PMP / PMBOK Guide FAQ 7 – CAPM or PMP Certification?

pmp / pmbok guide faq 1

It is generally agreed that PMP® Certification is one of the ultimate goals for project management practitioners. However, if one has not accumulated the required experience, some may consider the CAPM® (Certified Associate in Project Management) which is also offered by the PMI. Is getting CAPM® certified a sensible choice? This article will further explore the pros and cons.

Getting CAPM® before PMP®?

The other day I received this email from a website visitor. She would like to pursue the PMP® Certification but in view of not meeting the project management experience requirements at the moment, she was considering whether to take the CAPM® exam and get certified.

Hi Edward,

I came across your website while researching the PMP® online. I am considering taking the CAPM® and then once I have a bit more experience the PMP®. I wonder if you would be able to answer some questions or refer me to someone who is able to answer questions? I am based in Hong Kong.

As I have not taken the CAPM® exam, I was not able to provide advice on the CAPM® Certification. But during my research about PMP® Certification, I got to know the differences between CAPM® and PMP® and considered it not absolutely necessary to get CAPM® before PMP®. Below is my reply:

Thanks for your email. Sorry that as I have not attempted the CAPM® exam, I could not give you any advice. But if your aim is the PMP®, I would skip the CAPM® as it is not quite a sought-after qualification anyway. Thanks!

CAPM® as a Stepping Stone to PMP® Certification?

The reader further explained her rationale for considering the CAPM® Certification in the follow-up email:

Thanks so much for taking the time to write, like most Hong Kongers you probably have an extremely busy schedule, so I appreciate your effort. I asked about the CAPM® exam because I got the impression that it was a component of the PMP®, and suitable for less experienced project managers, such as myself. I thought that completing the CAPM® would ‘qualify’ me for bigger projects, that in turn would equip me with the experience and hours necessary to eventually take the PMP® (ultimate goal). Would you be able to give any comments on these assumptions?

I get the impression PMP® is definitely for the more experienced project manager, I’m looking for a stepping stone.

While I do agree that passing the CAPM® exam can assist getting PMP® certified in the long run, it is still not necessary nor cost effective to gain the CAPM® certification. My reply is included below:

Thanks for your email.

In short, CAPM® exam tests your understanding and memory of the PMBOK® Guide (which is the official guide on project management published by PMI) while the PMP® tests your ability to apply project management best practices in real-life situation. PMP® is a lot more than memorizing the PMBOK® Guide. That’s why PMP® is the go-to certification.

In theory, getting CAPM® will show your eagerness to advance in the field of project management. But that would depend on whether your employer recognize this qualification. If your employer is a PMP® and your organization practices the principals outlined in the PMBOK® Guide, then you will be able to communicate with them using the PMBOK® Guide terms if you are CAPM® certified. However, real world companies seldom adopt the PMBOK® Guide framework in full. Maybe you should talk to your employer first about that.

One additional thing to note is that CAPM® will expire in 5 years and you need to re-take the exam.

If you will be able to accumulate the required working experience in two years’ time, then I highly advise you to begin preparing for the PMP® right now (I suppose the PMBOK® Guide will not be updated in two years’ time as it was updated in August 2013). You will be able to learn the PMBOK® Guide concepts as well as demonstrate to your employer that you are serious about a career in project management.

The only online PMP® exam prep course that would not expire is the PM PrepCast™ (which I also made use for my PMP® certification). I hope I have answered some of your queries. Thanks!

I sincerely hope that the reader will be able to make the optimal choice for her based on her own situation. Whether to take the CAPM® exam really depends on whether it is useful for understanding project management concepts and terms and/or career.

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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