As any internationally recognized certificate from a reputable institution, CAPM® is not just a piece of paper, although if it were, it would be the kind that can get you shortlisted for an assistant project manager position.

CAMP®, or Certified Associate in Project Management, is a certification you can obtain from the PMI institute if you are a beginner in project management, you had some formal project management training and/or experience, and you need a proof that you understand the fundamentals of this discipline. If you already have many years of experience in project management and want to certify that, there are more advanced certifications than the CAPM®, like the PMP® or PRINCE2®. In some cases, you may not need any certification at all, unless the organization you work for, or want to work for, requests it.

To obtain the CAPM®, you need to pass an exam with 150 multiple-choice questions, not very complicated, but not simple either, based on project management theory. To sit for the exam, you also need to have a bachelor degree and to have completed at least 23 hours of formal project management training or have at least 1,500 hours of demonstrated work experience in project management. These prerequisites may vary, and to get an updated list, it is recommended to have a look on the PMI institute CAPM® website.

The exam is not the simplest, nor the most difficult you will ever need to pass. Probably, the best strategy is to enroll in a great project management class if you need formal training and get a good textbook. Here are some tips, some of them more obvious than others:

  1. Only register for the exam if you really need the certification. If the organization you work for requires it, your employer should offer to cover your training and/or examination costs. Neither the exam nor the training is free.
  2. If you are a job seeker, especially a fresh university graduate, the CAPM® might be the thing that distinguishes your CV from the rest of the applicants with the same degree. Many organizations, especially research and governmental institutions, conduct projects and require staff with some knowledge of project management.
  3. Do not believe that CAPM® will make you a project manager or can substitute on-job experience. Nothing beats experience, but if you have the theoretical basis, you can (theoretically) be better at practice.
  4. If you have no project management experience and require the formal training that is a prerequisite of CAPM, choose a PMI registered education provider. Upon successful completion of the course, you will get the 23 hours of formal education recognized automatically by the PMI, which cuts down bureaucracy. The downside is that not all PMI registered education providers offer high-quality training worth paying for. If you decide to enroll in an intensive course online, do not expect to get much for your money, except some handouts and access to online quizzes, generally useless if you do not have a solid knowledge of the topic from a good CAPM® prep book.
  5. The PMI says you should read the PMBOK® before the exam. But, despite their efforts of updating it regularly, it is still a very dry read. There are many books that summarize the PMBOK® in a much nicer way, so find those good books.
  6. Preparing for the CAPM® is not something to be done in the evening while watching TV – project management theory is not easy, especially if you have not had formal training. But if you are focused, make a study plan, make sure you understand most terminology and concepts, and take a few CAMP® simulations before the exam so you know what to expect, you should not have any problems passing the exam.

The good news is that the certification is valid for five years before it needs renewal, so the exam investment is good value for money. You are likely to use the certification in those five years either to get a good job or get a promotion. Good luck!

Cristina Neagu

Cristina Neagu, PhD, is a freelance editor and proofreader, and a Certified Associate in Project Management. She loves creative writing and managed a virtual team of writers for three years. When she's not working, she likes to read, spend time outdoors, and travel. Visit her website, www.languageediting.com, or contact her on LinkedIn.