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15 Easy Ways to Earn PDUs in 2020

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Do you need to earn PDUs to maintain your PMI certification? You’re in the right place!

In this article we’ll cover what you need to know about the different categories of PDUs and how many you need to get, plus some simple and free ways to earn PDUs in 2020. There are also some further suggestions that take a bit more effort but are equally worthwhile in case you’ve got more time and energy to spare for your professional development.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

What is a PDU?

PDUs are professional development units. They are a measure of how much professional, continuous learning you have done.

PDUs are measured in hours. You can claim them in 15 minute chunks if you spend part of an hour on professional development.

How many PDUs do I need?

If you hold a PMP®, PgMP®, PfMP® or PMI-PBA® certification, you need to earn 60 PDUs every three years.

That can be timed as 20 PDUs every year or 60 PDUs in the last 3 months of the three year cycle as you panic and try to get them all in before your certification expires.

If you hold a PMI-ACP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP® certification, you need to earn 30 PDUs in a three-year cycle.

If you hold a CAPM® certificate, you need to earn 15 PDUs every three years.

The PDUs for every certification need to be made up of education undertaken in specific areas. More on that in a minute.

The tables below shows the different number of PDUs required for each certificate.

CertificationCertification CycleTotal PDUs RequiredEducation Minimum PDUsGiving Back Maximum PDUs
PMP3 years603525
PgMP3 years603525
PfMP3 years603525
PMI-PBA3 years603525
PMI-ACP3 years301812
PMI-RMP3 years301812
PMI-SP3 years301812
CAPM3 years1596

These are detailed in the Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Handbook, so it’s worth getting a copy of that from the PMI website.

PDU categories

There are two categories of PDU:

  • Education PDUs
  • Giving Back PDUs

Education PDUs

Education PDUs are those earned from formal and informal learning across the three areas of the PMI Talent Triangle: Technical, Leadership and Strategic and Business Management skills.

education PDU requirements

Examples of ways to earn Education PDUs include:

  • Taking a course in-person
  • Attending an online course, training session either live or as self-paced learning
  • Attending a PMI Chapter meeting or PMI event where there is an educational session
  • Self-directed reading
  • Mentoring or other structured professional discussions with your colleagues and network e.g. lunch and learn meetings.
CertificationTechnical PDUs RequiredLeadership PDUs RequiredStrategic PDUs RequiredRemaining PDUs from any Talent Triangle Area
PMP88811
PgMP88811
PfMP88811
PMI-PBA88811
PMI-ACP4446
PMI-RMP4446
PMI-SP4446
CAPM2222

Giving Back PDUs

The Giving Back category of PDUs are those earned from contributing to the profession and expanding your horizons through volunteering.

Examples of ways to earn Giving Back PDUs include:

  • Doing your day job
  • Sharing your knowledge through publishing articles, podcasts, videos on your own website, your company website or a community platform
  • Giving a presentation at an event
  • Teaching others

Maximum Requirements

CertificationWorking as a ProfessionalVolunteering & Creating Knowledge
PMP817
PgMP817
PfMP817
PMI-PBA817
PMI-ACP48
PMI-RMP48
PMI-SP48
CAPM24

Download the CCR Handbook from the PMI website for a complete step-by-step breakdown of what you need for your particular circumstances.

How to Maintain Multiple PMI Certifications

Did you realize that if you’ve got multiple certifications, your PDU activity can count for each one?

That’s a huge bonus! You don’t have to earn brand new PDUs for each certification. Simply do some professional development that earns you credit across your portfolio of certificates. Make your PDUs do double duty supporting you for all your credentials!

Remember to report PDUs against all your relevant certificates in the CCR.

Leadership and Strategic and Business Management PDUs count for every certification you hold.
Technical PDUs can apply to more than one of your certifications as long as the subject is relevant. All Technical PDUs count towards Project Management Professional (PMP)® maintenance, even if they are in a subject that feels more aligned to a different certificate, like the scheduling or risk credentials.

