4 Best Project Management Certifications for Beginners with Top Salary

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Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by andrewshih

Are you interested in becoming a project manager but have little or no experience? Or if you want to be a project manager but are not sure which project management certification is right for you?

This article will provide all the necessary details about the 4 best project management certifications for beginners with a good starting salary and potential growth. You will find a quick summary of all you need to know about the certification to make an informed decision.

Disclaimer:  PMAspirant is affiliated with Amazon, and project management course providers, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please review the full affiliate disclaimer

CSM

Everything about CSM by Knowledgehut

What is CSM

Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certification is an internationally recognized certification by Scrum Alliance. It is designed to help individuals who are interested in learning more about agile development practices.

Certified Scrum Masters are experts in agile project management. They help teams improve their processes and workflows by using Scrum. CSM is the best Agile project management certification for beginners with no experience.

With CSM certification, you will learn valuable skills, including servant leadership, facilitation, coaching, resolving impediments, enabling high team performance, and leading and facilitating change.

Scrum utilizes iterative and incremental approaches with a short delivery cycle called sprints, typically lasting between one to four weeks. The Scrum framework consists of artifacts, events, roles, and rules for implementing the agile project.

CSM Certification Requirement

Accreditation: Scrum Alliance

Completion of two-day CSM training course in a live virtual training environment and passing the CSM exam.

CSM Salary

According to PayScale, the estimated base pay for a Scrum Master with CSM certification in the United States area is $93.724/yr as of June 2022.

CSM Certification Process

Before taking the CSM exam, you must complete either the 16 hours in-person 2-day class or 14 hours of live online 2-day class with one of the Certified Scrum Trainers (CST). The 2-day live training course is a requirement for taking the CSM exam. 

After completing the CSM course, you will receive a welcome email with a link to activate your Scrum Alliance certification account. The account will give you access to take the CSM exam.

Once you completed the 2-day course and pass the CSM exam, you are CSM certified.

CSM Exam

CSM Exam Format

The CSM exam is relatively easy. It is a 60-minute exam consisting of 50 multiple-choice questions with a passing score of 74%. You must get 37 out of 50 questions correctly to pass the exam.

CSM Exam cost

The cost can vary quite a lot by the training provider, but approximately between $400 to $1,395

There is no additional cost for taking the CSM exam if you pass the exam within 90 days after receiving the welcome letter to take the exam by completing the 2-day live training course. If you do not take the exam within 90 days, the CSM exam will cost $25 for each attempt.

Prepare for the CSM exam

The live training course will take 14 to 16 hours to complete for online and in-person learning. The student may want to spend a few more days reviewing the training material before taking the CSM exam.

One of the leading CSM training providers with an affordable price is KnowledgeHut having 4.8 out of 5 stars by over 1700 reviews on TrustPilot. Other popular CSM training providers include Project Management Academy. PMTraining, and GreyCampus.

Provider

KnowledgeHut

Project Management Academy

PMTraining

GreyCampus

COST

$445

$995 $795

Coupon code ASPIRANT200

save extra $200.

$698 ~$998

$1000

Maintain the CSM Certification

According to ScrumAlliance, the CSM Member renewal fee and requirement are you will need to earn 20 Scrum Education Units (SEU) and pay a $100 renewal fee every 2 years.

Should I Get CSM Certification?

CSM Certification may be right for you, if:

  • If you want to learn to lead a team to create a product better and faster.
  • CSM is a great starting point if you do not have agile project management experience and would like to open your career to leading a team in an agile product development environment.
  • If you have traditional, predictive, waterfall project management experience and looking for an entry into Agile project management.

CSM FAQ

Why is it called Scrum?

What is the difference between Scrum and Agile?

How many times can I take the CSM exam?

CSM vs PSM. Is CSM better than PSM?

