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If you’re a freelance project manager (PM), or a full-time project manager, and are considering freelancing, or maybe you don’t have experience but are interested in freelance project management, you may be wondering if PMP certification is necessary?

What is a freelance PM and what skills are needed?

Before we dive into PMP certification, we should clarify what a freelance PM is. In short, it’s a contractor who leads and manages projects for their clients. 

To be a freelance PM you should have these skills:

  • Good knowledge of project management processes and best practices
  • Experience applying project management in different situations
  • The ability to manage and maintain client relationships well
  • Reliability - positive testimonials and client feedback can help build credibility

What is PMP certification?

There are many different certifications for Project Management. PMP or Project Management Professional certification is described by the Project Management Institute as “the gold standard of project management certification.” 

It’s internationally recognized as the highest level of certification in the industry and will indicate to clients that you have the necessary skills and qualifications for project management.

Is PMP necessary for PM freelancing?

There is debate about whether PM certification is necessary or not. It’s often not required for many PM roles, and you can still demonstrate your skills qualifications through previous work experience. 

It can however help boost your freelance career and will depend on your circumstances if it’s the right next step.

Should you get PMP certified?

There are many factors to take into account when deciding to pursue a certification or not. Consider if some of these scenarios describe you:

Finding work is challenging

If you’re having difficulty finding clients because you’re not certified or you’re new to project management and don’t have enough experience to land clients you want, then PMP certification may be able to help boost your career.

You want to earn more money

Maybe you have plenty of PM experience but you want to elevate your career. Perhaps you want a leg up against competitors and are interested in landing higher-paying clients. If so, then getting PMP certified can help set you apart and give potential clients greater incentive to hire you. 

A 2020 survey by the PMI indicates that PMP holders on average earn 22% more than those without one.

You’re willing to make an investment

Like any course or certification, getting PMP certified is a big commitment. The registration fee is about $400- $555. Many also recommend purchasing courses and study guides for preparation, which can increase the total cost to $1,000.

You’ll then need to spend time studying and preparing for the exam. The amount of preparation time needed will vary by individual but on average, you should expect to spend about 180 hours preparing. 

Once you pass the exam, work doesn’t stop there. You’ll need to continue your education and maintain your certification - this takes roughly 60 hours over three years. Every three year’s you’ll need to renew your certification which also includes renewal fees. 

You meet the enrollment qualifications

There are basic requirements for PMP enrollment:

  • A four-year degree
  • 36 months work as a PM, leading projects
  • 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM® Certification

OR

  • A high school diploma or an associate’s degree (or global equivalent)
  • 60 months of work as a PM, leading projects
  • 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM® Certification

In the end, PMP certification is not necessary for PM freelancing but it can help boost your career. If it sounds like getting PMP certified may be the right next step for your career, check out the Project Management Institute for more information.

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