3 August, 2023
Project management is one of the fastest-growing professions, with an estimated 25 million jobs expected to be created around the world by 2030. To fill these roles, businesses across industries are seeking new project managers with the qualifications and expertise necessary to make a positive impact in their organizations.
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.
In order to choose the certification that best aligns with your intended career goals, it is critical to understand the differences between CAPM and PMP certification. These differences include prerequisites, cost, level of difficulty and industry-wide perception of the credentials.
CAPM vs. PMP Certification at a Glance
|Professional experience requirements||None||
PMI members: $225
PMI members: $405
|Outcomes & Benefits||
CAPM vs. PMP Certification Requirements
The prerequisites for the CAPM exam are as follows:
- A secondary degree, such as a high school diploma, GED or global equivalent
- At least 23 contact hours of project management education
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 current undergraduates who want to bolster their resume with a credential that demonstrates a commitment to a career in project management.
While the CAPM is ideal for people beginning their careers, there are some additional prerequisites, including that candidates must complete 23 contact hours before taking the exam. Contact hours are hours spent in project management education or training. These hours can be completed on site or online, enabling candidates to fulfill this requirement without putting their professional, educational or personal 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 certification exam are as follows:
- A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree or the global equivalent)
- 60 months of experience leading and directing projects within the past eight years
- 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM certification
- A four-year degree
- 36 months of leading and directing projects within the past eight years
- 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM certification
- While the PMP certification does not require a bachelor’s degree, job candidates who hold a four-year degree have a significant advantage. PMP candidates with a secondary degree must have 60 months of experience in leading and directing projects to qualify, while those with a four-year degree are only required to have 36 months of experience.
- In addition, the PMP certification requires 35 hours of project management education, compared to the CAPM’s 23-hour minimum requirement. Purdue’s flexible online Project Management Essentials course fulfills the hourly requirement of both certifications.
- Professionals with a four-year degree must have a minimum of three years (36 months) of non-overlapping project management experience, during which at least 4,500 hours were spent leading and directing project tasks and activities.
- Professionals without a four-year degree must have a minimum of five years (60 months) of non-overlapping project management experience, during which at least 7,500 hours were spent leading and directing project tasks and activities.
- Professionals with CAPM certification need to pay a renewal fee ($60 for PMI members, $150 for non-members) plus earn 15 professional development units (PDUs) over the three-year cycle in order to maintain their status. These PDUs are broken down into nine PMI Talent Triangle PDUs and six Giving Back PDUs.
- Those who have a PMP certification will need to pay a renewal fee ($60 for PMI members, $150 for non-members) plus earn 60 PDUs over the three-year cycle to maintain their status. PMP professionals have some choice in how they distribute their required PDUs; visit the PMI’s requirements page for more information.
CAPM vs. PMP Certification Exam Cost
Professionals who pursue project management certification are making a valuable, long-term investment in their careers. Part of that investment does include exam fees.
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 $575 for non-members. See the table below for a quick comparison.
|CAPM exam cost||$225||$300|
|PMP exam cost||$405||$575|
A one-year membership to the PMI is $139 and comes with many tools and templates for your professional use, including a downloadable copy of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
Many companies offer professional development benefits that may cover employee education and professional credentialing costs. According to a 2022 survey by the Society for Human Resources, 78% of employers cover opportunities for professional skill development.
How Difficult Are the CAPM and PMP Certification Exams?
Because the CAPM is geared toward entry-level project managers or those who are considering a project management career, the CAPM exam is widely considered to be less rigorous than the PMP exam.
The CAPM exam questions are derived from the PMBOK® Guide, PMI’s global standards for project management, as well as other sources, which are listed (with the relevant chapters) in the CAPM exam reference list.
The PMP certification exam, on the other hand, is appropriate for individuals of varying experience levels — from those early in their 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 Authorized Training Partner (ATP), such as Purdue University.
CAPM Exam Details
The CAPM exam consists of 150 questions that call for multiple-choice, hot spot and drag-and-drop responses, in addition to animations and comic strips. The exam questions cover four domains to integrate different project delivery approaches, with a specific proportion of questions in each.
|CAPM Domain||Proportion of Exam Questions|
|Project Management Fundamentals and Core Concepts||36%|
|Predictive, Plan-Based Methodologies||17%|
|Business Analysis Frameworks||27%|
Candidates have three hours to complete the test, with a 10-minute break in the middle.
