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All About the PMP Certification

If you're a project manager who's looking to add a valuable certification, generally revered by the industry and indicating both experience and education, then look no further. Joe Phillips guides you through the steps in acquiring the Project Management Professional (PMP) — your ticket to career success in project management.
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When I was a kid I hated seeing those signs at festivals that read "you must be this big to ride this ride." Of course, I was always just under the minimum requirements. Bummer! It's no fun to spend a summer trapped between the kiddie rides and the lusty tilt-a-whirl that all of your buddies are barfing on.

But those signs were there for a reason—besides making little pudgy kids like me furious—and the reason was safety. Today I wouldn't dare go on one of those deathtrap thrill rides — height requirements or not. Any carnival ride that can be dismantled, hauled to Sioux City, Iowa overnight, and reassembled in half an hour is not for me.

When I talk to people about the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification I often think about those carnival rides. The PMP certification may not have height requirements, but it does have eligibility requirements. Not everyone can sit the exam—and not everyone that sits the exam can pass it.

If you're not familiar with the PMP, I'll give you a rundown. PMP is a certification that proves that the project manager who acquires it has years of project management experience, education, and has passed an exam that tests their project management knowledge. It's not specific to any particular industry, so you'll likely find PMPs with backgrounds in IT, construction, manufacturing, and health care.

I think the Project Management Institute (adoringly called PMI), the organization that owns the PMP certification, has learned a thing or two from other certifications over the past decade. For starters, by making candidates qualify for the certification it adds genuine value to the title. Being a PMP immediately shows experience, education, and project management knowledge.

Starting the PMP Process

The PMP certification requirements also helps avoid the plague of paper certifications we've endured over past years. A long time ago, I was a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. I earned my title starting with Windows NT 3.51, and then Windows NT 4.0, 95, and then it just snowballed. I was flooded with opportunity and it was great. But, before too long, being an MCSE was suddenly no big deal. I knew things weren't good for Microsoft, and the IT world in general, when I saw a waiter wearing his MCSE lapel pin while working at Denny's. I didn't ask for details – just coffee and pie.

So, in order to sit for the PMP examination you must qualify. Here's a quick breakdown of the various requirements.

If you have a bachelor's degree:

  1. You need 36 non-overlapping months of project management experience within the last eight years. That non-overlapping part means that if you worked on six projects throughout the month of January that only counts as one month of project management work, not six months.
  2. Your project management experience, all projects included, must total at least 4,500 hours, and all within the past eight years.
  3. You must complete at least 35 hours of project management training. There's no time limit on this educational requirement, so college courses and online courses qualify.
  4. You have to promise to abide by the PMP Code of Professional Conduct. Don't worry, you don't have to sign it in blood and the confines of the code are probably things you're already doing. Mafia aside.
  5. You must pass the exam with a score of 61 percent or better. (I'm hoping you do better, but rest assured it's a pass or fail exam).

If you have high school diploma, an associate degree, or global equivalent:

  1. You need 60 non-overlapping months of project management experience. Again, one month of project management work equates to just one month, regardless of the number of projects you worked on during that month.
  2. You must log a total of 7,500 hours of project management experience over the past eight years.
  3. You must complete 35 contact hours of project management training. Contact hours means that the training must be interactive. You can't just read a book, this article, or consider on-the-job training and claim your hours. Web-based training, however, is now being accepted as interactive.
  4. You must agree to abide by the PMP Code of Professional Conduct.
  5. You must pass the PMP examination with at least a 61 percent score.

Thoroughly confused? Have a look at Figure 1 to see the path to PMP certification.

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