The Fundamentals: PMP® History and FAQ

Here, we’ll take a 30,000-foot view of the Project Management Professional® credential and address some of the more common questions that arise when one is considering whether to obtain it.

The credential is held by over a half-million people worldwide, more than any other project management certification. More than any credential with its following, it is also esteemed worldwide rather than on a regional basis.

In general, the credential leads to increased marketability of its holders, as well as to a higher salary.

Origins of Project Management

Projects, whatever people have called them, have been undertaken ever since the first humans attempted any endeavor. Recognition of project management as a distinct discipline began in earnest in the 1950s based on basic concepts pioneered by Henry Gantt (of Gantt chart scheduling fame) and others much earlier.

Origins and Stature of the Credential

The Project Management Professional credential was created by Project Management Institute of Newtown Square, Pa., which was founded in 1984. The credential is now accredited by the International Organization for Standards (ISO).

The Unique Nature of Project Management and the PMBOK® Guide

Most all organizations have a structure that includes separate departments for such functions as human resources, development, legal matters, etc. In such a structure and when cross-disciplinary work is required, communication channels between team members can be indirect and lengthy. When the organization uses project management, teams work together directly, and communications and teamwork are much more efficient. In this context, the practice of project management has continued to evolve over time to become highly efficient and where necessary, sophisticated as embodied in PMI’s flagship project management work, called A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide).

The contents of the PMBOK Guide are not prescriptive. They provide a set of tools, techniques and processes that can be applied as appropriate to any project in any industry. As such, the principles can be applied to any project of any size when properly scaled by a knowledgeable project manager. Even as agile techniques find their way into all projects, many of the PMBOK Guide’s tools and techniques must still be employed by a project’s organization at some level.

Success Story – Chrysler Back from the Brink

A great example of early project management, as well as a model for the future is Chrysler Corporation’s recovery from a close brush with fate. Now known as the Chrysler unit of DaimlerChrysler, the then-independent firm teetered at the brink of bankruptcy in 1979. In response, the newly installed Chairman Lee Iacocca radically changed the way the company operated as they received government subsidies to recover as a corporation. The entire product development process became project-oriented. Chrysler was also on the leading edge of several other trends that you will recognize as you study for your PMP exam.

  1. They created a “Body of Knowledge” to document best practices in product development.
  2. They implemented “Tech Clubs” for sharing knowledge between various practitioners. Today, these types of groups are flourishing in PMI as Communities of Practice.

These moves resulted in cutting their product time to market in half, and not only did the corporation survive, but it also repaid the government in full for the received government loans.

The discipline of project management continues to improve and evolve through the PMBOK Guide, which is the primary study reference for the PMP Exam.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a project?

The Project Management Body of Knowledge, a PMI publication, defines a project essentially as a temporary endeavor used to produce a unique product, service or result.

2. What does it take to get the PMP credential?

Throughout this site we discuss the various aspects of this question in greater detail. Basically, there are four steps. First, you must show experience as a project manager, and then in a four-hour computer-based examination, demonstrate mastery of the Project Management Body of Knowledge and make good judgments in realistic scenarios. Former colleagues must verify your listed experience, you must pay an examination fee and sign a professional code of ethics. It’s possible that your application will be randomly selected for audit.

3. My work is exclusively for the Department of Defense. Will the credential be of value to my work?

In an article in Defense Acquisition Research Journal, a United States Department of Defense publication, the authors address the chasm between the Defense Department and industry.

Quoting from the article, “Significant commonality exists between the PMBOK and government acquisition management doctrine. Like Lewis and Clark, each body of knowledge complements the other. This commonality provides an opportunity for government acquisition professionals to bridge the knowledge gap through the study and accreditation of PMI-sponsored, PMBOK-based credentials. Government project managers who obtain PMI credentials gain a better understanding and perspective of industry project and program management processes and best practices.”

4. All of my work has been in a very specific area of project management. I’ve been involved in project work for several years, but only in very specialized parts of project management. Is the PMP credential right for me?

Possibly not. However, PMI has a wide range of more specialized credentials, one of which may be just right for you. They include

  • the Certified Associate in Project Management® (CAPM)
  • the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner® (PMI-ACP)
  • the PMI Risk Management Professional® (PMI-RMP)
  • the PMI Scheduling Professional® (PMI-SP)

There are also three other credentials suited for more experienced individuals involved with multiple simultaneous projects (program and portfolio managers). More details can be found at

5. Do I have to be a member of PMI to gain the credential?

No, although you do get a substantial discount on the examination fee if you are a member.

6. How long will it take to get the credential?

There is no definitive answer to this question. We address many variables elsewhere on this site. If you want a broad-brush answer, let’s say about three months, assuming that you qualify for the exam. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

7. I have been managing projects for a quarter century. Should the process go faster for me?

Possibly. However, without some serious preparation, there is a very good chance you will fail the examination. On this site we expand further on why that is true.

8. I am totally new to project management but I want to get involved and make it my career. How long will it take me to get become a PMP?

In project management we often refer to the “happy path” in a project schedule. That’s the scenario where everything magically falls into place and things happen as fast as possible. The happy path to your gaining the credential is about two and a half years because of the experience requirements, assuming that you start out with a bachelor’s degree or the global equivalent.

9. What if I don’t have enough experience but have worked in project management for a while?

Consider the Certified Associate in Project Management credential. It may be just the right choice for your career. It could also be a steppingstone to the PMP credential. Additionally, you may find what you’re looking for in a certificate or degree program from an accredited institution. We discuss these latter options elsewhere on this site.

10. When applying for the PMP exam, what documentation do I need to submit?

No documentation needs to accompany your application and the qualifications you report in it. However, it is possible that your application will be selected at random for audit. If that happens, you will need to be able to provide documentation of your claims.

11. How many hours of professional involvement are required to renew my credential during each three-year renewal cycle?

A total of 60 hours is required. Five hours per year, or 15 hours total for the three year cycle, can be earned by simply managing projects. Beyond that, 45 hours of study, volunteering, mentoring others or involvement in advancing the profession should do the trick.

12. If I don’t pass the examination on the first try, do I get another chance?

Yes, but you will have to pay another fee smaller than the one you paid for your first try.

13. If I have scheduled my examination, can I cancel?

You really need to exercise care in scheduling your exam date. If you cancel within two days of the date, you will forfeit the exam fee and be required to pay a re-examination fee. Elsewhere on this site, we provide suggestions for knowing when you are ready.

Cancellation between 3 and 30 days before the exam subjects you to a fee of $70. Cancellation of your scheduled exam session 31 days or more before the exam, however, incurs no fee.

It’s quite natural to have a fear of the unknown and feel like backing out, but when this capability is carelessly exercised, it can be quite counterproductive as well as expensive.

14. If I have more than one PMI credential, do I need to have more PDUs in each three year renewal cycle?

No. However, to be counted for any particular credential, the material must be relevant. For example, risk study can qualify for PMP credit, but scheduling study does not qualify for Risk Management Professional credit. Refer to the PMP Handbook for full details.