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How to become PMI certified


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There are countless reasons just why it's wise for project managers to be PMI certified. Among them is, quite simply, the fact that one fifth of the world's entire GDP is spent on projects. This equates to more than $12 trillion (£7.5 trillion) every year.

Looking at it in a more localised fashion, the 2012 PMI Pulse of the Profession report found that organisations where more than 35 per cent of staff members are PMI certified are more likely to enjoy better project performance. This was on top of a 2007 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which said that 80 per cent of all the highest performing projects use a manager with PMI credentials.

As such, gaining PMI accreditation isn't just a good way of ensuring staff keep up with their training, but also a way of ensuring businesses can reach some of the best, most high-profile projects. Not only that, it can work out in favour of the employee too, with some of the more advanced certifications opening the door to higher salaries. Seeing as they are transferable between jobs and even countries, there's no reason for project managers to not be PMI certified.

Identify the right certification

Becoming PMI certified isn't as straight forward as taking the course and getting an accreditation at the end of it. In fact, there are seven courses currently on offer, which may not sound too dissimilar, but offer real scope for variety.

First is the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification, which comes into the entry-level side. It provides those with little experience of project management with the skills and understanding needed to make a good start. It is best aimed at those looking for a change in career to project management or for those seeking to boost their skillset and show commitment to a project.

Second comes the Project Management Professional (PMP) course, which is the most widely-recognised industry standard. More involved than the CAPM, this should illustrate a project manager's capability at leading and directing projects across any industry. It often comes as a requirement for undertaking roles with a higher salary.

The next step up is the Program Management Professional (PgMP). This shows a person's ability to manage numerous projects and is only applicable to those who have: a secondary degree, four years (or 6,000 hours) of project management experience and seven years (or 10,500 hours) of program management experience. Anyone with a four year degree, meanwhile, could see the requisite years of experience drop somewhat.

Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP), is specially designed to recognise the advanced skill and experience of portfolio managers. This too requires a degree and some 10,000 hours of experience before even attempting to attain certification.

Next are PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP and PMI-SP. The former (ACP) is tailored for those utilising agile processes in their project management. It recognises these methodologies and offers related techniques. RMP, meanwhile, is tailored to risk management, whilst SP is aimed at scheduling professionals.

Take on the course

A PMI course involves ticking off a number of processes within a set time frame. The first is completing the initial application forms, for which participants have 90 days from when they first began. Next, the applications will be subject to a completeness review which - if submitted online - should take no more than 24 hours.

If everything to this point is fine, applicants must then pay for the course, as no exams can be scheduled until payment is received. Once an applicant has been selected, they are given 90 days in which to send in materials to be audited by the PMI. These should include proof of qualifications, as well as testimonials from employers showing length of time spent gaining on-the-job experience and proof of participation in other training courses. A verdict will then be given on these within five to seven days.

Exam time

If auditing materials are given the green light, it is time to undertake the exam. This can be attempted no more than three times and has a time limit of one year from the date of the application approval.

The exam itself is comprised of 150 questions, of which 135 are graded (the first 15 act as pre-test trials). It is undertaken using a computer, although paper-based alternatives are permitted under certain circumstances. Participants are then given three hours in which to complete the test. This three hours is continuous, so whilst breaks are permitted, the clock will not be stopped for them.

Provided the exam returns a pass, the applicant is then deemed to be successful and is therefore certified. This lasts for five years from the date of certification, after which a re-examination is needed to ensure an individual remains certified.


PMI certification runs on a five-year cycle. At the end of this period, it is a requirement for holders to retest and recertify to keep themselves up to date. Having previously undertaken the training, then relied upon it on a day-to-day basis for the previous five years, however, retesting should be a relatively straightforward process.

Just as with the first exam, anyone taking a re-test is given a year and three tries in which to do so. As such, if a person were to qualify in March 2015, their certification would last until March 2020. The option to re-test, however, would be opened up to them in March 2019. Even if the exam is passed first time in March 2019, however, the new certification will run between 2020 and 2025.

Anyone who passes within the set period is provided with new certification but everything else remains unchanged. If it goes on beyond the expiry date, however, a pass is seen as being wholly new, so a different certification identification number will be offered. This will also bring about a change of date cycles, with the five year period starting anew from the date a pass was awarded.

All of this may make PMI certification seem like a great deal of effort and bureaucracy, but given the benefits it can offer businesses (not to mention unlocking higher salaries for workers), it's certainly well worth the time.

Author: David Howells

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