Obtaining my PMP Certification: The Application Process

April 30, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Posted in PMI | 12 Comments

[Editrix’ note: Jennifer Wagner kindly consented to document her PMI certification path in this blog. After obtaining her PMP, she moved on to manage much larger (and more exciting!) initiatives here. Content developer Robin Abernathy has stepped in to continue documenting PMI certification, starting here: https://transcender.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/obtaining-your-pmp-certification-a-pmp-4th-edition-study-plan-part-i/.]

I’ve been an indirect and direct Project Manager for almost 12 years, and I’ve finally decided to take the PMP certification test. I’ve debated taking the exam for a couple of years now. I don’t have test phobia and I know a lot about exams, having written a few myself over the years. So for me, it wasn’t the actual test that scared me; no, the most daunting part was the PMP application process. Documenting my experience, tracking down the title and timing of my Project Management class, and putting myself out there for scrutiny was the big mental hurdle.

Now that I’ve lived through the application process and received my approval to take the exam, I can share my experience. (Because trust me when I tell you that if I have been denied, you wouldn’t be reading about my experience. I’m not into public humiliation.) As it turns out, the application process really isn’t that bad. I still have to study and pass the test, but I’m confident that I can succeed (or, again, you wouldn’t be reading this).

First things first: I created an account on PMI.org. With this account, I was able to fill out the online application for the PMP certification. I filled out details on my personal information and my college education. Luckily, I was able to get information from my college’s website. I even got to specify how I wanted my name to appear on my certificate when I pass. Easy enough.

Next, I found my college transcripts and scrolled through all my grades to find that one Project Management class I took in college. Yes, even that class I took 13 years ago counts for the training requirement. It was a 300-level course entitled Project Management. The class met for 2.5 hours twice a week for 10 weeks. Taking away exams and bathroom breaks, it counted as 40 hours. This satisfied the 35 hour requirement — and I got an A in that class, by the way.

So with the education requirement met, I moved on to the experience requirement. Because I have a bachelor’s degree, I was required to have 36 months of unique, non-overlapping professional project management experience. During those 36 months, 4,500 hours must have been directly related to leading and directing project tasks. And luckily, all my stress over this part of the application was for nothing, because I had really good records for a large project that I managed from 2004 through 2008. This project had incremental product releases and each of those releases had definite cycles. Even so, I still had to figure out how much time I spent in each of the five process groups. This wasn’t as challenging as I anticipated; it was just time-consuming. Forcing myself to devote time to document the tasks was the hardest part. I spent about 2 hours a day over 5 days documenting my experience. When I reached the required number of hours, I stopped. I could have gone further, but it wasn’t necessary. I’m lucky because all my hours were for one company and with my current manager. I might have had to do more investigative work if my experience had been for multiple companies, projects, or managers.

And with that, I submitted the application. The web site says that it takes five business days for approval, and of course I looked every day to see if I had been approved. And, in fact, it turns out it took five business days just like the web site said. On day five, I was approved and received a PMI Identification Code and a link to register for my exam with Prometric. Immediately, I scheduled my exam for July 6th at noon. And, of course, I turned over my credit card information to cover the $550.00 fees. I’m not a PMI member so it was a bit more expensive for me.

I went to Amazon.com and ordered the PMBOK 4th Edition because I will be taking the new version of the exam that releases on June 30th (see Robin’s previous post on selecting the right PMP exam edition to study). I’ve taken an online class for Project Management in the last two years, so I’m not starting from scratch, but I’ve still got to study. . . a lot.

So from my own experience, here are some tips I would offer.

  1. Once you start the online application, remember that you have 90 days to complete it. If you don’t complete the application in 90 days, your data is lost and you have to start over.
  2. As soon as you decide to work toward the certification, start compiling notes and do some preliminary work before starting the application. All the prep sites recommend Excel to document hours by projects within the required domains, and I agree.
  3. Gather all the documentation you can: meeting notes, Project files, emails announcing project kickoffs or deadlines, billable hours (if your company breaks them down), and so on. If you haven’t been keeping thorough notes, start now; it will mean less to gather in the future. Be sure to keep this data organized and available in case your application is audited.
  4. When documenting your experience, keep in mind that overlapping experience doesn’t count. If you worked on two projects simultaneously, it doesn’t count as double. Each project doesn’t require experience in each process group, but you must have experience in each process during the documented 4,500 or 7,500 hours. Your documented experience is for hours you lead projects or tasks, not those for which you completed. The best explanation I found on how to document your experience was this article on ehow.com.
  5. Grab a copy of your resume. Be sure you can contact any listed former employers or supervisors. If you are audited, you’ll need confirmation letters verifying your experience. It can be hard to get back in touch with previous employers or coworkers. Fortunately, the Internet is here to help. I’ve found coworkers from as far as ten years back using sites like LinkedIn. I actually emailed my current supervisor a copy of my completed application. If he is called to verify my experience, he had the information readily available.

There are a lot of different types of courses that are eligible for the education requirement. Upon starting this process, I expected to be required to take a PMP course by a PMI Registered Education Provider. [For a complete list of the accepted types of education providers, see the Eligibility Requirements section of the PMP Handbook.] But along with the variety of courses accepted, it turns out that there is no timeframe on the education requirement. My class from many moons ago (seriously, 13 years ago) was accepted. Again, have a copy of your degree and training certificates on hand in case your application is audited.

And pace yourself, like I did, so you don’t get burned out on the process. The worst part is getting everything together. I expect the exam to be easier than the application! I invite you to stay tuned to track my progress as I study and then take the exam.

–Jennifer Wagner


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  1. Good luck in your PMP Exam.

    I filled up the application on 19th May, and waiting to get their approval. Today is 5th day and saturday as well. So I guess they wont be working..So I have to wait till MOnday. Lets see if they reply on monday….

  2. Hi its really really great to hear me about Business Woman Marketing in any country any cities, really I appreciate to your talent…

  3. I like your idea of posting this personal process!!
    I am in the same process myself.
    Did you pass the exam?

  4. Should we have experience in each process given in the application.
    Initiating has 5 processes so should I have experience in all these 5 processes, when I combine all my PM experience.
    Or can I have ‘0’ experience in one process in my complete action say like creating project charter.

  5. It would be amazing if you could post a link to (or email me) your Excel Spreadsheet showing how you documented your hours. This is the part I am struggling with. I’m just getting started on this adventure and not yet ready to begin the application, so I don’t know what format/layout/information I need to document.


  6. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips Jennifer! I’m planning to take the test after some considerations :)

  7. […] I would have done differently. For starters, former Transcender team member Jennifer Wagner gave some really good advice on the application process in her blog post from 2009. Like she mentions, you should start documenting your project hours as soon as you start thinking […]

  8. Im trying to figure out if a combination of college couses from Business and Communications I’ve taken will cover the 35 hr requirement? But I cannot seem too find a listing of courses that can qualify, has anyone found this? Or is it limited strictly to courses titled ‘Project Management’? The PMI website doesnt seem to have it.

    • Farrah, This is a really good question. PMI states on its Web site that a candidate must have 35 hours of project management education. Based on the way it is worded, the courses must be focused on project management. So courses must specifically address project management. If only a portion of the course covers project management, you will only get partial credit.

      With that said, I recently located an article entitled “How to Get 35 Contact Hours for PMP Application.” Go to http://seanraj.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-get-35-contact-hours-for-PMP-application.

  9. Reblogged this on khthompson.

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