Additional Reference

Scrum Alliance – About Scrum

CAPM

What is CAPM

A certified associate in project management (CAPM) is an individual who has completed a rigorous course of study that focuses on the principles of project management. The CAPM exam tests candidates’ knowledge of these principles.

Becoming a CAPM will help you advance your career as a project manager. It shows employers that you have the skills needed to manage projects effectively. Additionally, becoming a CAPM demonstrates your commitment to project management.

CAPM Certification Requirement

Accreditation: Project Management Institute (PMI)

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent)
  • 23 hours of project management training.

There is no project management work experience required.

CAPM Salary

According to PayScale, the estimated base pay for a project manager with CAPM certification in the United States area is $67,000/yr as of June 2022.

Many project managers with CAPM certification proceed to acquire PMP certification after acquiring sufficient project management experience.

CAPM Certification Process

You will need to submit your application online, and the PMI committee will review your application to make sure you meet the requirements. Your application may be randomly selected for audit. Once you pass the application, you have one year to pass the exam.

After you complete the application process and pass the CAPM exam, you will earn the CAPM certification.

CAPM Exam

CAPM Exam Format

The CAPM tests your understanding of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide).

The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions, which includes 15 questions ungraded pretest questions scattered in the exam. The allotted time for the CAPM exam is 3 hours.

Sample Question

If you take the exam at the test center, you can take breaks as you want, although the clock will continue to count down.

If you opted for an online proctored test, you cannot take a break or leave your desk.

CAPM Exam Cost

If you are taking the CAPM exam for the first time:

  • Member: $225.00
  • Non-Member: $300.00

Re-examination fee if you failed the CAPM Exam:

  • Member: $150.00
  • Non-Member: $200.00

You can take the exam up to 3 times within a year. If you fail 3 times, you will need to wait one year from the date of your last exam.

Prepare for CAPM Exam

If you are a PMI member, you can download a digital copy of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide. You can also purchase a physical copy from the PMI store or on Amazon. The current exam is based on both PMBOK 6 and PMBOK 7.

To earn the required training hours and prepare for the CAPM exam, students either attend a video-on-demand exam preparation course or a live virtual Bootcamp course. The on-demand course is more affordable and flexible. The live boot camp course provides instructor support and comprehensive training experience.

Video-on-demand CAPM Course

Udemy CAPM Course

Udemy’s CAPM course is the most affordable video-on-demand class. Joseph Philips’ CAPM class is the most popular. However, it lacks the CAPM exam simulator.

Prepcast CAPM Exam Simulator

If you purchase this course, you may also want to buy the CAPM exam simulator from Prepcast. The exam simulator provides realistic exam practice questions with similar wording and difficulties. The answer key provides detailed explanations. Practice is the key to passing the exam.

CAPM Prepcast Elite

The Prepcast Elite package offers the best package at an affordable price. It provides up-to-date training content and the best CAPM exam simulator in the market. 

This package includes on-demand video training and CAPM exam simulators. Once you complete the training, you will receive a certificate for 23 contact hours that satisfy the PMI requirement for taking the CAPM exam. The simulator has 650 realistic questions and detailed answer explanations to help you understand the why behind each answer.

Live virtual CAPM Bootcamp Course

If you prefer training from a live instructor from your office or at home, a live virtual boot camp course is the way to go. Here are two reputable Authorized Training Partner (ATP) accredited by PMI that offers CAPM Bootcamp courses.

Provider

Project Management Academy

KnowledgeHut

GreyCampus

Price

$1595 $1395

Use coupon code ASPIRANT200

save extra $200.


$599

$700

Maintain the CAPM Certification

To maintain the certification, CAPM certification holders must earn 15 PDUs and pay the renewal fee every three years.

  • Member renewal fee: $60 / 3-year
  • Non-Member renewal fee: $150 / 3-year

Should I Get CAPM Certification?

CAPM may be right for you, if:

  • You are interested in becoming a project manager but do not have at least three years of leading project experience. 
  • You want to show the recruiters that you have the project management knowledge or meet the job requirements.

