The CAPM certification (Certified Associate in Project Management) is a useful certification that serves as an introductory professional certification when entering the project management field.

This is because the cost, necessary hours, and education needed for this title are less than the prestigious Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

In other words, CAPM certification isn’t as difficult to obtain, will distinguish you from other candidates in the workforce, and will open more opportunities for you to work on project teams.

Do I have your attention now?

The CAPM exam and certification is accredited by the internationally recognized Project Management Institute (PMI). The PMI sets the eligibility requirements for the CAPM as well as the costs of administering any tests, retests, re-certifications, and annual membership fees. Though the eligibility requirements that the PMI sets for the CAPM aren’t as difficult as several other project management certifications, they still require an ample amount of training and work.

See our comprehensive list of CAPM eligibility requirements below:

We’ll also review the different options you have to meet each certification requirement: both for the prerequisites and the actual exam. This will help you determine the best path to take in order to obtain your CAPM certification and signify that you are prepared to lead and participate on project teams in your career field.

Overview of the Requirements for CAPM Certification

In addition to the fees associated with testing for the CAPM, there are a few prerequisites for CAPM hopefuls to accomplish by the time they sit for the test.

These prerequisites include:

  • A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent)
  • 1500 hours of project experience

However, the cool thing about the CAPM is that you can still become accredited if you’re brand new to the world of project management and don’t have any experience whatsoever. The only inflexible prerequisite is the need for a high school diploma at the very least.

One way to bypass the required 1500 hours of project experience is with 23 recorded hours of project management education. There are a few different sources you can use to get these required hours including a Project Management Basics online course offered through the PMI.

Keep reading for more info on fulfilling these requirements:

CAPM Certification Work Experience Requirement

Collecting 1500 hours of project management experience to earn your CAPM can sound a little daunting, but it’s actually not as hard as you think. A lot of things count as project management, because the actual definition of a project is pretty broad.

The official Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK® formally defines a project as a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” Some other characteristics of a project include:

  • A definite beginning and an end, whether through project completion or cancellation.
  • The project creates a unique service, product, improvement, or result.
  • It can involve a single individual, a team, a single organizational unit, or multiple organizational units
  • The results of a project can be tangible or intangible

Because these characteristics can apply to many processes and industries, it’s very possible that you’ve participated in a project team or even led one without being aware of it.  Record anything you’ve worked on that had a specific deliverable (product, service, improvement, or result) and a deadline — it counts!

Still not at your goal? Here’s another idea:

If you find your relevant hours are still lacking, there are a few ways to boost project management time and skills. Volunteering as a project coordinator is a great way to do this; since volunteering is unpaid, less experience is required. Depending on the organization, project and time frame, you could rack up the 1500 needed hours very quickly.

If you don’t have a lot of time to volunteer, consider working with your job to find or create projects at work. Most industries have a few goals they need accomplished that never seem to get done- volunteering to take one of these on will make you look better at work and get you closer to meeting the prerequisites for the CAPM.

Recording Your CAPM Work Experience

When you turn in your application for the CAPM in preparation to take the exam, you’ll need to record all that project management experience you just collected.

This next part is very important:

There are some do’s and dont’s when you record your hours. Do record every project individually, and don’t lie on your application.

A percentage of all applications are subject to random audits. This is an automated system, so getting randomly chosen is a bit like winning (or losing) the lottery. You’ll immediately be notified if your application was selected for audit; you’ll then be required to submit signatures from every project management team’s supervisors or managers to verify your experience and title, if applicable.

Because of the random audit, you absolutely do not want to take your chances lying, even a little bit, about your experience. It’ll become clear to the PMI that you lied on your application, and you’ll be unceremoniously denied the opportunity to take the exam.

Listing each project management experience individually is equally important. By listing out each project in this way, you’ll be able to collect and organize your audit materials quickly and efficiently. The materials will be reviewed more quickly and your application will be approved sooner if everything is in order.

So even if you’ve worked on a hundred different projects, you’ll need to list them out individually so the audit committee can easily review and move your application through.

