CAPM vs PMP, Who Wins?

Last Updated June 13th, 2021

As a project manager, you may be looking to take the next step in your career: certification. Certification is a step toward more job opportunities, higher earning potential, bigger networks, and more challenging projects. CAPM vs PMP – what is best for you after the exam change in 2021?

When it comes time to decide which certification is best for you at this time in your career, many people are unsure whether to choose the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification or the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam.

In order to make that decision, you need to know what each certification entails, what the exams are like, who qualifies for them, and what the benefits of each certification are. We’ll go over all of those points here to help you make the right decision for your future and success as a project manager.

Let’s look at CAPM vs PMP from a 30,000 foot view.

CAPM vs PMP, Who Wins?

PMP

The Project Management Institute (PMI) developed the Project Management Professional certification in 1984 and it has become the gold standard of project managers across the globe. It is recognized across multiple industries and in many countries and is a professional credential for project managers.

According to PMI, “The Project Management Professional (PMP)® is the world’s leading project management certification. Now including predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches, the PMP® proves project leadership experience and expertise in any way of working. It supercharges careers for project leaders across industries and helps organizations find the people they need to work smarter and perform better.”

In 2007, Project Management International earned ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation for the PMP certification program. This standardization gives PMP certification credibility in the more than 165 countries that have adopted and endorsed ISO standardization practices.

In order to be a certified PMP, you must have the necessary prerequisites, pass the PMP exam, and earn 60 PDUs every three years in order to maintain your status.

CAPM

In 2003, PMI developed its Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) qualification. It’s an entry-level certification for project managers. It allows those with less experience to demonstrate their familiarity with the body of knowledge, processes, and terminology of the project management profession.

According to PMI, “Regardless of your career stage, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® is an asset that will distinguish you in the job market and enhance your credibility and effectiveness working on — or with — project teams.”

This certification requires fewer prerequisites and experience than the PMP certification, and so is ideal for those who aren’t quite as advanced in the field. CAPM vs PMP exams are very different. See the graphic below.

PMP CAPM Exam comparison

The Exam

PMP

The PMP certification is acquired by taking an exam with questions based largely on the most recent version of the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge®) and the Agile Practice Guide, as well as project management knowledge based on experience.

It is considered by most to be a fairly difficult exam, and many find that taking a course to prepare for the exam is the best way to ensure passing.

The Exam:

  • 180 questions.
  • The new PMP exam has several varieties of questions – single selection, multiple selections, matching, and hot spot type of questions, which makes the exam more complex.
  • 5 of the 180 questions are sample items used for research purposes and are not counted toward the final score.
  • A 230-minute time limit in which to complete the exam.
  • Cost: $405 for members, $555 for non-members.
  • Closed book: no reference materials are allowed.
  • The exam tests knowledge and experience in both traditional and agile approaches to project management.

CAPM

The CAPM certification is acquired by taking an exam as well, but the exam is shorter and less difficult than the PMP exam. Like the PMP exam, it too has questions based on the most recent version of the PMBOK® Guide.

Courses are available to help you prepare for the CAPM exam as well.

The Exam:

  • 150 multiple-choice questions
  • A 3 hour time limit in which to complete the exam
  • Cost: $225 for members, $300 for non-members
  • Closed book: no reference materials are allowed
  • Content based on chapters 3-13 of the PMBOK® Guide.

PMI has changed the recertification requirements for CAPM recently in 2021. You can now renew the CAPM certification by acquiring 15 professional development units (PDUs). Picking CAPM vs PMP can just boil down to which one you qualify for.

PMP certification qualifications

 

Who Qualifies?

PMP

PMP certification requires a certain number of prerequisites before even taking the exam to qualify. Those prerequisites change based on your level of education, and are as follows:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • Five years (or sixty months) of project management experience
  • 35 hours of project management education

OR

  • Four-year degree
  • Three years (or thirty-six months) of project management experience
  • 35 hours of project management education

Note: If you have a CAPM certification, PMI waives the requirement of 35 contact hours of project management education. However, the remaining requirements must be met. We strongly recommend you take a training course to prepare for the latest course content.

