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Identifying How Many Hours of Military Experience You Can Claim on the PMP Application

Updated: May 11, 2020

Figuring out how many hours of experience you can document for the Project Management Professional (PMP) application seems like a daunting task to many Military Veterans, but it's fairly easy, if you follow what I'm about to tell you.


Understanding Performance Domains: First, you need to know that your hours must be documented individually for each project AND then also individually for each of the 5 Performance Domains:

  1. Initiating - Getting the project started

  2. Planning - Determining how to execute the project

  3. Executing - Carrying out the project plan

  4. Monitoring & Controlling - Comparing the plan to actual results and adjusting where needed to stay on track

  5. Closing - Completing the project


You must indicate to PMI that you have accumulated experience leading and directing project work in each of the 5 Performance Domains; but, not necessarily on each project.  For example, if you took over a halfway completed project from someone else, you probably would not be able to document any Initiating hours for that project, and that's understandable.  Or you may have left a project prior to its completion; and, therefore, would not be able to document any Closing hours for that project.  Both scenarios are fine to document on the PMP application; but, after you have documented all your projects, your cumulative experience hours must include at least 1 hour of work in all 5 Performance Domains over the last 8 years.  If you can't show that you have at least some experience in each domain, PMI will reject your application


Do This: To help orient you on what hours you can claim in each Performance Domain, I recommend that you first download a free copy of the PMP Examination Content Outline (PMPECO).  The PMPECO is available at this link: http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/project-management-professional-exam-outline.pdf


I'll refer to the PMPECO as I discuss further.


Look at page 3 of the PMPECO, and you will see a table there indicating the percentage of questions that appear on the PMP Exam from each Performance Domain.  I recommend that you keep your cumulative project experience hours as close to these percentages as possible, which puts you right in the center of the reasonable man theory when PMI looks at your application.  The percentages in the PMPECO table are no coincidence; they are a general reflection of how much time project managers around the world are spending leading project work in each Performance Domain.  PMI routinely surveys its members, and the data gathered is used to support the formulation of their standards and certification exams.  If your application shows similar time in each of the 5 Performance Domains, PMI should view that as reasonable.  If, however, your documented hours are lopsided from what PMI considers reasonable, it may be a flag for an audit.

The table below shows the approximate percentage of hours you should document in each Performance Domain across your cumulative project management experience hours.  Your hours don't need to exactly match these percentages; this is just a guide to keep you on track with appearing reasonable in your experience claims.


Separating project experience hours by Performance Domain: Now that you know your hours must be documented for each project by Performance Domains, let's talk about exactly how to do that.  The steps listed below will get you started, and then I'll present a practical example of how this should work.


Hint: Print the PMPECO so you can highlight the Tasks you performed, plus the Knowledge and Skills that you used in each domain for each of your projects.  Use a different color highlighter for each project to keep track of the uniqueness of your different projects.  Alternately, do your highlighting on the computer and save the file.  The highlighted tasks will be used in the next section as the foundation of your narrative description for each project.


Follow the steps below for each project:

  1. Go to page 5 of the PMPECO and read the 8 Tasks and 5 Knowledge and Skills that are listed for the Initiating domain. Thinking about your experience, highlight the Initiating Tasks, Knowledge and Skills that most closely align with what you did to lead and direct the project work.

  2. Go to page 6 of the PMPECO and read the 13 Tasks and 17 Knowledge and Skills that are listed for the Planning domain. Thinking about your experience, highlight the Planning Tasks, Knowledge and Skills that most closely align with what you did to lead and direct the project work.

  3. Go to page 8 of the PMPECO and read the 7 Tasks and 7 Knowledge and Skills that are listed for the Executing domain. Thinking about your experience, highlight the Executing Tasks, Knowledge and Skills that most closely align with what you did to lead and direct the project work.

  4. Go to page 9 of the PMPECO and read the 7 Tasks and 10 Knowledge and Skills that are listed for the Monitoring & Controlling domain. Thinking about your experience, highlight the Monitoring & Controlling Tasks, Knowledge and Skills that most closely align with what you did to lead and direct the project work.

  5. Go to page 10 of the PMPECO and read the 7 Tasks and 8 Knowledge and Skills that are listed for the Closing domain. Thinking about your experience, highlight the Closing Tasks, Knowledge and Skills that most closely align with what you did to lead and direct the project work.

  6. Now, simply estimate how much time you spent performing each Task or using each Knowledge and Skill which you highlighted for each Performance Domain. Just make an educated guess using the reasonable man theory, and make sure you can support it, if called to do so in a PMI audit.


You should also go to page 11 of the PMPECO and read the 39 Cross-Cutting Knowledge and Skills that are listed for all domains and include the ones that match into your assessment of experience.


The Tasks in the PMPECO are somewhat wordy and official sounding, but don't be thrown off by them.  In the military, you have definitely performed much of what your read in the PMPECO; and, you should be liberal in your interpretation of how your project work aligns with the Tasks, Knowledge and Skills rather than selling yourself short.  The practical example I'll present later should help you realize and understand my point here.


Repeat the 6 steps for each project that you plan to document on the application; and, you will have the number of experience hours broken down by Performance Domain, for all your projects.

Then, simply add up all of the hours from all your projects to arrive at your total project management experience hours.  If you meet the months and hours requirement at this point, then CONGRATULATIONS, you're done!  If you still fall short of the month or hour requirement, simply think of more projects to document.  If you can't meet the requirement, regardless of how hard you try, then you just need to get some more project experience before you can qualify for the PMP Exam.


If you don't meet the requirements for the PMP, I recommend you pursue the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM©[i]).  The CAPM has no mandatory experience requirement, and you can qualify for it by simply completing 23 hours of project management education.  It's a great starting point for anyone who can't currently meet the PMP requirements, but wants to break into the field of project management.


Now, for that practical example of estimating project management experience hours.  First, read the scenario below of a typical military project; and, then we'll break it down into the Performance Domain Tasks and estimate hours for each.