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:
- an article: Scrum Guide: All You Want to Know about How to Deliver a Scrum Project
- a video: Scrum 101: The Fundamentals of the Agile Scrum Methodology
CSM and PSM
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)
CSM vs PSM
In comparing CSM and PSM, I shall stick to CSM and PSM I and not considering the certifications that would follow.
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.
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.
Recommended Videos to Help with Agile Scrum
Carefully curated video recommendations for you:
- What is Scrum? | Video
- Scrum 101: The Fundamentals of the Agile Scrum Methodology
- Top 10 Things to Know about the Scrum Guide
- Introduction to Agile Scrum Project Management – with Alexis Allen | Video
- How to do a Basic Agile Project | Video
- What is the PMI-ACP? The Agile Certified Professional | Video
- What is PRINCE2 Agile? …and Does it Make Sense? | Video
Recommended Articles to Help with Agile Scrum
- Scrum Guide: All You Want to Know about How to Deliver a Scrum Project
- What is PMI-ACP? PMI’s Chief Certification for Agile Project Management
- Agile Certification: Your Guide to the Large Array of Agile Qualifications
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.
Note that the links are affiliated.
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For more of our videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.