What is a PDU (in Project Management)?

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If you Googled PDU and found a bunch of articles about electronics then you are finally in the right place! Here we’re talking about Professional Development Units for project management.

What’s a Professional Development Unit?

Professional Development Units is a term for measuring time spent on professional education. In particular, it’s PMI’s® method of talking about professional education for project managers.

Earning PDUs is essential to evidence that you are keeping your skills up to date. They are required for ongoing certification. In other words, if you don’t keep learning, you’ll lose the ability to use your post-nominal letters.

What qualifies as a PDU?

Loads of activities qualify as PDUs including reading industry press and blogs like this one, attending events (online and in-person), formal and informal training courses, recorded webinars, mentoring others and practical experience of doing the job.

Volunteering for professional associations can also count. Basically, anything that uses your project management skills or develops your project management skills qualifies as PDU-worthy.

Doing the activity for an hour gives you 1 PDU — more on that below.

How much is 1 PDU worth?

One PDU is equivalent to 1 hour of learning.

PDUs are available in 15-minute chunks. In other words:

  • If you do 10 minutes of learning, you get no credit.
  • If you do 15 minutes of learning, you get 0.25 PDUs.

And upwards from there.

While we might talk about ‘contact hours’ in this sense, you don’t need contact with anyone in order to earn a PDU. Reading a professional journal and making notes on interesting articles is enough to qualify, and there is no ‘contact’ involved in that.

People get confused about ‘contact hours’ because you’ll see the requirement for 35 contact hours prior to applying for the PMP certification. This is different from PDUs. Contact hours are a way of validating that you’ve had some formal project management training before taking the PMP exam.

After you’ve taken your PMI exam, then you need to earn and record your PDUs.

How many PDUs do I need?

Different PMI certifications require different amounts of professional development to keep your credential in date.

The PDU requirements for CAPM® for example, are different from those for other PMI credentials like the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certificate.

The table below shows the specific number of PDUs you need for various PMI certifications to stay relevant and the type of PDU required split across the PMI Talent Triangle.

PMI® CertificationPDUs required
PMP® 60
CAPM® 15
PMI-SP® 30
PfMP® 60
DASM 7 in Agile topics
DASSM 7 in Agile topics
DAC 7 in Agile topics
DAVSC 7 in Agile topics

How long are PDUs valid?

PDUs for PMI certifications need to be earned and claimed within the 3-year recertification cycle.

If you earn more than you need, you can carry over PDUs into the next cycle as long as:

  • Those PDUs have been earned in the last 12 months of your current recertification cycle.
  • They don’t relate to working as a practitioner.

You can carry over 20 PDUs for PMP and 5 for CAPM. For other certifications, it’s between 10-20 per cycle, so check the CCR handbook to be sure you’re working it out correctly for your certificate.

What about other professional bodies?

All professional bodies to my knowledge require project managers to demonstrate ongoing competence.

APM uses the term CPD: Continuous Professional Development. This means the same thing – an ongoing commitment to learning as a professional to demonstrate that we are equipped for modern challenges and still capable of doing the job.

Screenshot of website for recording PDUs

APM has a requirement on Fellows (like me) to do 35 hours of development per year.

In order to maintain your PRINCE2® certificate, AXELOS requires you to do 20 hours of CPD per year. That entitles you to a digital badge. (Yes, they also call it CPD.)

How to earn PDUs

There are loads of different ways to earn PDUs. Here are some common methods:

  • Courses: Learning online or in the classroom tends to require multiple hours of study so that’s a great way to earn a lot of PDUs at a time. Take advantage of any training offered by your employer and log all your hours.
  • Volunteering: Giving back to the profession comes in lots of different forms, from volunteering at your local PMI Chapter to donating your time to Project Managers Without Borders and more.

These methods apply regardless of what professional body you are earning them for. Follow the exact guidelines as laid out by your membership organization, but I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of commonality between what counts as ongoing professional development.

Earn PDUs
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Types of PDUs

PMI splits PDUs into a number of categories, and certification holders are expected to earn the required amount of each. Be sure to check the exact requirements in your credential handbook.

The categories are:

  • Education: Made up of Power Skills, Ways of Working and Business Acumen
  • Giving Back: Made up of volunteering, creating knowledge and working as a professional

Power Skills PDUs are typically the hardest to earn, so you might want to put some time into thinking about how to get those.

If you need to earn PDUs fast, then I’d recommend the PDU Podcast as that’s a good resource to have playing in the background while you do other things around the house or office.

what is a pdu in project management

Recording PDUs

For me, the hardest thing is remembering to keep a record. I do a load of writing, research, mentoring, listening to podcasts, teaching, developing training materials and more – all of which count towards my professional development credits.

However, I’m terrible at making a note of them and using the official online portals to log my time.

Don’t be like me!

Make a point of keeping your logs up to date so you don’t get to the end of the year and then have to scrap around trying to remember what you did.

APM has an Excel spreadsheet to use as a log, or you can use their online tool. PMI also has an online tool you can use for logging your time: the Continuing Certification Requirements System (CCRS), which you can access via their website.

Put 20 minutes, once a month, in your calendar and keep your records up to date because chances are, the year you don’t do that is the year you get audited.

Keep your PDU records for 18 months after you submit them, so in case you are audited, you have all the paperwork ready to go.

Before you go

Now you know what PDUs are, let’s put a plan together for how you are actually going to earn them. Check out my next article on easy ways to earn PDUs so you can feel confident in your recertification plans.