What is Project Management Experience?

If you have been at a stage in your professional career where you have wanted to escalate to a project manager position, you have probably tried to pursue a job or seek a certification to gain the requisite project management experience. Experience plays a crucial role for professionals wishing to be project managers. This is because even preparing to school yourself to be a PM necessitates that you possess experience of a certain number of hours in the planning, procurement, and execution of a project.

For example, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification requires that you validate yourself as having at least 4,500 hours of experience in coordinating and managing projects. Another example is the Certified Associate in Project Management degree that demands at least 23 hours of relevant academic education or 1,500 hours of experience.

Now that we have gotten how essential experience is out of the way, let’s turn our attention to what actually comprises or counts as project management experience. Let’s first start by defining it.

What is Project Management Experience?

Once you have made your decision to get certified as in the role of a project manager, you have likely begun looking through the eligibility criteria of the most authoritative certifications in the field.

However, you realize that to be able to undertake these certifications, you should have prior experience in managing projects. Considering the couple of certifications we looked at in the introduction above, you would need a considerable amount of experience before you could even educate yourself to become a project manager.

At this point, you might probably be thinking that it’s the classic catch-22 situation where you require experience to be eligible for the certification, but you need the certification to work in a job to gain the requisite experience that will enable you to be worthy of getting the certification. This is, however, not the case.

If you have been working for a few years, you probably have lots of experience managing projects. For the purposes of the certification, this experience could be in either or all of the following categories:


  • Initiation: A project is formally presented to a sponsor during this process, and the scope is first addressed.
  • Planning: The project’s entire scope is firmly established.
  • Execution: The work begins after everything has been put in writing.
  • Monitoring and controlling: Project managers monitor, analyze, and control the project’s progress.
  • Closing: This is the last stage at which the client approves the project.

With this information in mind, consider everything you’ve accomplished at work or even outside of work, whose experience could be counted among these categories. You needn’t have to oversee a project from start to finish to accrue those hours. Instead, bring together your experiences from each of these categories. You could have designed and started a project, or you could have carried out a project within a process community.

Time spent ideating, guiding, overseeing, and conducting projects is referred to as experience in project management. A project manager’s traditional tasks, for example, include:

  • Planning: Project managers develop a roadmap that will direct the entire project from conception to completion, specifying its scope, required assets, the expected timeline, communication plan, and other information.
  • Leading: Project managers guide the team throughout the process, which necessitates excellent collaboration and interpersonal skills.
  • Execution: A project manager is likely to be involved in the concrete tasks necessary to advance the project.
  • Time management: Project managers keep everyone on track and are in charge of managing problems and engaging efficiently with stakeholders and team members as they occur.
  • Budget: Ideating and sticking to a project budget assumes a crucial responsibility for project managers. If unforeseen financial problems occur, it is the project manager’s responsibility to handle them and reassign resources as required.
  • Documentation: Project managers use methods such as data gathering and status updates to keep track of the progress of every project.
  • Maintenance: It is crucial to develop a strategy for the deliverable’s ongoing performance, which involves preventive maintenance and servicing.

How to Gain Project Management Experience?

Let’s get this out of the way first. You don’t have to be a project manager to obtain experience in project management. You can work in a leadership capacity in a project without any qualification in a number of ways.

  • Work experience: Look for opportunities to gain project leadership expertise within your own company. You can take on a project in your current organization even though you are not a project manager. Even if you are not overseeing programs, your role in implementation, tracking, and controlling can be counted as a legitimate experience.
  • Volunteer experience: While working for free isn’t anyone’s first recourse, it’s actually a great way to gain significant amounts of experience.
  • Side projects: If you have ample time on your hands, search for a freelancing opportunity. There are numerous freelance project management assignments out there. All it takes is going out there and connecting to people and prospects.

If you are navigating your way through toward certification, keep track of every hour you spend on assignments, categorizing the work as you go. This will make it simpler for you when the time comes to turn in the paperwork. To render the auditing process simpler, ask every project lead for a reference.

Doing any of the above-mentioned tasks when on the job qualifies as project management experience. So, look over your previous positions and duties to find out if you have any relevant experience. If not, then consider asking your project lead to allow you to help manage projects of a lower degree for your company or completing an apprenticeship.

This will expose you to popular project management techniques and concepts, as well as assist you in developing the connections needed to land your initial project managerial position. Finally, you should consider investing in some high-quality project management training. Not only would these introduce you to invaluable industry insights and experiences, but they could also provide you with an opportunity to network with others like you so that you can land your first project management job.

The Importance of Recording Your Experience

If you’ve stayed with us for this long, then you know that the toughest part of the whole ordeal isn’t the certification but documenting your experience of managing projects.

You know that you need 4,500 hours worth of experience to be eligible for a PMP. If you’re in charge of managing a project where you work 30 hours per week, you will have to account for near about two years and eight months of project management experience. Would you be able to remember what you did at a certain point in time anywhere in this duration?

It’s prudent to correctly record your experience as you work. The greatest risk that you will have to encounter is that you will be inspected for that work, which means that you will have to procure an attested copy of your experience letter by the project leader validating the input that you put in the number of hours you said you did.

PME for the Future

Keep in mind that gaining the requisite experience for the PMP certification takes around 24-48 months. As you progress towards your target, keep a precise count of the number of hours you pour into projects, categorizing them as per your level of experience. This added effort will make it easier to complete your application.