Joseph Phillips

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is slated to change in December 2019, but what are the new changes and how can you prepare for it? The PMP certification is a credential issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a 50-year-old industry association for professionals in project and program management. The PMP is considered the preeminent certification for project managers and is based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, a book widely accepted as the gold standard for project management practices. 

As industries across technology, manufacturing, finance, construction, and more brace for digital transformation, project managers are an indispensable part of the team responsible for the execution and success of business initiatives. Project managers (PMs) work with stakeholders to define a project’s scope, weigh business risks, and establish a process to get deliverables completed and approved within a set timeframe and budget. PM roles are expected to grow to over 6 million jobs by 2020 in the US alone. 

Why does the PMP matter?

For employers and managers, encouraging your project managers to get PMP certified lowers your organizational risk. A project led by a manager who hasn’t had the opportunity to learn strong project management skills may lead to wasted time, lost money, and frustration across the wider team due to unclear expectations. Employers can mitigate these risks by investing in training and actively encouraging reports to complete these educational opportunities and stay current on certifications. The PMP is known as one of the most valuable IT certifications available. 

For individual contributors, securing an industry-recognized certification such as the PMP can create career opportunities even within your current job. Taking on new challenges like pursuing a related certification shows your manager a drive to excel in your role and cultivate new skills. For future project management roles, recruiters often use certification keywords as an initial screening tool to easily qualify candidates. According to a PMI survey, project managers PMP-certified received a 20% higher salary than their non-certified colleagues in similar roles.

PMP Certification requirements

Unlike other project management certifications, such as the CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management), which are open to entry-level professionals and students, the PMP is intended for experienced project managers. In fact, many of my students are at the MBA level. The test is rigorous as is qualifying to sit for the exam itself. 

The prerequisites for the PMP Certification Exam are for those with a four-year university degree: 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education. For those with a secondary degree like a high school diploma or associate’s degree, it’s 7,500 hours leading and directing projects or 35 hours of project management education. 

Passing the exam

Because the PMP Certification is intended for professionals with demonstrated years of experience in the field, the exam itself is fairly challenging. According to, two out of every five exam takers fail the test on their first try. 

Why is this exam so difficult? Unlike traditional exams, the questions on the PMP exam are situational, not multiple choice or direct fill-in-the-blank questions. The exam asks for the best answer even though many answers may be technically correct. 

My PMP course on Udemy teaches to the exam content. Each section has a mini 20-question exam, totaling about 240 practice questions in total, not counting the final exam of 200 questions at the end of the course. In addition to watching the 35 hours of the course as required for the certification, the course offers interactive opportunities to ensure the concepts are reinforced as you study. 

New PMP exam knowledge domains: People, process, and business 

Currently, the PMP exam tests on five knowledge domains. June 30, 2020 will be the last day to take the current exam, as it will shift to three domains: people, process, and business environment. This restructure is intended to align with the Talent Triangle, which PMI notes as Leadership (People), Technical Project Management (Process), and Strategic and Business Management (Business Environment). 

The new exam will focus half of its questions on predictive project management approaches and the other half on agile or hybrid approaches. The underlying study materials won’t be too different than what’s been included in the past. Look for my course updates coinciding with this change in the first half of 2020. If your goal is to pass the exam within the next nine months, I recommend sticking to your current path and taking the exam available now since it may take months to schedule your exam appointment. 

But to get ready for the new PMP course, these are some of the new skills to focus on: 

Maintaining your PMP Certification

Once you’ve passed the exam, the PMP Certification is valid for three years. To renew the credential, PMI requires completion of 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs). Each PDU is one hour spent towards continuing your learning, teaching others, or volunteering within the project management field. 

As I often say to students and colleagues in the industry, a good project manager makes it look easy. However, project management is complex. Getting to the point in a PM career where one can make the balance of dozens of spinning project plates look simple requires extensive training and a commitment to continuous education. If you’ve already been working in project management and are ready to grow in your career, take the next step to attain the PMP Certification with my PMP Exam Cram Session course.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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