The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) Certification Exam is introduced by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2003 as an entry level certification for project management practitioners and students. The CAPM Exam syllabus is largely based on the project management publication by PMI – A Guide of Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), currently in the 5th edition (published in January 2013).
The minimal requirements for a candidate to be eligible for the CAPM Exam are:
A secondary diploma (high school or the global equivalent)
At least 1,500 hours experience OR
23 hours of project management education
The CAPM exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions to be answered in 3 hours. Candidates are required to pick a correct answer from among 4 choices for each question. The CAPM exam is generally considered to be much less difficult than the PMP exam. Candidates will be able to pass the CAPM exam by studying the PMBOK Guide only.
By taking and passing the CAPM Certification exam, holders will be able to demonstration their dedication in the field of project management. They will also be able to “pre-study” for the PMP exam as the PMP exam is also partly based on the PMBOK Guide.
The CAPM exam costs $225 / $300 for PMI members / non-PMI members. The CAPM Certification credential is valid for only 5 years and the only way to renew the CAPM credential is to take the CAPM exam again. There is no PDU requirements for CAPM holders.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Exam is also administrated by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 1984. The PMP credential is a very popular for project managers and practitioners in the US (where PMP originates) and the Asia. The PMP Exam syllabus is based on the PMBOK Guide 5th edition together with a list of project management skills and knowledge as outlined in the PMP Examination Content Outline.
The minimal requirements for a candidate to be eligible for the PMP Exam are:
For secondary degree holders:
Minimum five years/60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience during which at least 7,500 hours were spent leading and directing the project
35 contact hours of formal education
For four year degree holders or above:
Minimum three years/36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience during which at least 4,500 hours were spent leading and directing the project
35 contact hours of formal education
This exam is generally considered as a difficult exam. It consists of 200 multiple choice questions to be answered in 4 hours. Candidates are required to pick a correct answer from among 4 choices for each question. Candidates will need to answer the questions based on the knowledge gained by studying the PMBOK Guide as well as their professional experience.
PMP Certification holders can demonstrate competence in leading and directing project teams to successfully carry out projects. Many jobs in the field of project management require the candidate to be PMP Certification holders.
Comparison between CAPM and PM
The table below provides a brief comparison between PMP and CAPM:
The CAPM Certification Exam is based on the knowledge of the PMBOK Guide. Candidates will be able to pass the exam if they have studied the PMBOK Guide well by learning all the fundamental knowledge, terminology and processes of effective project management as outlined in the PMBOK Guide.
However, the PMP Certification Exam experience based. In addition to the knowledge contained in the PMBOK Guide, PMP candidates will need to apply what they have learned in their working experience as project managers to ask the exam questions correctly. Many on the exam questions on the PMP exam are situational. This means that the questions will ask the exam candidates what are the best courses of actions to do next when they encounter a certain situation.
PMI deliberately tries to distinguish between the two certifications – the CAPM Certification exam for project management students or project management practitioners will little experience while the PMP Certification exam is a professional examination aiming to act as a proof for the knowledge, skills as well as the experience for seasoned project managers (though PMI does not require the exam candidates to carry the project manager title in their daily work).
Which to get: CAPM or PMP?
Since the PMP is a higher level and more prestige certification for project management practitioners, if one could meet the minimum requirements for the project management job experience as well as the project management education, it is generally highly advisable to take the PMP Certification Exam instead of the CAPM Certification Exam.
But if you lack the experience to be eligible for the CAPM exam and / or confidence to pass the PMP exam in first try and would like to earn some PMI exam experience, the CAPM Certification Exam is a good choice.
Better still, the exam prep materials and resources for both can be the same. That means, the exam prep courses you purchased can usually be used for both Certification exams!
If I am yet to qualify for the PMP Exam, is CAPM worthwhile to try?
Sure, by preparing and taking the CAPM Certification Exam, Aspirants will have an edge to passing the PMP Certification Exam by:
having already read and understood the PMBOK Guide
having the experience of taking PMI Exams (which is very useful for psychological preparation for the PMP Exam) — be familiar with the exam format and requirements
having tried various CAPM and PMP Exam prep resources
having gathered enough Contact Hours for PMP Application