PMP certification growth rate

PMI project managersAs a part of every issue of PMI Today, the Project Management Institute‘s monthly newsletter published as a supplement to PM Network magazine, PMI features a small section called PMI Fact File which features statistics about the number of PMI members, new members acquired, number of active CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) or PMP (Project Management Professional) certified individuals, the number of PMBOK guides in publication, unique visitors to the website, and the total number of PMPs worldwide. While the PMI Fact File takes up less than one third of a page in a newsletter of several dozen pages, I find it to be some of the most interesting material in the newsletter, and I often read it first.

Because I’m nerdy like that I thought it would be interesting to create a chart of some of the information contained in the PMI Fact File and to figure out the growth rate of PMI membership and PMP certification internationally. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else online (though I’m sure it exists somewhere) so it is new and interesting information to me.

Note that this information is up to date as of this month; the information in the PMI Fact File is always two months behind the publishing date of the newsletter. So, for example, the newsletter for July of 2010 contains Fact File information for the month of May, up to and including May 31, 2010. Also, for some reason July’s Fact File didn’t include the number of new PMI members for the month of May; you might think it’s the total number of PMI members for the month of May less the total number of PMI members for the month of April, but you’d be wrong – for some reason the calculation doesn’t quite work out that way!

Total PMI members and PMP certifications worldwide

The total number of PMI members and PMP certifications worldwide

The first thing that I noticed about this chart is that the numbers don’t quite work. In October of 2009 it appears that PMI suddenly lost 14,092 PMPs (nearly 4% of the total number of PMPs at the time). As this figure takes into account PMP certified project managers and not necessarily members of PMI (which is taken into account in the total number of PMI members figure), something is likely amiss with PMI’s calculations.

New PMI members and new PMPs

The total number of PMI members and PMP certifications worldwide

What I immediately noticed about this chart is that in June of 2009 PMI gained 13,920 new PMPs, while during the next month, July of 2009, PMI only gained 689 new PMPs! This appears to be a huge miscalculation on PMI’s part, but I do not believe that this is the case; I remember that, in light of the introduction of the 4th edition PMBOK, the deadline for testing on the 3rd edition of the PMBOK was set as June 30th of 2009. This means that a massive group of PMP hopefuls took their certification examinations during the months of May and June while they were still eligible to test on 3rd edition materials. In July of 2009 there was a lack of information – and confidence – about the new test and testing materials (it is perceived as risky to test on brand new material, and certification exams aren’t cheap), and therefore many fewer people took the certification and/or passed the new test during that month.


Where PMP certification is concerned, from May of 2009 to May of 2010 there has been a growth rate of over than 11% as the total number of certified PMPs rose from 346,053 to 385,096. As such, there are more than 11% (but not quite 12%) more PMP certified individuals managing projects this year than there were in 2009. For a single year’s growth that is a pretty impressive figure and certainly does indicate that project management is a profession that is growing in popularity and importance.

PMI membership grew from 307,180 in May of 2009 to 317,989 in 2010; this is a 3.5% increase. This takes into account the fact that project managers are both joining and leaving the PMI organization. This figure also takes into account many individuals who are not PMP certified; they may be CAPM certified, in the process of being certified, or not certified at all with no plans to become so. In comparison with the PMP certification statistic, this PMI membership statistic illustrates that while project managers are being certified at a high rate (11%), the addition of new project managers is somewhat offset by people leaving the organization, or passing away.

If you look at the chart comparing new PMI members against new PMP certification holders you’ll see that neither of these seem to be growing – the trends are stable. This shows that membership in PMI, and attainment of PMP certification, is growing, but at a constant rate; there is neither a marked increase in the number of PMI members worldwide, nor a dropoff – the number of new members of the organization and the number of people attaining its most popular certification are growing at a relatively constant rate. Overall these trends indicate good news, but not great news, for the Project Management Institute – steady but not explosive growth, and predictable behavior around the introduction of the new 4th edition PMBOK study materials.

I appreciate any comments or feedback about this analysis!

