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5 Ways to Reduce PMP Certification Costs

Feb. 1, 2021
“Education might seem expensive until you compare it to the cost of ignorance.” It’s all about perspective. The word expensive has a very negative association, and it’s tied almost exclusively […]

"Education might seem expensive until you compare it to the cost of ignorance."

It’s all about perspective.

The word expensive has a very negative association, and it’s tied almost exclusively to money spent. That’s a bit misleading because it takes the focus off of the value you get in exchange.

Nothing is really good or bad until you compare it to something else.

Even though knowledge is freely available online and in libraries all across America, it’s nice to know some jobs can’t just be had by anyone with a library card and Google access.

Jobs like Project Management Professionals (PMPs), for example. You have to take an exam and get certified if you want to be taken seriously, and if you want some type of job security in that field or want an increase in how much you’re paid.

While the test is available for anyone to take, who would want to leave something that important up to chance to get prepared for?

Here’s another instance where you can either look at getting proper preparation as something that’s either an expense or you see it as an investment.

An investment in yourself, in time efficiency, in memory efficiency, guidance, mentorship and accountability. In short, you’re paying to breeze your way through instead of slogging your way through.

Which would you choose?

Now of course we’re all human, which means we all want ways to minimize that "cost" regardless of what it is, right?

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries

Well, this article shows you exactly how to do it in 5 steps.

When looking at reducing cost for PMP certification, you need to consider:
the whole picture of costs
decision points
opportunities gained vs. opportunities missed
the overall long term value of the experience

Most people consider only surface cost, not TRUE cost of all their decision choices.

You have to take into account not just the money exchanged, but the OTHER cost factors mentioned above.

Let’s unpack the TRUE costs of PMP certification (the OVERALL cost) and then we’ll determine how you can reduce them, while, at the same time, increase your value as you become PMP-certified.

Here are the 5 main costs associated with PMP Certification along with ways you can Reduce Your Costs:

Cost to take the PMP Exam
Unfortunately, this is a fixed fee expense you have to pay to become PMP certified.

You can’t change it. It’s a cost PMI charges you to take the PMP exam.

The cost is $555.

However, you can save a few dollars if you become a PMI member ($129 for most PMI chapters in the US).

If you are a PMI member, the cost of the exam drops to $405.

When you become a member of PMI you also get a free electronic copy of the most recent edition of their book The Project Management Body of Knowledge – PMBOK (currently in its 6th edition).

While PMI states that the PMP exam is not based on the PMBOK, there certainly are a number of test questions on the actual PMP exam that require you to know the PMBOK book inside out and backwards.

(Prices listed are at the time of this article’s writing.) The price for the hard copy of this book on Amazon is about $59. For the kindle version it is $56. If you purchase the PMBOK direct from PMI it is $69 for members, $99 for non-members.

Costs for the PMP Exam

Non PMI Member

PMI Member

PMI Membership


PMI’s PMP Exam



PMBOK 6th Edition



Total Cost



Cost Reduction Tip #1: Reduce your costs here by becoming a PMI member.

Cost to Become Eligible to Take the PMP Exam
This is where the train wreck of expenses start when you first start out to take the PMP exam.

Most PMP Exam Prep companies tell prospective students their training qualifies for the required 35 hours of PM education required to meet PMIs criteria to be able to sit for the exam.

This is also an eligibility requirement to file the PMP application.

Students are also told they must take that PM education from a PMI Registered Education Provider. This is FALSE.

While you do need 35 hours of PM education in order to complete PMI’s eligibility application, there are many OTHER places you can get that 35 hours of PM education from.

For example, if you took a PM class in college, that qualifies to meet the requirement.

Cost Reduction Tip #2: Reduce your costs by reviewing all the training you’ve done in your career to see what would qualify as Basic Project Management training.

If you’ve been doing project management for any length of time, it’s highly likely you’ve had some training that would qualify to meet the basic PM education requirement.

Costs to accurately complete the PMI PMP Eligibility Application
PMI requires that PM candidates who want to become PMP certified have at least 36 non-overlapping months of experience leading substantial business related projects.

They must have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher from an accredited college or university.

Those without a college degree will have to document 60 non-overlapping months of experience leading substantial business-related projects.

The companies who offer PMP exam prep training with the claim their training qualifies for the 35 hours of basic PM education required for the PMI PMP Eligibility application may include a short section on how to complete PMI’s eligibility application.

You are left though to complete this application AFTER their program as you need the 35 hours of their PM training for your application.

For most students, that’s hardly helpful.

It’s like fighting against the current in deep water and having someone toss you a floaty noodle when what you’re really hoping for is having a lifeguard come in and rescue you.

This is a big risk as if you do not fill out the experience part of the application correctly.

Who wants to have their application denied? No one, right?

Who wants to get audited, which simply causes delays and frustration?

It’s not pleasant (or necessary) you have to go back and forth with PMI’s customer service several times to complete the application process until it’s to their liking.

That’s a bad experience all around that nobody wants, including the customer service reps.

If PMI determines your experience is not sufficient, you will have to attain that experience before you can reapply. No exceptions. This can derail your PMP pursuit for several years while you work finding project management positions that fulfill their requirements.

Why would you want to go through that when you can avoid this scenario altogether?

Cost Reduction Tip #3: Reduce your costs here by getting EVERYTHING right from the start without errors or mistakes. How? Have an expert help you complete your PMI’s PMP Eligibility application.

 Also keep in mind PMI updates their application every so often (most recent in June of 2020) so you do need to make sure you are describing your projects using PMIs most up-to-date expected format.

Costs to Prepare for the PMP Exam
(Prices and statistics listed are at the time of this article’s writing)

There are nearly 250 books on Amazon for how to pass the PMP exam.

There are 3,240,000 results when you google "PMP Exam Prep."

This is where you can either create massive gains or experience massive losses for your career and your organization.

What is the goal here — to just have people Prep for the PMP exam, or to have them Pass the PMP Exam? 

We’ve seen time and time again individuals and corporations who aren’t familiar with the complexity of passing the PMP exam, think they can do this on their own or on the cheap.

Well, maybe? 99% of the time they’re wrong.

They either think they can study on their own, form study groups with people meeting at lunchtime or after work for months on end, or they bring in a low-cost provider where folks are still doing their regular work during class.

A few gutsy folks will make it all the way to take the PMP exam and many fail (there is an over-50% failure rate with the actual PMP exam). The rest of the staff are too scared to even try, and never even make it to the point of actually taking the PMP exam.

It’s not uncommon to only have 10% of the people who start a conventional PMP study effort to ever sit for the actual PMP exam. 

The first question the individual and the organization need to ask is Why the PMP?

If the organization needs to have certified Project Managers (AKA PMPs) to get or keep a federal contract, then it makes sense that they pay attention to reducing their risks with having their staff pass the PMP exam, to invest in a program that takes their staff all the way across the finish line of passing the PMP exam.

If the individual needs to be a Project Management Professional (PMP) to get or keep their PM position, then why would it NOT make sense to look at the most cost- and time-effective way to achieve this goal?

A look at just the cost of a PMP Prep program without a commensurate look at the cost of the risks of the staff not passing the PMP exam is missing a big part of the cost picture.

Additionally, time is money, and the longer it takes to pass the PMP exam, the longer it takes to reap the financial rewards associated with having a staff of PMPs.

How much will it cost the company to lose the federal contract because they did not have enough PMPs on staff? How long does the individual want to wait to get a pay raise, promotion, or even a job as a Project Manager?

To understand how to reduce the costs of preparing for the PMP exam, both the organization and the individual need to understand ALL THE COSTS associated with PASSING the PMP exam.


In Project Management, there is a tool called Expected Monetary Value Analysis. We can use this to explore the costs on various options for PMP Exam Prep. We will look at 4 different approaches to PMP Exam Prep to see what the actual costs are for the majority of those who take this approach:
1. Self-Study — 10 hours per week, 2 years
2. Study Group — 14 hours per week, 1 year
3. PMP Prep Course then Study — 35-hour course, 6 more months Self Study, 12 hours per week
4. All InclusiveReady, Set, Pass — PMP Headstart, 36-hour course


The spread sheet looks at the costs associated with not just prepping for the PMP exam but also the costs associated with both passing and not passing the PMP exam.

