Understanding the PMP® Experience Requirements

Updated: May 11

I am certain that almost every military Veteran has some amount of project management experience that can be legitimately documented on the PMP application.  But, the amount of that experience will vary depending on a host of factors such as your time in service, positions held, rank, and occupational specialty.  There are minimum requirements you must meet to qualify for the PMP Exam, so you need to first understand what those requirements are and which Category applies to you.

The requirements for the PMP exam are detailed by PMI in the PMP Certification Handbook on pages 6 and 8[i]. You can view and download a free copy of the handbook at this link: http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/project-management-professional-handbook.pdf

Table 1 below is a summary of the PMP experience qualification requirements.


Category: The category that applies to you is solely based on your education level attained prior to submitting your application.  If you have a bachelor’s degree or higher, in any discipline, you fall into Category 1.  Sorry, no bonus points for a graduate degree here.  If you have anything less than a completed bachelor’s degree, you fall into Category 2.  Once you know you’re category, the rules are all the same for both, only you need to document more experience if you are in Category 2.

PM training: Candidates in both categories need to obtain 35 hours of project management-related training.  This can be met in many ways, with the most typical being completion of a PMP Boot Camp, or preparation course.  If you decide to take a PMP Boot Camp, which I highly recommend, make sure the training provider certifies that their training will meet the PMI requirement.  Another popular way of meeting the 35 hour training requirement is to apply college courses to it.  I used this method on my application and was able to meet the 35 hours with courses I had taken as part of my MBA degree, since business administration training contains many similar concepts and skills as project management.  It doesn’t matter when you completed the training; it never expires, so think back 20 years if you need to.

PM experience: Candidates need to meet enough experience hours of “leading and directing the project”[ii], per which category you are in.  Notice in Table 1 that there are actually two requirements: Hours and Months.  And all of your documented experience must have occurred within the last 8 years backdated from the date of your application submission.  I’ll cover in later sections how to correctly quantify your experience into the required number of hours and months.  Right now, I just want you to understand the requirement.

The best way to convey a good understanding of the experience requirement is through a visual illustration example.

Image 1

Image 1 illustrates 5 projects worked on over the last 8 years and the cumulative number of months and hours that could be claimed.  It identifies how many months and separately how many hours were worked on each project.  Refer to Image 1 as you read the below points.

Overlapping projects: Notice that some of the projects overlapped, meaning that they were managed at the same time.  That’s typical in military and civilian project management and perfectly acceptable to PMI.  But, you cannot count a month twice, which is why the cumulative number of months for projects B, C, and D equals 36 rather than 60.  However, it is perfectly fine to count all the hours worked on overlapping projects, so the total hours for B, C, and D can correctly be reported as 2,800.

Projects older than 8 years: One of the projects, A, was started more than 8 years ago.  Because part of the project is beyond the 8 year window, the months and hours spent managing it cannot be counted in full, and must be prorated down to the amount that fits inside the 8 year window.

Non-consecutive projects: There are gaps between some of the projects.  For example, there is an entire year between projects A and B when no projects were managed.  This is perfectly acceptable to PMI, because they are looking for cumulative experience, not consecutive, unbroken experience.

Cumulative result: The cumulative result in this example is 58 months and 4,500 hours of project management experience.  If the candidate had a bachelor’s degree or higher, they would meet the experience requirement.  If the candidate had anything less than a bachelor’s degree, they would fall short of the experience requirement by 2 months and 3,000 hours.  Keep in mind that your experience documentation must meet both the month and hour requirement.

Frequently asked questions about the experience requirement:

Q: If I have more than the required experience, should I document it all or stop once I meet the requirement?

A: The online PMP application at http://www.pmi.org will not allow you to enter any more experience once you have met the requirement.

Q: How many hours per day can I document for experience?

  1. Some sources will tell you to stick to an 8-hour work day when documenting your experience, but I don’t support that. PMI does not have a documented rule stating how many hours per day is acceptable to count. My recommendation is to simply be realistic and honest.  If you worked 10-12 hour days on deployment, then you can use that…if, in fact, all those hours were spent managing a project.  However, be advised that documenting sustained long daily hours may be a flag for an audit. Whatever you document, just make sure you can back it up, if you are selected for an audit.

Q: How does PMI verify that my experience submission is legitimate?

A: Actually, they don’t verify every application.  They take most people at their word, if the experience submission meets the reasonable man theory.  Some applications do get selected for audit; and, although PMI doesn’t publish the numbers, most PMP trainers, like myself, will tell you they see 20-25% of their students’ applications being audited.  If PMI does audit you, they will ask you to support what you claimed.  That support could be in the form of an affidavit signed by someone who testifies you actually did what you documented; or, it could be in the form of project documentation that you are able to submit to PMI.  Bottom line – be honest on your application, and you don’t have much to worry about.

Q: How do I determine how many hours I spent managing projects over the last 8 years?

A: PMI understands you probably don’t have a timesheet from all your project work.  So, use the reasonable man theory and make an educated guess.  PMI knows you’re doing that, and they realize it’s the best they can expect.  In a later section, I’ll discuss in more detail how to analyze the number of hours you spent working on each project.

Q: Can I document projects I am currently working on that are not yet completed?

A: Yes, you just won’t document anything about closing the project.

[i] The Project Management Institute, PMP Certification Handbook, Newtown Square, PA, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/project-management-professional-handbook.pdf

[ii] The Project Management Institute, PMP Certification Handbook, pp. 6. Newtown Square, PA, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/project-management-professional-handbook.pdf

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