PMP Application: 2021 Complete Guide with Sample, Tips, and More.


Last Updated on September 2, 2021 by andrewshih

Are you looking for help with the PMP application?

Completing the application can be daunting and confusing, especially when going through the process for the first (and hopefully the only) time. This article is here to provide you with PMP application assistance and walk you through the PMP application process step by step.

There are several pieces to the application that you will need to complete before you can submit it for PMI’s approval. We will go over the process and provide you with tips and examples to help you complete the PMP application.

Let’s get started!

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PMP Application Process

Process Overview

The chart below from PMP PMP Handbook shows the overall flow of the PMP Certification process:

PMP Certification process from PMP Application submission, PMP Audit, to PMP Certification renewal.
Source: PMI PMP Hanbook. Page 4. Copyright 2000-2021 Project Management Institute Inc. All rights reserved.

Completing the PMP application is the first step in the PMP Certification process. We will go over the PMP application process step by step below, but in a nutshell, this is what we will cover:

  1. What are the PMP application requirements? You need to make sure you meet the minimum requirements before commit time and resources to PMP certification.
  2. Complete the PMP application: You will learn the tips, resources, and find examples to show you how to fill out the application easily.
  3. Submit, review, check status, and audit the PMP application: We will cover things to watch for during the final steps of the application process.

Process FAQ

Unlike other certifications, there is no PMP application fee. Yes, the PMP application costs nothing to get started. You will only need to pay PMP Exam fee once your PMP application is approved.

One money-saving tip I would recommend is you should consider joining PMP membership before you pay for the PMP exam. The discount you get for paying for the PMP Exam and books is well worth it.

It takes time and resources to earn the PMP Certification, so make sure you are ready to commit. If you are not sure, check out this article where you will find the PMP Average salary from PMI’s most recent survey and 9 benefits of PMP certification.

What Are the PMP Application Requirements?

PMI requires all candidates to satisfy the requirements before taking the PMP exam. 

In summary, here are the minimum requirements, depending on if you have a 4-year college degree or not.

Educational Background

Project Management Experience

Project Management

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

*Leading and directing the project as identified with the tasks, knowledge, and skills specifically in the Project Management Professional Examination Content Outline.

Most of the PMP candidates have a 4-year college degree and thus require 3-year project management experience and completion of 35-contact hours.

PMP application changes in 2020/2021

Please be aware that PMI made a few important changes to the PMI application in June 2020. You will be glad to know that PMI actually simplified the application. Here are a few key changes:

  • PMI removed the 4500 (or 7500 without a 4-year college degree) hours of project management experience as part of the requirement.
  • PMI no longer restrict project description to 550 characters.
  • PMI allowed CAPM holders to waive the 35 contact hour requirement.
  • PMI introduced a new path for PMP candidates with GAC accredited programs with only 2-year work experience.

ATP program rollout in 2021

In 2021, there is also a change in how PMP aspirants can earn the 35 contact hours required for PMP certification.

PMI rolled out Authorized Training Partner (A.T.P.) in 2021. Many of the most reputable training providers are now ATP. The A.T.P. can no longer provide their on-demand course as the result of this change.

PMI will be the official provider of the on-demand PMP course, and ATP will provide live classes to teach the course material provided by PMI.

Learn more about the PMP exam change in 2020/2021.

PMP application requirements FAQ

The Global Accreditation Center (GAC) for Project Management Education Programs is an independent academic accreditation body with project management and related programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels.

You can access the directory of GAC.

If you are a graduate of a GAC accredited degree program you will receive a 12-month credit towards the work experience requirement. Also, you can use the GAC course work to fulfill the 35 education contact hour requirement.

Learn more about PMI GAC for Project Management Education Program.

One of the common work experience questions is whether you need to have a project management job title in order to qualify for the work experience.

What really matters is whether you have spent time leading, managing, or directing projects, and you do not need to have a Project Management job title in order to qualify for the work experience; it is what you do that matters. 

