The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a professional project management organization. The PMI administers various certifications designed to validate the abilities of project management professionals, and offers professional development opportunities to its members. Ranging from the entry-level to advanced, the broad and the niche, a PMI certification can help early-career professionals boost their careers, or solidify the expertise of seasoned project managers.
Although the PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is widely popular and highly recognized, PMI offers several other project management certifications.
1. Meet the requirements. Each PMI certification has a different set of requirements you’ll have to meet in order to test for the certification. Before you apply, you’ll want to make sure you have a record of any applicable project management experience.
2. Apply. Once you think you’re in good standing to qualify for an exam, you can make an account with PMI and apply for a certification. If you’re approved, that’s when you’ll pay the exam fee and schedule an exam.
3. Take the exam. Certification exams generally take three to four hours, and have some combination of multiple choice, multiple response, matching, hotspot, and fill-in-the-blank questions. Some advanced certifications may have a panel review as part of your certification process.
4. Maintain your certification. Each PMI certification is valid for three years. In that time, you’ll need to earn a set amount of PDUs—professional development units—to maintain your certification. PDUs are hours you spend either learning, teaching, or volunteering in your project management certification area (so 30 PDUs will translate to 30 hours of your time). The number of PDUs necessary to keep your certification will depend on the certification.
A professional certification from the PMI can show employers and other industry insiders your competency in project management. That said, deciding if a PMI certification can give you the skills you need and bolster your career depends on your unique situation, industry, and career goals. Though some employers might prefer project managers with a certification, there are many opportunities that don’t require them.
There is evidence that correlates certain PMI certifications to monetary benefit. The PMP for example has been linked to higher incomes—a 2018 PMI survey found that PMP certified members in the US reported a median salary of $115,000, compared to $92,000 for those without the PMP .
Ready to learn? Jump into project management with the Google Professional Certificate in Project Management
With over a million certificate holders around the world, the PMP is one of the most popular and well-recognized project management certificates. Getting the certification includes a rigorous exam that tests your knowledge of managing people, project management processes, and business-minded decision-making.
Who qualifies: You’ll need to have a decent amount of experience under your belt to be able to take the exam. This includes 36 months of experience leading projects if you have a bachelor’s degree, or 60 months if you have a high-school diploma or associate’s degree. You’ll also need to complete 35 hours of project management training or coursework (this can also be substituted with the CAPM certification—see below).
Good for: Professionals who manage projects and already have some experience under their belt, and want to level-up their careers
The CAPM is geared toward people who hope to manage projects, take on more responsibility, or add project management skills to their resume. The CAPM is open to professionals in any stage of their project management careers, making it a solid option for those who are starting out.
Who qualifies: Since the CAPM is for professionals just starting to gain their project management chops, no significant previous experience is required. You do need a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or an equivalent), and are expected to complete 23 hours of project management education before you take the exam.
Good for: Those just getting started with project management, and are looking to grow their experience and expertise in project management
Still a student? As of March 2021, PMI offered a student bundle that includes PMI membership and a $75 discount on the CAPM exam.
The PMI-ACP certifies your competency in agile project management, a style of project management that emphasizes short sprints and adaptability.
Who qualifies: You’ll need some agile experience to qualify for the PMI-ACP exam. Prerequisites include 21 hours of training in agile, one year of general project experience in the last five years (or a current PMP or PgMP certification), and at least eight months of agile project experience in the last three years.
Good for: Project managers who have some agile experience and intend to continue using agile in their teams or organization
PMI offers four certifications in Disciplined Agile: Disciplined Agile Scrum Master (DASM), Disciplined Agile Senior Scrum Master (DASSM), Disciplined Agile Coach (DAC), and Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant (DAVSC). With varying levels of experience needed, the certifications will allow beginners to learn the basics of the methodology, and more seasoned agile users to deepen their skillset.
