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Before you can take the PMP exam, you must accumulate a large amount of project management work. This requirement to take the PMP exam is designed so that only experienced project managers receive the certification. According to the Project Management Institute's official requirements, if you have a high school diploma, associates degree, or equivalent, then you must accumulate:
- A total of at least five years/60 months of experience leading and directing project tasks.
- A total of at least 7,500 hours of leading and directing project tasks.
However, if you have a bachelor's degree or equivalent (in any major or field), then the experience requirement to take the PMP exam is considerably lower:
- A total of at least three years/36 months of experience leading and directing project tasks.
- A total of at least 4,500 hours of leading and directing project tasks.
For both scenarios, you must have experience in all five of the project management process groups in a project's life cycle. However, on any individual project you do not need experience across all five process groups. In other words, to take the PMP exam you must have some experience in initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing a project, but that experience could be spread across multiple projects.
Additionally, you must have accumulated your experience no more than eight years prior to applying for the PMP certification, and overlapping experience is only counted once. For example, if you led two projects simultaneously for one year, that only counts as a single year of project management experience toward the PMP exam requirements.
During the application process, you will be asked for details about all relevant project management experience including your supervisor's contact information for verification purposes. It is therefore important throughout your project management career to keep detailed notes on every project, so that you can easily document the requirements to take the PMP exam.
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Education Requirements for the PMP Exam
In addition to the experience requirements, you must also satisfy an education requirement to take the PMP exam. This requirement can be fulfilled by completing 35 contact hours of courses, workshops or training sessions. These courses can be obtained from a variety of providers, such as PMI-registered education providers, PMI component organizations, company-sponsored programs, third-party training companies, distance learning companies, or universities/colleges.
Regardless of how you decide to fulfill this requirement, before taking any courses or training you should ensure that they count as "contact hours" according to the Project Management Institute. Many training courses count as PDUs (professional development units) but not as contact hours, and therefore don't satisfy the requirements to take the PMP exam. Be aware of this difference so that you don't waste time or money on unnecessary training. However, PDUs will be important in the future for PMP recertification, as you must obtain 60 of them during every three-year cycle in order to maintain your certification.