OK, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at how you can boost your PDU count as quickly and easily as possible.

15 Easy Ways to Earn PDUs

Here are some simple ways to earn PDUs for your PMI re-certification cycle. Many of these are free ways to get PDUs. Others are simple to do but come with a cost. There are loads of eligible activities to choose from, so let’s get started!

easy ways to earn PDUs

1. Claim your pre-course work

If you are doing an online or in-person training course, you’ll probably be sent some pre-course work or assignments to do outside of the class time.

You can claim the time you spend on reviewing the course material as self-directed learning.

2. Claim for mentoring

Whether you mentor others or are being mentored, you can claim that time as it is a structured professional discussion. You are working as a practitioner, so you’ve definitely got something to share with others.

Don’t have a mentor? I can help with that!

More formal coaching arrangements also work – record the hours you spend coaching others or receiving coaching.

3. Give a presentation at work

If you take a training course or attend a webinar, offer to give a 15 minute summary version to your team at the next team meeting. That’s 0.25 PDUs right there for knowledge sharing!

4. Do your job

Did you notice in the tables above that you can earn PDUs simply for doing your job? That’s got to be the easiest way to get started on your PDU total.

If you are working in any kind of project delivery role, PMO role or similar in any industry, you can count some of your professional service working hours towards the maximum requirements for Giving Back.

You can use a copy of your job description as part of your evidence for this type of PDU claim.

5. Listen to The PDU Podcast

This is honestly the easiest way to earn those PDUs. Sign up to The PDU Podcast. Get a video webinar delivered to your device every month. Get your PDU certificate and enter the claim code into the CCR system.

It’s easy because the PDUs are pre-approved as they come from a registered PMI training provider, so you know PMI is going to accept them. Also, you get a breakdown of exactly which webinars cover what Talent Triangle areas, so you don’t have to worry about working out what episode aligns to which Education section.

Earn PDUs
PDU Podcast
$19.00

Earn PDUs by listening to these podcasts on your phone, mobile device, or computer. Learn from 25 project management experts when it is convenient to you.

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6. Go to a meeting

You don’t have to be a PMI member to go to a Chapter meeting. And with more and more Chapters offering webinars online, you may find it easier than ever to get to an event.

Typically, PMI will only let you claim 1-2 PDUs for organization meetings per certification renewal cycle, so review the upcoming calendar for your local Chapter and see what events are coming up.

Do check first if there is a fee: some Chapters offer events free to members and charge non-members. You might decide it’s worth joining the Chapter if the events look good enough.

7. Take a course

The easiest way to earn a lot of PDUs in one go is to take a class. This is a particularly good option if you hold more than one certification, because you can break up the PDUs and use them to count towards the various re-certification requirements.

Online, self-paced video courses are good because you can fit them in around your work responsibilities, but any project management training will count. Check out what your local community college is offering as evening classes or weekend study.

8. Reading

Membership of professional bodies normally comes with a journal or magazine. You can claim time for reading that, and heck, even this website!

Books also count, and there are some excellent project management books out there.

Just remember to write down what you learned and what you read, so you have an evidence log if you need to submit more information to PMI.

9. Watch a webinar

Get started with the webinars here:

That’s at least a couple of free PDUs for you!

Online video is a simple way to learn new things, and it’s something you can fit into your lunchbreak at work. It’s also a good way to boost your leadership skills, as you’ll often find live and on-demand webinars covering leadership topics.

10. Contribute to a Wiki

If you already have a Wikipedia login, you can start at the biggest wiki in the world and contribute your project management knowledge to that.

Or go small and contribute to the projectmanagement.com wiki, sharing what you know.

Perhaps you even have an in-house wiki for your team – that counts too.

11. Host a lunch and learn session

One of my favorite things to do at work was hosting the lunch and learn sessions. I curated a series of webinars over about a year. Project delivery professionals from all over the business joined the webinars (or watched the replays) over a lunch time.

It was surprisingly easy to organize in-house. You don’t need external speakers. Ask for volunteers to talk about what they learned on a project, or to do a deep-dive into something that went well (or not).

