PMP®️ Certification Requirements: How to Become PMP-Certified [updated 2021]

August 2, 2021 by Greg Belding
The Project Management Professional (PMP) and the PMI Talent Triangle are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

A great way for project managers to impress prospective employers is to earn the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. PMP is the premier global, industry and methodology-neutral project management certification by the Project Management Institute (PMI) that can give you, among other things, a marked increase in earning potential.

There are three things to consider when attempting the PMP:

  1. What are the prerequisites for taking the PMP certification exam?
  2. How long does it take to prepare for the PMP certification exam?
  3. What steps do you have to take to become PMP-certified?

Let’s explore what it means to be PMP certified.

What are the prerequisites for taking the PMP certification exam?

To be eligible to take the PMP certification exam, candidates must meet educational and professional prerequisites. The type of requirements depends on the educational level of the candidate.

Suppose the candidate’s highest educational level is a secondary degree, such as a high school diploma. In that case, the candidate will need to have accrued a minimum of five years, or 60 months, of unique, professional project management experience. This experience must be non-overlapping. The candidate needs to have led or directed professional projects for at least 7,500 hours.

Additionally, candidates at this educational level need to have accrued at least 35 contact hours of formal project management education by the time they submit their exam application. PMI considers one hour of classroom instruction to be the equivalent of one contact hour. Please note that if only a portion of the class covered professional project management, only the time spent covering the subject matter would count towards the 35-hour total.

Suppose the candidate’s highest educational level is a four-year degree, such as a bachelor’s degree. In that case, the candidate will need to have accrued a minimum of three years (36 months) of experience of unique, professional project management experience that is non-overlapping. The candidate needs to have led or directed professional projects for at least 4,500 hours.

Also, candidates at this educational level need to have accrued at least 35 contact hours for formal project management education by the time they submit their PMP exam application.

How long does it take to prepare for the PMP certification exam?

Another question that potential PMP certification candidates have is how long it will take to prepare for the exam? A recent survey of candidates that have successfully passed the PMP certification exam asked them how long it took them to prepare for their exams. Some of them said they needed only one week to study, while others required at least six months. The average time to successfully prepare for the PMP certification exam boiled down to two months of studying, where the candidate studies for three hours daily.

If you prefer to think strictly about hours spent studying, you will need to allow 180 hours to pass the exam.

PMI released a PMP Credential Handbook to assist candidates as a starting point to evaluate your understanding of the different subject areas found on the certification test—see the Exam Content Outline, effective January 2021. You should plan to spend some time studying (or take a PMP course, which PMI approves for the 35 contact hours) to make sure you are ready for the certification exam.

What are the steps to becoming PMP-certified?

The path to becoming PMP certified is a four-step process.

Step 1 — prerequisites

The prerequisites above fall into categories of education and experience, which must be valid and consistent with the guidelines stated in the certification handbook.

The PMI online certification system, which can guide you through the process, is where you add information about your prerequisites.

Step 2 — application process

The first part of the application process is to visit the PMI certification web portal to become a member of the Project Management Institute. 

Click register to create an account.

Once you have submitted your application online, the estimated processing time is five days. At this point, candidates whose applications have been approved will receive an authorization email. Approximately 5-10% of applications are selected for a random audit pertaining to the PMP prerequisites explored above. If an application is selected for a random audit, the candidate will have 90 days to produce three types of audit documents:

  • Proof of degree
  • Proof of 36 hours of professional project management experience
  • Signed verification forms of professional project management experience

After PMI has received the requested audit documents, the processing time of the audit can take five to seven business days.

If your exam application is approved, you will be sent an email containing your PMI Eligibility ID and examination scheduling instructions.

Step 3 — exam

After creating your PMI membership account, you can now apply and pay for your PMP certification exam (member price: $405/non-member price: $555).

The next portion on the path to PMP certification is the take and pass the exam itself. To take the test, you, of course, have to first register.

“Upon logging into your account, click the ‘Schedule Exam’ link under ‘You may now schedule your PMP examination.’ You will be directed to Pearson VUE at Please note that multiple testing sites are available to take the PMP certification exam so that you can choose the testing center closest to you. 

At this point, you have reached the final step to earning your coveted PMP certification: the certification exam itself. The exam consists of 180 questions. Of these, five are considered pretest questions and do not affect the score. They “are used in examinations as an effective and legitimate way to test the validity of future examination questions. All questions are randomly placed throughout the examination,” as per

As for the type of test questions, there will be a combination of multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hotspot and limited fill-in-the-blank. See prototype questions to learn more. Candidates have 230 minutes to complete the exam.

You probably want to know what exactly will be covered in the exam. Below is a breakdown of the different domains and the related percentage found on the test.

  • People: focus on the soft skills that project management professionals need to manage a team effectively (42%).
  • Process: focuses on the technical aspects of project management (50%).
  • Business environment: focuses on how projects and organizational strategy are connected (8%).

Candidates are given one year from the time that their application is approved to pass their exam. Within the one-year timeframe, test-takers will have three chances to pass the exam. All candidates will receive a pass or fail email from

Step 4 — maintaining your certification

The last step to becoming PMP-certified is to maintain it. Certification holders must earn at least 60 professional development units, or PDU, every three years, as mentioned in PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Handbook. To report their PDUs, certification holders should go to and enter their PMI account login information.

According to PMI, “You must record your PDUs and complete the renewal process before your CCR cycle ends to maintain an active certification status.” 

Certification holders will also be required to pay a renewal fee every three years to maintain their certification.

After PMI confirms that you have met the PDU requirements, you will receive an electronic notification to apply for certification renewal. You will be directed to submit the renewal fee payment (PMI member price is $60 while non-member is $150) on the online certification system.

Earning the professional project management certification

Earn a professional project management certification, like the PMP from the Project Management Institute (PMI), to differentiate yourself from the competiton. PMI is the education provider for the next generation of project managers to advance their professional edge no matter the industry they practice. 

The certification can give holders a boost of about 22% to their earning potential, as mentioned in the annual PMI survey report. And, in the USA, “among all countries surveyed, the median salary for project professionals with a PMP is 25% higher than those without PMP certification,” according to PMI.

It’s not only a matter of higher potential salaries, but candidates discover how this certification (valid for three years) can open career doors and give more advantages in job openings. For many credential holders, the qualification is a way to gain recognition and new experiences that set them apart from other professionals and ease them to the next stage in their career.



Posted: August 2, 2021
Greg Belding
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Greg is a Veteran IT Professional working in the Healthcare field. He enjoys Information Security, creating Information Defensive Strategy, and writing – both as a Cybersecurity Blogger as well as for fun.