16 November, 2023

CSM vs PSM: What are they and How do they Compare?

By Mike Clayton

Certified Scrum Master, csm, Professional Scrum Master, psm

CSM – Certified Scrum Master – and PSM – Professional Scrum Master – are two of the most widely known scrum certifications. What are they? And how do they compare? [ CSM vs PSM ]

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Comparing CSM and PSM

The Scrum Guide

The Scrum Guide tells us that…

‘Scrum is a framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products. Scrum is not a process, technique, or definitive method. Rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment.’

The Scrum Guide, November 2020

Within the Scrum framework are three roles: that of Development Team, Product Owner, and Scrum Master. We have a full video description of the Scrum Guide and what it says: Top 10 Things to Know about the Scrum Guide.

And, for a full primer on the Scrum framework, we have:


CSM and PSM are two different programs of training and certification for Scrum Masters. They are both about showing you have a level of knowledge and understanding of Scrum – and are able to lead the Scrum process.

Both have three levels of certification and both are recognized globally and can lead to greater employability and higher salary – all other things being equal (which they rarely are!).

PSM: Professional Scrum Master

Professional Scrum Master certifications are available through Scrum.org. They are:

  • I: Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I)
  • II: Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II)
  • III: Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III)

CSM: Certified Scrum Master

Certified Scrum Master certifications are available through ScrumAlliance. They are:

  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM)
  • Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster (CSP-SM)


In comparing CSM and PSM, I shall stick to CSM and PSM I and not considering the certifications that would follow.

General Description

ScrumAlliance describes CSM as an ‘intro course for those wishing to fill the role of Scrum Master or Scrum team member.’

They go on to describe A-CSM and CSP-SM as being for Scrum Masters with one or more years of experience and experts wishing to develop mastery, respectively.

Scrum.org describes PSM I as evidence that you have a fundamental level of Scrum mastery. You have demonstrated that you understand Scrum and how to apply it in Scrum teams.

They go on to describe PSM II and PSM III as an advanced level and a distinguished level respectively.

Syllabus or Content

The CSM curriculum contains the core concepts of Scrum events, the scrum roles, facilitating teams, and servant leadership.

PSM I focuses on understanding and applying the Scrum framework, developing people and teams, and managing products in an agile way.

So, behind the differences in emphasis… much the same!


For CSM, you need to attend classes (a total of 14 hours), as well as pass the exam.

For PSM, you only have to pass the test. Attending classes is optional – you can choose to self-study.

CSM courses are led by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), while PSM courses are led by a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST).


  • CSM you need to score 37 out of 50 multiple choice questions (74%) – 60 minutes
  • PSM I you need to score 68 out of 80 multiple choice questions (85%) – 60 minutes

So, both tests are one hour in length, but the PSM I has more questions and requires a higher percentage to pass. The CSM test is easier than the PSM. A PSM I certification is a more certain demonstration of Scrum understanding.


  • CSM fee is attached to the course.
  • PSM fee is fixed for the exams and you then have to study or find a preparation course separately.


  • CSM – 2-year certification – renew every 2 years with 20 Scrum Education Units (SEUs) and a $100 fee
  • PSM – lifetime certification – no renewal required – one and done

So, PSM I is harder to get and easier to maintain.

Market Attractiveness

As always, you should always research the market in the sector and geography where you want to work. However, my observation is that CSM is more often mentioned in job postings than is the PSM. Why this is, I don’t know, unless it is simply the result of it having been around longer.

I would emphasize that I have made NO careful assessment here.

Carefully curated video recommendations for you:

What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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