITTOs
  • PMP In-Class Practice Questions
  • PMP In-Class Mock Exam
  • PMP Sample Forms
  • PMP Book of Exercises
  • PMP Online Course Lectures
  • PMP Online Practice Questions
  • PMP Tutoring through Email and Webinar

Each of these materials will play a role in not only preparing you for your exam, but enabling you to successfully pass it.

Completion Certificate

Upon completion of the PMP certification training, you should have proof of completion, typically in the form of a completion certificate. This certificate proves that you completed the courses and 35 hours of professional development training through a PMI-approved provider.

This certificate of completion carries more weight than just your sense of accomplishment upon earning it. In the event that you’re audited (a scenario which is explored below), you must be able to prove that you met the PDU requirements outlined by PMI.

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How Do I Choose the Right PMP Prep Course?

Now that you know what requirements you must meet to be able to sit for the PMP certification exam, you need to choose the right prep course to get ready. Every learner is different, so it’s important to keep your own learning style in mind as you evaluate courses. You have a few different course options, including:

  • Live, In-Person Course – With in-person PMP training, you attend prep sessions in a classroom setting at a specified time. You’ll receive printed versions of the training materials, and it’s likely you’ll also have access to online training materials you can reference later. These courses closely align with the needs of a traditional classroom learner, where lessons and discussions are led by an instructor.
  • Virtual Course – If you need a more flexible project management boot camp certification option, you can prepare for the exam entirely online. Virtual training sessions still feature live instruction with a training professional, and you have access to all the same materials as you would in a classroom setting. The only difference is that they are offered online. You can complete all the essential training from the comfort of your own office or home.
  • In-House Training – Many companies choose to offer in-house training for their aspiring PMP certification holders. In these courses, the exam prep professionals come to your company and hold in-person training sessions. This is a great solution if companies have multiple employees who want to pursue their PMP certification.

Beware of free PMP certification training providers as they often have lower pass rates and less qualified instructors. Before choosing your course provider, look at PMP training reviews or PMP boot camp reviews online. These reviews give you insight into both the nature of the courses offered and the success rate of the participants. When it comes to PMP certification training, one size doesn’t fit all. So, be sure to choose the course option that best suits your schedule and your learning style.

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Am I Ready to Apply for the PMP Certification?

apply for the pmp certification

If you’ve satisfied the prerequisites necessary to considering applying, then yes! You’re eligible for the PMP Certification Exam, which is a high accomplishment.

Now, it’s time to face the next challenge. To begin the application process, the first place to go is the Project Management Institute. You need to create an account on the PMI website and begin the application process. It’s important to note that once you start your application, you are unable to cancel it. You have 90 days to complete your application once you begin, although the process typically only takes about five days.

Your application to take the exam can be completed online or submitted on paper and sent to PMI. Once your application detailing how you meet the exam requirements has been approved, you have one year to take the PMP Certification Exam.

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How Much Does the PMP Certification Exam Cost?

The PMP Certification Exam is both a time and a monetary investment. However, a small investment now will greatly benefit you in the long run. One way to cut the costs associated with the exam is to pay for a PMI Membership, which is $139 annually and entitles you to testing discounts. The costs for the PMP Certification Exam are listed below:

  • Center-based testing (CBT) and Paper-based testing (PBT)
    • PMI Member Price: $405
    • Nonmember Price: $555
  • Reexamination CBT/PBT
    • PMI Member Price: $275
    • Nonmember Price: $375
  • Continuing Certification Renewal*
    • PMI Member Price: $60
    • Nonmember Price: $150

* See Continuing Certification Requirements section for more information.

If you’re concerned about the cost of the testing and exam prep, you could talk to your employer about covering the cost. PMP certification is a great investment for employers, as PMP certification holders are equipped to effectively manage projects to be completed in time and on budget.

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What If I am Audited?

While dealing with an application audit is one of the lesser known outcomes of this process, it’s a real possibility for some exam candidates. PMI has the right to audit any candidate at random to ensure that they actually meet the exam requirements as reported. In fact, you can even be audited by PMI after you have received your certification. And, if you fail to meet audit requirements, you will not receive a refund for your exam costs.

