Understanding the Difference Between a PDU and CEU

Documenting your continued efforts to remain current in Project Management skills, tools, and standards is required for maintaining that hard-earned Project Management Professional (PMP)® designation from the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI uses its Professional Development Unit (PDU) as its measurement for continuing education. To remain an active PMP credential, Project Managers must continuously earn PDU credits within pre-determined parameters and submit them for PMI approval.

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Continuing education for certification renewal

To understand PDUs and their connection to PMI and PMP, you must know what is meant by the term “Continuing Education.”

What is Continuing Education?

For most professionals, continuing education begins with the question “what are CEUs?”  A “CEU” is a “Continuing Education Unit,” and is used to measure participation in an authorized training program aligned with the licensing managed by a verifiable professional certificating organization.

Continuing Education efforts are commonly measured in Continuing Education Units (CEU)

For example, in the United States, lawyers must earn a specific number of CEU credits each year to maintain their license in the state they practice law. As well, those practicing medicine (nurses, doctors, others) in the United States must complete a certain number of CEU credits to keep their license active in the state they provide health care services.

Although the term CEU is widely used across professional circles and industries, each license type and where the skill is performed geographically will change the CEU hour/renewal requirements.

Why is Continuing Education required?

Simply put, licensing and credentialing organizations require continuing education credits, or CEUs, to ensure those practicing a profession are using the most current standards and are actively growing their skills. A CEU-based license or certificate, by the education and training represented, is the difference between receiving services from a professional or a layperson.

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PDUs are for Project Managers with PMI certifications

PMI administers multiple certifications, including but not limited to Project Management Professional (PMP)®, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®, and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®. Following the certification application process and passing the certification exam, the Project Manager must earn and submit to PMI for approval a certain number of continuing education hours to stay credentialed.

PMI created PDUs for Project Management Certifications

PMI created the measurement for project management-related continuing education efforts: Professional Development Unit (PDU). PMI also uses the Professional Development Unit (PDU) administration for its certification renewal programs, including the PMP.

Professional Development Units (PDU) are
 “one-hour blocks of time that you spend learning, teaching others, or volunteering.”

For PMI, credentialed professionals must earn, and submit for PMI approval, PDUs distributed between Education PDUs and Giving Back PDUs. For all PMI certifications and associated PDU efforts, the measurement of learning, training others, and/or volunteering is measured as:

1 PDU = 1 Hour

Many people earn multiple PMI certifications and therefore are continuously earning PDUs to keep their credentials active. It is important to know the difference between PMI certification PDU requirements so you do not have a lapse in your active certification  (or you would have to reapply and retake the exam for certification).

CEU and PDU and certifications

CEUs and PDUs are two separate categories to classify the work someone puts into maintaining their professional credentials.

What’s the difference between PDU and CEU?

The main difference between the categories of PDU and CEU is PDUs are used by PMI, while CEU efforts are tracked by different professional bodies to meet the needs of their industry.

CEU = Continuing Education Unit for professional licensing and certifying organizations

PDU = Professional Development Unit only for Project Management Institute’s certifications

Another way to think of the difference between PDU and CEU is PDUs are only accepted for Project Management continuing education efforts. PMI will not accept CEUs and, vice versa, those professional organizations using CEUs do not accept PDUs.

What if I need both CEU and PDU for my different certifications?

Many continuing education providers in the project management space include both a PDU and CEU value, to help professionals maintain multiple credentials simultaneously. However, there is not a 1:1 ratio for PDU to CEU, and so a course with both PDU and CEU values listed may apply differently.

.1 CEU = 1 PDU

For any license or certification, be sure you know the requirements for maintaining an active status, including the measurements used and how to submit units for review by the accrediting organization.


Professionals in industries including insurance, education, health care, IT, construction, and Project Management, have continuing education and licensing systems for managing the quality of service delivered within their field. However, the requirements and measurement of ongoing professional development vary by field and certifying organization. The effort spent to know what is needed to maintain any certification will ensure your continuation as a professional in good standing.

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Megan Bell
Megan Bell
Project Manager & Writer at Project Management Academy
Megan Bell