CAPM vs. PMP: Which Is Best for You?

Written by Coursera • Updated on Sep 27, 2021

The CAPM is and entry-level project management certification, while the PMP is a certification for project managers with at least three years of experience.

A woman looks through the differences between the CAPM and PMP from her home computer.

CAPM vs. PMP: Which is best for you?

The  Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® and the Project Management Professional (PMP)® are two certifications administered by a professional project management organization called the Project Management Institute (PMI). The CAPM is an entry-level certification designed to prepare candidates for positions in project management, while the PMP is a credential for project managers with at least three years of experience

Here’s a quick overview of how they compare.

CAPMPMP
Who's it for?Entry-level project managersThose with at least three years of project management experience
Jobs postings that mention certification on Indeed (September 2021)1,18014,700
RequirementsSecondary degree, plus 23 hours of project management education35 hours of project management training (can be replaced with CAPM), and 36 months of experience leading projects with a four-year degree, or 60 months with a secondary degree
Average US salary (from Payscale, September 2021)$67,000$108,000
Cost$300 for non-PMI members, $224 for PMI members$555 for non-PMI members, $405 for PMI members
Exam3 hours, 150 questions3 hours 50 minutes, 180 questions

Let’s take a look at the requirements, costs, and other details of each.

CAPM vs. PMP certification requirements

The requirements to qualify for the CAPM are as follows:

  • 23 hours of project management education, completed before you take the exam

  • High school diploma or equivalent

The requirements to qualify for the PMP are:

  • 35 hours of project management education. This can be waived if you have the CAPM certification.

  • 36 months (3 years total) of experience leading projects if you have a four-year degree, or 60 months (5 years total) if you have a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, or the global equivalent

You’ll need to pay for and pass a certification exam to receive each certification.

How do I fulfill my project management education requirements?

There are several online courses from various providers that can fulfill the education requirement. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate, which qualifies you for over 100 hours of project management education. If you prefer in-person options, your local community college may have some project management courses that will fulfill the requirement.

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Read more: How to Get a PMP Certification: An Overview

CAPM vs. PMP exam cost

The PMP certification exam costs more than the CAPM certification. The PMP costs $555 for non-PMI members, and the CAPM $300 for non-members. Here’s a breakdown of their costs.

Note that a PMI membership costs $129 a year, plus a one-time application fee of $10. 

CAPM cost:

  • $225 for PMI members ($364 total with membership and membership application fee)

  • $300 for non-PMI members

Are you a student? Get the student bundle

If you’re enrolled in an accredited, degree-granting program, you may be eligible for the student bundle. This gets you PMI membership for $32 and the CAPM exam certification for $225, for a total of $257.

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PMP cost:

  • $405 for PMI members ($544 total with membership and membership application fee)

  • $555 for non-PMI members

Read more: What is the CAPM Certification? Requirements and More

CAPM vs. PMP salary

PMP holders generally make more than CAPM holders.

The average US salary for CAPM holders is $67,000, while for PMP holders it is $108,000, according to Payscale [1,2]. Ziprecruiter reported higher averages, with CAPM holders having an average US salary of $88,185, and PMP holders making $114,900 [3,4]. Data is accurate as of September 2021. 

Does getting a CAPM or PMP earn you more money?

Fifty-seven percent of respondents to an Indeed survey reported making more money after earning the CAPM [5]. For PMP holders, that number increased to 68 percent [6]. Certifications may lead to higher-paying jobs or raises in your current one. If you recently got certified, it can be worth approaching your manager to discuss a raise. Other factors like experience level and location can affect your salary.

CAPM and PMP: Are they worth it?

Certifications may give you an edge in the job search process, show hiring managers that you have a baseline of knowledge expected of you, and help you learn new skills. They may also lead to higher incomes, and qualify you for positions that require certification. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • The CAPM and PMP both have high approval ratings by certificate earners. Both were recommended by around 95 percent of Indeed survey respondents who had earned the certification. Indeed surveys also showed that 50 percent of CAPM earners believed the certification helped them get a job, while 64 percent of PMP earners thought the same [5,6].