If you have PMP experience, but do not have a Project Management title, this article may help.

While the job title doesn’t matter, you will need to be able to demonstrate the following with your work experience.  According to PMBOK guide:

  • Perform their duties under general supervision and are responsible for all aspects of the project for the life of the project.
  • Lead and direct cross-functional teams to deliver projects within the constraints of schedule, budget, and resources.
  • Demonstrate sufficient knowledge and experience to appropriately apply a methodology to projects that have reasonably well-defined project requirements and deliverables.

The work experience can be any of the process groups (Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor/Control, Close).

For example, you can be negotiating and be closing a sales contract and used various techniques outlined in the PMBOK guide.  One project does not have to cover all the domain areas, but PMI does expect that you have project leading or management experience that covers all 5 process groups.

How to Complete PMP Application

Access PMP Application Form

To get started with your application, simply navigate to Project Management Professional (PMP) page, and you will be greeted with “Apply for PMP Certification.”

Apply for PMP Certification

You will need to complete and submit the PMP application online.

Keep in mind that once you begin the PMP online application, you will have 90 days to complete it.

New PMI PMP Application
Completing new PMI PMP Application

Filling out the PMP Application

There are 3-parts to filling out the application

  • Academic & Professional Education
  • Work Experience
  • Exam Details

We will go over each of the sections in order. However, I will focus the attention on the PMP Application Experience section.

The most challenging part for most PMP aspirants is the work experience section, where I will take a deep dive to provide tips, examples, and show how you can write the project description easily.

PMP Application Academic Education

PMP Application Academic Education
PMP Application Academic Education

Academic Education is straightforward. Simply complete it with the school you attended. The school you attended will dictate the number of years of project management experience needed to complete the application.

PMP Application Professional Education

PMP Application professional education
Professional Education for PMP Application

What is Professional Education for PMP Application?

As one of the PMP application requirements, the PMP aspirant must complete relevant professional education in project management. A total of 35 contact hours of project management training must be completed and verified.

What is 35 contact hours for PMP?

One contact hour is equivalent to 60 minutes of qualified project management training.  Completing 35 contact hours is required for completing the application and applying for PMP certification.

You may also be aware of the Professional Development Unit (PDU).  PMI delineates the professional management learning before and after PMP certification; the project management training before the PMP certification is called the contact hour and PDU after earning the PMP certification.

How to get 35 contact hours for PMP Application Professional Education?

Unless you have prior project management training that satisfies the 35 contract hour requirement, PMP aspirants will follow one of the two paths to earn 35 contact hours and prepare for the PMP Exam:

PATH #1: Take PMI’s On-demand Course

If you prefer the on-demand course, you must take the official on-demand PMP course created by PMI.  The cost of the on-demand course is $699 for PMI members and $799 for non-members.

To accompany the on-demand learning, you will need to invest in a quality PMP exam simulator such as PM-Prepcast (Check the latest coupon code) that is highly recommended on Reddit by PMP aspirants who pass the PMP Exam.

You may need a study guide to help you prepare for the PMP exam. You can find the review for the popular PMP study guides and a list of PMI’s published book references with this PMP book resource.

The total cost for the on-demand course, PMP Exam Simulator, and a study guide will be around $950, not too far off from taking the ATP course.

PATH #2: Take ATP’s live virtual training course

Alternatively, you can opt for live virtual training with ATP with a live instructor and a supportive learning environment.  The ATP training will typically cost between $1000 to $2000.  A few popular ATP include PM-PrepcastPMTraining, and GreyCampus.  Or you can check out the ATP comparison chart with PMTraining, PM-Prepcast, and GreyCampus side by side.

Some ATP may sweeten the training package by including the PMP exam simulator, study material, PMP application assistance, or exam-pass guarantee.

Once you completed the 35 contact hours training, you will receive the certificate of completion from your training provider, and you can enter your training information.