The data is based on what the average person taking each approach would spend. Here they are:
1. Financial Cost – are what someone would spend approximately pursuing each approach.
2. Time — how long on average people spend doing those approaches
3. Earning Rate — how much someone at this level usually makes per hour.
4. Cost of Time — how much money these people could make if they were to use the time studying to be making their earning rate. (if you assume your time is not worth anything or the time of your staff is not worth anything than we need to be having a much different discussion).
5. Standard gain experienced for the individual from passing based on PMI’s salary survey
6. Chance of failing with each approach (it’s surprisingly high – it’s a hard exam).
7. Expected Monetary Value (cost) associated with not passing for both the individual and the corporation. For corporations, on many contracts they are allowed to charge 3x more for a certified Project Manager than an uncertified Project Manager. We looked at the cost of failure for a lost year of billing at the higher rate.
8. Total Cost for each approach.
9. Emotional Cost — This is a REAL cost most people forget to factor because it’s not measurable, but what’s the value of peace of mind when you compare it to the fear, and emotional cost, of failure?

Talk about anxiety.

To see the spreadsheet comparing these costs, please visit the blogpost at #pmpexamprep ( 

The more time, and the less money, you are willing to invest in yourself and your peace of mind up front on prepping for the PMP exam, the more likely it is to cost you and the organization you serve in total.

It’s not a trivial amount either — it’s at least 20,000% more expensive.

Besides the fact the organization you work for loses out on having a valuable human resource asset (which they probably will keep on the lookout to replace as soon as they see feasible), you lose out on commanding a higher salary.

Why risk it?

If you pay attention to how you get ready to pass the PMP exam, you can not only generate more significant returns faster for both yourself and the organization you serve, but you also turbo charge your value as an asset to ANY organization you might work for in the future.

Also, Buyer Beware on pass rate data from companies claiming they can help you meet the 35 hours required PM education requirement — as most of their people never actually sit for the PMP exam.

Beware, the seemingly "low cost" approach could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, and waste money on training for people who may never take the next step and actually take the PMP exam.

There is a big difference between training to "prep for the PMP exam" and learning how to Pass the PMP exam.

Cost Reduction Tip #4: Reduce your costs for passing the PMP exam with the all-inclusive "Ready Set Pass" approach.

To reduce your risks (and costs further) make sure the company you’re considering working with has a seasoned successful track record.
Have they been in business for at least 10 years?
Is their approach well proven to take the majority of people across the finish line from a cold start to passing the PMP exam in the least amount of time possible?
Do they offer a 100%-money-back guarantee for students who cannot pass the PMP exam?

Which questions can you ask that would help you make a better decision?

Costs to Keep the PMP Certification
Every 3 years, people who hold the PMP certification must earn 60 Professional Development units (PDUs). PMPs can earn them a number of ways:
going to PMI meetings
doing project work
doing presentations
taking courses

It takes a commitment to the PM profession to maintain the PMP credential.

There are a variety of organizations that have Advanced PM training that qualifies for the Professional Development units. PMPs who keep on this usually do not find it all that difficult or expensive to maintain their credential — especially if they are active professionally as a Project Manager.

Overall, the largest costs to Passing the PMP certification come from not passing the PMP exam — which unfortunately happens for more than 50% of people who don’t get the right type of help to prep for the exam.

Cost Reduction Tip #5: Reduce your costs by taking advantage of no-cost and low-cost options for PDUs readily available from some training programs.


Is there a right way and a wrong way for you to pursue PMP certification?

The reality is most PMP Exam Prep providers go out of business after 5 years, or they relegate their PMP Exam Prep program to a small part of their overall business. And new ones pop on the scene frequently.

Going with one of these sinking ship or new-to-the-game companies can end up costing you far more in the long run than the small drop in the bucket savings you’d make on their lower-priced programs that fail to deliver on passing the PMP exam in a timely manner.

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It really is like that saying Pay now or pay a lot more later. The cost of poor educational choices is much more expensive than effective educational choices.

The same is true for a PMP Exam Prep program that won’t actually help you pass the PMP exam.

This article is adapted from a recent Cheetah Learning blogpost. For more details that are included only in the blogpost, and for more information about the Cheetah Learning guaranteed PMP Prep program, please visit #pmpexamprep (

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management (PM) to the masses. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become "Cheetahs" using Cheetah Learning’s innovative PM and accelerated learning techniques. Michelle also developed the Cheetah Certified Project Manager (CCPM) program based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality profiling to help students master how to use their unique strengths for learning, doing projects, and negotiating. Michelle is recognized by the Project Management Institute as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world. For more information, visit To read my business-oriented blogs, please visit Cheetah Learning Blog at,, and read my columns here in ISE magazine at