PMI Membership for Professionals and Students: Is it Worth It?

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So you’re considering joining PMI® as a member or a student member? There are many benefits to joining, but there are also some things to be aware of. In this article, I’ll outline the benefits, considerations, and common questions I get from potential members so you can make the right decision for your career.

When I run project management rooms on Clubhouse or open my DMs for questions on Facebook or LinkedIn, one of the most common questions is: What certificate should I get? Closely followed by: “So is it worth joining PMI?”

I’ve been a member of PMI for many years, so I feel I can confidentially give you the insider information!

What are the benefits of being a PMI member?

The Project Management Institute membership has a lot of benefits.

Top of my personal list of membership benefits are:

  • Opportunities for networking
  • Opportunities for volunteering on projects to build experience
  • Professional development.

As a PMI certificate holder, you have to earn PDUs (Professional Development Units) across a range of topics, and the organization supports you in doing that by offering opportunities to continue learning.

Benefits you probably didn’t know existed:

  • The business reading center: full-text access to over 1,700 business publications and magazines via EBSCO – this is fantastic!
  • A PDF copy of Choose Your WoW! A Disciplined Agile Approach to Optimizing Your Way of Working (WoW)
  • Project Management Journal – I used this when I was researching my books, so if you’re interested in the theory of project management as well as case studies, this is a great benefit.

Beyond all of the tangible benefits, probably the biggest advantage is feeling part of a professional community of practice, and being connected to like-minded people. Project management can be a lonely job, and membership helps it feel less so. Knowing there are other project professionals out there is comforting. You’re part of something bigger.

Case study: What it’s like to be a member

I got in touch with Mei Lin, a Senior Business Program Manager at Microsoft, and a Project Management Professional (PMP)® holder, to ask about her experience of being a member, so you don’t just have to take my word for it.

Here’s what she said.

My main advice for up and coming project managers if to visit a local chapter and sign up for membership. When you are part of the PMI community you will realize that this community is so giving, both in-person and virtually too! You will see people reach out to you from all over the country – they may say “hey I saw your post related to project management and I found this chapter.” When I travel I even go to the local chapter and visit their events. You’ll make friends and turn them into family because you have the same language and passion for project management.

Mei Lin, Senior Business Program Manager, Microsoft

I had forgotten the thing about travel, but I have also done that. I’ve connected with other members while abroad and it’s been so interesting to realize that the challenges (but also the good parts) of the job are universal.

Types of membership

A PMI member is someone who is part of the organization, but there are a few different types of membership. The table below shows the options available.

MembershipCostBest for
Registered userFreePeople who want access to free PMI resources like the PMI Kick off course. People who want to earn their certification without becoming a member.

Sign up here
Member$129 per year plus $10 one-off application feeProject managers or those looking to work in project management.

More info
Student$32 per yearStudents registered on a college or university degree course.

More info
Retiree$65 per yearPrevious members with at least 5 consecutive years of membership who want to stay connected to the world of project management but are retired.

More info
GroupOn application15+ individuals from the same organization or university who apply to join together.
ChapterVariesMembers who also want to be involved in their local events/community.

How much does PMI membership cost?

The table above summarizes the cost of membership, but the main thing to know is that the most popular type of membership is US$129 plus a one-off $10 joining fee.

The costs of joining a Chapter depend on the Chapter, so you’ll need to check the details with the individual Chapter you want to join.

You may be able to claim tax relief on your professional membership fee. In the UK, PMI is on the list of approved professional organizations and learned societies. If your company pays, you can’t claim. Check your country’s rules if you pay for your membership yourself.

What do you get for your membership fee?

Your membership fee gets you:

  • Electronic copies of the PMBOK® Guide and The Agile Practice Guide
  • All the other practice standards and guides published by PMI as PDF versions
  • Regular magazine
  • Access to PMIstandards+. This is a searchable version of all the PMI standards with some extra templates etc. I have not found it to be very useful personally.
  • Access to PMI Picks. This is a new-ish thing which is bite-sized digital learning. Again, not something I have found very useful.
  • Lots of tools and templates from projectmanagement.com, the community hub. This is a good resource, and it’s full of user-generated content, like my blog for the site, The Money Files.
  • The job board
  • Online events, webinars, etc. There is a big online event once a year which attracts some huge name speakers and interesting presentations.

The best benefit, in my view, is the magazine. Unfortunately, it’s digital-only now. I used to look forward to getting a high-quality print magazine in the post, but now I have to read it online, and to be honest, I read it less.

business reading center

Student membership: your secret way in!