PATH #3: Take non-ATP on-demand course

If your company is not going to sponsor your PMP certification, and you have a limited budget, you can still opt for non-ATP courses and still earn 35-contact hours.

Joseph Phillips PMP Exam Prep
Joseph Phillips Exam Prep Course

The most popular option is to take the Joseph Phillips Exam Prep course on Udemy. The course only costs $12.99 during the discount.

If you are not sure if you have accumulated enough contact hours from schools and employment training, this affordable course can be a great “Plan B” option to satisfy the requirement and help you prepare for the PMP Exam too.

Rakuten logo

By the way, if you install the Rakuten browser extension, you can get 10% cashback when you purchase the course on Udemy (and save when you shop at brand stores such as Target, Microsoft, Disney+, and many more).

if you are opting for the self-study option, you will also need to invest in a quality PMP exam simulator such as PM-Prepcast (Check the latest coupon code) and possibly get a study guide.

PMP Application Experience

Once you completed the academic & professional education, the next step is to complete the experience section.

If you have a 4-year college degree, you will need to demonstrate you have at least 3 years of project management experience. Most of the PMP aspirants will write up several projects to meet the 3-year project management experience qualification.

This is the most difficult part of the application, so take the time necessary to carefully and thoroughly complete the experience section.

PMP Application Experience Example
PMP Application Experience

PMP application experience field description

  • Project Title: it should be concise and unique.
  • Organization: Where the project was carried out.
  • Job Title: Your job title at the organization.
  • Functional Reporting Area: Pick a functional area most resembles your team.
  • Organization Primary Focus: Industry that best fits your organization.
  • Approach/Methodology: Choose from Traditional (Waterfall), Agile, or Hybrid
  • Project Team Size: Pick the range of team members involved in the project.
  • Project Budget (in USD): Give your best estimate of the budget.
  • Project Dates: Provide the start and end date of the project. You can also select “In Progress” if the project is ongoing.
  • Project Description:  Provide a high-level description that summarizes your experience and includes the project objective, role, responsibilities, and outcome.  A typical response is 200 to 500 words.

Writing the PMP application project description is where most PMP aspirants struggle and looking for assistance. To help you write your own project description, I will organize the information as follows:

  • Show you the PMP application examples.
  • Offer PMP application tips
  • 3 Steps to writing your own project description easily.
    1. Help you pick the projects and with few more tips
    2. Give you a PMP Application template
    3. The resource to help you write the PMP application project description.
  • PMP application experience FAQ

PMP Application Examples

Here are two examples of PMP Application project description. The samples are only meant to provide guidance, and you should not copy word for word from the samples.

It may look a bit overwhelming writing such a long project description for each of your PMP application experience. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it seems, and you will be writing like a pro shortly.

PMP application example #1
PMP Application Examples #1
PMP application example #2
PMP Application Examples #2

If you need more inspiration and samples, you can find more examples under the comment section of the Complete Guide for PMP Project Description.

PMP application tips

In this video, I shared the tips for PMP application and layout the foundation on how you can write your PMP project description experience easily:

In a nutshell:

  • Prioritize and write the longest project first. It will minimize the number of projects you have to write.
  • Utilizing the checklist and tips provided by PMI. PMI offers PMP application tips and a checklist to help you complete the application.
  • Leverage the verbiage of project methodologies and other sources that already PMI provided. I collected the verbiage in the PMP project description reference sheet in one place to make it easier for you.

Step 1: Pick the projects to write

The first step is to organize your projects and timeline as shown in the video and decide which projects to document on the application.

You know about prioritizing and picking the longer projects first. Here are additional considerations when you pick the projects:

  • Make sure what you write is a project, not an operation. Make sure you understand the difference between a project and an operation. PMI defines a project as “a temporary endeavor to create a product, service, or result.”
  • Pick projects that you manage and lead the project. You should select projects that you took a leadership role and manage project, not just a participant or coordinator role.
PMP Application Overlapping Projects

If you have projects that overlap the timeline, you should still write a separate PMP application experience for each project. PMI will automatically discount the overlap when aggregating the month of your work experience.