  • The PMP is more in-demand than the CAPM. The CAPM was mentioned in 1,700 US job listings on Indeed in September 2021, while the PMP was mentioned in more than 19,000.

Think about your professional goals to decide if it’s worth it for you.

Read more: 10 PMI Certifications to Level Up Your Project Management Career

CAPM vs. PMP: Which should you get?

The CAPM and PMP serve different purposes; which you decide to get should depend on your professional circumstances. 

If you’re looking to get started in the field of project management, the CAPM may be more useful (and manageable) than the PMP. If you have some experience, and are looking to expand your skill set and be more competitive in the job market, the PMP might make more sense to get.

CAPM vs. PMP exam

The CAPM and PMP exams differ in content and difficulty. The CAPM is a knowledge-based exam, testing candidates on project management theory and processes. The PMP extends into the practical application of project management, including tools and techniques [7]. The CAPM sticks to material in the PMBOK Guide, while the PMP tests you on knowledge beyond.

CAPM exam

The CAPM tests you on concepts covered in the PMBOK Guide. Here’s a breakdown of what percentage of each chapter is covered in the exam:

  1. Introduction to Project Management: 6%

  2. Project Environment: 6%

  3. Role of the Project Manager: 7%

  4. Project Integration: 9%

  5. Project Scope: 9%

  6. Project Schedule: 9%

  7. Project Cost: 8%

  8. Project Quality: 7%

  9. Project Resource: 8%

  10. Project Communication: 10%

  11. Project Risk: 8%

  12. Project Procurement: 4%

  13. Project Stakeholder: 9%

PMP exam

The PMP exam covers material in the PMBOK Guide and beyond. The topics covered broadly break down as follows:

1. People: 42%

The people portion includes questions on managing conflict, leading a team, assisting team performance, negotiating project agreements, supporting virtual teams, and other people-related topics.

2. Process: 50%

The process part of the exam covers the tactics used to execute a project. That includes managing communications, assessing risks, engaging stakeholders, planning budgets and schedules, quality management, determining scope, and several other topics.

3. Business: 8%

For the business portion of the exam, you’ll have to learn concepts in planning and managing project compliance, evaluating project benefits and value, addressing external factors for their impact on project scope, and supporting organizational change.

Keep in mind

The PMP exam was updated beginning January 2, 2021. The new exam now comprises 180 questions instead of 200, two 10-minute breaks instead of one, three “domains”—phases of project management—instead of five, among other changes. Make sure your study materials reflect the change.

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Getting ready for the CAPM and PMP

There are many courses you can take to learn concepts tested on the CAPM and the PMP. Here are a few options. 

Google Project Management: Professional Certificate 

The Google Project Management: Professional Certificate covers essential project concepts. Accessible for anybody regardless of experience, the certificate was designed to be completed in six months or less. Though not an official CAPM training course, the certificate covers essential topics covered in the CAPM exam. You can gain job-ready skills, and fulfill the project management education requirement. You’ll also receive a professional certificate upon completion that you can add to your resume.

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Google Project Management:

Google

PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATE

UCI Project Management Professional Certificate

The Project Management Professional Certificate from the University of California, Irvine includes four courses on project management that can be completed in six months. The certificate is designed for professionals with three to five years of experience and will help you prepare for the PMP exam. It’ll also fulfill the educational requirement for the exam.

Article sources

1. Payscale. "Salary for Certification: Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Certified_Associate_in_Project_Management_(CAPM)/Salary." Accessed September 22, 2021.

2. Payscale. "Salary for Certification: Project Management Professional (PMP), https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Project_Management_Professional_(PMP)/Salary." Accessed September 22, 2021.

3. Ziprecruiter. "CAPM Salary, https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/CAPM-Salary." Accessed September 22, 2021.

4. Ziprecruiter. "PMP Project Manager Salary, https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Pmp-Project-Manager-Salary." Accessed September 22, 2021.

5. Indeed. "Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), https://www.indeed.com/certifications/view/certified-associate-in-project-management-capm-7BCTW3NJ." Accessed September 22, 2021.

6. Indeed. "Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification, https://www.indeed.com/certifications/view/pmp-TK44RD4O." Accessed September 22, 2021. Accessed September 22, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Sep 27, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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