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Should I take the PMP or the ACP Exam?

acp pmp exam Oct 25, 2021

A question that I've been getting asked a lot recently is “Dan what should I do the PMP exam – or --the ACP exam? So right away this brings up a lot of questions and comparisons about the two certifications especially because the (PMP® exam) recently underwent a major change as of January 2nd, 2021. I decided to take some time and put some thoughts down on paper considering I have both certifications and I currently provide training for both the the PMP Exam and I also have registration open for a November ACP class coming up.  So I have some motivation here to be transparent, but still, I wanted to 'weigh in' on this discussion.

Now clearly there's one de facto standard in my opinion and that's the Project Management Professional (PMP® exam) certification. and it's ranked in various magazines as one of the top project management certifications globally. Of course, it's not that you can't be a project manager if you don't have this credential.

Of course you can -- and -- you should try to become a project manager even without a certification. Now, what the PMP certification demonstrates is that you have very highly desirable skills that most employers are looking for and it’s been known to be a justification for a raise too!

Also, I would be remiss not to mention these reports that I've seen in the news about a dramatic shortage of labor and the growing demand for skilled project managers across multiple industries and verticals. Additionally, the majority of these companies that are hiring are saying their comfortable doing on the job training. What they're saying is look we need to put bodies into chairs, so if you're willing to come here (or work virtually) and work hard, we don't even care if you don't have the skills. We will train you! Just help us continue our business! We'll even train you! So in this way both PMP and ACP add value. Now, even if you are not job hunting now, some day you might be and so you want to think about how your career is evolving and whether or not it makes sense for you to have an agile certification for example.

So PMP is numero uno because having that PMP credential is going to float your resume up at the top of the stack as you're applying for these skilled labor positions that are now readily available. The PMP credential is a standalone project management certification that demonstrates project manager are highly skilled in the domains of People, Process and the Business environment and the latest PMP exam updates from January of 2021 include the representation of both predictive and agile development methods. So it sort of 'has it all' in terms of applicability in the industry.

Regardless of the type of project management that you do you cannot lose by getting PMP certified. On the other hand, maybe you are needing a deeper dive into agile or maybe you need to demonstrate a extensive knowledge of agile and so then we want to talk about Agile Certified Practitioner or PMI-ACP® Exam.  This one is more allocated towards looking at the practitioner of project manager and their ability to thrive in agile environments.

We know that organizations experiencing high degrees of change are served very well by using adaptive methods which are responsive to changing project dynamics allowing the customer to shift requirements delivering products in an incremental fashion and utilizing globally distributed and virtual teams.

These organizations want experience servant leaders or scrum masters so this certification might be better for someone who is on a scrum team or wants to be on a scrum team or whose organization is already transitioning from predictive to using incremental and or iterative methods.

For potential employers who were looking at your resume, they look at the PMP certification and theoretically they might say “OK great this person is a seasoned project manager, they've got exposure to agile they've got exposure to waterfall, and they've passed a globally recognized credential which backs up their experience”

But what if they need more than that? Like deep agile bench experience and agile certifications? Maybe the organization is looking for somebody who's been in the trenches with agile project development, working with developers, having daily stand-ups, etc, then the ACP is the credential they might want the job applicant to have.

So, the ACP could stand alone as a certification, or in addition to the PMP credential realizing that the ACP would include a deeper dive into the agile concepts like Kanban, Lean, Extreme Programming, Test Driven Development, etc.  All these different methods follow the same agile values and principles and can be very powerful tools for the practitioner in day-to-day project life.

So if you don't have any certifications, you want to go for your PMP certification first. Everybody knows the value of the PMP credential, and it is often looked at as a foundation on which to build other knowledge or get other certifications like the PMI-ACP Exam®. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you do one before the other technically, but -- most people tend to do the PMP as foundational certification BEFORE the ACP. But you should know that both credentials add a tremendous amount of value to your career, to the organization you perform for, and to your marketability and growth potential.

To understand more about the qualifications to sit for either exam please see the table below and if you need any help deciding which credential is right for you, please reach out about my PMP or my ACP Coaching Programs. Thanks. Coach Dan




Exam Eligibility

“A four-year degree with 3 years of project management experience” or  “A high school diploma with  5 years of project management experience”


35 contact hours of training in project management

”A Secondary degree with 8 months of agile project experience and 12 months of general project experience”


21 contact hours of training in agile practices

Exam Details

180  questions (mostly MCQ) and 230 minutes exam

120 multiple choice questions  and three hours exam

Resource Material

PMBOK6, PMBOK7, Agile Practice Guide etc.

Agile Practice Guide etc.

Exam Fee

USD555 (Non PMI Member)

USD405(PMI Member)

USD495 (Non PMI Member)

USD435(PMI Member)

Area of Focus

Waterfall, Agile, Hybrid

Agile Only

Renewal Process

60 professional development units. (PDUs) in technical project management, leadership and business topics every three years

30 professional development units (PDUs) in agile topics every three years

PMI, PMBOK, PMP, PMI-ACP are registered marks of The Project Management Institute (PMI)

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