Prepare for PMP Application Audit (just in case)

While the application no longer asks you to include who will review your application when your application is audited, it will be a good idea to plan ahead. You can have a different reviewer per project.

You want to avoid the situation when no one can validate your application if your application is selected for a random audit.

  • Designate a reviewer per project. It would be best to choose someone familiar with your project, and mostly this person will be your direct manager or your colleague.  It is also a good idea to have a backup person in mind. You will need to obtain the contact information if they are no longer working for the company.
  • Contact and inform your reviewer ahead of time. Give your contact a heads up that you are working on PMP certification, and you may need him or her to validate your project(s). It’s a good idea to make sure your contact information is still valid.
Project Selection Checklist

Before we wrap up this step, here is the checklist:

  • You have a list of projects enough to cover the minimum work experience requirements, discounting the months for overlapping projects.
  • You have validate contact information for your reviewers and gave your reviews a heads up.
  • The projects are not operations.

Step 2: Create your PMP application template

PMI provided the PMP application tips and stated the following:

Project descriptions should consist of the following:

  • A brief, one-sentence project objective
  • Project deliverables summarized by process areas (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing – abbreviations are acceptable IN, PL, EX, MC & CL)
  • A brief, one-sentence project outcome

PMP Application Template:

Monitoring & Controlling:

You may also include your “Role” (typically placed under the “Objective”) for the project, but it is optional. The role may be useful if your job title and function do not appear to be project management related, and you want to offer a brief explanation.

If you prefer to keep all the key information in one place, you may also include the title of the project, organization, start/end month/year, a reviewer for the project, etc.

The purpose is to craft a template that works for you and includes key information to help you identify the project description, avoiding cut & paste errors when you transfer the information to the PMP online application.

We will use this template for each of your PMP application experience. Don’t worry; you can always come back and make adjustments.

For the next step, we will just use the PMP application template above – those are the essential elements for each of the project descriptions.

PMP Application Template Checklist
  • The template must have at the minimum: Obj, IN/PL/EX/MC/CL, Outcome
  • Add any optional field that works for you,

Step 3: Write the PMP application project description

Step 3.1: Write the objective and outcome first.

Write a brief statement for your project objective and its outcome. Keep it concise and to the point.

Step 3.2: Write IN/PL/EX/MC/CL.

This is the core of your project description. To help you write this, you can extract the project methodologies from the PMP project description reference sheet.

Simply extract the methodologies that are applicable to your project and place them under the appropriate domain group in the template you created. Just focus on gathering the relevant methodologies, and don’t worry about editing yet.

Step 3.3: Write the objective and outcome.

Now it is time to read what you have put together and to do the editing. Make the necessary adjustment to make your PMP application project description flows better and reflects your project. However, you should avoid using technical jargon and abbreviations only known to experts in your industry or company.

Congratulations! You just completed your first project description for your application.

If you have similar projects, you can take what you completed, make a copy, and adjust accordingly. If not, you can always go back and repeat the steps to write another project description.

PMP application experience FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about how to fill out PMP application experience.

PMI will not reject your PMP application because all your projects and project descriptions are similar.  However, I would suggest at least vary the objective to make the project unique. For example, by include the name of different stakeholders, clients, or products.  You can also easily include different tools & techniques for different projects.

I recommend using the domain groups in your project description for a number of reasons: (1) It’s recommended by PMI.  (2) If you don’t do it, you increase your likelihood of getting your PMP application rejected. (3) It makes the audit committee’s job easier for reviewing your application if your application is audited.

PMI’s definition’s project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service, or result.  If they are different projects, you should write a project description for each of them.  Writing many project descriptions can sound tedious (and it is), but you can copy and paste to create more project descriptions quickly and simply make small adjustments for those similar projects.

