CAPM vs PMP – Which One Should You Opt First?

16 min. read

Whether you are a professional working in the career of project management or you are still exploring your potential in the project management career path, you must have heard about PMP and CAPM. What is the purpose of PMP certification or CAPM certification? Well, they represent the heart of the world’s most known project management certification bodies. PMP and CAPM certifications have taken the spotlight for years. In this article, we are going to give you a comparison of CAPM vs PMP:

  • Education Requirements: 35 contact hours Project Management Training for PMP and 23 Contact Hours Project Management Training for CAPM
  • Project Manager Experience Requirements: 36 months for four-year degree professionals / 60 months for secondary degree professionals / 24 months for Bachelor’s or post-graduate degree from a GAC accredited program and no experience required for CAPM certification.
  • Training Cost: ~$500 USD for PMP and ~$400 USD for CAPM
  • Exam Fee Cost: ~$555 USD for PMP and ~$300 USD for CAPM
  • How many questions are in PMP exam and in the CAPM Exam? 180 questions and 150 questions.
  • PDU Needs for Renewal: 60 PDUs for PMP and 15 PDUS for CAPM – every 3 years

Let’s go through each of these CAPM vs PMP aspects.

Why CAPM and PMP are getting more and more important?

Due to the strength of the project management body of knowledge (PMBoK), the two certifications derived from it became well recognized across the booming adoption of waterfall best practices. This was a result of the companies’ pursuit of the adoption of the best practices to cope with the dynamic competition and the challenges faces projects.

Accordingly, the importance of best practices adoption increased significantly. Which in turn reflected on the spread of PMBoK and its associated certifications including CAPM and PMP. This alongside the undeniable success of the practice in real-life projects made them highly demanded.

With the dynamic competition and the globalized talent market place, companies realize that experience and education are no longer enough. Projects would face challenges every day, there is limited time to respond to emerging challenges and these challenges are changing. So there has to be some way of taking on emerging challenges in projects.

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Dealing with challenges as they emerge with no set ahead plan is one technique project managers used to do and it worked for a long time. Or that what they used to think. The truth remains that such tactics based on buffering and padding may cover for some challenges. At the same time, they proved inefficient even if they succeed in mitigating the risk, given that they can. On the other hand, these techniques usually succeed while dealing with low to medium impact risks. On the contrary, when it comes to high impact risks these techniques usually fail badly.

Participants who earned Project Management Certification: 36.84% increased their salary by 10% or more and 15.13% increased their salary by 20% or more.


We talked about the value that both CAPM and PMP certifications bring to their respective holders and shed some light on the value they bring to companies. Now to answer the question CAPM vs PMP, which one would come first? CAPM vs PMP is not a simple decision, there are multiple factors that could contribute to the final decision. Mainly, PMP is most recognized among those two PMI certifications and also among certifications similar to PMP. Accordingly, in terms of recognition and strength, PMP would always win full marks. However, the key question is not which is stronger but rather which one you should go for first. And the answer to this particular question needs a deep dive into each one of those two PMI certifications.

Starting first with a Certified Associate in Project Management or in short CAPM. CAPM is an entry-level PMI certification based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge. The CAPM certification aims to recognize the knowledge and practice of its holder. Thus, the certification does not really require and project management experience among its perquisites. The reason behind this is that CAPM targets project management career aspirers rather than project management practitioners. As a result, CAPM is an excellent choice for those who want to start a new career in project management.

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On the other hand, the famous Project Management professional or in short PMP is the opposite. PMP mainly aims to recognize the high level of professionalism for experienced project managers. Thus, it requires solid 3+ years of project management experience as one of its perquisites. Accordingly, It mainly targets project managers with wide solidified project management experience. Still, the comparison between CAPM vs PMP needs more in-depth analysis to be answered. In the next section where we will review more details about CAPM vs PMP exam perquisites.

CAPM and PMP Certifications Perquisites

There are multiple perquisites for both CAPM certification and PMP certification. These perquisites are meant to act as both a filter and a reinforcer for the certification holder’s status. PMI seeks to verify its certification holders’ competencies through multiple methods. These methods include the perquisites besides the certification exam.

The following table shows the perquisites for CAPM and for PMP:

Education Requirements35 contact hours Project Management Training23 Contact Hours Project Management Training
PM Experience Requirements36 months for four-year degree professionals / 60 months for secondary degree professionals/ 24 months for Bachelor’s or post-graduate degree from a GAC accredited programNo experience required
Training Cost~$500 USD~$400 USD
Exam Fee Cost~$555 USD~$300 USD
PDU Needs for Renewal60 PDUs every three years15 PDUs every three years

Which One Should You Opt For First?

So going back to the original question CAPM vs PMP which one should you opt for first. Giving the detailed perquisites we shared above, the answer should be as follows. So if you possess the required qualified Project Management experience requirements of PMP certification, it is better if you opt for PMP certification. Because it is for experienced PMs. Besides, PMP is the most well-known Project Management certification in the world. This is not just a bold statement, most of the project management openings for senior positions request PMP. In addition to the fact that there are more than one million PMP certified professionals around the world.

