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PMI ACP vs. PMP: Which Is More Suitable for You?

As a project manager, you may find it hard to choose whether you should pursue certification in PMI ACP or PMP, considering that both certifications are related to project management. Not to mention, they’re offered by the same certification body.

In this article, we developed a full comparison between the two certifications to help you decide which path you should take and how to make the decision altogether.

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PMI ACP vs. PMP: The Full Comparison

While PMP focuses on the big picture when it comes to project management best practices, PMI ACP places a high emphasis on agile methodologies, which are becoming increasingly popular due to their flexibility in tackling unpredictable situations.

If you want to specialize in agile practices, going for PMI ACP certification would be the right choice. Otherwise, if you want to acquire a more generic project management background, go for PMP. That’s your short answer!

A PMP should be aware of the best project management techniques since their main objective is to lead and complete a project using the right methodology. Additionally, they’re involved in almost all areas of the project, which is why they should have the ability to manage people, money, resources, and time effectively.

On the flip side, a PMI ACP has more specialized tasks that require extensive agile knowledge. Their main role is to provide solutions and adapt to any sudden changes in needs and preferences using lean management throughout the project.

Now that you have your answer, keep reading to find more about each certification’s ins and outs!

PMP

PMP (Project Management Professional) is a certification awarded to professionals with proven practical experience in project management.

Project managers pursue PMP certification to validate their project management proficiency and showcase their skills to potential employers. The certification is based on ten knowledge areas, which include:

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Schedule Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

PMI ACP

PMI ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) is a certification that emphasizes agile methodologies in project management. These methodologies were first used in software development, but they later expanded to other fields due to their effectiveness.

The PMI ACP certification is based on five knowledge areas, including:

  • Active Listening
  • Agile Communication Management
  • Agile Problem Solving Strategies, Tools, and Techniques
  • Agile Manifesto and Principles
  • Feedback Techniques for Products

Certification Body

Both the ACP and PMP are awarded by the same certification body, the Project Management Institute (PMI). 

The institute is based in Pennsylvania, United States, and it’s globally considered the most prestigious project management certification body. Accordingly, being certified by this institute enables you to work in virtually any state or country.

Prerequisites

PMP’s prerequisites heavily imply that this is a certification aimed at working professionals with long years of experience.

To be eligible for the PMP exam, you must have spent at least 4,500 hours leading projects if you obtained a four-year degree. If not, that number goes up to 7,500 hours. Additionally, you need 35 hours of project management education in either case.

On the other hand, the prerequisites for PMI ACP certification are a bit more complicated. They’re as follows:

  • Secondary degree
  • 21 contact hours of agile practices training
  • 12 months of general project experience within the last 5 years (not required for PMP or PgMP holders)
  • 8 months of agile project experience in the last 3 years

Demand

The PMP certification is quite reputable and popular, which means that the demand for PMPs is pretty high. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the demand is tied to geographical regions. In regions like North America and Asia, the demand for PMPs is skyrocketing, which means that you can find more job opportunities in these particular regions.

On the other hand, the PMI ACP certification is less known, but it’s gaining increasing popularity due to the lack of project managers aware of agile practices. It’s particularly popular in Canada and several U.S states, and has also gained interest in several Gulf countries, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mean Salary

The salary prospects for PMPs are quite promising, especially in countries with a high demand for PMPs. The average annual salary for a PMP in the United States is around $106,000. 

Surprisingly, the mean salary for PMI ACPs in the United States has surpassed that of PMP, averaging $108,000 annually. This is probably because of the increasing demand for PMI ACPs and the shortage of professionals who have this certification.

Nevertheless, both certifications can potentially help you earn a very good salary. 

Advantages

There are several advantages for becoming a certified PMP, including:

  • Validation of your project management skills. Employers respect the PMP certification as it’s considered concrete proof of the candidate’s knowledge of project management methodologies and practices.
  • Advancing your career and acquiring better job opportunities. PMPs have a higher chance of being selected as project leaders than non-PMPs. You can also find better jobs as a PMP and earn higher salaries.
  • A chance to improve your English language skills. Studying for the PMP exam can be a great opportunity to improve your English, increasing your chances of getting better jobs.

Acquiring the PMI ACP certification also has lots of upsides, which are:

  • Learning agile practices and methods. Pursuing PMI ACP certification allows you to develop a deep understanding of agile practices and how to apply them to improve team performance and build resilience.
  • Broad knowledge areas. Being a certified PMI ACP gives you the chance to learn several agile methodologies, including Scrum, Kanban, Crystal, and many more.
  • Better job opportunities. Becoming a certified PMI ACP allows for better career growth and opens doors for you. Whether you’re seeking a new job or want to be recognized in your current job, the PMI ACP certification can help.
  • Giving you an edge over PMPs that aren’t PMI ACP certified. A candidate with PMP and PMI ACP certifications has a better chance of getting selected as a project manager than one who only has PMP certification because agile practices are more valued in today’s market.

Exam

Here’s a detailed comparison between the PMI ACP and PMP exams, keeping in mind that the test rules and fees may change from time to time.

ExamFees (Per Attempt)Passing ScoreTime LimitQuestionsFormatLanguageDifficultyPractice Assessment
PMP$555, $405 for PMI membersVariable240 mins200Multiple ChoiceEnglish onlyHardYes, third party
PMI ACP$495, $435 for PMI membersAround 70% (estimate)180 mins120Multiple ChoiceEnglish, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and PortugueseIntermediate Yes, third party

According to professionals who undertook either the PMP or ACP exam, it was found that the PMP exam is somewhat harder than ACP. 

However, the ACP exam requires a broader range of awareness of its knowledge areas, considering that it covers a huge percent of the training materials.

Which One Should You Take First?

It’s common to consider getting certified as a PMP first since it gives you a more diverse understanding of the project management methodologies and how you can apply them depending on the nature of the project and its related industry.

After acquiring the PMP certification, you may consider becoming a PMI ACP if you’re interested in agile practices and methodologies. 

However, if most of the projects you work on are in software development, then going for the PMI ACP certification first would be the better choice. Agile practices have shown great success in software development, making them essential in this field.

Maintaining or Renewing Certification 

Certification renewal is a good chance to motivate yourself to learn and develop your project management or agile skills continuously.

The PMP certification renewal is required every three years. To renew your certification, you need to acquire 60 PDUs ( Professional Development Units) every 3-year cycle and pay the required $60 fee for PMI members or $150 for non-PMI members.

As for the ACP certification, you need to earn 30 PDUs in Agile topics every 3-year cycle and pay a fee of $60 for PMI members or $150 for non-PMI members.

Final Thoughts

To sum it all up, both the PMI ACP and PMP certifications can be a great addition to your resume. It all depends on your interests and what you think will be more beneficial to your job’s requirements. 

PMP is the more popular certification due to its high status and wide recognition. It can be applied to projects in virtually all industrial sectors, unlike ACP, which may not apply to all types of projects.

This doesn’t mean that having deep knowledge of agile practices is irrelevant. In fact, more organizations seek professional agile practitioners in their projects these days than ever. You can always opt for both certifications since they go hand in hand!

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