Applying to take the PMP exam without proof of work experience

Proof of PMP work experienceOne of the most popular posts found on this blog is my post about how to file your work experience when applying to take the PMP examination. In order to apply to become a PMP certified project manager, you need to have earned a certain amount of professional work experience. To be precise, you need 4,500 hours with a bachelor’s degree or 7,500 hours without a bachelor’s degree of at least 36 months of professional work experience leading and directing projects.

Proof of project management work experience

In my post about gathering work experience, I included some special cases that might arise when you’re tallying up the hours you have spent leading and directing projects. Even though I’ve listed these out, I still get many people interested in applying for the PMP credential who ask me:

What if I don’t have sufficient proof of my project management work experience?

This is a great question. When applying to take the PMP exam, there’s a chance that you might be selected to undergo a PMI audit. During an audit, PMI (the Project Management Institute, who officiate the exam) want to make sure that you have been honest about the work experience and project management education that you have listed on your application. Normally, you can document those hours, and then pass those hours by your manager to make sure that he or she would approve them in the case of an audit. Though I’ve never experienced a PMI audit myself, from what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty straightforward process.


In some cases, you might work for a top-secret organization such as the FBI or the CIA, who do not allow you to list the projects that you have worked on as they are top-secret projects. Perhaps you’ve worked for the American military on highly sensitive defense projects – I know of plenty of project managers in this situation. Or you might operate your own company where you do not have a manager or supervisor to report to – it’s all you! In this case, your wealth of work experience leading and directing projects can’t necessarily be “passed by” anyone. For your particular organization, the buck stops at you.

Reporting your work hours for the PMP

If this is the case, I have a simple solution…

Be up-front and honest about the work you have completed.

If you are ethical and honest about the work you have completed, then even if you do undergo a PMI audit and don’t have sufficient proof of the projects you’ve managed, at least you know that you are in the right. This is important, because I personally believe that when you’re in the right about something, you can convince someone of it… or at least in this case, get PMI to understand what work experience you’ve got under your belt!

In some cases, perhaps you can talk about your projects in abstract terms… that is, explain the work that you have completed, but do not go into detail about them (in the case of high security clearance or top secret projects). Or maybe you can scrub your project artifacts to remove any information other than the timelines… that way, PMI could see that you’ve worked on projects, but won’t know any details about them. Of course, you’d want to make sure this process was okay with the company you’re working for before doing it.

If you have any documentation or artifacts from projects you have managed in your own self-managed start-up company or enterprise, such as project schedules, project charters, or Work Breakdown Structures, this information can certainly help to demonstrate to PMI the work you’ve legitimately completed. Or perhaps you can have some of the clients that you have worked for (if you are working as a consultant without a manager or hierarchy to report to) vouch for the work you have completed managing projects for their organizations in the past.

In general, remember this:

PMI has seen it all!

If you’re working for a company managing sensitive projects, or working as a solo consultant; if your company has gone under, been acquired, or your managers have left the company or even passed away since you’ve worked there… PMI has seen it all. They will be used to these special cases where it may be difficult to show that you have worked on the projects you’re indicating that you have. Just remember that honesty is the best policy – stay strong and work with PMI to demonstrate to them your breadth of professional work experience. I am sure that, with perseverance, you’ll make it through and be able to sit to take the PMP examination.

Best of luck to you!

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6 Responses to “Applying to take the PMP exam without proof of work experience”

  1. Hello Brian,

    Thanks for sharing your valuable time in this information. Needless to say, you have put detailed information to assist PMP aspirants.

    I enjoyed reading a lot. I found my time valuable in reading this blog. I hope you would be posting such kind of information.

    I weekly browse your website.

    I did not find “how to fill PMP application form online” on your website. so, i’m putting a resource for it so that your readers will gain advantages.

    How to Fill Up PMP Exam Application Form Online:


    • Hello there Nishant,

      Thanks very much for your kind comments about the information on this site. I am glad that it is helpful to PMP hopefuls, or people interested in the field of project management.

      Regarding how to fill out the PMP application, I did write an article about how I went about it. I’ve put that here. I hope it will prove helpful.

      Thanks again, and all the best to you and your company!

  2. Hi Brian,
    Pls can you help with a format to enter project summary?
    Thank you

    • Hello Dennis,

      I wrote an article on this site that you can find here that shows how I filled in my own work experience for the PMP application. It also has an Excel spreadsheet template that you can use to fill in your project hours. I hope it is helpful!

      Good luck to you in your application process.

  3. Hi Brian,

    I have been working in the it industry from 1995 till 2008. from 2008 till now I have been self employed and running my own business. between 1995 and 2008 I have worked for various companies with roles ranging from business analyst to project manager (graded senior business analyst). I do have more than the 4500 hrs needed and do have an MBA which contained a module on project management – I am unable to get in touch with my previous project and programme managers. HR will only confirm the dates that I have worked at these companies. so how do I go about getting pmp certified.



  4. just to add my self employment is nothing to do with IT but property and real estate.I was planning to get back into the project management roles by getting pmp certified.



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PMP Exam Prep:  Seventh Edition

About the Author

Website: Brian Crawford
I'm a Canadian and British dual citizen with an internationally-focused American MBA and an MS in International Project Management from a French business school. I am PMP, ScrumMaster, and ITIL Foundation certified. I'm particularly into travel, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures.