PMP® Application Guide: Tips, Process, and Template Included
Here's what this guide will cover:
- How to determine whether or not you qualify your PMP® credentials
- How to correctly fill in your application (step-by-step)
- The simple 3 step process to writing winning project descriptions that will pass the PMI audit
- How to find and use the appropriate PMBOK® terminologies on your application
- How to create your own sample application template and checklists
This guide will cover everything you need to know about the PMP® application process. We’ve also included several real PMP® application description examples that have passed the PMI audit.
If you want to learn how you can get PMP® certified in the next 6 weeks, be sure to sign up to our free course as well.
Let’s get started!
Project Management Professional (PMP®) Application Process
Getting PMP® certified is a great investment in your project management career. PMI’s studies have shown that certified project managers make 25% more than their non-certified peers.
Your PMP® application is designed to verify that you have a background in project management. More importantly, it allows you to put the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) into practice.
The PMI (Project Management Institute), recently changed the PMP® application format in 2020. Before, it used to be a series of 10 steps to complete your application and now it is streamlined to just 3 steps.
The 3 steps are: education, experience, and exam details. Let’s take a close look now.
Step 1: Education
The first step to the PMP® application process is making sure that you are eligible to take the exam.
The PMI has two eligibility criteria: 1) project management experience, and 2) project management education. Let’s look at both in detail below.
1. Project Management Experience
To be eligible to write your PMP® exam, you will need to meet both the educational and professional experience requirements.
There are 3 ways that you can meet the educational requirement portion of the PMP® application. Please see a summary of the requirements in the chart below taken from the PMP® handbook.
2. Project Management Education
What’s common in all 3 scenarios is that you will need 35 contact hours of formal project management education.
Please note that self study will not count towards your 35 education hours (e.g. reading the PMBOK on your own).
You can fulfill the 35 contact hours requirement by taking a self-paced, live online, or in-person PMP® exam prep course.
If you’re looking to get started on this portion, please take a look at our free PMP® training, which will teach you how you can get certified in 6 weeks.
Filing Out The Education Portion
In the education portion of the application, you will need to list out where and when you’ve obtained your secondary or bachelor’s degree from.
Then, you’ll need to fill out at which institution and when you obtained your 35 Contact Hours certificate.
Please see the screenshot below for an example of a completed education section.
Step 2: Experience
All of your work experience listed for your PMP® application has to be within the last 8 years.
For your PMP® exam, you must list out relevant project management experiences, not any type of work experiences you’ve had.
For example, if you worked as a waiter or waitress 5 years ago, this experience will not count towards your PMP® application.
This being said - you do not necessarily need your job title to be “project manager” in order to apply for your PMP®.
In fact, many engineers and business analysts were able to qualify and pass their PMP® certification.
In order to see whether a job experience qualifies for the PMP® or not, PMI will look at the actual role that you’ve done, instead of focussing on your job title.
PMI wants to see that you’ve done at least 1 task from each of the 5 process groups that’s outlined in the PMBOK guide (more on this later).
You can determine whether or not your job experience meet the exam requirements by asking yourself the following questions:
1) Did I work in a professional setting?
Volunteer positions won’t count towards your PMP® (e.g. planning for your wedding, home improvement project, or sending out a newsletter for a charity).
2) Did I perform project management functions in my role?
As mentioned earlier, you don’t necessarily need the title “project manager” (although it is recommended). If you performed any tasks covered in the PMBOK® guide, then that experience will count towards your application.
From our experiences, we’ve seen many candidates with titles such as “QA analyst” or “senior BA” qualify for their PMP®.
It is important to highlight the project management experience that you gained through your job on your application.
For example, if your formal job title was ‘business analyst,’ but on the job, you identified stakeholders and managed risks on the project, this job experience counts towards your PMP® experiences because you’ve done tasks that are within the realm of roles and responsibilities of a project manager.
3) Did you work on a project?
The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore, defined scope and resources.”
By applying this definition, a salesperson who routinely makes sales calls will not be eligible for the PMP® credentials because he worked in operations, not a project.
