A career in Project Management: Getting CAPM vs. PMP certification
If you are in the world of project management, no matter what industry you serve, you know about CAPM vs. PMP certification. Even if you’re still in college and you are trying to decide what path to follow, you may have taken courses that talk about the different certifications.
CAPM and PMP are the most well respected and established certifications internationally. Understanding the differences between the two will allow you to decide which suits your goals.
Comparing CAPM vs. PMP seems simple. The education requirements for CAPM are 23 contact hours, while the PMP contact hours are 35. Both CAPM & PMP Project Management contact hours requirements can be met in a number of ways, including taking a self-paced online exam prep course. This earns you your required education hours/ contact hours and also prepares you for the exam. Online self-paced courses are also typically the most inexpensive option. Some even include a pass guarantee on the actual exam. See our recommendations below for your best option for a PMP self-paced exam prep course or CAPM self-paced exam prep course.
The Experience portion of the CAPM is, well, none. You aren’t required to have worked in the field, so for those straight out of college, or still attending, this may be the first step.
The PMP experience requirements are more involved. The amount of experience required “leading projects” depends on your level of education. If you have a secondary or associate’s degree, or high school diploma you’ll require a minimum of 60 months of leading projects. If you have a four-year degree or above, you’ll require only 36 months of leading projects.
The years of experience don’t require that you’ve held the title of Project Manager to count. If you have led a team within the scope of a project, or assisted the Project Manager in assigned tasks, those items count towards that experience requirement.
Each certification needs to be renewed every 3 years. In order to renew your PMP or renew your CAPM, you need to earn what the PMI calls Professional Development Units (PDU’s). You can earn these in a variety of ways, so be sure to check out the Project Management Institute’s website for details once you’ve earned your certification. To renew the PMP, you require 60 PDUs every 3 years. For the CAPM renewal, you’ll need just 15 PDUs every 3 years.
Finally, there is a cost difference for exam prep courses as well as the cost of the actual exam when considering a PMP vs. CAPM. See our comparison chart below.
If you already hold the title of Project Manager or have recently obtained a position that doesn’t require PMP or CAPM, you may wonder ‘Why do I need CAPM or PMP Certification?’
The Importance of CAPM and PMP certification
Both CAPM and PMP are regarded as an indication that you understand project management best practices. These are recognized across many industries and around the world. As competition for projects and the complexity of projects has increased, companies have been faced with the need to be able to show that they have management in place that could oversee those projects.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) was born, and the certifications are a way to ensure PMP and CAPM designation holders understand the intensive wealth of information compiled within the guide. Kept up to date by Project Management Institute (PMI), the PMBOK is used throughout the world.
PMI is known internationally for their standards. They provide project managers with the tools they need to achieve success through certification. They are internationally known for their Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and business solutions.
As a result of the spread of PMBOK through PMI, project manager professional practices have elevated the certifications, including PMP and CAPM to be the standard throughout industries, and those who hold and maintain those certifications are in the highest demand as candidates. In fact, PMP holders earn, on average, 30% more than their non PMP certified counterparts in the US.
Companies throughout the world can’t ignore the competition. They can no longer rely on education and work experience alone to select leaders for projects that often encompass many different abilities. Technology, regulations, even governments change frequently and projects have to adapt constantly to meet those conditions.
Following a standard set of best practices is the only way to ensure the customer, company, and project meet or exceed delivery expectations.
CAPM vs PMP
The value of holding either a CAPM or PMP certification is clear to candidates and companies. But which certification is best? Do you need CAPM before getting your PMP?
The choice between CAPM vs. PMP is not an easy one. There are many things that go into it. PMP certification takes more time and requires more experience, making it more recognizable and more desirable to companies. In order to decide, let’s take a closer look at CAPM vs. PMP.
For entry level positions, CAPM allows you to show your commitment to best practices by getting certification based on the PMBOK.. It’s designed to help candidates that want to become a Project Manager. While it may not land you a position as a project manager to begin with, it will definitely work towards getting you the hours required to meet the certification standards for the PMP and allow you to put the education standards into practice. Just starting out on your project management career path? A CAPM certification is a great way to begin.
If you meet the experience qualifications for the PMP certification, you should opt to pursue that designation. PMP is focused on candidates that have solid experience under their belt and demonstrates to employers that not only do you understand project management best practices, you also have some solid experience under your belt.
Prerequisites for CAPM and PMP
Here’s a comparison of the various requirements necessary to become a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and Project Management Professional (PMP), as outlined by the Project Management Institute.
35 contact hours of project management education
23 Contact Hours of project management education
PM Experience Requirements
36 months for four-year degree holders / 60 months for those with a high school diploma
No experience required
Typically starting at $499.99 USD for a quality course
Typically starting at $349.99 USD for a quality course
Exam Fee Cost
$405 USD for PMI Members
$555 USD for non-members
$225 USD PMI Members
$300 USD for non-members
PDU Needs for Renewal
60 PDUs every three years
15 PDUs every three years
Determining the Certification that’s Best for You
If you’ve gone this far, you may still have some questions, one of which might be, “Should I get my CAPM first or go for my PMP?” If you hold a secondary degree or higher and can meet all of the requirements for project management experience conditions, going forward with PMP certification is definitely the best option for you. The certification is for individuals that are well on their way, possessing some level of experience with project management.
