AUTHOR: Adrian Tolliday

Are you looking into doing a project management course created by the PMI or have you already completed one? You’ll have probably discovered by now that after completing the course and taking your exams, you need to maintain your credentials, to show you’re continually keeping up with the industry, new methodologies and news about project management.

In specific terms, you need to secure a number of ‘PDUs’ for every certification cycle! Oh my goodness! What is a PDU? What is it going to cost me? How am I going to find time for this? How many do I have to do? What even is a certification cycle?

These are all great questions, and our ex PMP student Adrian Tolliday also panicked about the very same thing after he finished his PMP course with the Learning People, so he asked the question to StudentCare and they put him at ease. Here in this blog, he'll aim to explain all about PDUs, what you need to do to earn them and why there’s no real drama in getting them to keep your qualification up to date and valid.

 

So, what is a PDU?

Well, PDU stands for Professional Development Unit. PDUs are part of the PMI Continuing Certification Requirements program - CCR. PDUs are pretty straightforward to attain, and they don’t necessarily have to cost you any more money.

They’re actually a measurement of your time spent learning or contributing to the project management industry. Treat this post as your guide to earning PDUs - it'll tell you what needs to be achieved throughout a ‘certification cycle’.

 

What is a certification cycle?

A certification cycle covers a period of three years from the date that you pass your exams and become qualified. In order for your PMI certification to roll over for another three years and stay valid, you’re required to spend time contributing to the project management industry. This can be shown in a multitude of ways.

 

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How many PDUs do I need to get?

Well firstly, this depends on the exact qualification that you already have, or are planning to attain. As I mentioned, a certification cycle covers three years - I’m just coming to the end of my second cycle, so I’m currently trying to make sure I’ve earned enough PDUs to satisfy the criteria set for PMP, which says that I need to earn 60 PDUs.

Have a scan of the below to see how many PDUs your particular qualification requires you to have per three year certification cycle:

Qualifications that require you to have 60 PDUs per cycle:

 

  • PMP - Project Management Professional
  • PfMP - Portfolio Management Professional
  • PgMP - Program Management Professional
  • PMI-PBA - PMI Professional in Business Analysis

 

Qualifications that require you to have 30 PDUs per cycle:

 

  • PMI-ACP - PMI Agile Certified Practitioner
  • PMI-SP - PMI Scheduling Professional
  • PMI-RMP - PMI Risk Management Professional

 

The exception to the PDU rule is the Certified Associate in Project Management - CAPM.  For the CAPM, the certification cycle is five years long, and instead of earning PDUs, you’ll need to retake the exam before the end of the five years to ensure you’re eligible to keep your certification.

 

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How do you get PDUs?

This is the important bit… Firstly, you need to understand the categories. The PDU types are are divided into two categories ‘Education’ and ‘Giving Back’.

Here’s a quote directly from PMI.org to make it simpler…

“Education” category:

‘Learning activities that allow you to broaden your knowledge in one of the ‘PMI Talent Triangle’ skill areas: technical, leadership, or strategic and business management.’

“Giving back” category:

‘Activities that enable you to share and apply your knowledge and skills as a means to contribute to and help build the profession.’

Each category has five sub categories - I’ll go into more detail further on in the post - but you can choose to earn PDUs in any of the following, as long as you hit 35 in Education and 25 in Giving Back:

For the Education category:

 

  • Courses or training - attend education courses or classes in person or online
  • Organisation meetings - attend meetings, activities and local events related to the profession
  • Online or digital media - self paced learning conducted online; educational webinars, videos and other types of digital content
  • Read - read books, articles, white papers, or blogs to stay informed and support your ongoing professional development
  • Informal learning - engaging in structured professional discussions with others, for example while you’re being mentored or participating in a “lunch and learn” session

 

For the Giving Back category:

 

  • Work as a practitioner - apply your knowledge and skills in a practical setting
  • Create content - creating new knowledge resources for use by practitioners and the public; blogs, articles, books, webinars, presentations
  • Give a presentation - give a formal presentation to others, sharing knowledge that relates to your certification
  • Share knowledge - mentoring, teaching or applying your subject matter knowledge toward an activity
  • Volunteer - volunteer services to non employer or non client organisations

 

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Top tips from my experience:

The easiest claim you can make as a project manager is believe it or not, just being a project manager! Yes, you can literally earn 8 PDUs by simply doing your job and working as a PM. Easy peasy! 

Remember, you can only claim for the portion of time that you actually work as a practitioner within that particular cycle. So, if you’ve worked as a PM for the whole three years of your cycle, then happy days you get 8 PDUs. If it’s only a part thereof, then you need to work it out pro rata.

Be sure to make this claim towards the end of your cycle as the system may cut your application if you apply for too many too soon. I know this as I made that mistake and applied for the maximum eight allowed but was only issued five! Put that in the ‘lessons learned’ portion of your mind.

The maximum PDU value you can get for actually being a PM is determined by your exact qualification, so for clarity the most that can be claimed is eight if you’re a certified PMP, PgMP, PfMP, and PMI-PBA. But it’s only four for PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP.