Here are a couple of examples of scenarios where the person had enough experience to apply, even though they were not official ‘project managers.’
I have been working as IT manager at a bank for 7 years. I have lead multiple hardware and software update projects but I have never had the Project Manager title.
I have been a business analyst for 15 years. Over the last 5 years I have taken more responsibility in my projects and I assist with the project management activities.
Who do I list as my contact person?
The contact person can be anyone who has worked on the project with you. Most candidates use their manager or the person they report to as their contact person.
What if I switched jobs or my manager works for another company now?
PMI understands that people change companies and switch jobs. If your contact person changed companies, this is totally acceptable.
PMI just needs to verify that you’ve worked on the project from date X to date Y and performed the functions that you mentioned.
Just because your old manager moved to another company does not mean he or she can no longer provide this verification.
What if I’m no longer in contact with my manager?
If you’re no longer in contact with your manager, try looking for him or her on LinkedIn. Most professionals have a profile on the world’s most popular job searching site.
If you still cannot find your old manager, find a different colleague who has worked with you on the project and ask them if they can be your PMI contact person.
Can I not have a contact person?
No. You need to list one person who can verify your project work.
PMP® Application Project Descriptions
The toughest part of the PMP® application is the project descriptions. The purpose of these descriptions is to show the PMI that you have experience leading and directing projects.
Here are some useful tips for writing the PMP® application project descriptions.
Firstly, you need to ensure that you have experience in all 5 of the domain areas outlined by PMI. The five domain areas are: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing.
Within each of these 5 domains, there are many tasks or activities that you can do.
You need to ensure that you have at least 1 terminology from each process group in your project description.
Here is a table with some PMBOK terminologies to help you get started:
When you’re writing your project description, make sure you focus on what YOU have done on the project, not what the team has achieved as a whole.
Remember, the goal of the description is to show PMI that you have the necessary project management experience to qualify for your PMP®.
When you’re writing your application description, follow these 3 simple step process:
1. Briefly describe the objective of the project. For example, “This project created a billing software application for a financial institution.”
2. If you’ve claimed hours in a domain area, then you need to ensure that you highlight what you’ve done in that domain area using PMBOK terminologies. We will cover an example shortly.
3. Briefly describe the outcome of the project.
Tips: Although you don’t need to cover all 5 domain areas in every single project description, you do need to ensure that you have hours for all 5 domains across all of your projects.
PMP® Application Sample Project Descriptions
Example of PMP® application description 1:
Project Objective: Objective of the project was to restructure the organization's roles, responsibilities, and titles.
My role: I was assigned to be the project manager/change agent for this project.
My Responsibilities: My responsibility was to conduct weekly meetings with the executive team, facilitate meetings between departments as they cross-trained, ensure corrective and preventive actions taken appropriately. I led a small group of managers to facilitate change in each department.
My activities: I started the project by identifying key project stakeholders, i.e. each manager of each department. Once I identified stakeholders, I engaged with them to collect detailed requirements, define the scope of the project and create detailed project schedule. Once I had the scope, I developed WBS, acquired, trained and manage project resources, as well as implemented a quality management plan, and change control plan. I was the owner of Integrated Change Control activities and proactively managed change requests affecting the scope and schedule. Additionally, I verified and ensured deliverable complied with quality standards, worked with stakeholders to prepare user acceptance test guidelines and facilitated user acceptance testing with critical users. I worked on preparing training manuals for equipment, and develop new organizational charts compliant with new roles and responsibilities. Moreover, I made sure to acquire additional resources (instructors) to teach the lessons that significantly improved offered classes and tracked overall effectiveness of conducted training. At the end of the project, I released project resources, documented lessons learned and prepared project for the sign off. Once the project was accepted, I closed the project.
Deliverable: The deliverable was a successful transition from a siloed style clinic, into a more agile/flat clinical organization by reducing errors and improved employee effectiveness in the workplace that could pivot depending on the situation.
Project Outcome: The outcome of the project was new titles, increases in pay, proper allocation of workload amounts, improved communication between departments, yielded $5M in saved rework, an average increase in productivity by 15%, and an overall boost in employee morale.
