Articles & Resources > Project Management >

Guide to PMP® Certification

Guide to PMP® Certification

Last Updated December 20, 2022

In today’s global economy, organizations in all industries need strong leaders capable of organizing complex projects and interdisciplinary teams. As a result, project management is a growing and in-demand field. By 2030, the Project Management Institute (PMI) estimates employers will require 25 million new project management-oriented professionals. The field will need to grow by a projected 2.3 million project managers annually to keep up with this anticipated demand. However, these global projections may not reflect conditions in all locations.

If you’re interested in pursuing or advancing career opportunities in this exciting field, a certification in project management can provide you with additional credentials and expertise. PMI offers the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, a globally recognized credential for project management professionals. 

The PMP® certification can be a smart investment for current or hopeful project managers, especially if you would like to gain new skills or potentially increase your salary. Earning the certification requires preparation and meeting certain eligibility requirements to sit for the exam.

This PMP® certification guide will help you learn more about the advantages of earning this credential and the necessary steps to sit for it. 

What Is PMP® Certification?

The PMP® certification is a prestigious professional credential for project managers offered by PMI. The certification demonstrates to employers that you possess expertise in agile, hybrid and predictive approaches to project management. Due to the exam’s excellent reputation and rigor, employers in every industry worldwide seek PMP®-certified project managers.  

To earn the certification, you will need to pass the PMP® exam. As of January 2021, PMI allows 230 minutes to complete the exam with two 10-minute breaks. The assessment consists of 180 questions divided into three domains, or knowledge areas: 

  1. People (42% of exam questions): This domain assesses interpersonal skills, such as collaboration, leadership, and mentoring. 
  2. Process (50% of exam questions): This section evaluates technical competencies needed to manage projects, such as budget planning, risk assessment and scheduling. 
  3. Business Environment (8% of exam questions): This domain measures your ability to manage projects within your organization and other business environments. 

The PMP® credential will last for three years upon achievement. You will need to earn an additional 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three years to renew your certification. If you fail to fulfill this requirement within the three-year time frame, you will need to retake the exam to regain your certification. 

What Is the Value of PMP® Certification?

You may wonder what a PMP® certification is good for, especially if you are already successful as a project manager without certification. 

According to PMI’s Project Management Salary Survey, Twelfth Edition, respondents with PMP® certification earn 16% more income on average than their non-certified peers globally. The survey also discovered that the pay gap is even larger in the United States. U.S.-based project managers with PMP® certification earn an average salary of $123,000, while non-certified project managers earn an average salary of $93,000. 

In other words, PMP®-certified project managers earn an average of 32% more in America than their non-certified peers. 

While it costs money and effort to earn and maintain PMP® certification, this investment can pay off by potentially helping you increase your salary and qualify for more advanced positions. 

Benefits of PMP® Certification

PMP® certification can also offer personal and professional benefits beyond possibly increasing earning potential as a project manager. Advantages of obtaining the credential include: 

  • Attract Prospective Clients: Many clients recognize the value of working with PMP®-certified project managers and seek out businesses employing these professionals. As a result, your decision to pursue PMP® certification can help your organization attract and retain clients.
  • Boost Your Performance: As you prepare for the exam, you will gain new knowledge and skills that could help you perform your project management tasks more effectively. 
  • Develop Self-Confidence: To obtain PMP® certification, you will need to pass a rigorous exam. Completing the certification can boost your self-confidence⁠—and your reputation in your field⁠—by proving that you have the abilities and the knowledge needed to handle complex projects. 
  • Gain Transferable Skills: Many project management approaches and techniques, such as conflict management skills, can be used in multiple industries. As a result, PMP® certification allows you to gain transferable skills that could make it easier for you to seek employment in a new field. 
  • Open New Opportunities for Career Advancement: With PMP® certification, you may be able to advance more quickly to senior project management positions. 
  • Stay Up to Date With Your Field: To maintain your PMP® certification, you must complete 60 PDUs every three years. This continued education requirement helps ensure that you are always aware of new developments in project management.  

Cost of the PMP® Certification

What is the fee for the PMP® certification exam? The cost will vary depending on whether you are a member of PMI. Members pay $405.00 to take the exam, while non-members pay $555.00.

If you don’t pass the PMP® certification test on your first try, you can retake the exam up to two more times in one year, for three total attempts. However, you will need to repay the exam fee each time you take the test. 

You can also choose to pay additional money for an exam preparation course. These courses come in several different formats, such as self-guided online classes and more intensive, instructor-led sessions offered by institutions like Villanova University

In some cases, employers will cover the costs of the exam fee and training courses. It’s worth asking your manager if your organization can provide financial support for your PMP® certification. 

PMP® Certification Requirements

Beyond the exam fee, what is required for PMP® certification? Before PMI approves you to sit for the exam, you must submit an application demonstrating that you meet a few criteria

  • If you hold a bachelor’s degree, you must have at least 36 months of professional experience leading projects. 
  • If you have an associate degree or a high school diploma, you will need at least 60 months of professional project management experience. 
  • All applicants must complete a minimum of 35 contact hours of formal project management training, regardless of the degree held.

If you don’t yet have the minimum amount of work experience required for PMP® certification, you will need to wait until you have accrued the necessary months of project management experience before applying. 

How To Get a PMP® Certification

While the PMP® exam itself may be challenging, the process of obtaining this credential is relatively easy. You will need to follow a few steps. 

First, you will need to send PMI your PMP® audit package so that the organization can confirm your eligibility for the exam. Your package should include three components: 

  1. A photocopy of the highest degree that you have obtained
  2. Evidence that you have completed at least 35 hours of formal project management education
  3. Descriptions of your past project management experience. Your supervisors will need to verify and sign documentation for each project. 

PMI will review and process your audit package. Once the organization approves your application, you can register to take the exam at a testing center or online at home. You will have a one-year eligibility window after your audit package is approved, during which you can take the exam up to three times if needed.  

How To Prepare for the PMP® Certification Exam

You will naturally acquire advanced project management knowledge and skills as you complete the education and work prerequisites for the PMP® exam. However, you will also need to study for the exam itself, which may include material you have not regularly encountered before. According to PMI, most people who successfully pass the PMP® exam spend at least 35 hours studying for the exam. 

To prepare for the PMP® certification exam, you need the most recent edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). PMI publishes this book, and it covers important project management methods and terminologies that will appear on the test. 

Many people also benefit from taking a structured PMP® exam course. PMP® has teamed up with Authorized Training Partners (ATP) and these individuals or institutions provide PMP® candidates with specialized instruction to help them prepare for the exam. 

For example, Villanova University is an ATP of PMI. The university offers a four-week online course for PMP® candidates called Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Preparation. Experienced faculty lead the course through live class sessions and teach students using exam prep material developed by PMI. 

Investing in a PMP® exam preparation course could help improve your chances of successfully passing the test and obtaining the certification. 

 The PMP® Certification Process

In summary, the PMP® certification process consists of five steps: 

  1. Obtain the necessary education and work experience prerequisites, which will vary depending on your degree. 
  2. Assemble your audit package and send your materials to PMI for approval. 
  3. Register for the PMP® certification exam. 
  4. Study for the test by taking a PMP® exam preparation course. 
  5. Take the 180-question PMP® exam during your scheduled testing time. 

After you complete the exam, PMI will send you an exam result report that shows whether you have passed the test and earned your PMP® certification. If you don’t pass on the first try, remember that you can always retake the exam after brushing up on the materials again. 

What Is a Good Certification to Have with Your PMP®? 

Alongside the PMP® certification, several other credentials can improve your resume and help you gain additional project management knowledge. Because these certifications have fewer eligibility requirements than the PMP®, they can be a good starting point for early-career project managers who are not yet ready to pursue PMP® certification. 

PMP® vs. Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a methodology that uses statistical analysis to detect and solve errors in business processes. Six Sigma training complements but doesn’t replace PMP® certification. Six Sigma certification teaches individuals to implement processes that eliminate waste and improve quality. By contrast, PMP® certification focuses on directing a team and orchestrating projects. PMP® certification allows project managers to develop expertise in many areas, while Six Sigma provides a framework for solving problems in business processes. 

PMP® vs. CAPM®

The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) certification is a step below the PMP® exam. The CAPM® exam requires either an associate degree and 1,500 hours of project experience or 23 hours of project management education. These 23 hours can also fulfill part of the 35 required hours for the PMP® exam, making the CAPM® a good starting place for people preparing to take the PMP® exam. 

Some programs can help students prepare for both exams, such as Villanova’s Certificate in Applied Project Management


PRINCE2 Project Management certifications measure proficiency in the PRINCE2 method, which helps create common terminologies and structures for projects. PRINCE2 certifications supplement the PMP® by allowing project managers to learn a new project management framework. 

PMP® vs. Scrum Master

Scrum is a methodology that helps manage Agile projects, which seek to enhance product development processes. offers a variety of Professional Scrum Master certifications. These credentials could complement the PMP® exam by allowing project managers to develop proficiency in Scrum methodologies, though these techniques may not translate well to non-Agile projects. 

Prepare for PMP® Certification with Villanova

Have you decided that a PMP® certification is right for you? If so, your next step should be ensuring you have the knowledge and skills to pass the test. 

If you still need to fulfill some of the education requirements, consider enrolling in a project management course with Villanova. As an ATP of PMI, the university offers a three-course certificate program track in Applied Project Management for people eager to develop new skills. There’s also an individual monthlong exam preparation course for experienced project managers who only need to study for the exam. By completing formal courses, you can fill in any gaps in your knowledge and potentially improve your chances of passing the PMP® exam. 

PMP, CAPM, Project Management Professional, and Certified Associate in Project Management are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.