So, how does the audit process work? If you’re selected for an audit, PMI will alert you via email with directions on how to submit your materials, including the following documentation:

  • Copies of your diploma or global equivalent
  • Signatures from your supervisor(s) verifying your project management hours
  • Copies of certificates and/or letters from the training institute(s) for each of the 35 PDUs recorded on your application

Once you receive an audit notification, you have 90 days to submit the materials. After your documentation is submitted, it should take about five to seven business days for PMI to review your audit.

The possibility of being audited should play a vital role in your choice of PMP certification training provider. While you should have the documentation on your degrees and project management hours, you need a provider that can support you through the audit process with proof that you completed PMI-approved PDUs. Before choosing a course provider, find out how they can help in the event of an audit.

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What Should I Know Before Taking The PMP Exam?

You’ve finally made it to exam day! Before you sit for the actual PMP Certification Exam, you need to know a few things, the first of which is how the test is scored. There are five scoring categories, each carrying a different percentage of your total score. The percentage breakdown looks like this:

  • Executing – 31%
  • Planning – 24%
  • Monitoring and Controlling – 25%
  • Initiating – 13%
  • Closing – 7%

You also need to be prepared for the length of the test. You have four hours to answer:

  • 175 scored multiple-choice questions
  • 25 pre-test unscored multiple-choice questions

Fortunately, once the test is completed, you’ll find out whether you passed or failed instantly. There’s no long waiting period to see how you did. If you pass, this also means that you can capitalize on your PMP certification immediately, too. Put it on your resume, because you’re now officially a PMP certification holder. Congratulations!

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How Do I Maintain My PMP Credentials?

Passing the PMP Certification Exam isn’t the end of your journey; it’s just the beginning. Earning your PMP certification isn’t a one-time action. You must take regular steps to maintain your certification. While this may seem like a hassle, it’s actually in your best interest to maintain certification. Ongoing education ensures that you’re always current on the best project management strategies, and you’re staying up-to-date on industry trends.

The PMI Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program helps project managers to continue their learning and better hone their skills. You can also focus on areas that need improvement, so you’re proficient in all essential PMP skills. And, since recording your professional development activities is part of the CCR process, you have an incentive to actually keep learning.

So, how do you maintain your PMP status? Let’s look at the requirements for renewing your PMP certification.

CCR Requirements

Here’s where PDUs come back into play. Every three years, you must show that you have earned 60 additional PDUs to maintain your credentials. You must continue to pursue PDUs through a couple of different avenues:

  • Education – You must engage in learning opportunities focused on the PMI Talent Triangle.
  • Giving Back to the Profession – You must use your knowledge and skills to contribute to and build the project management profession.

As part of your 60 PDUs, you must earn a minimum of 35 educational PDUs, and you must give back a maximum of 25 PDUs to your profession.

Understanding PDUs

Before you can start earning PDUs, you have to understand exactly what they are. PDUs measure approved professional learning and development activities, and they cover areas outlined in the PMI Talent Triangle®: technical project management, leadership, strategic and business management. These three areas are viewed as the core pillars of effective project management.

One PDU is equivalent to one hour spent engaging in project management activities that fall into one of these three categories. So, to earn 30 PDUs, you would need to engage in 30 hours of education on one of these topics.

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What Should I Expect Now that I’m Certified?

pmp certified

Once you’re a certified PMP holder, all of your hard work pays off. You can expect to earn 20% more than your peers without certification, and you’ll likely experience greater job security. According to PMI, the median base salary for those who have worked in project management for five up to ten years was $97,000. That salary is about $16,000 less than PMP certificate holders with the same amount of experience.

Earning your PMP certification is a huge accomplishment, and it’s one that you should take pride in. Your company will also value you as an employee more since you’ve proven that you’re among the top project management professionals in the world.

Get The Tools To Thrive In Your Career

Project Management Academy helps students and businesses go through the PMP® certification process every single day. Fill out the form to download this guide and journey to PMP certification.