PgMP vs. PMP®

If you’re hesitant between choosing the PgMP (Program Management Professional) vs. PMP® (Project Management Professional) certificate, I understand why that may be. The Project Management Institute (PMI) indeed offers numerous certifications in the area, which can be overwhelming, especially if they’re all very popular!

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Since the PgMP and PMP® are considered to be the most common certifications, you’re probably choosing between these two particularly. While both seem very similar in general and share many aspects, some core differences can help you decide which one would suit you more and help you build a better career path for yourself. 

Without further ado, let’s discuss both certifications and show you how each of them actually caters to individuals with certain preferences.

The short answer is, while both certifications require top-notch communication skills, a project manager needs an eye for details, the ability to control, and the reliability to see the project through whatever the cost, which requires a bit of rigidity.

On the other hand, a program manager needs to be able to see the bigger picture, be capable of exercising influence and delegating tasks and be flexible enough to deal with change and focus on the advantages in the face of it.

So, it’s advisable to see the set of characteristics you have and pursue the certification that suits you based on that. You have to be very acquainted with the difference between project management and program management, in other words, and know which one you need to work on.

PgMP vs. PMP®: The Full Comparison

Now that you have an overview, let’s delve into the details of the differences between both exams and certifications so you can be sure which one would suit you better.


The Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is on top of the market’s game when it comes to acceptance and distribution. From the 700 thousand members of the PMI, more than 500 thousand have acquired it.

Though you don’t have to obtain a PMP® certificate to become a project manager, it usually earns you a pay raise. It’s an essential requirement for holding up positions in upper management. That’s why most project managers seek the certification to maximize their potential salaries and make faster advances in their careers.

On the other hand, the PgMP certificate focuses on programs defined as a group of related projects operating together to achieve a clear outcome or business case. 

Basically, one coordinates another, according to the “Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” or “PMBOK® Guide.” So, if a project is missing or ceases to function in a program, you can easily find another project failing to function as well –– they’re interconnected and considered a single entity.

If you’ve been doing a good job managing many interrelated projects, a PgMP certificate will suit you very well. This is because the certification prepares you to manage portfolios, which are project management’s highest structural level. 

In essence, you’re preparing yourself to manage  multiple projects at once, and such projects usually include change management, business transitions, and other projects affecting the organization’s performance at large.

Potential Salary

A project manager makes $66,137 per year on average in the U.S, while a program manager makes $58,804.


Both PgMP and PMP® certifications require you to sit for an exam in addition to having qualifications you need to meet first to be able to actually take it. Just like we explained earlier, PgMP includes questions targeting aspects relating to professional program managers, while PMP® is more inclined towards project managers.

The PMP® exam comprises 200 multiple-choice questions, which you take in four hours. The exam is divided into multiple fields called performance domains, which include:

  1. Initiating (13%)
  2. Planning (24%)
  3. Executing (31%)
  4. Monitoring and Controlling (25%)
  5. Closing (7%)

Throughout the exam, you’ll get tested in different areas like scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, and risk management, where you’re assessed for managing materials, change, quality, and identifying risks.

The PgMP exam, on the other hand, consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that you have to do in four hours as well. The questions cover the following topics:

  1. Strategic Program Management, 11 tasks (15%)
  2. Program Life Cycle, 35 tasks (44%)
  3. Benefits Management, 8 tasks (11%)
  4. Stakeholder management, 7 tasks (16%)
  5. Governance, 11 tasks (14$%)

Minimum Requirements

The PMI always divides the minimum requirements for its certificates into two categories of people: those who have a secondary degree as the highest education and those with a four-year degree or higher.

For the PMP® certificate, you’ll need 5 years of project management experience, 7,500 hours of project leading and directing, and 35 hours of project management education if your highest education is a secondary degree (high school diploma or global equivalent.)

On the other hand, if you have a four-year degree or higher, you can get it with 3 years of project management experience, 4,500 hours of project leading and directing, and 35 hours of project management education.

Suppose you’re planning on obtaining a PgMP certification. In that case, you’ll need 6,000 hours of experience in project management and 10,500 hours of experience in program management if your highest degree is a secondary one. 

In comparison, you’ll need 6,000 hours of experience in project management and another 6,000 in program management if you have a four-year degree or higher.


The fees to take either examination differ according to whether you’re a PMI member or not. If you are, you’ll pay $405 for the PMP® examination and $800 for the PgMP one. If you aren’t, you’ll be charged a $555 fee for the PMP® examination and $1,000 for the PgMP one.

However, for the PgMP, you may end up paying more than just the exam fee, due to other costs for possible audits and panel reviews that we’ll discuss momentarily. Accordingly, the PgMP is more than double as expensive as the PMP®.


Generally, the PgMP certifications entails a relatively longer process compared to the PMP® certification. With the PgMP, you go through a panel review before you actually sit for the exam to document the project and program experiences you led. 

In some cases, this could also be an audit where you’ll need references, like supervisors or managers, to attest to the validity and quality of your work. That’s in addition to you submitting copies of your educational diploma within 90 days of your application. 

On the other hand, PMP® is rather simple, where you’ll mainly just have to fulfill the requirements we’ve discussed in this article.

Additionally, according to reviews by certified professionals, even the difficulty level of the PgMP exam is perceived to be significantly higher than the PMP® exam, with failure rates surprisingly high and common. Approximately, around one among two or three professionals failed in their first attempt although they had passed the PMP® exam rather seamlessly.

Either way, both the PgMP and PMP® exams can be retaken 3 times during a specified period of one year. For the PgMP, this duration applies since the day you successfully pass the panel review process. 

Maintaining or Renewing Certification

If you want to keep either your PMP® certification or PgMP one valid, you’d need to complete 60 PDUs within 3 years of attaining the certification.

Do I Need a PMP® Certification to Sit for the PgMP Exam?

No. Although you may think that a PMP® certification is required to apply for the PgMP, that’s not the case. You can have one without the other. As a matter of fact, both are independent of each other, despite the fields in which they intersect and the skills needed for either.

As per PMI’s definition of “program,” you simply need to have enough program management hands-on experience to be eligible for the PgMP certificate and its exam. 

So, Should you Pick the PgMP or the PMP®?

Overall, as is evident, there’s no “this or that” when it comes to PgMP vs. PMP®. There is simply the right one for “you.” I know several people who have even taken both, and that’s perfectly fine too.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to your preference and career endeavors. It would also help you choose if you’ve already got the skills needed for one over the other. If you want to be in control of and feel the satisfaction of delivering a project on time with all the required processes, opt for the PMP® certification.

On the other hand, a PgMP certificate would suit you better if you like to coordinate timings and enjoy being the connecting gear that makes everything else run like clockwork. But whichever one you chose, rest assured that both of them genuinely make a difference and pave the way for your career growth and even personal growth too.

If you’re wanting to get PMP® certified on your first try, sign up for a free class now and learn how!

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