Who qualifies: Anywhere from zero to three years of experience working in agile in a leadership role. Each credential also requires completing a training program from a qualifying Disciplined Agile course provider that will take two to three days.
Good for: Project managers who are (or want to be) in work environments where Disciplined Agile principles are relevant to learn
Successful project management often means having a good understanding of how to manage business requirements objectives. The PMI-PBA exam will test you in needs assessment, planning, monitoring, evaluation, and other criteria related to the business analysis-related aspects of project management.
Who qualifies: To qualify, you’ll need to have 60 months of business experience and 35 contact hours of coursework in business analysis if you have a high school diploma or associate’s degree, and 36 months of business experience and 35 contact hours of coursework if you have a bachelor’s degree.
Good for: Project management professionals who want to build on their specialized knowledge of business analysis
The PgMP is designed for professionals who are advanced in their careers, and can oversee multiple projects for the success of a program. PgMP holders are expected to be able to steer complex tasks across different organizations, geographic locations, and cultures. Obtaining the PgMP entails successfully passing a panel review, and taking the certification exam.
Who qualifies: A relatively advanced certification, the PgMP is geared toward those with several years of program management experience. Prerequisites include 48 months of managing a project (or a PMP), and 48 months of program management experience in the last 15 years if you have a bachelor's degree (84 months in the last 15 years if you have a high school diploma or associate degree).
Good for: Program managers who have several years of experience and have managed complex projects
If you’ve successfully managed one or multiple portfolios for an organization, the PfMP can be the stamp that shows employers and others your competency. The certification process involves a panel review and a multiple choice exam.
Who qualifies: To apply for the PfMP, you’ll need a minimum of 96 months of professional business experience within the last 15 years, and 84 months of portfolio management experience if you have a high school diploma or associate’s degree. That number drops to 48 months of portfolio management experience if you have a bachelor’s degree.
Good for: Those who have taken their careers into portfolio management and have achieved an executive or senior-level
The PMI-RMP is designed to verify the skills of advanced professionals in risk management. PMI-RMPs will have the credentials to show that they are ready to assess and reduce risk for large or complex projects.
Who qualifies: If you have a high school diploma, associate degree, or an equivalent credential, you’ll need to have 36 months of experience managing project risk in the last five years, plus 40 hours of project risk management education. With a four-year degree, you’ll need 24 months of project risk management experience in the last five years, and 30 hours of project risk management education.
Good for: Risk management professionals with several years of experience, and that want to be broadly recognized for their skill
Good scheduling can be crucial to the success of a project. PMI-SPs will verify your capacity as a professional to create optimal schedules for teams and projects in the twenty-first century—global, virtual, and highly complex.
Who qualifies: You’ll need some experience handling schedules before you apply to be a PMI-SP. If you have a high school diploma or associate degree, you’ll need to have spent 40 months in the last five years project scheduling, with 40 hours of project scheduling coursework. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need 28 months of project scheduling experience within the last five years, and 30 hours of education in project scheduling.
Good for: Project managers who want to deepen and demonstrate their scheduling capacity
Designed for students, the PMI Project Management Ready certification is a unique credential that will introduce learners to basic project management concepts. The credential is geared to expose young students to the project management community and enhance their lives with organizational and management skills.
Who qualifies: Anybody who can read at a seventh grade level, has basic computer skills, and is capable of participating in training and taking exams can qualify for this credential.
Good for: Students and anybody else who wants to gain exposure to the world of project management
Equipping yourself with project management skills can make you a competitive candidate for jobs and a successful leader in the workplace. If you’re just starting out in your project management journey, take a look at the Google Professional Certificate in Project Management—the first week is free.
1. Project Management Institute. "PMI Salary Survey Reveals That Project Management Professionals with the PMP Certification Earn 23% More, https://www.pmi.org/about/press-media/press-releases/pmi-salary-survey-reveals-pmps-earn-23-percent-more." Accessed March 29, 2021.