CAPM

One of the reasons the CAPM certification is a more attainable option for some is that the prerequisites are less comprehensive than those of the PMP certification. In order to qualify to take the CAPM exam, you must have:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • 23 contact hours of formal education

The Benefits

PMP

The PMP credential can be incredibly beneficial to your career as a project manager. Project managers are in high demand across a broad range of industries, and adding PMP certification to your resume will make you stand out against other project managers.

Project managers with certification have higher earning potential than those without. They also have better job opportunities, and access to a large network of other certified project managers.

Perhaps most importantly, PMP certification enables you to be a better project manager. The process of earning it will fine tune your knowledge and skills, and make sure you have everything you need to lead a project. This means you’ll be more prepared for challenges that come your way, and have long term job security as one of the best in your field.

CAPM

While the CAPM benefits are not quite as extensive as the PMP benefits, it is still an incredibly helpful certification, and definitely worth the time and investment if you decide this is the certification for you.

First, if your ultimate goal is to take and pass the PMP exam, CAPM sets you on the right trajectory to accomplish this. It establishes your credibility with potential employers, and increases your potential for the on-the-job experience needed to qualify for the PMP exam.

Second, with PMP certification, CAPM certification only increases your knowledge and understanding of the field, making you a better project manager, whether you go on to pursue PMP certification or not.

According to PMI’s Job Growth and Talent Gap Report “Across the globe, there’s a widening gap between employers’ need for skilled project management workers and the availability of professionals to fill those roles.”

Now more than ever, pursuing credentials as a project manager is worth the time and investment, as more and more jobs need to be filled in this profession.  As you can see CAPM vs PMP offer different levels of benefits due to their requirements and exam structure.

How to prepare for PMP or CAPM

How To Prepare

PMP and CAPM

There are many study guides and ideas for preparing for the PMP or CAPM exam out there, but your best bet for feeling as prepared as possible is to take a course or boot camp. These classes are worth the investment, as you will enter the exam confident of success.

In order to prepare for the exam, you will need a copy of the latest edition of the PMBOK® Guide. The exam version of the guide will be included for you if you register for one of PMTI’s courses, as well as several other useful materials, such as study guides and practice exams.

Practice exams are an important part of exam prep, giving you a feel of your strengths and weaknesses and enabling you to hone in on the areas where you need to do more preparation.

Exam Content: CAPM [updated 2021]

The CAPM exam content will include the following topics and percentages:

  • Project Management Processes for a Project (15%)
  • Project Integration Management (12%)
  • Project Scope Management (11%)
  • Project Time Management (12%)
  • Project Cost Management (7%)
  • Project Quality Management (6%)
  • Project Human Resource Management (8%)
  • Project Communications Management (6%)
  • Project Risk Management (9%)
  • Project Procurement Management (7%)
  • Project Stakeholder Management (7%)

Exam Content: PMP [updated 2021]

Starting in 2021, the PMP exam content is divided into three domains, with multiple tasks under each domain. Those three domains are:

  • People (42%)
  • Process (50%)
  • Business Environment (8%)

The People domain requires mastery of skills to manage project teams in modern work environments including virtual teams.

The Process domain tests knowledge and experience in technically managing the project using the project management processes.

The Business Environment domain emphasizes the relation between projects and strategy leading to successful execution.

Due to the vast disparity between CAPM vs PMP exam content and outline, the preparation is extremely different. On a side note, as a PMI Authorized Training Partner, PMTI is approved as an official trainer by PMI for both CAPM vs PMP certification.

Conclusion

As you can see, both PMP certification and CAPM certification are valuable assets for project managers to pursue and attain to further their careers and increase their knowledge of project management.

If you have the level of experience and education necessary for PMP certification, a course will help you prepare for the exam and successfully complete it. This will put you in a position to receive all the benefits that come along with this credential.

If you do not yet have this level of experience and education, CAPM certification is a great option that will begin to open doors to greater success as a project manager. You can prepare for this exam with the help of one of our online courses as well. Hopefully, this article helped you to decide between CAPM vs PMP for your career growth.

Visit 4PMTI.com for more on how you can prepare to be a certified Project Management Professional or Certified Associate in Project Management. You’ll also find preparation courses for other project management certification, as well as PDU courses necessary for maintaining your PMP certification.

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