CAPM® vs. PMP®: Which is the right choice for you?

Home The Savvy PM Blog CAPM® vs. PMP®: Which is the right choice for you?

bp 12 This post was updated on 5/6/2021 to reflect changes PMI made to the CAPM certification.

In the land of all things project management, the significance of the PMP® certification is highly recognized. Obtaining the PMP letters at the end of your name has become a goal for project managers across the world. But, with every goal comes a range of tasks that one must overcome.

Before I start a tangent of describing the PMP like it’s a great quest from “Lord of the Rings”, I wanted to give some perspective of the choice many people face when deciding between the CAPM® or the PMP.

To give some background, the CAPM stands for Certified Associate Project Manager. According to PMI®If you’re a less experienced project practitioner looking to demonstrate your commitment to project management, improve your ability to manage larger projects and earn additional responsibility, and stand out to potential employers, the CAPM certification is right for you.

In a similar description, PMI describes the PMP: The PMP recognizes demonstrated competence in leading and directing project teams. If you’re an experienced project manager looking to solidify your skills, stand out to employers and maximize your earning potential, the PMP credential is the right choice for you.

Deciding where you fit in can be tricky, so narrowing down the decision starts with looking back on your past experiences in project management. In the simplest of terms, look at it as an assistant vs. manager. CAPMs are either new to project management or have been in project management for less than two years participating as part of a team. PMPs hold the responsibility on all aspects of projects.


  •  High school diploma or associate’s degree
  •  23 hours project management education OR 1,500 hours professional work experience on a project team


  • Bachelor’s degree (or higher) OR high school diploma or associate’s degree
  • 35 project management education hours
  • (Get ready, this is the tricky part): If you have a bachelor’s degree, you will need to document minimum of 36 months experience in leading projects. If you have a high school diploma, you will need to document a minimum of 60 months experience in leading projects.

Speaking briefly about the test, the CAPM exam is 3 hours with 150 questions, while the PMP is slightly shy of 4 hours (230 minutes to be exact) with 180 questions. The material itself is all very similar. Simply speaking, CAPM prospects can omit certain PMP study material. In fact, the Velociteach boot camp combines both CAPM and PMP students, mainly because the material is roughly the same. The instructor is aware of each CAPM and PMP student, and provides them with their study plan accordingly.

At this point, you can see the CAPM is essentially the entry-level PMP. But, this raises the question, is CAPM significant? My answer will always be “absolutely yes”.

Think of it this way—letters at the end of your name prove that you have the knowledge and the discipline to pursue an expertise in a certain field. That sets you apart from many people. Even better, you have a foundation of knowledge for when you do decide to venture on and obtain your PMP. So whether you fit into CAPM or PMP, I have three words for you: GO FOR IT. Become an industry leader. Let your hard work and experience be something you can show off a bit. Your boss, your future employer, friends, family, colleagues, will all recognize your achievement.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. ~Zig Ziglar