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11 Responses to “PMP certification growth rate”

  1. Nice article.

    I have always wondered why PMI doesn’t publish more membership statistics. It would be interesting to see the numbers by geography, industry, employer, etc. They used to publish isolated snippets of this data a few years back but they avoid doing so now, citing general privacy concerns. I don’t see how it could hurt to publish basic stats which are not specific to small groups of people but PMI obviously perceives it to be a bad thing. Perhaps they are afraid to expose negative trends which may reflect poorly on their initiatives or the profession in general, although it seems the data would be mostly positive overall thus still beneficial.

    Also, I have found their own data to be out of sync across various official publications and their website. Irritating to say the least. Try giving a presentation to a large international audience where you are speaking as an expert on the topic and a long-time certified PMI member, yet you can’t even answer basic questions about membership trends and planned growth. Then try picking up the phone and appealing to PMI for assistance or even a scrap of data. You will be driven to frustration and resort to compiling your own data, just as you have done above. Too bad that PMI doesn’t get it and start sharing stats that would help.

    • Hi Bob, thanks for writing! I agree that PMI would be wise to share more statistics, or to make some sense out of the statistics with charts, graphs, timelines and the like… they obviously have the data, and in a lot of cases (like when figuring out the growth of PMP certification worldwide) the news is very good. They would do themselves a favor to publish their own trends.

      I think PMI needs to take a big step toward becoming a “members’ organization” rather than a “certification organization”… it would be great if I felt more like “I am PMI” rather than “I am a person that PMI certifies, and I follow their rules to get and stay that way”.

  2. Brian, Thanks for publishing the article.

    There might be a valid reason why the number of active PMP’s dropped dramatically from Sept to Oct 2009, as PMI changed the rules about renewal of PMP status. Before then, you had to renew at the end of the third year after passing the exam. PMI changed this to be the third anniversary of passing the exam, so those of us with renewal dates in 2008/9 were given an extension (depending upon the exact date of exam).

    So I guess there was a spike in the number of people who had to renew but didn’t get around to it. This shouldn’t happen again as it’s now much clearer.

    Would you mind sharing the actual numbers for the graphs? I run training courses for people to get PMP certified here in Singapore, and I’d quite like to share the results with my class participants. Total PMP’s 31 Aug 2010: 397,378 and you need a bigger scale on your graph!

  3. Thanks for your explanation Peter – that does make perfect sense.

    I’ll see if I can dig up the data I used to make the charts, and mail it to you – I just entered it in using the data found in the PMI Today newsletter archives, all of which are online. I’ll email it to you via the address you provided.

    Thanks again, and I hope your training courses are going well in Singapore!

  4. Thanks Brian for this nice article.
    I just got eligible for taking the PMP exam.
    I will be so glad if you add my email add to your mailing list.


    CES manager
    Samir Group
    Saudi Arabia

    • Thank you for the kind words Yahya!

      Best of luck on the PMP exam… I am sure you will crush it!

      I see you live in Riyadh; I lived in Riyadh for a while (in Al-Mursalat) and really enjoyed my time there. Riyadh is a beautiful city with lots of great people and culture.

      Thanks again for commenting!

  5. Brian,
    Good article. Do you have a break down by country where holders of the PMP certification reside?

  6. Hi Brian and thanks for the article. It’s a insight!

    I’m writhing an article about PMI in France and I would like to know where you fund the information about PMI global, because I would like to make some comparison.

    Thanks in advance,
    Ricardo Naciff, PMP

    • Hello Ricardo,

      I imagine you’ve already written your article about PMI in France, but generally I find information about PMI on the Internet, on PMI’s web site. They have plenty of articles about PMI’s growth rate in different countries and geographic regions around the world. Doing a Google search for specific terms (growth rate, salary, etc.) usually yields some useful results.

      That said, there is also the PM Network magazine, the Project Management Journal, and PMI Today that have good information. The PMI Today publication especially is a smaller publication that has shorter articles with useful tidbits in them.

      Hope this helps. Bon courage!

  7. Any chance this can be updated from 2010 to 2016 — the number of PMPs is over 700,000 now and it would be interesting to see how the trend of PMPs is diverging from PMI members.

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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.