About Project Management and the Project Management Institute (PMI)®
Project management is becoming an increasingly attractive field for all professionals, especially the emerging professionals who want to learn and experience various areas of business organizations through working on projects. As a vehicle for change, renewal, and innovation, projects can be challenging, often requiring hard work, but ultimately rewarding. One of the ways to differentiate yourself from the crowded field of job applications is obtaining a certification from the PMI.
Why Consider the Certified Associates in Project Management (CAPM)® Credential
PMI offers many certifications, but for entry-level professionals the most appropriate one is the CAPM. There are two primary reasons why this is highly attractive, aside from the differentiation mentioned above:
- The requirement for CAPM is light – essentially just educational requirements of 23 hours and a high school degree. Prior project management experience is NOT required.
- The exam is knowledge based, making it much easier to ace than the PMP exam which is more scenario and experience based.
In 2020, PMI also sweetened the certification by 1) making it renewable (versus before in which you have to retake the exam), and 2) the CAPM can replace the education requirement for those who goes on to pursue the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential.
How to Obtain the CAPM Credential
There are two steps to pursue this certification:
- Complete an application, which requires the applicant to indicate their project management education of at least 23 hours
- Pass the CAPM examination, which is composed of 150 multiple choice questions and the test takers have 3 hours to complete it.
Note that PMI audits a small percentage of applications. Here the applications need to demonstrate how they earned the educational hours. For most people, the easiest and best way is to take a CAPM Review Course or a Fundamental Project Management course with an authorized training company. PMI has a program called Authorized Training Partner (ATP), and ATPs course are readily accepted by PMI. For students that have taken courses in project management, submitting a transcript can also validate the educational requirement.
For students, PMI accepts most college-level project management courses. For example, I teach at the Montclair State University (MSU) and China European International Business School (CEIBS). At MSU, the undergraduate course, MGMT436, is 3.0 credit course which has over 35 hours of instructions. Thus, this course easily fulfills the CAPM requirement; in fact, it also fulfills the 35 hours of educational hours for the PMP. The graduate course at MSU is MGMT565, and that course is about 24 hours of instruction, also fulfilling the CAPM requirement. At CEIBS, the course is OPER021, and this course contains about 28 hours of instruction, also fulfilling the CAPM requirement.
How to Prepare for the CAPM Credential
As a knowledge-based exam, CAPM is not a difficult exam if one prepares for the test properly. Here is a summary of my recommendations:
- Develop an exam preparation strategy. My recommendation is to keep it to a limited but realistic duration, say 120 days, and maintain a study habit of 1-2 hours per day and every day. In my experience, CAPM preparation requires about 100-200 hours of study.
- Select at least two good and authoritative books on project management, and one of them should be the PMBOK® Guide. The current best version to read is the 6.0 edition (even though 7th edition is also available) as the current exam is still based on the 6th PMI typically announce significant changes, such as moving toward the 7th edition months in advance. For the second book, there are many choices, but here I am going to be a bit self-serving and recommend Optimizing Project Management (Taylor & Francis) as it is written by me. Both books are widely available.
- Please note that if you are a member of PMI, which I recommend if you are serious about project management, you can download the PMBOK® Guide for free.
- Find yourself a reputable exam simulator. After you understand the core concepts, processes, knowledge domains, tools, and techniques, there is almost no better way to prepare than using a large exam simulator. There are three reasons why:
- Good CAPM Exam Simulators help solidify the key concepts and knowledge of project management.
- Repeat use of exam simulators enable you to read faster. Time is a particular issue on PMI exam. With 150 questions in 180 minutes, that’s only 72 seconds per question. The average reading speed for technical writing is about 80-100 words per minute. I am estimating that the average number of words per question plus the four multiple choices is around 80-100 words, then you only have 12 seconds per question to analyze, reflect, and determine the answer.
- An exam simulator allows you to track your progress. This is especially important from a motivation perspective as you see your score improves (hopefully).
- For people who are self-studying, consider getting a good examination preparation guide. Amazon has a number of solid books. For a cheaper route, consider going on Groupon and search for a budget project management course. Many of them are PMP courses, which is a viable option for those who are preparing for the CAPM. I have seen a number of sub $20 options on Groupon.
- By the way, I believe PMP courses are a good alternative for those preparing the CAPM. PMP is clearly more difficult, but they tend to be livelier. So not only do students learn about the core concepts and tools of project management, students also get to learn various experiences.
- For those who want to prepare quickly, and budget is not a huge issue, then I highly recommend students to consider taking a CAPM or PMP Exam Preparation Course. There are literally thousands of companies out there. My strong recommendation is to consider training provided by PMI’s Authorized Training Partner as they follow PMI’s rigorous criterial to provide high quality training.
Dr. Te Wu (PMP, PgMP, PfMP, PMI-RMP)
Prof. Dr. Te Wu is the CEO of PMO Advisory and a professor at China Europe International Business School and Montclair State University. Te is certified in Portfolio, Program, Project, and Risk Management. He is an active volunteer including serving on PMI’s Portfolio Management and Risk Management Core Teams and other roles. He is also a U.S. delegate on the ISO Technical Committee 258 for Project, Program and Portfolio Management. As a practitioner, executive, teacher, writer, and speaker, Dr. Wu enjoys sharing his knowledge and experiences and networking with other professionals.
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