How to Get a PMP® Certification: PMP Certification Process

The Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is a highly sought-after credential in the project management world. Earning the PMP certification demonstrates your ability to lead and complete projects of any type, size, and complexity. It also proves you have the professional skills needed for the management of projects across varying industries and locations.

Are you ready to boost your career with a PMP certification? This guide by your experts at Project Management Academy will tell you all you need to know about how to get your PMP certification.

How to get the PMP Certification

Project management is a growing field. There is a high demand for project managers who can prove they can take on and complete projects across varying industries and locations. Let’s take a closer look at the specific qualifications, requirements, and materials you need to get a PMP certification.

Requirements and prerequisites

You will need at least some educational and professional experience to qualify for the PMP exam. The work experience requirements change depending on how many years of education you have completed.

  • If you have a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent, you need at least 60 months of project-leading experience (around 7,500 hours).
  • If you have a four-year degree or the global equivalent, you need at least 36 months of project-leading experience (around 4,500 hours).
  • If you have a post-graduate degree from a GAC accredited program, you need at least 24 months (around 3,500 hours) leading projects.

Your professional project management experience should be unique and non-overlapping work leading and directing projects. In addition to this educational and professional experience, you must have at least 35 contact hours of formal project management education or an active Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® credential.

A CAPM® certification is an excellent option for people working in project management who are not yet eligible to take the PMP Exam. Learn more in our comprehensive guide about the differences between the CAPM and the PMP certifications.

How to get 35 contact hours

A contact hour is an hour of formal project management education in a class, seminar, training program, or other similar online or in-person learning activity. The Project Management Institute (PMI) requires you to have at least 35 contact hours to qualify for the PMP Exam.

If you’re wondering how to earn 35 contact hours of PMP exam prep or how to guarantee you have fulfilled this education requirement, you’re not alone! You are guaranteed to meet this requirement if you take a course through a PMI Authorized Training Partner such as Project Management Academy.

Check out our online or in-person PMP certification training courses or our guide to earning 35 contact hours for more information.

Apply to take the PMP Exam

Once you have verified your eligibility, you can apply to take the PMP Exam. We recommend that you register to become a PMI member first. It costs $139 to become a PMI member, but you receive many discounts and perks in return:

  • Save $150 on the PMP exam, as well as other PMI certification exams and training courses.
    • The PMP exam costs $555 for non-members and costs $405 for members.
  • Gain the right to use an extensive digital library of PMI publications.
  • Access member-exclusive continuing education opportunities, which you will need to fulfill Professional Development Units (PDUs) to maintain your certification status.

After you become a PMI member, log in to submit your PMP application online. The online application will ask for basic information about you and specific details such as your highest education achieved, and proof of your 35 contact hours and professional project management experience. You need documentation for this information if PMI selects you for a random audit.

PMI will review your submitted application and respond within five business days. Once your application is approved, you will receive an invitation to pay for and schedule the exam. Use your invitation’s confirmation number to schedule your exam date online through the Pearson VUE website, PMI’s testing partner with centers around the world.

You have one year to take the exam after PMI approves your application. During this eligibility period, you may take the exam up to three times. We recommend scheduling your exam with enough time to plan your study strategy and travel dates, but with some leeway if you need to schedule another exam date.

What you need to know for the PMP Exam

The PMP exam covers a lot of information. You will need to demonstrate you have specific skills across three domains:

  • People: this domain covers approximately 42% of the PMP exam and emphasizes skills related to building, leading, and supporting a project team.
  • Process: this domain covers approximately 50% of the PMP exam and highlights the technical skills required for the efficient management of projects.
  • Business Environment: this domain covers approximately 8% of the PMP exam and focuses on the link between project management and organizational strategy.

You will also need to be familiar with the following approaches to project management:

  • Predictive: this style of project management is also called waterfall, traditional, or conventional project management. It describes an approach that uses detailed planning when the scope of work and requirements are clear, comprehensive, and precise.
  • Agile: this style of project management is most often used in software development projects. The purpose of this approach is to use multiple iterations to adjust to changing requirements during the project life cycle rather than following a linear path to your deliverables.
  • Hybrid: this style of project management combines predictive and agile methods to take advantage of the benefits of a thorough work breakdown structure (WBS) while also leveraging the speed and flexibility of the agile approach.

In addition, there are many formulas, strategies, terms, and other pieces of information you will need to understand. Most of this knowledge comes from the PMI resource A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Continue reading to learn about some study and review materials that will help you on your path to PMP certification.

Study and review materials

Many resources exist to help you study for the PMP Exam. Here are a few recommendations:

  • PMBOK Guide: The PMBOK Guide 7th Edition is a must-have resource for PMP aspirants. You will be tested on PMBOK Guide material during the PMP exam. PMI members can access an online copy of the PMBOK® Guide with an active membership, but a print copy may be better for you if you like to highlight and make notes in the margins.
  • PMP Handbook: this online resource comes directly from PMI and explains the process of taking the PMP exam, including specifics about the application, audit process, exam policies and procedures, your certification, and continuing education requirements.
  • PMP Exam Content Outline: this resource is another PMI document that describes what you should expect from the PMP exam. It goes into more detail regarding the domains, tasks, and enablers you will need to understand for the PMP exam.

