Sometimes people are unsure whether they should take the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or wait and take the Project Management Plan (PMP) later; when they are ready. And this is a great question for which there is no simple answer. The CAPM is a precursor to the PMP, but it is not required. People mostly take the CAPM because they need to improve their management skills, but they do not meet the educational requirements and the hours working in project management. Also, the CAPM is a good way to prepare for the PMP, which many feel they need upfront. However, even though the CAPM is a good certification, companies generally look for the PMP when seeking new hires.
The PMP is still the “standard” in project management and should be the goal, in my opinion. Therefore, if you currently lack the experience needed to set up for the PMP, I recommend waiting until you accumulate the necessary hours. However, there are some exceptions. For example, I once had a student who was very happy at his job but realized he would not be ascending to a project management position. Therefore, reaching the required management experience hours was not readily feasible. So, he decided to take the CAPM to; 1) improve project management skills, 2) learn about management templates and guidelines that would help him in his day-to-day work, and 3) he wanted to have something to show his boss he was serious about becoming a project manager.
If you are currently on the fence about taking the CAPM or the PMP exam, you need to as yourself the following questions: 1) can I get the hours of experience needed within the next 2 or 3 years to set for the PMP? 2) Will the CAPM help my career by obtaining the certification and learning new skills? And 3) will I be OK with just having CAPM certification and not the PMP? In other words, the CAPM needs to provide you a benefit since you need to study the same PMBOK as if you were attempting to pass the exam, there is a cost, and the test is a bit challenging; but not as challenging as the PMP, but not easy either. So, based on your answers, you may want to wait a couple of years, or you may want to proceed if PMP certification is not critical and you want to know about processes, tools & techniques.
PM Workshops offer the CAPM and the PMP, the PMI-ACP, and other courses. However, the requests for us to train participants to pass the CAPM are rare. Instead, most people are focused on the PMP, which, empirically speaking, we know that it is what organizations are looking for. That said, there are advantages to having the CAPM certification in addition to the ones noted above, such as 1) being able to speak the PMI language with colleagues and clients, 2) engaging with the PMI community, and 3) getting a glimpse into the PMP exam, which will help you if you decide to achieve this certification.