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CAPM vs PMP: Which Certification is Right for You?


Project management is one of the fastest-growing professions, with more than 15 million jobs expected to be created by 2020. To fill these roles, businesses across many industries are seeking to hire new project managers with the qualifications and expertise necessary to make a positive impact in their organizations.
capm vs pmp
The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® and Project Management Professional (PMP)® are both specialized credentials offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI) that improve credibility and offer professionals opportunities to increase their skills, lead larger projects, and advance their careers. Understanding the differences between CAPM and PMP certification is critical to aligning the type of certification with a person’s intended career goal. These differences include prerequisites, cost, level of difficulty, and how the credentials are perceived industry-wide.

CAPM vs PMP Requirements

The prerequisites for the CAPM exam are as follows:

  • A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • 1,500 hours of project experience

OR

  • 23 hours of project management education completed by the time of the exam

Because those planning to earn CAPM certification are not required to have project management experience or a four-year degree, the CAPM is ideal for recent community college graduates or even current students who want to bolster their resume with a credential that demonstrates commitment to a career in project management.

Expand the scope of your careerWhile the CAPM is ideal for people beginning their careers, candidates must have 23 hours of project management education before taking the exam. Project management education can be completed online, enabling candidates to fulfill this requirement without putting their professional or collegiate obligations on hold. Some universities may also offer project management education at this level as a part of a degree program.

The prerequisites for the PMP exam are as follows:

  • A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education

OR

  • Four-year degree
  • 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education

While the PMP does not require a bachelor’s degree, job candidates who hold a four-year degree have a significant advantage. Unlike the CAPM—which requires 1,500 hours of general work experience—PMP candidates with only a secondary degree must have 7,500 hours of experience in leading and directing projects to qualify, while those with a four-year degree are required to have only 4,500 hours of experience.

In addition, the PMP requires 35 hours of project management education, compared to the CAPM’s 23-hour minimum. Purdue’s flexible online Project Management Essentials course fulfills the hourly requirement of both certifications.

CAPM vs PMP Exam Cost

Professionals who pursue project management certification are making a valuable, long-term investment in their careers. The PMI requires a fee for both exams with the cost of the CAPM exam at $225 for PMI members and $300 for non-members. The cost of the PMP exam is $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members.

Many companies offer professional development benefits that may cover employee education and professional credentialing costs. According to a 2016 survey by Robert Half International, 72% of CFOs said their companies pay for some or all educational costs associated with earning a professional certification.

How Difficult are the CAPM and PMP Exams?

Because the CAPM is geared toward entry-level project managers or those interested in a project management career, the CAPM exam is considered less rigorous than the PMP exam. The CAPM exam questions are derived from the PMBOK® Guide, PMI’s global standards for project management. The CAPM Handbook conveniently lists the percentage of questions related to each chapter of the PMBOK® Guide—meaning that those pursuing CAPM certification can adequately prepare for the exam by studying only the PMBOK® Guide.

The PMP exam, on the other hand, is appropriate for early career to established professionals with more significant project management experience, and is therefore more challenging to achieve. Like the CAPM, the PMP exam also covers the PMBOK® Guide, but it also includes questions designed to test whether the candidate knows how to handle real-world project management scenarios. To pass the PMP Exam, PMI not only recommends studying the PMBOK® Guide, the PMP Examination Content Outline, and the PMP handbook, but also enrolling in a formal course of study offered by a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.), such as Purdue.

CAPM vs PMP: Industry-Wide Benefits

Considering CAPM certification is more accessible, more affordable, and requires less time and experience than PMP certification, project managers may ask themselves, “Why would I pursue PMP certification?” The answer is simple: The PMP is the most significant, industry-recognized certification for project managers worldwide.

PMPs work in a wide range of industries in almost every country. Many employers require PMP certification when hiring project managers because PMPs have demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary to lead complex projects and direct project teams. In fact, organizations complete more projects on time and on budget when more than one-third of their project managers are PMP-certified. However, PMPs don’t just bring value to their organizations: project managers with a PMP certification earn a 20% higher salary than those without a PMP certification, according to PMI’s Earning Power Salary Survey.

While CAPM certification isn’t as widely-recognized as PMP certification, it demonstrates knowledge of PMI’s project management framework and project management processes, which can certainly benefit candidates when applying for jobs against those without any certification. In addition, CAPM certified employees have a working knowledge of the PMBOK® Guide, which can serve as an excellent first step to eventually pursue PMP certification.

Purdue University’s Online Project Management Series

Whether you are beginning your project management career or have years of experience in the field, Purdue’s online project management courses can help you gain the knowledge and skills necessary to stand out in your industry and effectively plan, orchestrate, and control complex projects.


Project Management Essentials

This 100% online, instructor-led course runs for eight weeks and allows working professionals to gain familiarity with basic project management concepts and terms. By the end of the course, students will be able to define project scope, time and risk as well as apply tools, techniques and processes to ensure their own projects succeed. The course fulfills the educational hours required by PMI to take both the CAPM and PMI exams. PME instructors engage students in a stimulating range of learning activities including directed study of the PMBOK® Guide; participation in online threaded discussion forums; viewing recorded lecture videos; taking quizzes and self-tests; and completing written assignments.

(PMP) Exam Preparation
Many of our Project Management Essentials students go on to take this 100% online, self-study course, which is a rigorous, in-depth review of PMP exam content that helps students strengthen their grasp of PM principles and develop a comprehensive study plan. It includes four live webinars presented by an instructor for in-depth review of some of the most challenging learning material.

Project Management Professional, PMP, CAPM, and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


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Project Management Professional, PMP, PMBOK and the PMI Registered Education Provider logo are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.