PMP® vs. CAPM® Certification: Which One is Right for Me?
Earning a project management certification is a great way to develop your skills and position yourself as a valuable asset to potential employers. When it comes to earning a certification, you have numerous options, with two of the most popular being the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification or the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification.
Learn more about both certifications, their eligibility requirements, and how to determine which certification is best for your future.
Benefits of the CAPM® and PMP® Certifications
Taking and passing the CAPM exam can lead to a number of benefits in your career. First, it can be viewed as a stepping stone toward earning the PMP certification. As we’ll unpack below, there are some overlapping requirements for these two exams, which gives you an opportunity to gain knowledge that applies to both exams. Taking the CAPM exam helps you adequately prepare for a future PMP exam.
You’ll also improve your project management skills – another benefit of taking the CAPM exam. Taking this type of exam helps you to strengthen your project management skills. It also signifies to employers and clients alike that you are equipped to successfully run projects. For those starting out their career who may not be employed yet, having the CAPM certification is likely to move your resume to the top of the applicant pile. It can also add validity to your resume, giving you leverage to negotiate for higher pay. The PMP certification will provide all these benefits as well, but because it’s a more advanced certification, you’ll present yourself as an experienced and knowledgeable project manager. Additionally, the PMP certification can have a much larger impact on your salary and job title.
On a personal level, the CAPM exam gives you an opportunity to make sure a project management career is the right fit for your future. You won’t invest as much time in the CAPM exam compared to the PMP exam, so you’re not making a long-term commitment. While the CAPM exam qualification does take work, it does present an opportunity to stand out from others who also lack a lot of project management experience.
CAPM Exam Qualifications
What actions do you need to take to qualify for the CAPM exam? Because it is designed for entry-level professionals with little to no experience in project management, there are fewer guidelines for qualifying for the CAPM certification exam. On August 28, 2019, the Project Management Institute changed the requirements for earning this certification making it even easier for those at the beginning of their project management career. The new requirements are:
- You must have a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent).
- You must complete 23 hours of project management education completed by the time you sit for the exam.
In the past, applicants could choose to document 1,500 hours of project management experience in lieu of the 23 hours of education. That path to exam eligibility has been eliminated, requiring applicants only to earn the education hours, in addition to having a secondary degree.
To fulfill the 23-hour education requirement, you may want to consider taking an exam preparation course. The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification course offered by Project Management Academy, for example, not only prepares you for the exam, but it meets the education requirement, as well.
PMP Exam Qualifications
Requirements - Option 1
- You must have a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent)
- You must have 60 months leading projects
- You must complete 35 hours of project management education.
Requirements Option 2
- You must have a four-year degree.
- You must have 36 months leading projects
- You must complete 35 hours of project management education.
Another change PMI made is the 35-hour education requirement for the PMP exam. It will be waived if you are an active CAPM credential holder. This adds to the benefits that come with earning your CAPM certification.
PMP vs. CAPM Exams: What to Expect
While both the CAPM and PMP exams are designed by PMI and administered by Pearson VUE, they do not allow reference materials while taking the test and cover some of the same topics. However, there are some features unique to both exams.
The PMP Exam
- Exam Components - 200 multiple-choice questions (with 25 of the 200 questions used as sample items for research purposes and do not count toward the final score)
- Time Limit - Four hours
- Cost - $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members
- Exam Content - Covers five domains: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing (these domains will be changing when the exam updates on July 1st, 2020)
The CAPM Exam
- Exam Components - 150 multiple-choice questions (with 15 of the 150 questions used as sample items for research purposes and do not count toward the final score)
- Time Limit - Three hours
- Cost - $225 for PMI members and $300 for non-members
- Exam Content - Covers chapters 1 through 13 of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) - Sixth edition.
CAPM vs. PMP Certification: Which is Right for You?
It can be a challenge to determine which exam is right for your future as a project manager. To put it simply, if you meet the requirements of the PMP certification, then there is no question it is the right choice. If you meet some of the requirements, it’s probably still worthwhile to work towards qualifying for the PMP exam. Here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself before making your decision:
- Which stage of my career am I in? Are you at the beginning of your career, or do you already have a history of project management experience? If you’re just beginning your path to project management, taking the CAPM exam is likely the right choice. For those with more experience and a grasp of project management fundamentals, pursing the PMP certification is likely a better option.
- How much do I want to spend? While both exams can be an investment, the CAPM exam is between $180 and $255 cheaper depending on your PMI membership status. You also have to consider the potential training costs that come with fulfilling the education requirement. Your employer may be willing to cover the cost of the exam, so be sure to ask that question before making your decision.
Based on how you answer these questions, you can determine which certification you should pursue. Regardless of the option you choose, earning either certification will improve your resume and make you a more proficient and knowledgeable project manager.
Have more questions about earning a project management certification? Download The Complete PMP Certification Guide now.