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Program Management vs Project Management: What’s the Difference


Program Management vs Project Management

Project management is an ever-evolving field vital to organizations’ success worldwide. Within project management, two certifications stand out as key indicators of a project manager’s skills and expertise: the Program Management Professional (PgMP) and the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certifications.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers both certifications, but they serve different purposes and require different skills and experiences. Let’s explore the difference between program management vs project management and help you understand which certification might fit you.

What is PMP Certification?

The Project Management Professional(PMP) Certification is the most widely recognized certification for global project managers. It focuses on managing individual projects and is ideal for project managers responsible for leading a team and delivering specific project outcomes.

What is PgMP Certification?

The Program Management Professional Certification (PgMP) is designed for experienced program managers managing multiple related projects aligned with organizational objectives. It focuses on strategic program management and requires thoroughly comprehending project management methodologies and practices.

Difference Between Project and Program Management

While both certifications focus on project management, there are key differences between PgMP and PMP certifications.

Here are some of the main differences:


This certification focuses on leading teams and delivering results to individual projects, and is ideal for project managers. At the same time, The PgMP certification is centered on aligning multiple interrelated projects with organizational goals, emphasizing strategic program management, and necessitates a thorough grasp of project management methodologies and practices.

Experience Requirements

The experience requirements for project management certification and project management certifications are different.

To earn a PMP certification, a candidate must have at least three years of project management experience, have led and directed projects for 4,500 hours, and have undergone 35 hours of project management training. Alternatively, if the candidate has a bachelor’s degree, they need at least two years of project management experience, 3,000 hours of leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management training.

Do you want to confirm your eligibility for the PMP Certification? Check with PMP Eligibility Calculator.

In Contrast, To earn a PgMP certification, a candidate with a secondary degree should possess 48 months of project management & 84 months of Program Management experience within the last 15 years. Alternatively, the candidate has a bachelor’s degree. In that case, they need at least four years of project and program management experience and complete 35 hours of program management training.

Want to make sure you are eligible for the PgMP Certification? Check with our PgMP Eligibility Calculator.


PMI states that individuals who are non-members must pay $575 to take the PMP exam, while members must pay $405. If you intend to take the exam, it may be beneficial to join PMI. Student members are only required to pay $32 rather than the monthly membership fee of $139. Members can benefit from discounts on other exams, access to PMI job sites, and save money on the PMP certification.

For the PgMP certification, non-members must pay $1,000, while members must pay $800. Joining PMI for PgMP certification offers additional benefits, including exclusive member-only perks. PgMP applications require panel assessments, and the fee is due only after approval of the submission.


Another key difference between project management vs program management certifications is their scope. PMP focuses on the project lifecycle, while PgMP certification spans the program lifecycle, including program definition and benefits realization.

Exam Content

The content of the program management vs. project management exams is different. The PMP exam covers project management, while the PgMP exam covers program management concepts and techniques. The project management exam covers five project management domains, while the program management exam covers five program management domains.

The PMP certification exam tests individuals’ knowledge and skills in initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing a project. In contrast, the PgMP certification exam tests individuals’ knowledge and skills in program strategy alignment, benefits management, stakeholder engagement, program governance, program life cycle management, and program management processes.

Exam Format

Individuals taking the PMP certification exam are given four hours to complete 200 multiple-choice questions. In contrast, the PgMP certification exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, and individuals have four hours to complete the exam.

For detailed information about the exam formats, check PMI’s PMP Exam Content Outline And PgMP Exam Content Outline.

Exam Difficulty

While both exams are challenging, many consider the PgMP exam more complex than the PMP one. This is because program management involves more complexity and a broader range of skills and knowledge than project management.

Certification Maintenance

Both certifications require ongoing certification maintenance through the accumulation of Professional Development Units (PDUs). However, the PMP & PgMP certification requires individuals to earn 60 PDUs every three years to maintain their certification and undergo a re-certification process every three years.

Career Prospects

Both certifications can offer opportunities for career advancement. However, program managers looking to take on leadership roles overseeing multiple related projects and programs would find the PgMP certification specifically designed for their needs. The PMP certification, on the other hand, can lead to various project management roles across a wide range of industries.

Project managers can benefit from obtaining PMP certification in construction, IT, healthcare, and finance, among others. PMP certification training helps individuals who wish to enhance their career opportunities and potential earnings. PgMP certification is ideal for aerospace, defense, energy, and government program managers. Additionally, it is appropriate for individuals who desire to demonstrate their expertise in strategic program management and increase their earning potential.

Salary Benefits

The advantages of Program Management or Project Management Certification are numerous. Firstly, PMP-certified professionals earn higher salaries compared to their non-certified counterparts. On average, project managers with PMP certification globally earn salaries that are 16% higher than those without it, and in the U.S., the difference is 32%. At the same time, PgMP professionals make 42% more money than non-PgMP program managers.

Earning PMP certification confirms that you possess the knowledge and skills to complete projects successfully. Employers seek project managers who can meet deadlines while staying within budget and delivering quality work efficiently. Obtaining PMP certification demonstrates your ability to meet these expectations.

Finally, it was stated in a 2021 PMI report that by 2030, the global economy’s anticipated demand would require approximately 25 million new project managers. PMP certification sets you apart from other candidates, leading to more career opportunities and advancement. Additionally, gaining PMP certification allows you to connect with a globally recognized group of over 1 million PMP-certified individuals, offering new networking opportunities.

Program managers with PMP or PgMP certifications may also have higher earning potential. According to PMI’s 2021 Earning Power Salary Survey, project managers with PMP certification earn a median salary of $120,000 per year in the United States, while those with PgMP certification earn a median salary of $150,000 per year.

What to choose? PgMP or PMP?

The choice between PMP and PgMP certifications depends on your career goals and the type of role you wish to pursue. If you want to advance your career as a project manager and handle multiple projects simultaneously, you should opt for PMP certification. However, if you have experience as a program manager and are responsible for managing several related projects that align with organizational objectives, then you should pursue PgMP certification.

It’s important to note that both certifications have different eligibility requirements, and the application process can be quite rigorous. It is recommended to review the prerequisites and study the exam contents before making a decision. Ultimately, the industry highly respects both certifications, which can lead to excellent career opportunities and higher salaries.

Ultimately, assessing your experience level, career goals, and industry requirements is essential to make a well-informed choice regarding the certification you wish to pursue.


Choosing a certification may seem challenging, but both options will support your career and objectives. Acquiring a certification not only validates your expertise in your respective domain but also unlocks various new prospects. ProThoughts’s training courses for PMP and PgMP will be highly beneficial if you consider pursuing either the PMP or PgMP certification. The PMP and PgMP Certification training at ProThoughts will make your certification journey seamless because of the constant, expert guidance and the most innovative teaching methods. Get started today!

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