What is the PMP® Certification?

Demand for skilled project managers in all industries and locations grows constantly. The latest estimates indicate that employers will need to fill 2.2 million project-oriented roles every year through 2027. The PMP certification is an excellent choice for aspiring project managers to demonstrate their qualifications in this growing field.

What is the PMP certification?

The PMP certification was created to verify project managers possess the industry standards for accepted project management skills and procedures. Earning this certification demonstrates a project manager’s proficiency and marketability to employers and clients alike.

PMP stands for Project Management Professional® and assesses project leadership skills across predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches to project management.

PMP certification aspirants must meet certain requirements to apply for certification and then pass the rigorous Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam overseen by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The PMP exam covers three domains:

  • People (42% of the exam): focuses on skills related to building, leading, and supporting a project team, including managing conflict, collaborating with stakeholders, addressing challenges, and more.
  • Process (50% of the exam): emphasizes the technical aspects of managing projects, including managing risks and communications, overseeing the budget and schedule, ensuring quality, and more.
  • Business Environment (8% of the exam): highlights professional competencies in evaluating and managing project compliance, project benefits, and external and organizational changes.

Currently, the PMP exam includes 180 multiple choice questions with a 230-minute time limit. The PMP certification signifies the professional who earned it possesses the training and competency required to successfully lead and complete projects of any size and complexity.

A brief history of the PMP certification

Today, PMI is a giant in project management. PMI was initially conceptualized and established between the 1960s and 70s as a forum for the project management community. Fittingly, the PMP certification began as a PMI project “to develop project management standards, ethics, and accreditation.”

Reports beginning in 1980 describe the development of standardized project management procedures, culminating in the first official A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) in 1996. In the meantime, PMI established a Certification Committee and administered the first Project Management Professional exam on October 6, 1984.

Only 56 individuals sat for the initial launch of the PMP exam. Now, there are more than 1,000,000 PMP credential holders worldwide. The PMP certification was accredited by the  International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2017. It has become the gold standard in project management certifications and is respected and sought after by organizations in many locations and industries.

The benefits of the PMP certification

Although a PMP certification is not usually required for project manager jobs, this globally recognized credential comes with many benefits. Project management skills are relevant to businesses of all sizes and industries, so obtaining a PMP certification is an excellent way to leverage your value in any organization.

Certified project managers have proof of technical skills and competency in project management. This credibility generates trust in prospective clients and justifies employment and higher compensation from current or potential employers. The average salary for PMP credential holders is 25% higher than non-certified project professionals.

The Project Management Professional certification proves you work hard, work smart, and can drive results for your organization. Obtaining a PMP certificate is a great way to advance your career in project management or leadership.

What are the eligibility criteria for PMP certification?

PMP credential holders need to demonstrate high levels of competency and experience within the project management discipline. PMI wants Project Management Professionals to succeed, so there are multiple ways you can achieve what you need to be eligible for the exam.

Studying for the PMP Exam?

PMP certification education requirements

Before applying for the PMP exam, you need to meet at least one of the following education requirements:

  • A high school diploma, associate’s degree, or global equivalent
  • A bachelor’s degree, post-graduate degree, or global equivalent

Your professional experience requirements for PMP exam eligibility depend on which level of education requirements you fulfill.

On-the-job experience requirements for PMP Exam eligibility

Your professional experience should be fulfilled through unique, verifiable, non-overlapping project management work.

If you have a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or global equivalent, you need at least 60 months of experience leading projects, equivalent to approximately 7,500 hours of experience.

If you have a four-year degree, you need at least 36 months of experience leading projects, equivalent to approximately 4,500 hours of experience.

35 contact hours for the PMP Exam

If you meet the educational and practical eligibility requirements for the PMP exam, the last thing you need is project management education or training. You can fulfill this piece through contact hours or a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) Certification.

Contact hours include any hours spent on formal project management education, including classes, training programs, seminars, or other learning activities. They prepare you for a wide range of project management scenarios and ensure you understand relevant project management concepts, challenges, and vocabulary.

You need to document 35 contact hours to qualify for the PMP Exam. This is easily accomplished through classes taught by Authorized Training Partners (ATPs). Project Management Academy has been evaluated and approved by PMI as a Premier ATP, so our online and in-person PMP courses are guaranteed to fulfill your 35 contact hours with quality instruction.

Cost breakdown for PMP Exam

The price of taking the PMP exam depends on whether or not you are a PMI member. It costs $139 to become a PMI member, but becoming a member will save you money on exam fees.

  • PMP Exam cost for members: $405.00
  • PMP Exam cost for non-members: $555.00

The total cost for becoming a PMI member and taking the PMP Exam as a member is $544.00 ($139.00 plus $405.00).

Number of failed attempts allowed for PMP Exam

After your application for the PMP exam has been approved, you have one year to take the exam. During this one-year eligibility period, you may take the exam up to three (3) times.

The PMP exam results are pass/fail, so if you pass the exam on your first try, you do not need to retake the exam. If you fail the exam, you must pay the exam retake fee for each subsequent attempt ($275 for PMI members and $375 for non-members).

In what format is the PMP examination?

The PMP exam is available in both online and center-based formats with a time requirement of 230 minutes. There are 180 questions, and the three domains are given the following weights:

Domains for Project Management Professionals (PMP)

A note about PDUs

Upon successful completion of the PMP examination, a project manager’s certification must be maintained by periodic continuing education credits known as Professional Development Units (PDUs). A PMP credential holder must complete 60 PDUs every three years. As with the pre-exam contact hours, there is a myriad of ways to acquire these hours through PMI-certified and independent activities. You must keep a record of this supplemental instruction, however, as you will use it to report to PMI and need it in the rare event of an audit. It is important to note PDU hours provided by PMI Authorized Training Providers (ATPs) are pre-approved by PMI and are exempt from being audited.


The PMP certification is a valuable credential for project managers worldwide that demonstrates your qualifications to clients and employers alike. Training for the exam and maintaining your designation helps you remain up-to-date on project management best practices and essential knowledge.

Are you interested in PMP certification? Check out the Project Management Academy PMP Certification Training Courses to prepare for exam success.

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