PMP certification is the most recognized Project Manager certification internationally and many openings require PMP for senior positions.
In contrast, if you have a high school diploma or higher and have had no previous experience in the workforce with project management, CAPM shows a prospective employer that you are knowledgeable about the requirements needed and willing to work towards obtaining the experience needed to receive your PMP. CAPM will provide you with the information required to go forward, giving you a better chance at getting a leadership position and project management task assignments needed to meet those PMP work experience requirements.
CAPM vs. PMP: Education
Both CAPM and PMP rely on the PMBOK. Both also require at least the completion of a secondary education, high school diploma or equivalent. CAPM requires the least amount of contact hours, 23 hours of Project Management Training. These contact hours must come from a course that satisfies PMI’s content outline requirements.
Both CAPM and PMP use the PMBOK, Project Management Body of Knowledge as their main reference point. CAPM requires 23 Contact Hours of Project Management training. These 23 hours must satisfy the project management content outline identified by PMI.
There are some great (and inexpensive) online courses that will satisfy the 23 hours of project management education requirement and prepare you for the PMP certification exam. Some of them even include a pass guarantee, meaning if you don’t pass the exam after taking their course, they’ll provide additional support and give the money back on your course purchase. Of the online courses available, we strongly recommend Brain Sensei’s Self-Paced CAPM Exam Prep course. They include a pass guarantee, money-back guarantee, access to the entire course with unlimited practice questions for an entire year, and they boast a 99.6% first time pass rate for their students on the real exam.
PMP certification, however, requires 35 Contact Hours of Project Management training. To satisfy the 35 hours of project management education requirement and prepare you for the PMP certification exam, there are many great courses. Again, some include a pass guarantee, provide additional support, and give the money back on your course purchase if you don’t pass. Of the online courses available, we strongly recommend Brain Sensei’s Self-Paced PMP Exam Prep course. They include a pass guarantee, money-back guarantee, and access to the entire course with unlimited practice questions and exam simulator for an entire year. For those who prefer the guidance of an instructor, they also have live virtual classes (which also includes their self-paced course).
The Brain Sensei PMP Self-Paced course has the same format options as the CAPM training, and the live instructors classes are offered at a variety of times to suit your needs. Check the schedule for live virtual classes to see what fits into your availability.
PM Experience Requirements of CAPM and PMP
CAPM certification candidates don’t require project management experience to sit for the exam with PMI. But the PMI standards for PMP certification are set much higher. Individuals with a four-year degree or higher require 36 months of project management experience and those that hold a high school diploma require 60 months of project management experience to be accepted to take the exam.
Lack of experience may be a challenge for those considering the PMP certification. In many cases those individuals may choose to start with CAPM until they can obtain the required hours of project management experience.
Depending on the amount of project management experience a person has, they might want to wait a few months to go forward with the PMP certification. A person with 26 months of current experience, for example, would consider that the PMP training might take around two months to complete and additional time to schedule and prep for the exam would bring those individuals’ experience hours up to around 30 months. For someone with a secondary education, they are well on their way to the PMP.
Individuals with less or no experience may want to consider CAPM as a stepping stone towards getting the PMP. Earning the CAPM certification will provide them with the 35 contact hours to receive the PMP without further need of training. You automatically meet the PMP education hours requirement if you are a CAPM holder.
Project Management Experience needs to be recorded and reported to the PMI. Detailed descriptions of the projects you’ve led, including the role you held within the projects and the duration of the projects are required by the PMI to satisfy the standards for PMP certification.
Training Cost: CAPM vs. PMP
In order to understand a bit more about the cost of PMP vs. CAPM there are several factors to consider. PMP is one of the certifications in high demand throughout a variety of industries around the globe. More than 1,000,000 individuals hold PMP certification and the average salary of those holding the certificate is 32% higher than those who don’t in the United States. Accordingly, PMP certification training costs are higher than CAPM certification training costs.
While the cost may be higher, the difference between the two costs isn’t substantial.
Training delivery methods
Live Virtual Instructor – Bootcamp Training
PMP bootcamp training is a 5-day intensive within a classroom. It can be conducted at a physical location or in a virtual classroom. The training is generally scheduled 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday – Friday. The attendee must be present in order to receive credit towards the 35 contact hours. While bootcamp training provides an intensive concentration of the subject as well as the ability to interact with other attendees and the instructor, the rigid schedule requires commitment on the part of the trainee. It does allow them to complete the hours in a shorter period.
The fact is that many project managers don’t have time to take five, eight-hour days in a row to go through boot camp. The training is intense and can be exhausting.
