If you are asking the question, “can I get a PMP without experience?” I would guess you have heard through the grapevine there is an expectation of professional project management experience needed for the exam.
In short, the answer to this question is no, you cannot sit for the PMP certification without experience.
Don’t let this answer discourage you. Instead let’s spend a little time understanding why the Project Management Institute (PMI) has this requirement and what it means for you.
Why is Project Management Experience Needed?
To become a Project Management Professional (PMP) you need to exhibit your understanding of both project management methodology as well as practical work experience.
PMI – the governing body of the exam – wants to ensure that a certified PMP is able to translate what it says in books to what it means in real life practice. This allows PMI, and those employers who respect the organization, to be confident in the skills of candidates who hold a PMP.
Think about it this way: you wouldn’t want a doctor who only passed a paper test to be allowed to operate on you! You would want a doctor who has logged many, many hours of practice on patients under supervision and successfully passed the paper test. We can rest easier knowing that our doctor has knowledge of best practices and how to use those in real life situations.
Ultimately, PMI requires that you have anywhere from 2 to 3 ½ years of real life experience, depending on your educational background. I recommend reviewing my post, What are the PMP Prerequisites? to gain a full understanding of what you need for the exam.
What Does it Mean for You:
If you do not meet the years of experience outlined above, don’t worry; there is a good alternative option for you. PMI has created a first step certification for those who are ready to progress in their project management career. With under a year of experience you could sit for the Certified Associate in Project Management(CAPM).
The CAPM certification shows employers you are invested in the field of project management, which can allow you more time to manage projects. With this additional experience you will soon be ready for the PMP exam.
While it may be disappointing to learn that you need experience to complete your PMP certification, just think back to our doctor analogy. You now know that once you are eligible for the PMP, and successfully complete it, you will have all the skills necessary to be an exceptional project manager!
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