CAPM Education Requirement

You have quite a few options at your disposal for completing 23 hours of project management education. As we mentioned before, the Project Management Institute offers an online training course for a fee that satisfies this requirement.

Alternatively, you can use a variety of other formal training and education opportunities to satisfy this requirement. In fact, you may have received some training or education that counts towards this goal without realizing it.

We’ll talk about opportunities for project management education below:

Project Management Basics & Distance Learning Programs

The Project Management Basics Course through the PMI is one of the more popular options for satisfying the 23 hour requirement. This is because it is all online, making the training convenient and self-paced. The PMI is also the same organization that administers the CAPM accreditation, which inspires confidence in test-taking hopefuls.

The course is $350 for PMI members and $400 for non members. Taking this course will ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements to sit for the test, so long as you also have your high school diploma.

Another tactic students try to meet this requirement is taking a PMP training course. These courses are typically 35 hours long and are an ideal option if you want to earn Project Management Professional (PMP) accreditation later. Although not specifically tailored to the CAPM, these training programs will teach you all you need to know about project management.

However, if you want to take a distance learning training tailored specifically to the CAPM, there are plenty of options to choose from. A CAPM training course is ideal for students with test anxiety or a history of not testing well, as most offer mock CAPM exams, study guides, quizzes and material geared toward helping you pass this specific test.

Ensure that any online training provider you find is an approved PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.). You will be able to verify this information on the PMI website with the ID number and name of the training company.

Other Forms of Project Management Education

If distance learning or online courses aren’t your thing, there is no shortage of ways to satisfy this 23 hour requirement. If you prefer in-person learning, do a quick search to see if there are CAPM classrooms or boot camps offered in your area. These programs are led by Registered Education Providers (R.E.Ps) and often meet for a few days to satisfy the 23 hour requirement.

You can often satisfy the education requirement with a combination of trainings, workshops and courses. The PMI accepts education hours from the following:

  • Training courses and workshops offered by PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s)
  • Training courses and workshops offered by PMI chapters
  • Workshops, training, and courses offered by employers or company-sponsored programs.
  • Training companies or consultants
  • Long-distance education and assessments
  • University/college academic and continuing education programs

However, before you record your entire bachelor’s degree in the education section and call it a day, it’s very important to note that the course you’ve taken must relate to project management in some form. This means your degree itself can’t be used, since many electives and required classes in a degree have nothing to do with project management.

On the other hand, if you’ve taken a project management class, each hour of classroom instruction equals one contact hour. Most of the time, just one project management class in a semester will satisfy this requirement as you’ll find yourself meeting for instruction for more than 23 hours over the course of 16 weeks.

It’s also important to note that you can’t just read a few books and watch a video to get education hours. Self-directed learning or teaching yourself about project management independently doesn’t count towards formal education hours. Neither do PMI chapter meetings, unless at least one hour is used for a learning activity.

CAPM Certification Requirements Aren’t as Difficult As You Think

At first glance, the required hours to earn your CAPM and learn about project management can seem daunting. However, after learning about your options for meeting these certification requirements you’ll soon see that they aren’t impossible to meet. In fact, they’re easily attainable by budgeting your time, money and resources.

Here’s the most important thing to take away from this article:

Meeting the CAPM requirements is totally doable. You don’t have to be a traditional college student, have a fancy degree, or a laundry list of relevant work experience to earn the credential. All you need is a bit of creativity in finding project opportunities at your work or elsewhere, or 23 hours to spare for training. One of the best parts of collecting these hours of education or experience is that they count towards any further certifications you pursue.

Because you can keep using this relevant experience and education in your pursuit of other project management professional certifications and positions, view your certification requirements as the gift that keeps on giving to your lifelong career.

Now go out there and CRUSH the CAPM exam!

Kenneth W. Boyd is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the author of several of the popular "For Dummies" books published by John Wiley & Sons including 'CPA Exam for Dummies' and 'Cost Accounting for Dummies'.

Ken has gained a wealth of business experience through his previous employment as a CPA, Auditor, Tax Preparer and College Professor. Today, Ken continues to use those finely tuned skills to educate students as a professional writer and teacher.