In many cases, trainees may feel overwhelmed with that amount of information thrown at them in such a continuous manner. There is no leeway when it comes to the classroom time and any ongoing projects will have to be put on hold during those days.
All types of instructor-led classes tend to be the most expensive option for training as well. It can cost upwards of $2,500 depending on the company you go with. However, if you prefer the bootcamp format, we highly recommend Brain Sensei’s Live Virtual Bootcamp. Pricing is lower than the average live instructor courses at $1199 USD, and it also includes 1 year of access to their self-paced course and exam simulator (an extra $499.99 value).
Live Virtual Instructor – Weekend or weeknights
PMP training for the 35 contact hours may also be offered in a less condensed format than the bootcamp approach. This live instructor training is spread out over several weeks or weekends. With this extended PMP training delivery method, the training is still concentrated, but many companies provide evening and weekend courses that will work around your schedule.
The course may be taken in a virtual classroom or in-person, depending on the company. The advantage of utilizing the virtual courses is that you can attend no matter where you are, home, office or on the move. Virtual training still allows for interaction with a live instructor.
It can of course have its problems. The ability to attend the virtual class may be impeded by power outages, or lack of signal and there is little give when it comes to the schedule itself.
These classes tend to be the same cost as the bootcamp format and are more costly than a self-paced online course. If you prefer the more extended live instructor format, we highly recommend Brain Sensei’s Live Virtual Instructor classes. Pricing is lower than the average live instructor courses at $1199 USD, and it also includes 1 year of access to their self-paced course and exam simulator (an extra $499.99 value).
Self-Paced E-learning Training
No matter where you are, when you have spare time, you can use that time to access the content for CAPM or PMP exam prep courses. A quality self-paced e-learning exam prep course allows you access to everything you need to pass the current exam and provides the most up to date materials including materials from the latest version of the PMBOK. You have the ability to reach out to a support team with questions if you need clarification and you can connect with peers that are in the same course.
By utilizing this option for training, individuals can work around their schedules. The versatility of online self-paced exam prep courses allows you to go over materials that you may need more time with. The bootcamp and live instructor training don’t allow for this kind of flexibility which is often necessary for trainees that are working to get their experience time in as well.
The online self-paced exam prep course method has the flexibility to allow you to work around your schedule and your location. If you are on a job site, at home, having a rare moment of down time at work, the learning is available.
The online self-paced exam prep course method is also the least expensive of the options. CAPM exam prep can cost under $400 USD and a quality online self-paced PMP exam prep course can be found for under $500 USD. We recommend checking out Brain Sensei’s CAPM® Exam Prep Course (Self-Paced) and Brain Sensei’s PMP® Exam Prep Course (Self-Paced).
Exam fees for CAPM and PMP are also different (and in addition to your training costs). The CAPM certification exam fee for PMI members is $225 USD, and for non-PMI members it is $300 USD. The PMP certification exam runs $405 USD PMI members, and non-PMI members can apply for the PMP exam for a fee of $555 USD.
CAPM Renewal and PMP Renewal
In order to keep up with trends, best practices, industry standards, PMI requires renewal of the certificate every 3 years. This means that you must complete Professional Development Units, or PDUs through PMI in order to stay certified. The units can be obtained through Continuing Education courses certified by PMI, courses outside of PMI that may meet the criteria for continuing education, even this blog could count. PMI may audit certificate holders at random to verify that they have completed the PDUs they are claiming outside of PMI.
PMI’s goal is not to be a watchdog, rather to make sure that the people who hold certificates represent the best that project management has to offer. As a project manager you want to continue to keep up to date and to continue to grow within your profession. The three-year renewal requirement also shows current and future employers that you understand the necessity of staying current with the trends and practices of the profession.
PMI requires CAPM certificate holders to acquire 15 PDUs every three years for renewal and PMP certificate holders must obtain 60 PDUs every three years. Costs for renewals are $60 USD member cost for both CAPM and PMP and $150 USD for non-members.
To move forward with a career in Project Management, getting your CAPM and/or PMP certification is extremely beneficial. By taking the time to go over each of the certifications and comparing them, the hope is that you now have a better understanding of the two top certifications offered by PMI. Each certification has its benefits depending on which requirements you can or have already met.
Explaining the certification prerequisites and the difference between them, should provide you with a basis to determine which path to follow. The article went point by point for each of the requirements showcasing the differences between CAPM and PMP certification. It covered the educational requirements as well as experience requirements and explained the need for contact hours.
By listing the advantages and disadvantages of each CAPM vs PMP exam prep delivery methods and showing how each one provides a different path to the same goal, you should be able to determine what course you need to take. We recognized that each individual needs to look at the different certifications based on their current situation and that there are many options to choose from.
We listed the differences between each of the certifications, typical training costs, exam costs, and delivery approaches.
Finally, we have given you the information needed to work through renewal of your certifications, the cost, the amount of hours required, and the ways in which you can obtain those PDUs.
So, now that you’ve seen the pros and cons of each certification, no matter what industry you serve, take that next step to getting the position and salary you deserve.