Can Someone Become a PMP Without Project Management Experience?

Project Management Learning receives a lot of queries about this particular question, so it’s time to address it properly once and for all.

Many Project Managers wonder if it’s possible to become a PMP without Project Management experience. The short answer is “No”, PMI is very clear in its requirements for the PMP credential: the Project Manager has to gather at least 4,500 hours of real Project Management Experience.

Unfortunately, PMI only audits a small percentage of PMP applications, which allows some unethical applicants to fake the required Project Management experience (and sometimes the education) in hope that they will not get audited. Deceptive techniques used to faking the Project Management Experience include (but of course, are not restricted to, as unethical people are usually creative in finding ways to trick the process):

  • Claiming fake Project Management experience either as an employee or as a contractor from disreputable companies/organizations that went bankrupt, ceased to exist, or are owned by a friend or a family member.
  • Inflating the experience acquired with the current company/organization, many times even informing management about this deceptive technique, so that management is able to confirm the validity of the applicant’s claim in case of an audit.

Sadly, because of the very small percentage of applications being audited, quite a few people are able to become PMPs by using the above (again deceptive) techniques.

This, of course, has some negative consequences, including:

  • An influx of bad “Project Managers” in the job market: Most companies assume that being a PMP (because of the traditional respect for this certification) equates being a Project Manager. While this is true in most cases, it certainly is not for anyone unethically becoming a PMP.
  • Diminishing prestige of the PMP accreditation: Those landing a Project Management job after unethically acquiring the PMP accreditation through faking their experience will send the wrong message to companies about the real value of the PMP because of their clear incompetency.
  • Reduced salary for PMP certified Project Managers: The diminishing prestige of the PMP as well as the abundance of (bad) Project Managers will have a direct and negative effect on the PMP salary.
  • Less respect for Project Management in general: The reduced quality of those working in Project Management will send the wrong message about the worthiness of Project Management as a profession and as a process to get projects done. This will hinder the evolvement of Project Management and will push companies to seek alternatives for managing their projects.

What PMI Should Do

For better or for worse, PMI has a huge say in the Project Management world, and as we can see from the negative consequences above, the somehow lax standards of auditing PMP applicants for their experience can affect the profession of Project Management as a whole.

Here are some thoughts on what PMI should do to avoid this:

  • Drop the random PMP audit mentality: PMI claims that it randomly audits applicants for their experience. This, of course, results in efforts being spent in the wrong place. Many times, it is very obvious to differentiate between someone with real Project Management experience and someone with no experience at all. What’s the point of “randomly” auditing the former and not auditing the second? It is better that PMI adopts a more targeted approach as stated in the next point below.
  • Adopt targeted auditing: Candidates documenting Project Management experience from unknown companies/organizations or those applying immediately after acquiring the minimum required Project Management experience to be eligible (for example exactly 4,500 hours) should have their application looked at with scrutiny.
  • Increase the percentage of the audits: According to PMI, only a small percentage of PMP applications gets audited. Most probably this is done because PMI is understaffed. Perhaps PMI should consider hiring more resources to perform audits. By hiring more auditors, audits can then be more proactive, such as contacting involved companies/individuals to verify that the Project Management experience is definitely “real”.
  • Enforce a lifetime ban for those faking the Project Management experience: Anyone claiming a fake Project Management experience is clearly not doing it with “good faith”. Those doing so should be banned for life from taking any PMI certification. Of course, some people make genuine mistakes in their application and should be excluded from this punishment.

PMI has to assume its responsibility of protecting Project Management and its future as a profession from fraudsters posing themselves as Project Managers. Otherwise, as stated earlier, companies will seek an alternative, and Project Management, as we know it right now, will perish.

Note: To its credit, PMI reserves the right to audit applications even after the certification is bestowed, but this is rarely (if ever) done.

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.

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  1. Quote
    Sebastian said April 21, 2010, 10:38 am:

    I have stumbled upon a great deal of PMP certifications which seems to fall in the “fake” experience category. I honestly cannot see how a person will be able to clear PMP exam 2 years after university. We are talking 25 years old PMP certified managers. Beyond the age, which I agree that is not the single most important thing, I cannot really believe the real life experience can be acquired. So far I was not able to get any comment from PMI, nor from my local chapter. I think PMI is rather interesting in collecting the money rather than keeping it’s value…

  2. Quote
    Azeem said May 16, 2010, 7:57 am:


    i am a sales manager in a chemical distribution company from last 36 months, am i elligible for PMP certification.

    please reply


  3. Quote
    Azeem said May 16, 2010, 8:00 am:

    I must also add that i am a psychology graduate and have done MBA (marketing) in 2003.

    please comment


  4. Quote
    admin said May 16, 2010, 9:03 pm:


    I’m afraid you’re not. You need to have a documented project management experience for the PMP, your experience is restricted to sales.

  5. Quote
    Azeem said May 17, 2010, 2:53 pm:

    Dear Admin

    thanks for the comment, may be my designation seems ordinary on the first instance, but i head the sales of a zone which is a whole country. (Precisely – Regional Sales Manager)

    Apart from Sales, my responsibility also involves,
    Market research as well as feasibility study
    Demand forcasting as well as making budgets.
    Portfolio management as well as its enhancement.

    please let me know if i can go for some other reputed certification related to my experience.



  6. Quote
    admin said May 18, 2010, 7:59 pm:


    Some of your activities may quality as project management experience. For example, making budgets (cost management), feasibility study, portfolio management.

    I still do think though that you need to study a lot in order to be able to pass the PMP, as there are some basic Project Management concepts that might be unknown to you. It is up to you to decide whether to apply or not, there is no harm of stating your experience and see what PMI decides (whether you’re eligible or not).

  7. Quote
    Azeem said May 19, 2010, 2:14 am:

    Dear Admin

    really appreciate your reply, yes i agree that it would be a really steep ascend to pass the exam as I am going through Kim Heldman’s book, and i found there are 90 % terms are unique and unknown to me.

    But ther are things which are common on the macro level with my MBA syllabus, that is – Initiating, Planning , Executing, Monitoring/controlling and closing.

    i have to be honest what i beleive, that it would be more of a memory test rather than the test of experience as i will have to mug up a couple of books.

    Lets try



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