PMP Exam Details
The PMP exam consists of 180 questions that fall under three domains in predetermined proportions. About half of the questions represent predictive project management approaches, while the other half represent agile or hybrid approaches. Questions regarding these different approaches are spread throughout the domains.
|PMP Domain||Proportion of Exam Questions|
|People: includes managing conflict; building and leading a team; supporting team members and stakeholders; and collaboration||42%|
|Process: includes communication, risk management, scope and schedule planning/management and project methodology selection||50%|
|Business Environment: includes managing project compliance, assessing project value and integrating organizational change||8%|
Candidates have 230 minutes to complete the exam, with two 10-minute breaks.
CAPM vs. PMP Certification: Industry-Wide Benefits
Considering that the CAPM certification is more affordable and requires less 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.
PMPs bring value to their organizations while advancing their own careers. Project managers with a PMP certification earn a 22% higher median 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. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to convert a CAPM to a PMP?
Converting to PMP certification is not an option. However, CAPM certification meets the PMP exam requirement for 35 hours of project management education/training, so you can achieve PMP certification faster.
How much experience do you need for CAPM certification?
CAPM certification does not require any professional experience, making it an attractive credential for recent graduates as well as anyone seeking to begin a career in project management. However, it does require a minimum of 23 contact hours of project management education.
How much experience do you need for PMP certification?
The experience needed to qualify for the PMP exam and go on to earn PMP certification is based on previous education:
The experience requirements must have been accumulated within the past eight years.
Do I have to be a PMI member to earn CAPM certification?
PMI membership is not required to take the CAPM exam or earn certification, but members do receive a discount on the exam fee ($60 for PMI members, down from $150 for non-members), as well as other benefits.
Do I have to be a PMI member to earn PMP certification?
No, it is not necessary to become a PMI member to earn PMP certification, though members do have a reduced exam fee ($60 for PMI members, down from $150 for non-members) among other benefits.
How long does it take to process the CAPM application? How long does it take to process the PMP application?
According to the PMI, applications take about five to ten days to process.
Do I need to renew my CAPM certification or my PMP certification?
Yes, both the CAPM certification and the PMP certification require a renewal every three years.
Purdue University’s Online Project Management Courses
Professionals who participate in Purdue University’s online project management courses can gain a wealth of field knowledge, solid foundational skills, and exceedingly effective preparation for the PMP exam in order to obtain a project management certificate. Course materials and activities align closely with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to help learners retain project management knowledge and apply it to their current 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.
Participants are empowered to begin effectively applying their newly acquired knowledge and skills to current projects and earn project management hours that can help qualify them to take the PMP exam.
Experienced PME instructors engage participants in a range of learning activities, including directed study of the PMBOK® Guide; online discussions; recorded lectures; quizzes and self-tests; and written assignments. The instructors also welcome the opportunity to coach interested learners on an individual basis via email or scheduled phone appointment.
PMP Exam Preparation
PMP Exam Preparation is a live, virtual course based on the PMBOK® Guide. Enrollment includes 90-day access to all course material, which is 100% aligned to the Project Management Institute’s PMP® Exam Prep content.
Participants get an in-depth review of some of the most challenging learning material on the exam and learn how to build a personal study plan.
This course is for project managers who have a minimum of three years’ experience and prior knowledge of the PMBOK® Guide.
Project Management Professional, PMP, CAPM, and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
To learn more about Purdue University’s online Project Management courses and , fill out this form. You can also email us at PMonline@purdue.edu or call us at (888) 390-0499 to speak to one of our program advisors.
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Project Management Institute. 2020. “PMI® Certifications.” Accessed June 5, 2023. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/generic-certification-handbook-sixteen-translations.pdf
Project Management Institute. 2023. “PMI® Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) Examination Content Outline.” Accessed June 5, 2023. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/capm20ecofinal.pdf
Project Management Institute. 2021. “Project Management Professional (PMP®) Examination Content Outline.” Accessed June 5, 2023. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/pmp-examination-content-outline.pdf
Project Management Institute. 2021. “Talent Gap: Ten-Year Employment Trends, Costs, and Global Implications.” Accessed June 5, 2023. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/career-central/talent-gap-report-2021-finalfinal.pdf
Society for Human Resources. 2022. “Employee Benefits Survey: Executive Summary.” Accessed June 5, 2023. https://shrm-res.cloudinary.com/image/upload/v1654193525/Membership%202022/Employee_Benefits_Survey_-_Executive_Summary_-_FINAL.pdf