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Program Management Professional (PGMP) Certification

If you specialize in program management more so than project management, the Program Management Professional (PgMP) credential may be a good option to further demonstrate your professional capabilities.

PMI currently has five certifications/credentials, with PgMP being the most rigorous. I personally strongly recommend getting your Project Management Professional (PMP) prior to the PgMP, if at all possible. The application process is a bit easier and it serves as an excellent foundation for the PgMP process and exam.

Unlike the PMP, PMI-RMP (Risk), and PMI-SP (Scheduling) credentials, which are a two-stage process, the PgMP is a four-to-five-stage process.

Stage 1 – Application

Complete the PgMP application at PMI.org. You must demonstrate four years of project management experience AND four years of program management experience (with a bachelor’s degree or higher) OR four years of project management experience AND seven years of program management experience (without a bachelor’s degree). Once submitted, the application will take approximately five days for approval.

Stage 2 – Payment And Potential Audit

Upon approval of your application, you will be instructed to pay your PgMP credential fee (a whopping $1500 for members!). There is a chance your application could be selected for random audit (as mine was!). You will need to provide signed documentation attesting to your program management experience and copies of your transcripts, etc. The audit process can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks, depending on current volume at PMI. (Mine took exactly one week to clear)

Stage 3 – Panel Review

Once you have cleared audit, if selected, your application then goes into a panel review where a group of existing PgMPs review your experience statements to ensure that your experience aligns with true program management definitions. This process can take a week – mine cleared through panel review in four days.

Stage 4 – Exam

The exam, based on the PMI Standard for Program Management, 2nd Edition, is a 170-question, 4-hour exam. The questions are mainly situational based and require in-depth knowledge of generally accepted standards for program management as well as the PMI Standard. Having completed the PMP, the PMI-SP, and the PMI-RMP, I can easily say that the PgMP was, by far, the most difficult exam. I was very happy when the “Congratulations! You PASSED” came up on the screen!

Stage 5 – Multi-rater Assessment

The last step in the process is the MRA. This is similar to a 360-degree review process. You provide the names and contact information of at least 12 professional references: supervisors, peers, and team-members. They will need to answer the 70+ questions about your program management capabilities and return those surveys within 21 days. Once the pre-designated number has been received, and if the scores are within the acceptable range, you will be granted with the PgMP credential. After successfully completing the exam, it takes approximately three days to enter the MRA process.

Would you like more information on the PgMP? Have a look at the PgMP Handbook from PMI

The PgMP credential definitely requires some significant effort, time, and money, but it is a do-able process and it is a credential that will allow you to stand-apart from your peers.


  1. Kristin J on March 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    This is helpful – I have been considering pursuing PgMP but didn’t realize quite how involved the process was. Do you think it’s attainable from start to finish by the end of the year?

  2. Belinda Fremouw on March 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Hi Kristin,
    Thanks for the post! A lot of people have the impression that the timeline to achieve PgMP is similar to the PMP – you’re not alone. But, as you can see, it’s definitely a lot longer.

    I would allocate at least three months for the application / panel / MRA processes. On top of that, you will need to consider study time. Not only do you need to have a solid understanding of the PMBOK principles (hopefully retained from your PMP), you will also need to know and understand the Practice Standard for Program Management – which gives you a new set of processes and ITTOs.

    Personally, I would recommend at least eight to 12 weeks of study time, depending on your schedule and how much time you can commit to studying regularly.

    The PgMP is an expensive test – so definitely make sure you’re ready and as prepared as possible to avoid the re-examination fee.

    Since it’s the beginning of March, I think your chances are good of getting it done by the end of the year! Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress!

  3. Kristin J on March 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Belinda – thanks so much for your feedback and advice. Looks like I should get started on the process! Wish me luck!

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