Additional Reference

PMP

What is PMP

PMP stands for Project Management Professional. It is the most sought-after and internationally recognized project management certification for experienced project managers.

You will acquire knowledge in 3 domains: People, Processes, and Business Environment. 

Project management is highly dependent on the project team, and the project manager plays a pivotal role in the project’s success. The people domain area emphasizes the soft skills to lead a project team effectively.

A project manager will also need to know the technical aspects of project management, including the processes, methodologies, tools, and techniques from initiating to closing a project. The project manager will need to be familiar with predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches.

A Project is all about delivering business value to the company and the end-users. The project manager needs to understand the connections between business landscapes, both internal and external factors, and how it impacts the project.

PMP Certification Requirement

Accreditation: Project Management Institute (PMI)

Before applying for the PMP certification, you need to have experience managing or leading professional projects. However, you do not need a project management job title to qualify for the experience. You can learn more here.

Depending on your educational background, there are different work experience requirements.

Educational Background

Project Management Experience

Project Management
Education

Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent)

Minimum five years/60 months of unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of
formal education unless
you are an active CAPM
holder

OR

Four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or global equivalent)

Minimum three years/36 months of unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of
formal education unless
you are an active CAPM
holder

OR

Bachelor's or post-graduate
degree from a GAC accredited program (bachelor’s degree or master's or global equivalent)

Minimum two years/24 months of unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of formal education unless you are an active CAPM holder

PMP Salary

According to PayScale, the estimated base pay for a project manager with PMP certification in the United States area is $110,000/yr as of June 2022.

PMP Certification Process

Make sure you have the school degree, work experience, and complete the training first. Once you meet the eligibility criteria, you can complete the PMP application. 

One of the biggest challenges in completing the PMP application is writing project descriptions. Check out the step-by-step guide with tips and examples to help you write the project description. Your application can also be selected for random audit.

Once you pass the PMP application, you should take the PMP exam within 1 year. If you pass the exam, you are PMP certified. Most PMP candidates take the PMP exam within 2 months of passing the PMP application.

However, if you failed the exam 3 times within a year, you would need to wait for one year from the date of the third failed exam.

PMP Exam

PMP Exam Format

The exam is comprised of:

  • 180 questions and 5 of the questions are pretest questions to validate for future exams.
  • 230 minutes to complete the exam
  • There are two 10-minute breaks for computer-based tests. There are no scheduled breaks for paper-based exams.
  • Questions consist of a combination of multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank. Here are some sample questions.
  • The exam consists of mostly situational questions. You will be given a situation and need to determine the best course of action. Simply memorizing the content is not sufficient for passing the exam; you must know how to apply the knowledge, which makes the exam difficult.

The computer-based exam can be taken at Pearson Vue center or proctored online from home. A paper-based exam is available, but you should take the computer-based exam that’s widely available in most countries.

PMP Exam Cost

Member: US$405.00

Non-member: US$555.00

Check out the PMP certification cost calculator with a detailed yearly cost breakdown.

Prepare for PMP Exam

PMP exam is based on a number of reference books, but the primary books are PMBOK 6, PMBOK 7, and the Agile Practice Guide.

There are several options to prepare for the PMP exam. These options will help you meet the 35 contact-hour training requirements and prepare you for the PMP exam. You should choose the option that best fits your learning style.

Option 1: Most Affordable on-demand learning

You can take a very affordable course on Udemy that you may purchase for less than $20 per course at an on-sale price. Two highly rated courses among PMP aspirants include:

Andrew Ramdayal’s PMP course

Joseph Phillips’s PMP exam prep

Then, practice hard with a top-quality PMP exam simulator that offers realistic exam questions and detailed explanations, such as PM-Prepcast or PMTraining.