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On the other hand, for CAPM, CAPM is considered as an entry-level project management certification. Thus, if you are about to step into a Project Management career, then you need to go for CAPM. Then CAPM certification will be a great indication to show that you are willing to pursue your career in project management. Moreover, you will have the common language of project management and this will be a great benefit in your PM job.

Education Requirements for CAPM and PMP

When we are talking about education requirements there is no significant variance between CAPM vs PMP. Both CAPM and PMP are dependent on the Project Management Body of Knowledge. CAPM only requires 23 Contact Hours of Project Management training. These CAPM Project Management education 23 hours of training must satisfy the project management content outline requested by PMI.

There are multiple options for getting 23 hours of training. These options include classroom training where you can attend extensive 4 days of boot camp training in a classroom. However, giving the current CoV19 situation, online options seem to be the best options. CAPM training online options include virtual classrooms which involve the same extensive level of focused training across 4 days. They also include self-paced e-learning which is usually more convenient and less expensive than other options.

On the other hand, PMP requires 35 Contact Hours of Project Management training. Similar to CAPM PM education, PMP training has the same format options. Besides the regular classroom training, there is also the PMP virtual training. There is also the PMP PM education 35 hours training which is a self-paced format that offers the maximum flexibility for trainees.

PM Experience Requirements of CAPM and PMP

PMI does not require project management experience for CAPM certification candidates to apply for the CAPM Certification exam. On the other hand, PMI sets a high bar of project management for PMP. It requires 36 months of project management experience for four-year degree professionals. While secondary degree professionals require 60 months of project management experience in order to sit in the PMP exam. And finally in case you hold a GAC accredited Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree you would only need 24 months of project management experience. The experience required for PMP sets it apart from CAPM; this is the basic obstacle for applicants who lacks the required experience. Accordingly, this makes CAPM the most viable option for those who don’t possess the required experience by significant variance.

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Of course for those who possess more than 26 months of project management experience would usually pursue PMP since they are near achieving the requirement. Because the PMP preparation may also take around 1 or 2 months to complete the training. In addition, they would need additional time to prepare well for the exam.

On the other hand, those who have less than 20 months of experience may consider CAPM as a step forward towards PMP. Giving that active CAPM certification would also help its holder to satisfy the 35 contact hours requirement without the need to take the training.

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When filling out PMP application, to report the required project management experience for PMP, you need to report the projects that you have led. In addition, you need to describe the details of where you have worked. Besides, you have to include your role within each project you have reported and the duration of each project.

CAPM Training Cost and PMP Training Cost

In terms of cost, usually, PMP training costs higher in comparison to CAPM training. However, to give you more perspective, we will provide you with some insights around CAPM Training cost vs PMP Training cost. Due to the popularity of Project Management Professional (PMP), it makes it one of the highest demand. Needless to say that the current number of PMP certification holder is now more than 1,000,000. In addition, according to the most recent surveys for project management, the average salary of a PMP certification holder is 25% higher than the non-PMP holder salary. This explains why PMP certification training costs higher than CAPM certification training. So, in terms of cost CAPM vs PMP, in most cases, you would find PMP training cost is higher than CAPM training cost.

On the other hand, that does not mean that the variance is significant, as CAPM training cost is still relevant to PMP training cost. It just the variance usually increases depending on the training delivery method.

Training delivery methods

As we indicated before there are many CAPM vs PMP training delivery methods. Which ones are the CAPM and PMP certification best course delivery methods?

These CAPM vs PMP training delivery methods include but are not limited to the following:

Classroom boot camp training

In this CAPM vs PMP training delivery method, trainees attend 4 to 6 days of concentrated training in a classroom, where they have to be present in the training classroom location. It is usually scheduled from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM during weekdays. The advantages of classroom boot camp training include the level of concentration it brings to attendees. Also, it offers a high level of interaction between attendees and the instructor. As well as the strict schedule which allows attendees to commit to completing the training course in an extremely short time.

On the flip side of the advantages, there are some challenges related to classroom boot camp training. These challenges start with the same driver behind the advantages. To put it into more perspective, attending CAPM training for 4 consecutive days or PMP training for 6 consecutive days is extremely exhaustive.

Additionally, the trainees would feel an overflow of the knowledge they receive without taking enough break time to absorb this knowledge. Also, doesn’t provide any flexibility of location or training time. The latter impacts those who are already committed to a full-time job, which mandates that the attendee take time off from their work to attend.

At the same time, classroom boot camp is the most expensive CAPM vs PMP training delivery method. In the case of CAPM training, the average cost of boot camp CAPM classroom training is around $1095 USD. While for PMP training, the average cost of boot camp PMP classroom training ranges from $1,995 USD to $2,895 USD

Virtual live classroom training

Similar to the classroom boot camp training, in this CAPM vs PMP training delivery method, the trainee attends 4 to 6 days of concentrated training. The difference is that the virtual live classroom training does not require physical attendance in the classroom. Instead, the trainee has to attend virtually using an online meeting or webinar broadcasting software. Also, it usually set similar fixed schedules for training time, which usually sets between 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays.

With these specifics, the virtual classroom training delivery method has the advantage of the flexibility of attending the training from any place whether it’s an office, home, or even on the move. Another advantage this CAPM vs PMP training delivery method brings is the possibility of live interaction with the instructor. Needless to add that online training in general including virtual live classroom training could be the only viable option in the time being due to Covid 19 situation.

Despite the advantages this training method offers, it still keeps some drawbacks from the classroom boot camp trainings. These drawbacks include the time inconvenience and the lack of flexibility in terms of schedule in general. There is also the exhaustive nature of excessive classroom training and knowledge overflow. Finally, in terms of CAPM vs PMP training cost, virtual live classroom training is less expensive than classroom boot camp but still, it’s not the most price-efficient option. Virtual live classroom CAPM training costs around $500 USD on average. While Virtual live classroom PMP training costs around $1000 USD on average.

Self-paced e-learning training

The final CAPM vs PMP training delivery method we will cover in this part is the self-paced e-learning training delivery method. This CAPM vs PMP training method involves online on-demand training. In this method of CAPM vs PMP training, the trainees have secure access to training content where they can access anytime at any place. At the same time, they can reach out to the instructor for questions. This way they can interact with the instructor and get more explanations when needed. At the same time, trainees can connect with peer trainees who joined the same course.

This method brings a lot of advantages to the trainee. First of all, self-paced e-learning training offers flexibility to trainees. Unlike other delivery methods, this option allows trainees to adjust their training time according to their own work schedule, not the other way around.

So this CAPM vs PMP training method, not only provides the flexibility of place but also the flexibility of schedule as well. In addition to the possibility to learn from any place from your office, your home, or while you are on the move, you can also learn any amount of content without being time-bound. So you learn at your own pace. And finally, for the CAPM vs PMP training cost, this option is by far the least expensive. Online self-paced CAPM training costs around $400 USD or even less, you can check out Master of Project’s CAPM training for detailed info. On the other hand, PMP® Certification 35 Contact Hours online self-paced training costs around $500 USD.

Exam Fees

Then of course to be able to pass the exam and get the certification, you have to register for PMP exam or CAPM exam. As for exam fees, there is a significant variance between the CAPM Exam and PMP Exam fees. The CAPM certification exam fee for PMI members is $225 USD, while for non-PMI members it is $300 USD. On the other hand, PMI members can apply for the PMP exam for a fee of $405 USD, and non-PMI members can apply for the PMP exam for a fee of $555 USD.

CAPM Renewal and PMP Renewal

Now you may ask what happens after getting your certification. Since PMI focuses on the idea of competencies certification thus these two certifications expire every 3 years and you have to renew them. For that, PMI offers its Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program. The program is the catalyst for PMI certification holders to keep their certifications while learning and growing professionally. This PMI program focuses on allowing certification holders to report their growth and development activities through the program in which they obtain PDUs. PMI PDUs are Professional Development Units which represents the hours you spent learning more about project management. The activities that you can perform to earn these PDUs have a wide range, to the degree that you can even get points for reading articles or blogs. But be aware the system may ask you to provide evidence of your development activity so don’t fake it.

Also, remember that the program works for your best as it aims to ensure that you keep growing professionally. At the same time, it is helping you to gain more knowledge about project management and keep yourself up-to-date with the changes in project management practices. Also, it supports you in understanding the new trends and emerging project management practices. Thus, it is way better to follow the guidance of the CCR program.

Now let’s explore the PMI CCR program requirement for CAPM vs PMP. To renew your PMP certification, PMI requires 60 PDUs every three years. On the other hand, to renew your CAPM certification, PMI requires 15 PDUs every three years.


In this article, we covered an in-depth comparison between CAPM vs PMP. We have explored the different aspects that will help you decide which of those two top tier certifications should be your next step. We also explained the difference between both certifications and how each one of them serves different levels of project management practitioners.

Also, we have explained each certification set of perquisites and the difference between CAPM perquisites and PMP perquisites. In addition, the article covered the experience aspect in further detail for PMP and detailed the different cases of education and experience combination and how many months of experience you need in each different case. Also, reviewed the project management education requirements for each one of the two certifications. As well as, explaining the CAPM vs PMP cost of training going through each training delivery method.

Also, we explained the advantages and disadvantages of each one of these CAPM vs PMP training delivery methods. Hopefully, we could give you the opportunity to decide which one of them fits your needs in the best way possible. Then we explored the cost range for each one of these CAPM vs PMP training delivery methods. We also highlighted the variance between CAPM training cost and PMP training cost in each one of these training delivery methods.

Following that, we shared the exam fees for each one of the certifications and highlighted the difference between PMI members’ and non-members’ fees. and Finally provided enough details about each certification renewal requirements including the number of PDUs required for each one of them. Given the extensive information we have provided in this article, you are now more than equipped in order to make your decision about which certification you should opt for first.