Read these helpful publications for the most detailed description of how you get your PDUs:

 

 

Changes to Continuing Certification Requirements program - CCR

If you’re an existing project management certification holder and in the 1st or 2nd year of your certification cycle, you’ll already have started your CCR program. Therefore you need to be aware of some fundamental changes to the way you report on your PDUs, the specific values attached to them and which categories count for what...

If you are in the tail end of your third, like me, then don’t panic, you can continue as you have done previously when reporting PDUs, however, the new changes will come into effect once you start your new cycle… so read on! 

To reiterate: if your current cycle ends before 30th November this year, then there is no change until your new certification cycle. For a little more information on this to find out whether you need to worry about the changes yet or not, take a look at this:

 

 

Before the changes to the CCR, you could earn as many as 45 PDUs in the Giving Back category; however, the CCR is now more focused more on developing and maintaining your Education, therefore you now need to earn more in the Education category than you do in the Giving Back - exact PDUs required in each, 35 in Education and 25 in Giving Back.

As PMI are now more focused on practitioners continuing their education, they’ve devised the PMI Talent Triangle

 

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The categories are subdivided into Technical Project Management; Leadership & Strategic and Business Management. Within these categories, you must earn a minimum of 8x PDUs for each. It is a good move from PMI, as it does encourage us to ensure that we improve our knowledge base in each of the subject matters. 

If that’s bamboozled you a bit, you can find out more in depth knowledge on the PMI Talent Triangle by watching this presentation from PMI…

 

 

What tasks do you need to do to get a PDU?

As I’ve already mentioned, you can get 8 PDUs for working as a practitioner, which is in the Giving Back category, but here are the other ways to make up your PDUs to the 25 you need in this category…

You can either create content for other project managers to enjoy, such as blogs, seminars or webinars, or you can volunteer - creating content is a great way to refine your knowledge in a particular field, as often you have to research the topic further to ensure that you relay all the facts and information correctly. Volunteering may include helping out at your local PMI chapter group for example. Both creating content and volunteering are great ways to earn PDUs.

 

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Volunteering

A couple of years back, I decided that I wanted to do something for my local community. I organised a project to clean out the local pond. As we know, every task you carry out can be seen as a project, and this was no different. Over a period of two days, we arranged a number of volunteers and helpers to catch out the fish, drain the pond, give it a big clean, then install some additional filtration. It was great for the pond, great for the local community and I also earned PDUs for the effort – win, win, win!

 

Attending online training courses

There are numerous ways to earn PDUs in Education. Obviously, you could take an additional course, either online with the Learning People, or you could attend a physical course organised by your local training centre. I’ve always worked in aquariums, and many of these were associated with a hotel or a shopping mall. Often as part of a highly matrix management system, there is a training department. Make use of the courses that may be offered through your training department. I’ve been lucky enough to attend various risk management or leadership courses organised by the companies I have worked for, and of course, I claimed PDUs for attending these courses. 

Speak with your HR if you are working for an organisation like this, as it is likely that they will have organised training programs, or they may pay for you to attend a course on behalf of the company.

 

Podcasts, conferences, reading and webinars

Another great resource is the wide variety of podcasts that are on offer. It’s so easy to listen to these in the car or train whilst travelling to work. You should be able to categorise the podcast depending on its subject matter, in terms of claiming PDUs in the correct area. 

Top tip: a great site, offering free podcasts, and other great resources is PM Podcast. Writing this, I have to thank Cornelius Fichtner for his tireless work bringing some really informative podcasts to us, all the while allowing us to earn PDUs, just by listening to them.

Conferences, webinars and PMI Chapter meetings can also lead to additional PDUs. There are multiple opportunities here, conferences are held both internationally and locally. 

Remember: if you offer to volunteer at these you will earn more, as mentioned previously. 

Then there are those webinars that you can attend virtually. You should be able to find some if you just search online.

You can educate yourself in so many different ways. Simply reading can earn you PDUs by reading blogs, articles, magazines, books etc. There is a lot of free information and instruction available online, in libraries, or even in your local bookshop. Fifteen minutes of reading is 0.25 PDUs, so make it a habit and you will soon reach your targets.

Top tip: If you want to earn 0.25 PDUs in the Strategic and Business Management category, then feel free to read my last blog on ‘How to write a business case’. 

Everyone is different in their ability to absorb information. We all have a preference in how we obtain knowledge and we should focus on that medium for enhancing our education.

 

Don't leave it all to the last month

Remember it’s easier to obtain PDUs consistently over the course of your three year cycle instead of leaving it to the last month! Don’t forget to report them either, there is nothing worse than listening to a podcast, or reading an article and then forgetting to add it to your dashboard.

I hope that this article outlines how the PDU and PMI Talent Triangle work. But, more importantly, I hope that you enjoyed reading this blog. 

Don’t be put off by the fact that you have to do PDUs. It shouldn’t stop you from making the choice to charge forward and commit to studying your project management course with Learning People – you won’t regret doing it!

I welcome any feedback and hope continue to bring more insight to the project management industry in future blogs.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.

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