Option 2: Packaged on-demand learning with exam simulator

Companies such as PM-Prepcast offers video-on-demand training with a premium exam simulator bundle. PM-Prepcast is a reputable PMP training provider, and its PMP exam simulator is top-notch.

Option 3: On-demand learning from PMI

PMI offers on-demand courses. It costs $699 for Members and $799 for non-members.

Option 4: Live instructor-led class or online boot camp training

If you prefer having access and support from a live instructor, you can learn from PMI’s Authorized Training Partners (ATP), such as Project Management Academy, PMTraining, and GreyCampus. 

With the boot camp, you have access to the instructor, the most comprehensive training material, and access to the premium exam simulator. Here is a comparison chart of popular boot camp programs, including an exclusive discount code only for PMAspirant from Project Management Academy.

Velociteach

Project Management Academy

PMTraining

Edureka

GreyCampus

Founded On

2002

2003

2004

2011

2014

Headquarters

Kennesaw, GA

West Lafayette, IN

Boulder, CO

Bangalore, India

Plano, TX

Premier ATP

NO

YES

YES

YES

YES

Contract Hours

35

35

35

35

35

Price

$2447

$1997

$1995

$1795

$998
to
$1498

$749

$1499

Class Availability

Instructor Qualification & Transparency

STUDY MATERIAL

Workbooks

Slides

CheatSheets & Formulas

Flashcards

eLearning

Extras

EMV, Network diagram, Strategy audio, Andy's Book

ITTO, Strategy guide

N/A

Industry-Relevant Projects

N/A

Exam Simulator Included

Exam Practice Questions

1800+

2000

1000

N/A

600

Exam Simulator Access

180 days. Can extend with approval

180 Days

90 Days

N/A

1 Year

SUPPORT & POLICY

Instructor Support

1 year

6 months

30 days

Lifetime

1 year

PMP Application support

Audit support

Extra Support

Custom study plan if failed test.

Webinar

Free Re-enrollment

Yes, with approval.

Yes, free retake at same or lower value.

Yes, free retake at same or lower value.

Yes, Lifetime access + updates

Yes, 6-month unlimited access.

Exam Pass Money-back guarantee

Yes, 1 year from class start date.

Yes, 120 days after class end.

Yes, 120 days after class end.

No

No

Guarantee conditions

Cancellation Policy

OVERALL RATING

Overall Rating

4.4

4.4

4.1

3.2

3.2

Coupon Code

Exclusive Offer!

Save extra $450

ASPIRANT450

Exclusive Offer!

Save extra $200

ASPIRANT200

Additional Resources:

For additional recommended resources, such as study guides and free resources, you can find them on the PMP resources page.

Maintain the PMP Certification

To maintain your PMP certification, you will need to earn 60 PDU every 3 years and pay the renewal fee every three years to maintain the certification.

  • Member renewal fee: $60 / 3-year
  • Non-Member renewal fee: $150 / 3-year

Should I Get PMP Certification?

PMP Certification may be right for you if you:

  • Meet the minimum qualification and look to advance your project management career.
  • A job seeker and looking to meet the job qualification.
  • Already have project management experience and looking to improve yourself and do a better job. 

 Additional Reference

PMP by PMI

PMI-ACP

What is PMI-ACP

PMI-ACP stands for Agile Certified Practitioner by Project Management Institute.

If your company adopts agile practices or you are in an agile team, PMI-ACP is a perfect choice. 

PMI-ACP has in-depth coverage of many Agile approaches such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean Extreme Programming (XP), and test-driven development (TDD).

This certification shows you have the knowledge and real-world experience with agile practices.

PMI-ACP Certification Requirement

Accreditation: Project Management Institute (PMI)

  • A high school diploma, an associate degree, or a global equivalent
  • 21 contact hours of training in agile practices
  • 12 months of project management experience within the last 5 years. A current PMP or PgMP certification will satisfy this requirement but is not required.
  • 8 months of Agile project management experience within the last 3 years

PMI-ACP Salary

According to PayScale, the estimated base pay for a project manager with PMI-ACP certification in the United States area is $113,000/yr as of June 2022.

