Career / Management

What Counts as Project Management Experience? (2024 Update)

What Counts as Project Management Experience? picture: A
Follow us
Updated on May 3, 2024

Quick Definition: Project management experience is any experience that falls under the five separate process phases provided by the PMP: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. Even if you don't have a "Project Manager" title on your resume, you likely have experience that falls into one of those categories. 

So, you're ready to get certified as a professional project manager. But as you look at the requirements for some of the most well-known certifications, you notice many require proof that you've led and directed projects. (Like, lots of hours.)

You might think this is the classic experience catch-22; you need the experience to get the certification, which will get you that project management job. However, you need the certification to get the job for the experience. 

Luckily, that isn't the case. 

What is Project Management Experience?

Project management experience is any experience that falls under the five process phases, as defined by the Project Management Institute: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing.

You likely have plenty of project management experience—you just have to know where to look. First, let's examine some of the requirements needed before undertaking the most highly regarded project management certifications.

Editors Note: The Project Management Institute (PMI) implemented significant changes to the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification requirements in 2021. One notable change is the adjustment of the experience requirement from 4,500 hours to 36 months. Read on to learn more about these changes and how they may impact your path to PMP certification.

PMP Certification Requirements

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is among the most popular certifications in the field. 

To qualify for the exam, you need 60 months of experience leading and directing projects (a note about this later). If you have a bachelor's degree or better, you can qualify with 36 months of experience. 

In addition, candidates for this certification must complete 35 hours of project management training or hold PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification. In summary, 

PMP Certification Requirements for those with a Four-Year Degree:

  • 36 months of experience leading projects within the past eight years.

  • 35 hours of formal education in project management or CAPM Certification.

PMP Certification Requirements for those with a High School Diploma or Associate's Degree:

  • 60 months of project management experience.

  • 35 hours of project management education.

If you have an active CAPM certification, you don't need to provide documentation of 35 hours of project management training. This project management education requirement is waived for active CAPM holders.

CAPM Certification Requirements

PMI's Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is an entry-level certification for project practitioners and is designed for those with less experience.  To sit for the CAPM exam, you'll need the following prerequisites:

  • A high school diploma, GED, associate degree, or an equivalent qualification.

  • Completion of 23 hours of project management training before your exam date.

To fulfill the 23 hours of project management education required for the CAPM exam, you have a variety of options. According to PMI, you can complete these hours through various types of educational providers:

  • PMI Authorized Training Partners (ATPs)

  • PMI chapters

  • Employer/company-sponsored programs

  • Training companies or consultants

  • Distance-learning companies (with an end-of-course assessment)

  • University/college academic and continuing education programs

Your project management course hours for the CAPM exam can cover a variety of topics, such as project quality, scope, scheduling, budgeting, resource allocation, communications, risk management, procurement processes, integration management, agile methodologies, and business analysis.

Project Management Experience isn’t Just About Management

The language regarding "leading and directing" a project on the PMP website seems daunting. Don't let it scare you. Even if "project manager" doesn't appear on your resume, you can still count project experience toward your certification. Here's how. 

For the purposes of PMP certification, the experience is broken into five separate categories:

  • Initiation: In this phase, a project is officially introduced to a sponsor and the scope is first discussed.

  • Planning: The full scope of the project is fully defined.

  • Execution: With everything outlined in writing, the work begins.

  • Monitoring and Controlling: Project managers track, review, and regulate the progress of the project.

  • Closing: This is the final phase when the client signs off on the project.

With these categories in mind, think back to all the things you've done at work, or even outside work. You don't need to lead a project from initiation to closing to count those hours. Instead, compile your experience from each of these experience categories. You might have planned and initiated a project, or executed a project plan within a process group.

Project Management Experience Examples

For different positions, examples of project management experience within each phase might look like this:

  • Initiation: Team lead for React website build for X company

  • Planning: Planned infrastructure upgrade for X company

  • Execution: DevOps support for X project

  • Monitoring and Controlling: QA lead for X portion of X project

  • Closing: Software developer for the release of X project

It's okay if you have more experience in one phase than others. In fact, you should.

How to Get Project Management Experience Through Participation

So, how do you get that all-important project management experience in the first place? There are several ways to serve in a project leadership role without a certification.

Work experience: Look for ways you can get project leadership experience at your own organization. Even without being a project manager, you can easily jump on a project (if you aren't working on one already). If you're not managing projects, you can count your participation in execution, or monitoring and controlling.

Volunteer experience: It may seem painful to work for free, but it's a great way to get hours of experience. CBT Nuggets trainer Jeremy Cioara is a big fan of volunteer work as a means to gain technical experience. For instance, if you're setting up a WiFi network at a church or building a website for a non-profit, you're gaining experience in all five category areas.

Side projects: If you have extra time, take a side gig. You can find freelance project management work. It's just a matter of getting out there and networking.

As you work your way toward certification, make sure you log every hour you put in on projects, separating the work into the correct categories. This will make it easier when it's time to hand your documentation over. Make sure you ask each project lead for a reference to make the auditing process easier.

Keep Accurate Records of Your Experience

We've heard from project managers that the hardest part of the certification isn't the test. It's documenting your years of projects. Let's break that down:

With a bachelor's degree, you’ll need 36 months of project management experience to apply for PMP certification. This equates to about three full years of experience. Can you remember what you did in February three years ago?

It's better to accurately log your experience as you go along — emphasis on accurately. The biggest risk you'll face is that you might be audited on that experience, which means that you'll have to get a signature from the leader of each project certifying you put the number of hours into the work that you stated you did.

Counting on Your Experience for the Future

As you've found, you have plenty of project management experience. You just had to know where to look. A project management certification will take you to the next level in your career, opening opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise. Good luck!

Looking to get certified in project management? Check out the CBT Nuggets course CAPM Online Training.


By submitting this form you agree to receive marketing emails from CBT Nuggets and that you have read, understood and are able to consent to our privacy policy.

Don't miss out!Get great content
delivered to your inbox.

By submitting this form you agree to receive marketing emails from CBT Nuggets and that you have read, understood and are able to consent to our privacy policy.

Recommended Articles

Get CBT Nuggets IT training news and resources

I have read and understood the privacy policy and am able to consent to it.

© 2024 CBT Nuggets. All rights reserved.Terms | Privacy Policy | Accessibility | Sitemap | 2850 Crescent Avenue, Eugene, OR 97408 | 541-284-5522