You will need to have at least one project that covers all 5 domain groups, or you can have multiple projects in order to complete the coverage of 5 domain groups.  PMI wants to see you have experience from initiating to closing the project, regardless of the number of the projects you do.  You also need to have enough project experience to satisfy the minimum requirement.

All of the above are fine and none issues.  You can have as many projects as you want, as long and as short as you want.  Obviously, to save your time, I would recommend write project descriptions with the longest duration until you fulfill the minimum 3-year or 5-year requirement depending on your educational background.  It’s perfectly fine to have gaps, leave out the smaller projects, and omit the overlapping projects; this is not a resume/cv so it’s perfectly fine to have gaps if this was your concern.

According to PMP Handbook (under PMP Application and Payment section), “The experience does not necessarily have to be paid work, but it does need to be in a professional setting. Activities such as school projects or planning personal events would not qualify.”

Yes, as long as the person is familiar with all your projects.  In the case of an audit, the person will need to verify and sign your PMP application.

While you need to have project management experience, you do not need to have a project management title.  When I applied for my PMP, none of my titles was project manager related. I had titles like infrastructure manager and solution consultant.  As long as you can document the project methodologies and your reviewer will acknowledge and approve your work (in case of an audit), you will be fine.  Also, refer to PMP without Project Management title.

Keep in mind that the purpose of writing the project description is not for PMI to understand your projects; the purpose is to demonstrate that you leveraged project methodologies for completing your project.

PMI is looking for project methodologies that you utilized in the project. it is okay if the jargon is related to project methodologies. However, you should avoid jargon only known in your industry or company.

This appears to be a common issue that impacts quite a few PMP aspirants. If your status shows you are eligible to take the PMP exam and the clock starts ticking from the 1-year mark, it’s almost for certain you pass the PMP application process. However, to be absolutely sure, you should contact PMI to verify the status.

PMP application exam detail

On the third and final step of your PMP application, you will be provide your personal details, contact information, and exam preference. Very simple.

Submit PMP Application

You put in a lot of effort in filling out the PMP application and probably cannot wait to submit the application.

I would suggest that you take a break to free up your mind and then download and review your entire application. Check for accuracy and make sure there are no cut & paste errors before you click on the Submit button.

Once you submit the application, you will not be able to change it at all.  If you want to change it after you submit the application, the only thing the audit team can do is to reject your application, and you will need to complete the whole application again.

PMI provided this checklist that you use to validate your application.

Check PMP Application Status

PMP application review time

After you submit the application, you will find out within a few minutes if your application is selected for a random audit. If not, it will take up to 5 business days for PMI to review your application.

How to check PMP application status

You can check your latest PMP application status from your dashboard on PMI.

PMP application audit

The majority of the applicants will not have to the audit so I will not include this information here. If your application is audited, please refer to the PMP audit preparation, where I answer commonly asked questions and help you get through the audit.

Next – Prepare for the PMP Exam

Once you complete the application, you will need to ramp up your effort for preparing the PMP exam. The key to success for most of the PMP aspirant is plenty of practice to get comfortable with the PMP exam questions.

Among all the tools and resource out there, the number one tool I would strongly recommend is to get a Premium Exam Simulator to help you prepare for the exam. PM-Prepcast exam simulator is the most highly recommended simulator on Reddit for those who passed the PMP exam.

PM PrepCast Exam Simulator ($149.00)

For most people, including myself, plenty of practice is the best way to retain the learning and understand “PMI-ism.”  PM-Prepcast exam simulator is the leader and highly rated on the Reddit PMP forum.

The simulator offers 2100 realistic exam questions, detailed answer keys, with 4 full exams for realistic exam experience.  There are many useful features and also a dashboard to help you track progress and spot weakness.  Read the full PM-Prepcast review.

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Lastly – If You Need More Help

If you are still stuck or want me to review your project description or have specific questions, you can reach out to me with your project description.  Please use the contact form.

If you are willing to share your project description or have a general question related to the PMP application that may benefit other PMP aspirants, feel free to comment below.   Good luck!

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