Once you have the Project Management Professional certification, keep it
After you pass the Project Management Professional, (PMP), exam, you have the right to use the designation for the next three years. After that, you may renew the certification provided you amass enough Professional Development Units, (PDU). You need to have 60 before you can apply to renew your standing. There are a few other criteria that you must meet as well. At least a quarter of the renewal credits must be in the form of continuing education activities. Additionally, only a maximum of 3/4 can be through giving back to the project management profession.
As a project manager, you should approach the renewal as a project. You have a set amount of time, 3 years. You have goals, (60 units in various categories). You have constraints on your time and budget. You may have to work with others and even get approval for some tasks. This is a real project, although it is not a paid one. Regardless, if you approach the renewal of your PMP as a project, you will be able to stay organized from the start and have a great chance of successfully meeting the 3 year deadline.
Start as early as possible and keep working for a full 3 year period. By starting to gain development credits right away, you can develop good habits. The activities can be rather time consuming, 1 hour for each credit, so you need to plan your time. You have 36 months, at most, in which to earn your credits. That means that you need to earn a little less than 2 credits per month. Starting now, you should set a target of 2 credits a month. That way, you can either have 72 when you only need 60 or you can reduce your efforts during a few months and still get the required total. If you have not earned any credits and you are part way through your 3 year term, you will have to get busier. Say you have used up a year already. That means you only have 24 months left in which to earn 60 credits. In this case, you need to earn about 3 credits per month. More difficult, but still reasonable. The key is to get started right away. You don't want to be put in the position of having 6 months before you renew but you still need 40, 50 or 60 credits.
Renewal Credit Constraint
All of the credit earning activities are either in the Educational or "Giving back to the profession" divisions. You may only earn up to 45 credits by giving back. That means that at least 15 credits must be earned through continuing education activities. Each hour of activity is worth 1 credit. If you listen to a project management podcast for 1 hour, you can earn 1 credit. If you write an article for an hour, that is also worth 1 credit. The podcast is valid for continuing education credit while the article writing is valid for "giving back to the profession" credit.
You can enroll in a project management course and receive a lot of renewal credits right away. This may be expensive, however. If you have a training budget through your workplace, this can be a great option to consider. If you pay for your own training, it still may be worth your consideration but there are other less expensive options. You can read project management books, view pod casts, attend webinars and other free or inexpensive learning activities. As long as they pertain to a project management topic, they are valid. Similarly, you can write an article for a project management journal such as "Practical PM Journal" or you can develop blog posts for the Internet. Your hour of activity is worth 1 development renewal credit. You may also track partial hours. 15 minutes is good for 0.25 renewal credit.
Obviously as a certified project manager, you understand that adequate planning is a must in nearly everything that you do. This applies to your certification renewal as well, for best results, of course.
How Many Credits Do You Have Now?
You should evaluate how many you have versus how many you need. Sixty are required in each three year period. Doing simple math, that means that you need twenty per year. If you only have thirty now, and you need to renew in the next six months, you have a big problem. You will need to earn credits at a rapid pace in order to meet the requirement. Using the guideline, you should earn two credits per month. If you have six months left, that should mean that you need to earn twelve more credits. Any more and you are behind schedule.
What to Do?
If you find yourself needed quite a large number of certification renewal credits, you should address the problem right away. A deficit is not an excuse. You have to put in the time, and work, in order to amass the required number. As explained, there are several valid methods that you can use. The one that works best for you is the one that you can stick to. Perhaps you find it interesting to listen to pod casts. These will earn quite a few points. Similarly, reading a book on business can work as well. Writing blog posts is another good way. Of course, you can also pick and choose. You can listen to a few hours of pod casts, read books for a few hours, and compose blog entries as well. Except for the category limits that have been mentioned, there is no requirement for you to concentrate on any one method.
When you studied for your certification test, you likely spent a great deal of time in preparation. The exam is very difficult, and long. You get several hours to write it, for a reason. After you are successful, you should vow to never go through the laborious process again. The re-certification process is designed to keep your knowledge current, and to let you maintain your credential in a relatively timely manner. You owe it to yourself to take all steps necessary to attain re-certification each time you are due.