PMI-ACP Exam

PMI-ACP Exam Format

The certification exam has 120 multiple-choice questions, and you have three hours to complete the exam.

PMI-ACP Exam Cost

Member: US$435.00

Non-member: US$495.00

Prepare for the PMI-ACP exam

According to several Reddit discussions from jzbpki, ps376a, and mksia7, the following resources are helpful for passing the PMI-ACP exam, including the PMI-ACP Exam Prep book by Mike Griffiths, Udemy course by Joseph Philips, and the Prepcast exam simulator.

Video-on-demand PMI-ACP Course

Udemy

Udemy Agile course is the most affordable video-on-demand class. Joseph Philips’ PMI-ACP Exam Prep Success class is the most popular.

If you purchase the Udemy course, you may also want to buy the Prepcast Agile exam simulator from Prepcast. The exam simulator provides realistic exam practice questions with similar wording and difficulties. The answer key provides detailed explanations. Practice is the key to passing the exam.

Agile Prepcast

Agile PrepCast Basic offers a series of videos on agile software development topics. These videos are designed to help prepare you for the PMI-ACP exam. They cover topics like Scrum, XP, Kanban, Lean Startup, DevOps, and more.  Each lesson covers a specific topic and includes quizzes and exercises to help you learn.

The Agile Prepcast Elite comprises Agile PrepCast Basic and the PMI-ACP Exam Simulator. 

The PMI-ACP Exam Simulator is a set of practice tests that help prepare candidates for the PMI-ACP certification exam. It includes four full-length practice exams, each of which simulates the actual exam experience.

    Agile Prepcast

Basic

Elite

Elite PLUS

21 hours of video-based training lessons

Certificate of Completion

16 Learning Modules

Lessons covering the 12 PMI recommended reference books

Download & Mobile access

Exam simulator with 480  questions. (4 full exam with 120 questions)

PM StudyCoach Guidebook for PMI-ACP

Price

$229

$279

$329

Live virtual PMI-ACP Bootcamp Course

If you prefer training from a live instructor from your office or at home, a live virtual boot camp course is the way to go. Here are 4 reputable Authorized Training Partner (ATP) accredited by PMI that offers PMI-ACP boot camp courses.

Provider

Project Management Academy

Knowledgehut

PMTraining

GreyCampus

Price

$1195 $995

Coupon Code

ASPIRANT200

save extra $200

$899

$898 ~ $1298

$700

Maintain the PMI-ACP Certification

To maintain your PMI-ACP certification, you will need to earn 30 professional development units (PDU) in agile topics every three years.

Should I Get PMI-ACP Certification?

PMI-ACP certification may be right for you if you are:

  • A project manager who works in an Agile team.
  • A project manager with some project management and Agile experience wants to advance the agile knowledge further.
  • Demonstrate that you are an experienced Agile project manager to the recruiter.

Additional Reference

PMI-ACP certification by PMI

Why should I get Project Management Certification?

You may wonder if project management certification is worth it.

There are several benefits of becoming a project manager. Apart from making a good salary, project management is a transferrable skill across industries and is acknowledged around the globe. 

A project manager will always be in demand in the foreseeable future, even with the advancement of AI replacing jobs. While AI can assist with some of the project management tasks, it will not be able to replace project management which requires strong interpersonal skills and handling unexpected situations.

By getting the project management certification, you demonstrate that you have the knowledge and ability to take on complex projects, and you are an asset to the company.

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Welcome to PMAspirant, and Congratulations for taking the initiative to embark on your PMP journey. I received my PMP certification in 2017 and created PMAspirant to help PMP aspirants by providing lessons learned, tips, and resources for the PMP application and exam. I hope you find the resource helpful, and best of luck with your PMP journey.
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