Applying for the PMP exam is not difficult, but putting together a proper application takes time. Over the course of my application, I made an excel tool to quickly estimate the project management hours I needed to apply successfully. Scroll to the bottom of this post to download it, or read on to learn why it’s helpful for would-be exam takers.

There are 3 prerequisites applicants need to meet in order to sit for the PMP:

As you can see, hours of project management experience (PM hours) vary depending on your highest degree obtained. You should plan accordingly; a project manager with a high school diploma will need more experience to qualify for the exam than one with a Bachelor’s degree.

Next, you will need 35 hours of project management education, and the means to prove that you completed it. If you’re using college courses to meet this requirement, then 1 classroom hour equals 1 contact hour as long as the full hour was spent on project management. If a semester-long business class that meets for 4 hours a week has a 9-week project management unit, then that would count for 36 hours.

My education did not include any project management or business classes, so I took a course from a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.). These are independent groups or instructors that are recognized by the PMI, and will meet the contact hour requirements for the exam application. I used the PM Prepcast, but there are many REPs out there and they all do a good job.

Finally, you will need to show your project management experience on your exam application. You will need to record the project name, duration, role, industry, supervisor, project hours by process group, and a short description of the project for each of the projects you include in your application. Most of this information is fairly basic and easy to put down, but I struggled with estimating the number of project hours I had earned for each of my projects. It’s a bit tricky because the PMI has several rules on how project experience can be credited:

  1. Project hours only count for an 8-hour day. If you list more than that, the PMI sees it as poor time management, not above-and-beyond work.
  2. If you worked on multiple projects during the same period, you can credit all project hours as long as you stay within the 8 hours / day threshold. So if you worked on project A for 30 hours a week and project B for 15, then you can credit up to 40 hours.
  3. Overlapping project months are not permitted. Note that this is different from project hours. If you worked on project A from April – August and project B from June – November, you can only attribute the June – August period to one of the projects. This is to meet the months criteria, not the hours criteria.

Why is all of this important? Because the PMI audits exam applications. Roughly 1 in 10 applications get randomly audited, and you can get audited even after obtaining the PMP. Having documentation of your project hours will make any audit process go much smoother and save you some headaches.

With all of this in mind, here is my PM Hours Template. It’s an excel tool that will calculate the number of hours worked on a project, based on the duration of the project and the % of time you worked on it. It can’t account for sick leave and vacation, but otherwise it’s an easy way to estimate the number of project management hours you have for the PMP application. It can also be submitted as documentation for the audit process, should you need it.

Coming up next, I’ll talk about studying for the PMP exam and give you a free exercise to help you learn.