Prep books, practice questions, and online courses are other terrific options to help you get a PMP certification. Read through our online resource about the 13 best PMP study guide materials for more guidance on finding the right resources for your schedule and learning style.

How hard is it to get your PMP Certification?

You have probably already heard or figured out the PMP exam is challenging. Besides the volume of information you need to know, the test itself is long and hard.

About the PMP Exam

The PMP exam consists of 180 questions. These questions may be multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, matching, or other types. You will have a total of 230 minutes (3 hours and 50 minutes) to complete the exam. Your exam will be administered on a computer (either in your home or at a testing center) and proctored by Pearson VUE administrators.

You can take as many breaks as you want for up to 10 minutes per exam section, but the exam clock will not stop, so time and choose your breaks wisely. You can use your break time to visit the bathroom or the locker provided by the testing center (if you chose this option).

Personal items such as food, water, watches, or phones are not allowed in the testing area or at your desk. Many centers do not even allow you to store a cell phone in your locker, so you may want to leave your phone in your car. You also can’t bring a calculator, but your test computer will have one available for you to use.

If you choose to take the exam outside of a Pearson VUE testing center, there are very strict rules you must follow. In addition to prohibiting all the same items as the test center, online exam takers must stay in view of their webcam at all times, and no one else is allowed in the testing environment, as well as several other restrictions. For more information about taking the PMP exam online, you can visit the OnVUE online proctored exam page.  

Learn more about what to expect from the PMP Exam and the Pearson VUE testing center in our comprehensive guide.

How long does it take to get a PMP Certification?

Many students come to us wondering, “How long does it take to get a PMP certification?” The PMP exam is difficult, so don’t expect to be ready to ace the exam in just a few days. It requires dedicated studying and personal commitment. Some people may only need to study for a month, while others may take six months or longer to prepare.

Your unique path to becoming a PMP credential holder also depends on where you stand regarding PMI’s eligibility requirements. If you have not met the academic, professional, and contact hours requirements, getting the PMP certification may take you longer.

We recommend treating studying for the PMP exam like a project: set reasonable, realistic goals that make sense for your schedule, especially if you have to consider external factors such as work, school, commuting, childcare, and of course, self-care. An example plan might be to cover one PMBOK® Guide chapter per week.

How to get a PMP Certification quickly

We found a popular Quora question that reminded us that for many people, speed is the priority when it comes to pursuing a PMP certification. However, we recommend focusing on fully understanding the material instead. The PMP exam is about learning how to be a better project manager, not just gaining a certification.

Because of this, we don’t directly promise our Project Management Academy students the fastest possible path to a PMP certification. However, we can offer advice and resources to accomplish this goal with speed and efficiency. This path includes a fair amount of self-studying before attending our online or virtual PMP exam boot camp course.

PMP Training Boot Camp

Many students find the PMBOK® Guide challenging to understand, so you shouldn’t plan to understand the contents fully in a single sitting. Try looking for other learning options to help you better understand the PMBOK® Guide material and apply your knowledge in your day-to-day work as a project manager. For example:

  • Classroom courses and boot camps are great if you want a rigorous, thorough course that quickly covers all the information you need. However, these classes are often expensive and may require you to travel to the classroom. Also, the rapid pace may cause issues if you don’t understand something right away or have scheduling conflicts with any classes.
  • Online instructor-led courses are helpful if you want to log online anytime to access materials, but you still want to interact with instructors and classmates. One challenge may be fitting classes into your schedule if you need to attend them at a particular time.
  • Online self-paced courses are much more flexible, so if you need to accommodate a busy schedule but still want high-quality, professional resources, this may be a good option for you. Remember online self-paced courses require discipline, since you may not have access to an instructor or classmates to keep you accountable.
  • Self-study is a convenient option if you don’t have the time or financial resources to dedicate to other options. However, self-study requires much more discipline and motivation. Studying and finding quality resources on your own without support or a community can be highly challenging.

In-person and online boot camps run by PMI Authorized Training Partners such as Project Management Academy fulfill the 35 contact hours requirement. They also come with quality instructors and a learning community of peers.

Students who prioritize speed in getting their PMP certification may take a boot camp course and then schedule their exam immediately after. While this is an option, we generally recommend students take the exam roughly 3-6 weeks after the course so they have time to test their knowledge and truly absorb all the key concepts needed to pass the exam.


If your goal is to get the PMP certification, here’s the checklist you need to complete:

  • Fulfill the academic and professional prerequisites
  • Acquire and have documentation for 35 contact hours
  • Apply to take the PMP exam
  • Schedule your exam and plan your study strategy
  • Gain a thorough understanding of project management concepts for the exam
  • Take and pass the PMP exam
  • Maintain your certification status by accumulating and tracking Profesional Development Units (PDUs)

The PMP exam tests students on an extensive knowledge base, so simply applying concept memorization techniques is not recommended. You need to read a scenario, understand the nuances of what a project manager needs to know in the given situation, and apply your deep knowledge of project management topics to pick the best possible answer given the choices provided.

Students who try to rush through preparations and quickly take the exam are generally less successful than those who take the time to comprehend the material thoroughly. These students are also less equipped to maintain their certification status through PDUs.

Did this guide help answer your questions about how to get the PMP certification? Then it’s time to take the next step: find an in-person or online Project Management Academy course to help you successfully take the PMP exam, or get in touch with our experts for more information.

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