What are Contact Hours?

6 minute read    Updated:    Harwinder Singh

What is the difference between contact hours and PDU? How to get contact hours for PMP? These are some of the most frequently asked questions in the area of professional development, particularly PMP certification. PMI requires the PMP candidates to have at least 35 contact hours of formal project management education before they submit their PMP application. In this post, we’ll learn what contact hours are, how contact hours are different from PDU, the different means of earning contact hours for PMP certification, what qualifies for contact hours and what doesn’t, and more. Let’s dive in.

What are contact hours for PMP certification?

FAQs on Contact Hours

What is a Contact Hour?

Contact Hour is unit of measure that represents an hour of scheduled instruction given to students. In the PMP context, contact hour is an hour of formal project management education / training.

What are the various means to earn Contact Hours for PMP?

According to the PMP Handbook, you can earn contact hours through the following 6 channels or categories as they are called:

  • A. PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s)
  • B. PMI chapters
  • C. Employer/company-sponsored programs
  • D. Training companies or consultants (e.g., training schools)
  • E. Distance-learning companies, including an end-of-course assessment
  • F. University/college academic and continuing education programs

What doesn’t qualify for 35 Contact hours of PM Education for PMP Certification?

A few things that do “not” qualify towards meeting the 35 contact hours of project management education for PMP certification are:

  • Attendance to PMI chapter meetings, unless spent conducting a learning activity.
  • Self-study (e.g. reading books).
  • Degree programme, such as an MBA, in its entirety, but many of the classes within the programme will apply and must be documented individually.

What is the difference between Contact Hours and PDU?

I have covered the difference between Contact Hours and PDU, but here’s a short summary.

Contact hours are hours earned before becoming certified. Contact hours can only be earned as traditional course time that focuses on project management. PDU (Professional development Units) are earned after one has become certified and there are many ways to earn PMP PDU.

Do Contact Hours have an Expiry Date?

No. PMI does not mandate any expiry timeline for contact hours earned to qualify for the PMP Exam, as long as you retain the proof (certificate). For example, if you earned the contact hours in 2004, there’s nothing stopping you from taking the exam in 2018.

I quote an email that that I received from PMI on this matter:

There is no deadline or expiry date for the PM education requirement, though the PM education must have been acquired before the submission of the PMP application.

How to get 35 Contact Hours for PMP?

A common way to get the required contact hours for PMP is through classroom or virtual (online) training courses. One of the easiest and cost-effective ways to get PMP and 35 contact hours (under Category E) is BrainBOK PMP Exam Prep. With BrainBOK you earn the contact hours by passing PMP practice exams without any additional cost to you.

You do not have to sit through hours of training courses or watch boring and mind-numbing training videos to earn your contact hours. Taking practice exams is something that you need to do anyway in order to pass the PMP. But if you can earn contact hours as you take the practice exams, you can kill two birds with one stone. With BrainBOK you can do exactly that. BrainBOK gives you 6 PMP practice exams, 1000+ PMP exam questions, 2000 PMP flashcards, PMP ITTO tool, a PMP formula guide, and not to forget - 35 contact hours.

Can I apply for PMP certification before getting my 35 Contact Hours?

The 35 contact hours of PM Education must be acquired before submitting your application for the PMP exam. I quote an email from PMI customer care on this matter:

There is no deadline or expiry date for the PM education requirement, though the PM education must have been acquired before the submission of the PMP application.

This is now also stated in the PMP Handbook. The handbook clearly says in bold:

The course work must be completed at the time you submit the application.

Can I use the Contact Hours earned before getting PMP as PDU after becoming PMP?

People often wonder whether they can use the contact hours earned before they achieved PMP certification as PDU credits for maintaining their PMP certification after they are PMP-certified. The answer is clearly ‘No’. The 35 contact hours used for meeting the eligibility for PMP cannot be used again for maintaining or renewing your PMP certification.

Additional Information

100+ FAQ on PMP certification

For more questions about getting PMP certification, refer to my PMP FAQ page.

I hope this article helps bring clarity around contact hours in general and for PMP in particular. If you have further questions around this topic, feel free to post them under the comments section below. I’ll be happy to assist.

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Shawn Avatar

When scouring the BrainBOK website, they indicate that you must take their full course to get 35 contact hours. I asked them directly if I could purchase their practice exams to gain contact hours and they said "no", I need to purchase their premium course.

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hi Shawn,

I’ve replied to you in the email as well. Here’s what I said:

It is a requirement imposed by PMI for issuing course completion certificate. The certificate is really for the course. You need to take the course, and exam is just a "validation" that you’ve understood the concepts from the course.

For example, can you go to a university and say that "I’m going to take the final year exam without paying for and attending any classes, just allow me to write the exam and get the 3 or 4 year diploma/degree?" No, right? It’s the same here.

You need to take the course and pass the exam in order to get the certificate. Both are mandatory requirements.

Let me know if you have more questions.