As a young professional, one of the first gaps I found in my undergraduate learning was formal project management. College coursework, primarily the group projects, offered ample opportunities to gain project management experience; however, as could be expected from a group of undergrads, it was very informal.
In the working world, being a management consultant has often put me in project management roles, be it project management support for my internal/client service teams (colleagues), or providing project management services directly to clients, working as part of their teams.
With this learning need identified, I started to look for ways to learn more. My research soon lead me to the Project Management Institute.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is one of the world’s largest professional membership associations, with half a million members and credential holders in more than 180 countries. It is a not-for-profit organization that advances the project management profession through globally recognized standards and certifications, collaborative communities, an extensive research program, and professional development opportunities.
Within a few weeks, I began studying for the PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) Exam, and after a few months of preparation, I sat for/passed the exam.
The process was great, the material was interesting, I was learning a lot (at my own pace) and I was able to begin seeing/applying what I’d learned on a daily basis.
CAPM vs PMP
The two, primary Project Management credentials are the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP).
Certified Associate in Project Management
The PMI’s CAPM site provides the following description of the CAPM program…
What is it?
PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® is a valuable entry-level certification for project practitioners. Designed for those with less project experience, the CAPM® demonstrates your understanding of the fundamental knowledge, terminology and processes of effective project management.
Whether you’re new to project management, changing careers, or already serving as a subject matter expert on project teams, the CAPM can get your career on the right path or take it to the next level.
Who should apply?
If you’re a less experienced project manager looking to demonstrate your commitment to project management, improve your ability to manage larger projects and earn additional responsibility, and stand out to potential employers, the CAPM certification is right for you.
- A secondary diploma (high school or the global equivalent) AND…
- At least 1,500 hours experience OR 23 hours of project management education.
Project Management Professional
The PMI’s PMP site provides the following description of the PMP program…
What is it?
PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers. Globally recognized and demanded, the PMP® demonstrates that you have the experience, education and competency to successfully lead and direct projects.
Who should apply?
The PMP recognizes demonstrated competence in leading and directing project teams. If you’re an experienced project manager looking to solidify your skills, stand out to employers and maximize your earning potential, the PMP credential is the right choice for you.
To apply for the PMP, you need to have either:
- A four-year degree (bachelor’s or the global equivalent) and at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education OR…
- A secondary diploma (high school or the global equivalent) with at least five years of project management experience, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.
What Do the Exams Cover?
While differing in their level of coverage/testing approach, the CAPM and PMP Exams work to test mastery of the 5 Project Management Process Groups and the 9 Project Management Knowledge Areas.
Project Management Process Groups refer to the stages which all projects encounter throughout their lifecycles…
- Monitoring & Controlling
The Knowledge Areas refer to the competencies which are required, across all Project Management Process Groups, to help ensure the successful delivery/completion of a project.
- Integration Management
- Scope Management
- Time Management
- Cost Management
- Quality Management
- Human Resource Management
- Communications Management
- Risk Management
- Procurement Management
In particular, the exam focuses on the interactions which occur between the Knowledge Areas and the Process Groups throughout the project lifecycle (e.g., Baseline Budget is an Input to the Integrated Project Plan, etc.).
Why Did I Choose the CAPM?
- Experience/Requirements – When determining which exam to prepare for/take, I soon recognized that I did not meet the experience requirements set out for the PMP Exam, so I signed up for the CAPM. I have significant project management experience, including some sub-workstream leadership responsibilities; however, at the time of registration, I did not have overall project management or leadership responsibilities.
- Perception – While the PMP is the more well-known/respected project management credential when compared to the CAPM, even if I’d been eligible for the PMP, I still would have strongly considered the CAPM…primarily for reasons concerning perception and expectations management. Though I wanted to learn more about project management, and demonstrate my knowledge in this area, I don’t see myself as a ‘career’ project manager. I imagine that project management will always be part of my work going forward, but it is important to me that my professional brand isn’t defined to be that of solely a project manager. In my view, the CAPM demonstrates knowledge of core project management principles and methodologies, appropriate for an individual contributor to a project team, whereas the PMP signals significant knowledge of and experience with the project management best practices required to successfully manage a project from initiation through closure…knowledge and experience which I don’t feel I possess at this point in my career.
- Continuing Education – Lastly, another reason for selecting the CAPM credential over the PMP was the continuing education requirements. With the CAPM, once you’ve passed the exam, you are certified as a CAPM for 5 years, without continuing education requirements. At 5 years, to be recertified, you must sit for and again successfully pass the exam. To remain certified as a PMP, you must regularly earn a number of PDUs (Professional Development Units) through the PMI. Given my schedule and my intent to obtain additional credentials in the near future (Certified Management Accountant), I felt it would be best that I pursue the credential with the ‘lighter’ requirements, particularly due to the fact that my current firm requires that I earn a number of CPEs each year as well.
For the CAPM, an exam which focuses more on the specific terminology and processes outlined in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), a detailed review of the latest edition of the PMBOK Guide should provide you with the baseline understanding of the content needed to be successful on the exam. In my opinion, rote memorization, as opposed to concept application, is the key to success on the CAPM Exam.
However, to increase your likelihood of success, I’d also recommend that you find a study guide (e.g., Rita Mulcahy’s CAPM Exam Prep or Andy Crowe’s The CAPM Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try, etc.) which provides practice questions and complete practice exams, such that you’re prepared for the types of questions the PMI has developed to test your knowledge of the PMBOK.
For the PMP, an exam which focuses more on the application of the concepts outlined in the PMBOK when compared to the CAPM, I’d highly recommend supplementing your review of the PMBOK with materials from a well-reviewed study guide (e.g., Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep or Andy Crowe’s The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try, etc.).
Hopefully this post has provided you with the information and resources necessary to determine if either the CAPM or the PMP is right for you. Best of luck studying for the exam!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
I welcome and look forward to your comments!