pmp-vs-capm

CAPM vs PMP Certification: Your Comprehensive Guide

Earning a project management certification is a great way to develop your skills, position yourself as a valuable asset, and make a higher salary. Two of the most popular certification options are the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification. In this guide, we compare CAPM vs PMP Certifications.

What is the difference between the CAPM vs PMP certification in exam difficulty, requirements, effects on salary, and more? Use our CAPM vs PMP guide to fully understand your options and decide which certification is right for you.


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What’s the Difference between CAPM and PMP

What is the difference between the CAPM vs PMP certification? To put it simply, the CAPM is considered more entry-level, while the PMP is professional level. As a result, the CAPM exam prerequisites are less restrictive, and the exam is relatively easier and less expensive than the PMP. However, the PMP certification is generally better known, more prestigious, and more likely to earn you a higher salary.

This high-level overview is helpful when differentiating between CAPM vs PMP in general. Take a closer look at the details to help you decide which certification to pursue.

Benefits of the CAPM and PMP Certifications

Both the CAPM and the PMP are specialized credentials offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI) that provide improved credibility, more professional development opportunities, and a higher salary.

A CAPM certification shows you have a solid foundation of project management principles that you understand conceptually. A PMP certification proves your skills and ability to apply project management principles to real-world situations reliably. With either certification, you can expect an increased level of peer and industry recognition and respect, along with the possibility of career progression and a higher salary.

If you are just starting your project management career, a CAPM certification can help. Alternatively, you may already have some project management experience and want to be qualified for full-time roles where you take ownership of projects of any size and complexity. In this case, a PMP will help you obtain positions with a higher salary and levels of autonomy and responsibility.

CAPM vs PMP Exam Requirements

What prerequisites do you need to take the CAPM vs PMP exam? There are fewer guidelines for qualifying for the CAPM certification exam because it is designed for entry-level professionals with little to no project management experience. PMI requires CAPM exam applicants to meet the following requirements:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent)
  • 23 hours of project management education completed by the time you sit for the exam

To fulfill the 23-hour education requirement, you may want to consider taking an exam preparation course. For example, our Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification course both prepares you for the exam and meets the education requirement.

Meeting PMP exam requirements, in contrast, takes more time and effort. PMI offers two paths to be eligible to sit for the PMP exam:

  • PMP Exam Requirements – Option 1
    • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or global equivalent)
    • 60 months leading projects
    • 35 hours of project management education OR CAPM Certification
  • PMP Exam Requirements – Option 2
    • Four-year degree
    • 36 months leading projects
    • 35 hours of project management education OR CAPM Certification

PMI will waive the 35-hour education requirement for the PMP exam if you are an active CAPM credential holder. This adds to the benefits that come with earning your CAPM certification.

CAPM vs PMP Exams: What to Expect

The CAPM and PMP exams share some similarities: both are designed by PMI and administered by Pearson VUE, neither allows reference materials while taking the test, and the exams cover some of the same topics. However, there are some features unique to each exam.

Differences between Exams

CAPM vs PMP Exam

CAPM Exam

PMP Exam

Exam Fee

$225 for members

$300 for non-members

$405 for members

$555 for non-members

Exam Components

150 multiple-choice questions

180 questions including multiple-choice, multiple response, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank

Exam Time Limit

Three (3) hours

Three (3) hours Fifty (50) minutes

Exam Content

Covers chapters 1 through 13 of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition.

Covers three domains: People, Process, and Business Environment. Use the PMP Examination Content Outline provided by PMI to prepare.

The exam difficulty is higher for the PMP exam compared to the CAPM exam, but both are rigorous. Let us help you prepare for either test so that you can feel confident and ready when exam day arrives.

Difficulty Levels

While both exams require adequate preparation, the CAPM exam is considered less rigorous than the PMP exam. This is because the CAPM is designed more for entry-level project managers or those interested in a career in project management. The PMP exam is more challenging but comes with industry-wide benefits such as a 20% higher salary on average.

