PMP exam application

You’re excited to apply for the PMP certification. Your colleagues have told you how it opens new doors in your career. After visiting the PMI website, you start to read about the requirements…. Then you see it – experience hours! Thousands of them! How are you supposed to get through this requirement?

Why PMP Experience Hours Matter

Each year, there are new certificates and certifications launched. Yet, these certifications are not created equal.
The PMP is constantly rated as the best to acquire as measured by salary surveys. Why? The PMP is a valuable certification to employers because employers and clients see the PMP as a good way to identify candidates with strong project skills. When you combine the experience hours requirement along with the PMP’s other requirements, the certification’s value is easy to understand.

Note: PMI has strict rules regarding experience hours for the PMP. Do yourself a favor and read through those requirements now by reviewing PMI’s Handbook.

What If You Don’t Have Enough Experience Hours?

As you prepare your PMP application, you may be disappointed to discover that you lack sufficient experience hours. Depending on your level of education, you need either 7500 or 4500 hours of project experience. Approximations and guess work are not a good fit in this case. The PMP application requests details on each and every project that you list. While this approach may feel cumbersome, it is vital to protecting the integrity of the certification.

Discover Your “Hidden” Project Experience Hours

Did you know that you might have hundreds or thousands of project experience hours that you’re not aware of? It’s true! The challenge is identifying and documenting that experience. Many applicants are overlooked some of their experience hours due to terminology differences. For example, you have worked on planning your company’s annual general meeting for two hundred and fifty hours. Your company may not have described that activity as a project, but it may qualify for the application. If you used project management processes on the annual general meeting effort, then you may be able to use such a project on your PMP application.

Use these questions to identify additional project experience for your application:

  •  Review your annual performance review: Are there any mentions of special projects, programs or events that you planned or contributed to?
  •  Review your goals for the current year: Some of your recently completed work activities over the past few months may be suitable to claim toward the experience hours requirement.
  • Volunteer activities. Have you recently organized a fundraising event or program? Or set up a website for your favorite non-profit? Those activities may be just what you need for your PMP application.
  • Think through your “extra work responsibilities.” For many professionals, project work is “something extra” that they work on above and beyond their regular responsibilities. Go through your email archives to see what projects you have contributed to over the past 12-18 months.
  • Ask colleagues to help you brainstorm. When you’re hard at work, you may sometimes miss out on some of your accomplishments. Or you may not fully understand the value of your contributions to the organization. Seeking the input and advice from your colleagues or manager is a good strategy to identify additional project experience hours.

What If I Still Don’t Have Enough PMP Experience Hours?

Once you fully investigate your professional experience hours, you may find that you fall short of the requirements to apply for the PMP certification. Don’t get frustrated! There are several strategies you can pursue to move ahead with your professional growth.

Option 1: The Twelve Month Solution (i.e. You Lack 2,000 Experience Hours)

You’ve completed your experience hours log and found that you lack about 2,000 experience hours. Take a deep breath. There’s still hope!

Assuming you want to obtain the required experience as soon as possible, you have a few options. Analyze your current work responsibilities to see what aspects of your current work can be considered as projects. If you find that 100% of your work fits into PMI’s definition of project management, congratulations! Your only challenge will be to carefully document your experience.

If little of your current job fits into the project management definition, consider adopting strategies from the rest of this article.

Option 2: The Six Month Solution (i.e. You Lack 1,000 Hours Or Less The Experience Requirement)

To earn over 1,000 hours of project work experience may take up to six months assuming you are fully dedicated to project activities. At this point, you may feel close enough that you can taste success!

In this situation, there are two strategies to keep in mind as you finish your remaining project experience hours. First, check to see if you have the proper variety of project experience. You have may plenty of experience in project execution but not much in project planning. If that’s the case, start looking for opportunities to boost your experience in the lacking areas. Second, schedule a meeting with your manager to explain your PMP goals and ask to take on additional responsibilities with an eye toward fulfilling the PMP.

What if your manager or job position has no opportunity to work on projects. You can overcome that situation in several ways. First, you can start looking for a new job! Second, you can review your current portfolio of volunteer activities to see if there is an opportunity to work on a project there. Finally, use your imagination to see if you can redesign some of your work responsibilities to fall into the project category.

Option 3: You Are Just Getting Started In The Field

What if you moved into a project role a few months ago? You probably keep hearing your colleagues talk about the PMP… But then you found out that you’re not eligible to pursue it. In that case, you have two strategies to pursue. Start off by looking into the CAPM certification. This certification is a great way to build your project management knowledge and signal your interest in the field. Second, ask your manager and other people in your company if they have suggestions for projects you can work on.

Take Action To Fulfill The PMP Experience Hours Requirement

Use these three steps to find out where you stand:

1. Read PMI’s requirements for PMP experience hours (i.e. PMI’s Handbook.)
2. Create an experience hours log in a spreadsheet to document your current experience
3. If you meet the requirements, start your PMP application! If you don’t meet the requirements, use the strategies outlined in this article to start earning more experience.