Certified Scrum Master vs. PMP: Which Certification Should You Pursue?

Certified Scrum Master vs. PMP: Which Certification Should You Pursue?

Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Project Management Professional (PMP) are the most common credentials in project management. Earning one or both certifications can increase earning potential and job opportunities. Before deciding which to pursue, it’s helpful to compare these certifications to understand their merits.

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What is a Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master is an experienced and trained facilitator who uses the Scrum framework to help teams work more efficiently and quickly. The Scrum Master serves the role of a mentor and coach who balances the workload, identifies potential issues, and facilitates communication between team members. They also act as mediators between the development team and the product owner.

The minimum requirement for working as a Scrum Master is having experience with an Agile team. However, earning the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credential demonstrates your understanding of the Scrum framework and principles.

What is a Project Manager?

A project manager has the responsibility of planning, executing, and completing a project. In this leadership role, they create timelines and budgets, hire team members, set goals, monitor progress toward goals, solve problems, and liaise between the team and upper management. This work requires excellent organization, time management, and communication skills.

After working as a project manager for at least three years, these professionals may pursue PMP certification from the Project Management Institute to earn the title of Project Management Professional. This valuable credential is evidence of the project manager’s expertise and knowledge.

Scrum Master vs PMP: Difference Between Scrum Masters and Project Managers

Although Scrum Masters and project managers work with teams to complete projects, they serve different roles in the process. As such, the certification process for these professional credentials varies.

  • Cost of Certification: CSM is the more affordable option. Training courses cost between $400 and $1,200 and include two attempts on the exam—additional exams are $25 each. Certified Scrum Masters also must join the Scrum Alliance and pay $100 in dues every two years. PMP training costs between $1,000 and $2,000. The exam fee is $555 for non-PMI members ($405 for members). Renewal fees are $150 every three years for non-PMI members and $60 for members. PMI membership dues are $139 per year.
  • Requirements: Before taking a PMP certification course, candidates must have documented project management experience. Those with a bachelor’s degree need at least three years of experience, while those with a high school diploma must have at least five years of experience. No such requirement exists for CSM certification courses.
  • Exam: The CSM exam is the shorter of the two options. Candidates have one hour to answer 50 questions. A passing score is 74%, which means candidates must answer at least 37 questions correctly. The PMI exam has 180 questions that candidates must answer in 230 minutes. The passing score for the PMI exam is not readily available, but candidates should aim for at least 70%, which equals about 161 questions. Questions on the CSM exam tend to focus on the Agile methodology, while the PMI exam has more traditional project management questions.
  • Salary: According to Payscale, the average salary for a Certified Scrum Master in the United States is $97,059. The average salary for a PMP is $113,000. However, the actual salary can vary depending on factors like the industry and region where the professional works.

PMBOK Model vs Scrum Framework

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) details the terms, processes, best practices, and guidelines recognized by the Project Management Institute. Topics include budgeting, financial forecasting, project phases, process groups, and more. The information contained in the PMBOK applies to any project in any field.

Scrum is a framework within the Agile methodology that’s derived from the rugby practice of the same name. This framework relies on what’s called a Sprint, or a short work period (usually one to four weeks) when team members produce a demonstrable and usable product.

These terms and practices are not interchangeable. PMBOK is much broader than Scrum, and Scrum has specific steps to follow. As such, Scrum tends to be more popular in certain industries, like software development and engineering. It’s also more commonly used in specific countries, while others prefer the more general approach of PMBOK.


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Scrum Master vs PMP: Which Certification is Better?

Choosing between PMP and CSM certification is a matter of personal preference. First, candidates should consider personal and professional goals. For example, someone working for or planning to work for a software development company may find CSM more practical than someone who oversees construction projects. Second, candidates should find out which certification is more valuable in the regions where they plan to work. PMP is more widely used in the United States, Canada, Russia, and India. Scrum is more common in central and South America, Europe, and Australia.

Scrum Master vs PMP: Should You Pursue Both Certifications?

Similarly, the decision to pursue both certifications is a matter of preference. The certifications may not be identical, but they do complement each other. If you already meet the work requirements to earn the PMP certification, you may decide to earn it first. Conversely, you may find it more beneficial to pursue the title of Certified Scrum Master if you are just starting out or don’t have the time or money to invest in PMP.

FAQs

Do I need a PMP if I have a CSM?

PMP and CSM certifications serve different purposes in the project management world. If you want to work as a project manager, you may find the PMP certification more practical since it applies to a broader range of projects. CSM is useful if you work on projects that use Agile methodology.

Do Scrum Masters get paid more than project managers?

Some Scrum Masters get paid more than project managers, but both jobs pay more than the national average. The median salary for project management professionals is $94,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Actual salaries vary depending on location, organization, experience, and education.

Are CSM certifications worth it?

CSM certification can be valuable to someone who works in a field or for a company that uses Agile methodology. The certification courses can be completed in a couple of days and cost less than PMP certification.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO