Ask Derek – Required Experience to take the PMP

Ask Derek – Required Experience to take the PMP

I’m always looking for ways to help others in their quests to be better project managers.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about getting the PMP® certification, getting PDUs, or even finding good tools to make a given task easier.  I field questions from both emails and Twitter.  Today I read an email that was not unlike others I’ve answered directly.  But, I thought others would benefit if I answered publicly.  Here is the content of the email:

I read your article about how the PMP certification is commercialized and an example of a PMP holder hiding behind the credential.  I want to become a good IT Project Manager.  I read the requirements to become a PMP. According to requirements, a person needs 3 years exp before attempting this test. My question is, how can I get exp without a certificate or who would give me a job to get the exp as a project manager and thereby attempt my PMP certification.  Can you please help me set my goals in an orderly fashion so I can ultimately become a good Manager?

Does this sound familiar? It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg.  First, I would like to say the person asking the question made a statement that resonated with me.  I want to become a good IT Project Manager. I really want to help because if they wrote that, they are half way there.  Let’s be clear.  You don’t need to have a PMP to be a good PM. I know very gifted people who do not possess the credential.  I would be a liar if I did not believe the deck is stacked against them.  Companies have bought into the idea that good PMs have PMPs.  But I digress.  Back to the question at hand.

It can be a challenge to become a project manager, if you have no experience.  If you have ever lead a team or managed a task, you have more experience than you give yourself credit for.  PMI will recognize that.  Remember, the PMP is not a test about something you are learning.  The PMP is an exam about what you should already know and do, but categorized within the framework of the PMBOK.  Let’s say you’re a QA Engineer.  I bet you have a lot of experience in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group and specifically in the Project Quality Management knowledge area.  Document your experience around what you know and do.

In order to qualify to take the PMP exam, you do need to have experience in all 5 Process Groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing).  Honestly, you could have 99.9% of your experience in one process group and 1 hour in each of the remaining 4.  PMI doesn’t care.  You just need to document that you have experience in all.  If you want to be a good PM, I would recommend you get exposure to each of the progress groups. Fewer things are as bad as a PM who does not empathize with all of the functional areas or have experience in the different phases of the project lifecycle.

On a practical note, I recommend you engage others in other functional areas of your current project(s).  Offer to help them in some way.  Don’t go in with an ulterior motive.  Honestly, help someone and you’ll get the experience you need as a byproduct.  The PMP should be for someone with overall experience. However, I do know managers in specific functional areas who also hold the credential.  I would recommend, if you want to be a good manager, to become educated through practical experiences and not solely through academia.  You can learn just so much from a book.

Did I answer the question?  Is it a good start?

Please post some comments and let me know.

14 Replies to “Ask Derek – Required Experience to take the PMP”

  1. Thanks for the post – useful suggestions, but bear in mind that 4,500 hours of experience are required for the PMP. That equates to nearly 2 1/2 years of project-management experience. This is still a high bar to clear for those wanting to break into the field. Perhaps the CAPM, with its reduced requirements, is a more suitable entry point.

    1. Walt, thanks for the comment. Certainly, the CAPM is an intermediate step. Unfortunately, I’ve been told by those who have it, that PMI has over-promised and undersold it. Can you name all of the credentials PMI offers? The marketing machine is squarely behind the PMP. That is where the money is.

  2. Hi Derek,

    I agree with your assessment regarding the PMP certification. The certification looks good on your resume but without real experience it will get you invite to the door but without real practical experience it will not get you through the door and invite back.
    Also, I am seeing a trend of the combination of PM and BA skills. Do you see the same trend happen from your perspective?

    .-= Gerald J Leonard´s last blog ..Keen Observation Helped Him Build An Empire =-.

    1. Gerald, I do see more PMs with BA skills. Truthfully, I think any good PM should have experience with all of the functional areas of a project. I believe in walking a mile in another person’s shoes. Though the certification may be used more and more as a marketing tool, just to get to an interview, I would hire person not the credential.

  3. Hi Derek.

    I wholeheartedly agree that a PMP credential doesn’t necessarily mean one PM is better than the other.

    In my case, I sat for the exam after about 5 years’ of delivering projects and only did so at the request of my employer as it was necessary to get a promotion. I’ve been an advocate since.

    Five years on now, it appears as if the requirements are not as stringent in my opinion and while the PMP is more recognized worldwide, I’m not sure it carries as much weight as it used to… is there a marginalization occurring with the PMP credential?

    A bit off topic — relatively new to the scene is the Project Management Office Certification through AllPMO. The curriculum is set at a more strategic/ organizational level. I sat in a week-long session administered by the Arabian Gulf Chapter of PMI and a consultancy out of Jordan (Intrinsic Management). Very much recommended for those looking to get into advanced program and portfolio management.

    1. Steve, I absolutely feel there is a marginalization occurring with the PMP credential. Because PMI is a “for profit” organization, they are motivated to get as many people certified as possible. I know they say they are trying to advance the industry of Project Management. I do believe that but I can’t ignore the marketing machine behind the credential. I’m worried there will soon be so many PMPs, the credential is becoming the next Dutch tulip bulb market bubble.

      As with the economic theory of scarcity, the less there is of something where a demand exist, the greater the value. But scarcity and shortage are not the same thing. A shortage is when the demand exceeds the supply, usually meaning the price was too low and the market is not clearing. Scarcity always exists, but a shortage can be fixed. I feel the shortage was fixed a few years ago. I see the bubble is about to burst.

  4. Hi Derek..I would need one help…I have 6 years of experience in testing and leading the projects.I wanted to move to project management and as per my employer I should go through PMP. How can I make the 4500 hours needed as prerequisite for enrollment?

    1. In order to qualify to take the PMP, you’ll have to be prepared to provide proof to deliverables.  If you have 6 (recent) years of leading projects, it sounds like you have the experience necessary.  You just need to be able to map those hours to knowledge areas and process groups as part of the application process. 

  5. Hi Derek,

    I did Masters in Computer Applications & started my career in Project Management Office and completed 3 years of experience. I am very much interested in PMP certification. During these 3 years maximum time (90%) I spent on Project controlling, monitoring and closure activities as I was part of PMO – Governance team. I never handled any projects directly and lead them. But really want to go for the exam ASAP.

    Will I be eligible to appear for the exam with the above circumstances.

    I will be very thankful to you, if you could answer me.

    Thank you!

    1. You’re going to have to show some experience in Initiation and Planning in order to qualify. I believe the language around the application process is a little ambiguous and that allows a lot of people, not currently leading projects an opportunity to take the PMP. If you can list the customer (internal or external) and you can list items that you’ve delivered (could be a report), I think you’ll be fine.

  6. Hello Derek,

    I saw some great questions-answers communication above and got tempted to ask you one of mine.

    I have a total of over 40 years of experience as entrepreneur, manager and consultant. I spent a lot of time in each role doing what is very similar to or actually project management. I have a master’s degree in EE and an MBA. I can identify 4,500 hours of PM experience quite easily, except it is spread over number of years.

    I am 65 years old now and I would say at least half time active wanting to be full time active. I am looking at PMP certification as a vehicle to share my years’ of experience in management for the benefit of whoever I work for. The question is, will my work in 80’s, 90’s and early 2000 apply towards fulfillment of experience requirement for the PMP? I believe I would be stretched to pile up 4,500 hours over the past 5 years but I can always look into it.

    Thank you for your answer, views and suggestions if any.

    Best regards.

    Saurabh Vakil

    1. Saurabh, this is where I see your qualifications and wisdom outway the certification. To qualify, “All project management experience must have been accrued within the last eight consecutive years prior to your application submission.”

      Now, I will admit that a lot has changed in the world in the last 8 years. Project Management is not one of them. (at least for the PMP).
      I think it would be pretty damn sad if ANY potential employer or client would look at your experience and think the PMP is going to make you more qualified than you already are.

      If you still think you need the PMP, I have seen people put all kinds of crazy things on their applications. People have claimed home remodeling to planning a family vacation. I’ve even seen people straight up lie.

      I do wish you luck. With your experience, don’t let someone put you in a box. You deserve better.


  7. Hi Derek,
    I have around 7 years of experience in Tools and project leading. I had given an attempt for PMP and failed at first time. I took a career break of 3 years and now looking for a job. Am I eligible for PMP certification now? Please help with suggestions.

    1. Sita, there are a few variables that you need to look at.

      Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
      7,500 hours leading and directing projects
      35 hours of project management education
      Four-year degree
      4,500 hours leading and directing projects
      35 hours of project management education

      Though they aren’t listing it on the website, it used to be you had to have the 4500-7500 hours of experience in the last 5 years.
      Take a look. Good luck!

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