Example of PMP® application description 2:
Project Objective: The objective of the project was to revamp seven Additional Skill Identifiers (ASI) and transform them into Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) to better align with new military functionalities and strategic efforts.
My role: My role during the project was to be the project manager for the realignment.
My Responsibilities: The responsibilities of being the project manager for this project included working with stakeholders and MOSs team members to formulate new military policies, facilitating meetings, and developing draft proposals to senior management for approval. I was also responsible for identifying talented and qualified individuals who fit the required demographic needed of subject matter experts for each of the seven newly assigned MOSs, to diversify the implementation of the MOSs revamping team.
My activities: I identified stakeholders and helped drafting project charter. I created the project management plan, including the scope statement and WBS. I communicated consistently to stakeholders on the project progress and project changes. I acquired and managed resources during execution to ensure the right type and quantity of resources were available to complete the project activities. I assured quality standards remained by creating standard quality checklists. At the end of the project, I formally closed the project and transitioned it to operations.
Deliverable: The final deliverable was the creation of seven new MOSs, training and mission capabilities defined, and policies and procedures that strategically aligned with the Army's unique vision and improved relations across the organization.
Project Outcome: The outcome of the project was a dramatic decrease in MOS assigned Soldiers, updated and defined mission requirements, improved productivity levels, reduction in Soldier turnover, and unprecedented cost savings to the Army.
Section 3: Exam Details
Section 3 of the PMP® application is very straight forward. You simply need to fill out the 4 sections of the exam details page: address, your name, email address, and phone number. This is your identification details and it will take no longer than 5 minutes to complete. Please see below for a screenshot.
The PMI randomly selects a small percentage of applicants to audit. If you’re selected for an audit, don’t panic - there is nothing wrong with your application.
If you are selected, you will be asked to provide a copy of your degree and your 35 contact hours certificate.
You will also be given a form for each of the work experiences that you’ve listed on your application, and you will need to get the contact person you mentioned to sign the form.
Your contact person needs to verify that you’ve worked on the projects that you’ve listed during the dates that you mentioned.
Pro Tip: Before you submit your application, send a copy of your application to your contact person and ensure that they agree with what you wrote before you submit it.
Application Fee (Full Cost Breakdown)
How much does it cost to submit your application?
It is free to start on your application. When you’re ready to submit, you’ll be asked to pay the exam fees.
We recommend that you register as a PMI member before you submit your application because you will pay the reduced fees.
Here is a table outlining the total fees you’ll need to pay to take this exam:
How long is the wait time?
The wait time to hear back from PMI is 5-10 business days. Sometimes, you’ll find out that your application has been approved within 24 hours.
The wait time depends upon how many applications PMI has in its queue. The longer the queue, the longer the wait.
When should you book your PMP® exam?
You can book your exam within 1 year after your application has been approved. If you do not write your exam within your 1 year eligibility period, you will need to apply again.
You can book your exam with any Pearson Exam Centre. The exam schedule will vary from city to city. The PMP® and CAPM exams are not exams that happen at specific times of the year.
The exam dates and times vary week to week. Please check with the Pearson centre in your area.
*Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can take your PMP® exam online.
Final Advice + Checklist for Your Application
You now know everything that you need to know to write a winning PMP® application. Before we go, here’s some pieces of advice:
Your application description for each project is between 200-500 words. Use this space with intention.
Do not dump a list of terms in your project description. Rather, use the PMI terminologies skillfully to highlight what you’ve achieved on your projects.
Although PMI does not state a maximum number of projects that you can list in your application, try to keep the number of projects that you list to 1 - 5. Anything more than 10 is excessive and you should consider grouping your projects together.
Congratulations! You are now one step closer to getting PMP certified! We hope that this certification guide helped you to achieve your goal.
If you'd like to read about PMP® renewal fees, you can do so here.
If you’d like to learn more about the PMP® certification, please register for our free course where we will teach you how you can get certified in the next 6 weeks. Lastly, don't forget to download this guide below.