The Importance of PDUs: What Happens If You Fail to Earn Them?

Once you have earned a Project Management Institute (PMI) credential, maintaining your certification is a crucial next step in furthering your professional development. To maintain your certification, you must earn a certain number of Professional Development Unit (PDU) credits every three years. The real meaning behind earning PDU credits is to ensure that certified PMs keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date. But what happens if you don’t earn the required PDUs? Learn how to maintain your certification and what to do if you do not meet maintenance requirements in this Project Management Academy resource.

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Getting started: the meaning of PDU credits for PMI certifications

PMI requires all credential holders to earn and report Professional Development Units (PDUs) through their Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program. You must earn a minimum number of PDUs during your three-year certification cycle to successfully maintain a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential and other PMI certifications.

What are PDU credits?

A PDU credit is a PMI-approved method of measuring your professional development progress. PDUs, or Professional Development Units, are earned through activities related to your professional development as a project manager. Each PDU you earn gives you credit for one hour spent on professional development activities. These activities can include reading PDU-eligible books, attending PDUs courses and webinars, or volunteering for PDU-related organizations.

You must earn a certain number of PDUs every three years in order to maintain active certification status. The meaning of PDU credits is to ensure that certified PMs keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date so they can continue providing the best possible service to their clients.

As a PMI credential holder, you must report PDUs through the PMI CCR system. Ensure you check the requirements for your specific certification in PMI’s CCR Handbook.

How to earn PDU credits

There are many ways to earn PDU credits, including free PDU options. Ensure you weigh the pros and cons of free PDUs before pursuing this option. Either way, there are two types of PDUs you can earn to receive PDU credits:

  • Education PDUs include project management learning opportunities. Each hour you spend taking classes, attending webinars and local chapter meetings, studying project management books, or engaging in other continuing education counts as one PDU.
  • Giving Back PDUs include activities where you give back to the profession through work, sharing knowledge, volunteering, and more.

PMI has specific guidelines regarding how many of each PDU type you can earn for credit. For example, the PMP Certification PDU credits requirement is different from the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® PDU credits requirement. Read through this Project Management Academy resource on PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements to learn more.

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What happens if I earn more PDU credits than are required?

You can apply a portion of your PDU credits to your next cycle if you meet the following requirements:

  • You have already earned the required PDUs in your current CCR cycle.
  • The PDU credits you are applying to your next cycle have been earned in the final twelve months of your current CCR cycle.

The below chart shows how many PDU credits you can apply to a future cycle based on which PMI certification you hold.

Future Cycle PDUs202020201010105
Transferrable PDU Credits per 3-Year Cycle

For example, let’s say you earned the PMP Certification on January 15, 2022. You have until January 15, 2025, to earn the 60 required PMP Certification PDU credits. If you earn more than 60 PDUs, any additional PDUs you earn between January 15, 2024, through January 15, 2025, can be applied to your next PMP CCR cycle.

What happens if I don’t earn enough PDU credits?

If you do not earn enough PDU credits during your CCR cycle, you will first be placed in suspended status for up to twelve months. After your suspended status ends, either you will be free to complete the renewal process, or your credential will expire.

Suspended Status

When in Suspended Status, you have up to twelve months to earn the necessary PDUs and complete the certification renewal process. During this time, you are not allowed to refer to yourself as a credential holder or use your certification designation for any reason.

The suspension period overlaps your next cycle as shown below:

Example of Overlapping of Suspension Period for PMI Certification Renewal
Example: Overlap of Suspension Period for PMI Certification Renewal

For example, your CCR cycle ends on April 15, 2023. Your next cycle will end on April 15, 2026. If you do not earn enough PDU credits by April 15, 2023, you will be placed in Suspended Status until April 15, 2024, or until you earn enough PDUs and complete your renewal. However, your next cycle will still end on April 15, 2026.

Expired Status

Your PMI credential will expire if you do not earn sufficient PDU credits and renew your certification within the twelve-month suspension period. You will lose your certification entirely and no longer be considered a PMI certificate holder when this happens.

If you want to earn the same PMI certification again, you will have to reapply from scratch. In other words, you must complete a new application, resubmit all associated fees, and retake the certification exam.

Exceptions and Retired Status

Some PMI credential holders may be unable to complete the CCR program within the three-year cycle for reasons such as military duty, physical and mental health, or family leave. If any of these apply to you, you may be able to request an extension from PMI.

You can also apply for retired status instead of letting your certification expire if you have retired temporarily or permanently from the project management profession. In this case, you will have to submit a written request to PMI to receive guidelines and a form to complete.


PMI requires all certification holders to maintain their credentials by earning PDU credits for their professional development activities. Maintaining a PMI credential demonstrates the certificate holder remains at the forefront of the industry and is staying current with best practices and new developments in project management through continuing education.

Failing to maintain your PMI certification can cause your credential to become suspended or expired. If your certification fully expires, the only way you can get it back is to go through the entire certification process again. As a result, it is in your best interest to complete PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements on time.

Are you ready to maintain your PMP certification or another PMI credential by earning PDU credits? Check out Project Management Academy’s on-demand training and live PDU courses to get started.

Earning PMP PDU credits online is often the most convenient choice for busy project managers. Consider Project Management Academy’s annual PDU subscription for a cost-effective way to earn PMP PDU credits online.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO