The Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPM) is an entry-level certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The certification is intended for individuals interested in pursuing a career in project management and those that are planning to gain further certification from PMI. The main focus of CAPM cert is to demonstrate an understanding of general processes and terminology recognized by project managing professions, as established by PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).
It’s possible to take the exam with little work experience or with instruction alone. Candidates typically only need a high school diploma (or equivalent qualification) and either 1,500 hours of experience on a project team, or 23 hours of project management education. The education requirement can be satisfied with the completion of courses, workshops or training sessions from many sources.
Training for CAPM certification is primarily done through dedicated training programs, college and university degree course work and on the job training. While training is not necessary due to the option for project team experience eligibility, it’s highly recommended for those seeking other PMI certs.
One of the best and most efficient ways to train for the CAPM is to enroll in CAPM/PMI prep courses. These courses will not only help prepare the applicant for the exam, but can also count towards the education requirement for certification eligibility. Students in these courses may also elect to enroll in 35 total hours (instead of 23 hours) to satisfy contact requirements for qualification for both CAPM and PMP certifications.
Many institutions offer training courses, including PMI chapters and partners, colleges and universities and even employer-sponsored programs may also be available.
According to PMI’s website, CAPM courses will cover various topics and management skills including the following:
- Project life cycle and organization
- Project quality and scope
- Project time management
- Project risk and cost management
- Human resources and communication
- Project integration
For current professionals who seek certification or students who are currently enrolled in or recently completed project management instruction, there are many study guides and prep books available for the CAPM. There are even guides and books that cover preparation for both the CAPM and PMP exams. These books can be found with other test prep books at large bookstores as well as online retailers.
While self-study tools are more affordable and convenient than formal instruction, their effectiveness is based on your own time and effort. Time spent on self-guided studying doesn’t count towards qualification for the exam, so they should be used in conjunction with either formal contact courses or work experience.
PMI also publishes practice guides providing information and instruction for project management professionals on how to apply PMI standards to specific professional environments.
CAPM certification exam
To qualify for the CAPM exam applicants need only a high school diploma and meet either the education or experience requirements, complete and online application and pay a $300 fee ($225 for PMI members). Like all PMI examinations, the CAPM exam is a computer-based test (CBT), but paper-based testing is available to candidates only under special circumstances (who live within 200 miles of a Prometric CBT site, or are employed by a corporation that wishes to administer a PMI examination).
Candidates are given three hours to complete the exam, which consists of 150 multiple-choice questions (135 scored and 15 unsecured, pretest questions) with four choices each. Candidates are allowed to take breaks during the exam, but the exam clock will continue during the breaks. The questions only reference material covered in the current edition of the official PMI PMBOK Guide.
The questions cover chapters 3-16 and are distributed across these subjects:
- Project Management Processes for a Project – 15 percent
- Project Integration Management – 12 percent
- Project Time Management – 12 percent
- Project Scope Management – 11 percent
- Project Risk Management – 9 percent
- Project Human Resource Management – 8 percent
- Project Cost Management – 7 percent
- Project Procurement Management – 7 percent
- Project Stakeholder Management – 7 percent
- Project Quality Management – 6 percent
- Project Communications Management – 6 percent
CAPM in the workplace
The CAPM certification lasts for five years starting the day you pass the exam. During the last year of the cycle, certification holders have the choice to apply for other PMI credentials or pursue recertification. Recertification requires an online application, a fee, and successful re-examination. If recertification isn’t completed before the end of the cycle, the full certification process must be completed before a new certificate is issued.
CAPM certification can be a good way for an entry-level applicant to stand out and inform prospective employers of their qualification and commitment to a future role in project management. The principals and methodologies covered by the CAPM cert allow project managers to easily and freely transfer their skills between diverse industries and geographic locations. The familiarity with the PMBOK gained from certification combined with the many resources of PMI, allow professionals to take on unfamiliar and complex projects with a sense of ease and confidence. Certification can also potentially increase a candidate’s value as an employee.
“Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM),” PMI.org, April 15, 2015, http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Certified-Associate-in-Project-Management-CAPM.aspx
“Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) Handbook,” PMI, April 1, 2015, http://www.pmi.org/Certification/~/media/PDF/Certifications/pdc_capmhandbook.ashx
“Average Salary for Certification: Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM),” Payscale.com, April 15, 2015, http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Certified_Associate_in_Project_Management_%28CAPM%29/Salary#by_Job