Exam Tips

Preparing for the CAPM and PMP certification exams shouldn’t trigger anxiety. Here are three ways you can get ready to succeed:

  1. Create a study schedule. It’s best to plan to study regularly in the weeks or months before exam day. Make sure to account for work, school, spending time with friends or family, and taking care of yourself.
  2. Find a support network. Share your goal with others so they can help you stay on track. If you’re working full-time, see if your manager or boss will allow you to study during work hours. Your success is good for your employer, too!
  3. Learn more about the exam. PMI provides excellent resources to help you prepare for these certification exams. Review the CAPM vs PMP exam content and components so that you know exactly what to expect.

Can you convert a CAPM to PMP?

You may be wondering: Can you convert a CAPM to PMP? While this is a good question, unfortunately, the short answer is no.

However, while you can’t upgrade your CAPM to a PMP, studying for and obtaining a CAPM can help you pursue a PMP. You can also apply the project management education hours you got for your CAPM to your PMP exam prerequisite. In other words, if you are an active CAPM certification holder, PMI can waive the 35-hour project management education requirement.

If you are just starting in your project management career, getting a CAPM can be a great first step towards obtaining a PMP and a higher salary after earning more project management experience.

Certification Recertification/Renewal

Previously, CAPM certification holders needed to retake the exam every five years to maintain their certification status within PMI. However, PMI recently changed these requirements. Now, both CAPMs and PMPs can retain their respective certifications by earning a set minimum of professional development units (PDUs) every three years.

PDUs are one-hour blocks of time that you spend learning, teaching others, or volunteering. You can maintain your certification status by accumulating and tracking PDUs across your 3-year certification cycle. CAPM certification holders must earn 15 PDUs to keep their certification active, while PMP certification holders must earn 60.

Learn more about maintaining your certification status within PMI.

Which is Right for You? CAPM or PMP Certification:

It can be a challenge to determine whether a CAPM vs PMP certification is right for your future as a project manager. To put it simply, if you meet the PMP certification requirements, it is undoubtedly the right choice. Even if you meet some but not all of the requirements, it’s probably still worthwhile to work towards qualifying for the PMP exam.

Here are some considerations to help you decide between the CAPM vs PMP exam. Based on how you answer some of these questions, you can determine if you want to pursue a CAPM vs PMP certification.

Career Path for CAPM vs PMP Certification Holders

Which stage of your career are you in? Are you at the beginning of your career looking to break into project management, or do you already have a history of project management experience?

If you’re just starting your path to project management, taking the CAPM exam is likely the right choice so you can show your qualifications and work towards pursuing the PMP certification. For those with more experience and a grasp of project management fundamentals, pursuing the PMP certification is likely the better option for your salary potential and professional development.

The CAPM certification may also be more appropriate if you hold multiple designations or are in a more technical role at work but want to take on more responsibility as a team lead or get a bump in your salary. Those who are not looking to be full-time project managers can use a CAPM as a supplemental certification for their current role.

Cost of CAPM vs PMP Exam

How much are you willing to pay for a certification? While both exams can be an investment, the PMP exam can be between $180–255 more expensive, depending on your PMI membership status. You also have to consider the potential training costs that come with fulfilling the education requirement. However, with that higher initial cost comes a higher average salary when you become a PMP.

Make sure to check with your employer to see if they might be willing to cover the exam’s cost before making your decision. Obtaining a PMP certification reflects well on your organization as a whole, so many employers will pay the full exam fee for their project managers.

Jobs for CAPM vs PMP Certification Holders

As a PMP certification holder, you will be qualified for full-time project management roles with a higher salary where you manage projects of all sizes. You will be more likely to manage larger, more complex projects with higher budgets in positions such as program manager, project manager, and project controller.

With a CAPM certification, you will likely be qualified for positions such as assistant project manager, project coordinator, or project management associate. These roles are more likely to involve coordinating intra- and inter-team schedules, along with facilitating effective communication.

CAPM vs PMP Salary Comparisons

You can expect a salary increase, especially in specialized fields, after you obtain a PMP. According to the PMI Earning Power Salary Survey, PMP certificate holders earn a 20% higher salary than those without a PMP certification. However, the salary bump you can get with a CAPM certification is still well worth the time and effort.

Regardless of which option you choose, earning either certification will improve your resume and make you a more proficient and knowledgeable project manager.

Have more questions about earning a project management certification? Download The Complete PMP Certification Guide now.

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