Or simply pull up an article on your favorite PM website, or a case study in a magazine and talk about what you would do in that situation.

I emailed the heads of department about my lunchtime webinars and asked them to forward my message on. Then anyone who wanted to join the webinars could. I simply sent out a calendar invite to the people on the list.

You can claim PDUs for organizing the event and also speaking at it.

12. Spend time on ProjectManagement.com

You can earn PDUs for contributing to the community or watching videos. ProjectManagement.com is a website owned by PMI and I think of it like the community wing. It’s packed with discussions, blogs, and other types of user-generated content, and it has a vast library of user-submitted templates.

There’s a huge selection of project management topics to browse.

Create content and join in! Write a blog post, contribute to a discussion, take a poll or a quiz, and start counting your hours.

13. Use PM Edge

Check out PM Edge by PMI. There are a number of free quizzes and badges to earn, all of which qualify for PDU time as you are practicing your skills.

Opportunities that offer you badges, quiz results, certificates and so on are great because they give you evidence that you can easily refer to if your development record is ever audited.

14. Take an e-learning course

PMI have some video on demand learning courses, including some that are for free, like this introduction to Agile course.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any free courses on the PMI website that are going to give you PDUs, but if you want a simple way to quickly earn PDUs, paying for them is definitely an easy route.

15. Study for your next certificate

If you are already going to study for something else, that study time counts. For example, if you study for the PMI-ACP using my recommended PMI-ACP prep course, you can record the time you spend on learning towards your PDUs for other certifications – as long as the content studied meets the requirements.

Extra ideas for earning PDUs

Finally, here are a couple of extra ideas for earning PDUs. These ones don’t count in my book as ‘easy’ but they are certainly doable if you put the effort in.

You can volunteer. Personally, I don’t think that’s an easy way to earn PDUs. It’s a lot of work and while it’s very rewarding, it’s not something to commit to without understanding what it involves. Talk to your local organization first and see what volunteer opportunities there are. It’s free – and volunteer work will often get you into big events for free – but it’s not always ‘easy’.

You can create new content. That’s anything from an article in your company newsletter (as long as it is about something to do with project management) through to delivering a keynote speech or writing a book.

I don’t think that creating content for the project management community is particularly easy either, especially if you are new to putting yourself and your ideas out there. But if you want to improve your public speaking or corporate writing skills, then it’s definitely something you could do.

How to claim PDUs

All PDU claims are done via the CCRS system on the PMI website. Log on there and input your details. If you’ve undertaken some learning with a recognized PMI firm, they will give you a certificate or code to enter into the system.

Tip: I recommend you put a recurring calendar appointment in your diary to update the CCRS system every three months at least. Then you’ll be motivated to do it and have an up-to-date record of what professional development you’ve already done.

PDU FAQ

How long are PDUs valid?

PDUs are valid for the re-certification cycle you earned them in (every 3 years). Once you have claimed the PDU for a re-certification cycle, you need to earn new ones to cover you for the next 3 years.

How many hours is a PDU?

A PDU equals one hour of professional development time. It can be spend doing a variety of learning activities. You can also claim PDUs in 15 minute increments if your learning timeslot goes over one hour e.g. claim 1.75 PDUs for a webinar that was 1 hour 45 minutes long.

How can I get free PDUs?

You can definitely get free PDUs for PMP renewal in 2021. Earn free PDUs from doing your job, listening to podcast episodes, volunteering, reading relevant materials and contributing to the profession, amongst other ways.

Next steps

Ready to start collecting those PDUs to maintain your active status? Here are your next steps:

  • Download the CCR Handbook and familiarize yourself with the requirements.
  • Sign up to The PDU Podcast
  • Register on ProjectManagement.com and put 30 minutes per month in your diary to contribute to the discussions, read the content etc
  • Start collecting supporting documentation, PDU claim codes and evidence to back up your certification renewal.

Pin for later reading

15 easy ways to earn PDUs

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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