Certification, especially when voluntary, is a good way to demonstrate your hard-won professional knowledge and experience. For people involved in project management and its related careers, gaining an accreditation from the Project Management Institute (PMI) is an instant way of letting colleagues and prospective employers know that you’re serious about your work – and you have the skills to match.

PMI offers two very popular and well-known certifications: Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). What do you need to do to become PMI certified? What is the difference between the PMP and CAPM certifications? Those are the questions we’ll answer in this article.

CAPM vs. PMP Certification
CAPM certification is designed for the entry-level project management professional. To be eligible to become CAPM-certified, you have to first meet PMI’s education and experience requirements: 1,500 hours of project management experience or 23 hours of qualifying project management education.

The requirements for PMP certification are much more demanding. One route is to have 7,500 hours of lead project management experience, 5 years of work experience, 35 hours of project management education and a high school diploma. Another is a bachelor’s degree, plus 3 years of work experience and 4,500 hours of project management experience – and 35 hours of specialized education.

PMP Exams vs. CAPM Exams
There are 5 domains in the PMP exam: project initialization, project planning, project execution, monitoring and controlling a project, and closing a project. Within these 5 larger domains fit a multitude of other skills: risk identification, quality management, change management, materials management, and much more. The exam has a total of 200 multiple-choice questions.

The CAPM exam is considerably shorter. At only 150 questions, it covers the project management life cycle, process interaction and mapping, documentation, scope management, scheduling management, HR management, risk monitoring and control, procurement management, and HR management.

Which PMI Certification is the One for You?
As you can see, these two certifications are for people at very different places in the same field. If you’re just getting started in your career, then choose the Certified Associate in Project Management. If you have the experience and leadership needed, go for the Project Management Professional accreditation.

In today’s job market, setting yourself apart and having independent verification of your abilities is highly valuable. Whichever certification you choose, it will make you part of a respected community of trained and tested project managers.