Here’s how to join PMI for only $32 a year!

Join as a student member.

Of course, you do have to be a university or college student – and be able to prove it – to take this option.

Eligibility criteria for student membership: You must be enrolled in a full-time, degree-granting program at a college or university that has US accreditation or the global equivalent. You don’t have to be on a business or project management course. Any course will do.

You get all the normal benefits of membership. The ones most relevant to students (in my opinion) are:

  • A discount on your Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification (my recommendation is to buy the membership + CAPM bundle when you join)
  • Access to the job board
  • Access to the Career Navigator tool which is a way to manage your professional development with tailored suggestions for your next steps.

How long does PMI membership last?

PMI membership is an annual subscription model, so you pay your fees each year.

Chapter membership runs alongside your subscription year. You renew both your ‘main’ PMI membership and the Chapter membership (if you opt to join a Chapter) at the same time.

Beyond that, you can renew as many times as you like, so you can be a member for your entire professional career or drop out and rejoin later if that suits your career journey better.

Can I become PMP certified without membership?

Yes, you can earn your PMP certification without being a member. Many Project Management Professionals don’t have membership. They do their professional development to keep the credential active, and that’s it.

However, members get a discount on the PMP certification exam fee that is worth more than the cost of membership. So if you do the math, it pays to become a member, at least for the year in which you plan to take the exam.

You’ll also get a digital PDF copy of the PMBOK® Guide – 7th Edition, which is an expensive book and required reading for the exam. So that’s another reason to consider membership while you are studying to become PMP certified.

It also works the other way: you can be a member without holding a PMP certification.

Is it worth joining a Chapter?

Ah, here we get to the interesting part! I live in the UK, so the UK Chapter is my local community. Except, it’s not really that local.

Chapters do great things and often have good events, but you have to be able to get to them. During the lockdowns of the pandemic in 202/21, many Chapter meetings went online, and some have kept a virtual schedule alongside their in-person events.

The UK Chapter has about 3,000 members. I’m not one of them. I decided to give up my Chapter membership because I was not able to attend events. I get plenty of benefits from the global community, so I don’t mind missing out on the local stuff.

Larger countries have multiple Chapters. For example, if you’re in the United States, there are Chapters based in most large cities, so you might find one close to you.

Advantages of joining a Chapter

  • Networking
  • Volunteer opportunities to work on projects
  • Get leadership experience and events management experience
  • Local support for exam prep and career help

Chapters are brilliant for networking. Members are people like you who have the same challenges.

They also rely heavily on volunteers to run the Chapter, so you can get useful exposure to events management, real projects (like organizing an annual conference), budget handling, and more. If you are new to project management, or a student, then that experience can give you the edge when looking for a job.

Many Chapters also offer courses, study groups, exam prep classes, or other career help. The UK Chapter, for example, has a relationship with Toastmasters. Many members get experience with public speaking to build their confidence through that.

Disadvantages of joining a Chapter

  • Reliance on volunteers
  • Location of events

A Chapter is only as good as the volunteer community. If you are unlucky one year with the committee – perhaps they are not able to commit as much time as they would like to their events, or they don’t have the same connections as the team the previous year – then your experience will be different.

Of course, the way around this is to volunteer! Take on a position and help them out ?

In my experience, events tend to be held in locations where the committee live/work, or where the majority of members are based. If you don’t live there or can’t get there, you might incur fees traveling to events.

It’s probably worth paying for the travel to a day-long event or conference but less worth it for evening seminars or breakfast meetings.

Final thoughts: Is PMI membership worth it?

I think PMI membership is worth it. I’ve been a member for years, and I’ve certainly made a lot of connections through it. I’ve used the resources consistently in my work, so the access to recent research via the Journal and their white papers and reports is helpful.

I think the biggest consideration is: will you make use of the benefits? If you are actively going to attend meetings and Chapter events, log in and use the digital publications, and make use of the professional resources for development, then it’s worth it.

If you are serious about your project management career, it’s worth looking at membership.

However: if you work in a country where PMI and PMI’s way of thinking is not the dominant way of thinking for many employers, then there might be another local project management body that is more active.

There are other professional bodies out there, like APM in the UK and PMSA in South Africa. PMI is certainly the largest, global organization, but it’s not the only choice for you.

Ready to take the next step?

If you’re ready to join, sign up here and I’ll see you inside!

If you’re still deciding, why not sign up for a free membership so you can see what PMI is all about and check out their style.

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pmi membership

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