PMI-ACP vs. Disciplined Agile

Choosing Your Agile Path: A Comparative Guide to PMI-ACP and Disciplined Agile Certifications


Agile methodologies continue to gain prominence in project management and software development, and project managers can choose from an array of Agile certifications depending on the specific approaches or frameworks used in their roles, industry, and organization. There are many Agile methodologies, and none are one-size-fits-all.

Ultimate Guide to PMI-ACP Certification

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Different contexts call for different practices and expertise. By earning certifications, you can demonstrate your proficiency in different Agile methodologies and practices, which enhances your credibility in the field. Two valuable certifications within the Agile umbrella are:

  • PMI-ACP is provided by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and covers a broader range of Agile methodologies beyond Scrum.
  • Disciplined Agile (DA) is an agile and lean software development and delivery approach that provides a solid foundation for business agility.

What is PMI-ACP?

Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) is a certification offered by the PMI. It focuses on agile principles and practices in project management and is designed for professionals working in agile project management environments or who have experience with agile methodologies.

The PMI-ACP certification was officially launched back in 2012 in response to the growing popularity of Agile methodologies, such as Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (XP). Agile skyrocketed in popularity as organizations sought to improve flexibility, collaboration, and the ability to respond to changing requirements. The industry demanded a recognized certification that validated professionals’ knowledge and skills in these Agile methodologies, and PMI, the leading global project management organization, responded by creating the PMI-ACP certification.

What is Disciplined Agile?

DA is not a methodology in the way that Kanban or Scrum are. Instead, it is often referred to as a toolkit because it offers many process goals, practices, and strategies. It recognizes that teams and organizations are unique and need the ability to choose the practices that best suit their context. Here are some fundamental concepts and practices of Disciplined Agile:

  • Choose Your Way of Working (WoW): Disciplined Agile emphasizes that teams should tailor Agile and lean practices that best fit the needs of the team and the organization in the context of each project.
  • Full Delivery Lifecycle Support: Disciplined Agile covers the entire delivery lifecycle, from project initiation and team formation through construction and delivery to production. It recognizes that agile principles can be applied beyond software development to portfolio management, IT operations, etc.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: DA defines a set of roles and responsibilities that span the entire organization, not just the development and delivery teams.
  • Enterprise Awareness: Disciplined Agile can scale from individual teams to large enterprise environments, making it useful for larger complex projects.

Disciplined Agile offers different levels of certification based on your role and expertise, including:

  • Disciplined Agile Scrum Master (DASM): For those in the Scrum Master or Agile Team Lead role.
  • Disciplined Agile Senior Scrum Master (DASSM): For experienced Scrum Masters.
  • Disciplined Agile Coach (DAC): For those in coaching or consulting roles.
  • Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA): A foundational certification for team members, product owners, and others involved in Agile teams.

Comparative Analysis: PMI-ACP vs Disciplined Agile

To get PMI-ACPcertified, you have to demonstrate a broad comprehension of a variety of Agile methodologies. Disciplined Agile is a process-decision tool kit that enables you to easily choose your own way of working (WoW) that is fit-for-purpose for you. Both certifications are “agnostic” in that they do not prescribe which techniques or methodologies should be used. As such, neither has an advantage over the other. Instead, they are both globally recognized professional credentials with expertise that can be applied across industries and sectors.

PMI-ACP Certification Requirements

The PMCI-ACP certification is a great option if you work on agile teams or your organization is adopting these practices. To become eligible, you have to meet the following prerequisites:

  • Complete 21 contact hours in agile
  • Earn a secondary degree (high school diploma, Associate’s degree, or the global equivalent)
  • Spend 2,000 hours (or 12 months) working on project teams within the past five years
  • Spend 1,5000 hours (or eight months) working on project teams using agile methodologies in the last three years

Additionally, to earn and maintain your PMI-ACP, you have to complete the certification exam, which is three hours long and consists of 120 multiple-choice questions. If you pass, you will have to earn 30 professional development units (PDUs) in agile topics every three years. The PMI-ACP exam costs $495 if you are not a member of the Project Management Institute and $435 if you are a member.

Disciplined Agile Certification Requirements

There are no prerequisites to become DA-certified other than completing the DASM or DASSM training workshop. The DASM exam is an online, non-proctored test comprised of 50 multiple-choice questions and is 120 minutes long. If you pass, the DASM certification is good for one year. To renew the certification, you must earn 7 PDUs in agile topics and pay $50.00 to renew(or $20 for Active PMI members).

PMI-ACP Advantages and Disadvantages

Employers worldwide value professionals with PMI-ACP certification, as it demonstrates your experience working on Agile projects and your knowledge of Agile practices, principles, tools, and techniques. Some of the benefits of PMI ACP include:

  • Level-Up Your Knowledge and Skills: PMI-ACP certification training teaches best practices, case studies, and real-world examples to ensure you can effectively apply agile methodologies to your work.
  • Career Enhancement: The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) opens doors to new job and career advancement opportunities, especially as Agile methodologies continue becoming more popular.
  • Become a Better Leader: Because Agile methodologies are highly collaborative, PMI-ACP-certified individuals learn critical communication and adaptability skills. The combination of technical and soft skills ensures that PMI-ACP-certified professionals can deliver successful project outcomes.

If there is a downside to the PMI-ACP certification, it is the cost of training, study materials, and the exam. The investment can be challenging for those with a tight budget on top of an already steep learning curve if you are new to Agile methodologies, making it feel less accessible.

Disciplined Agile Advantages and Disadvantages

DA brings business agility to the entire organization, meaning it doesn’t just benefit Project teams but enterprises at large.

  • New Skills and Knowledge: The process of obtaining a Disciplined Agile certification will teach you a broad range of Agile and lean practices, allowing you to adapt based on the specific needs of your organization.
  • Career Versatility: Agile principles are incredibly adaptable, which is why they are in use across industries. Earning a DA certification will give you a diverse skill set that is attractive to different kinds of employers, ensuring you remain relevant and valuable no matter your job context.
  • Accessibility: The DASM is the only PMI certification that does not require experience, making it more accessible to students eager to get started in Agile. Please note, however, that DASSM, DAC, and DAVSC all require prior experience.

DA can be highly complex if you are new to Agile methodologies, meaning you may struggle to learn the required material. Another drawback is that while DA certifications are globally recognized, some employers still prefer or require a PMIACP. Like all degrees and professional credentials, individuals and organizations should carefully evaluate their specific needs, goals, and the nature of their projects before pursuing Disciplined Agile certification.

Career Implications and Opportunities

The PMI-ACP and DA certifications open up a lot of potential job opportunities, including the following roles:

  • Agile Project Manager: Lead projects using Agile methodologies, oversee Scrum or Kanban teams, facilitate collaboration, and ensure successful project delivery.
  • Scrum Master: A key role responsible for facilitating Scrum processes, coaching teams, and ensuring adherence to Agile principles.
  • Agile Coach: Guiding organizations through Agile transformations and helping teams and organizations adopt and optimize Agile practices.
  • Product Owner: Pivotal to Agile development, a product owner defines and prioritizes features in collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Release Manager: Coordinate and oversee the release of software products, ensuring that increments of the product are delivered promptly and organized.
  • Agile Program Manager: In larger organizations or projects, an Agile Program Manager oversees multiple Agile teams and ensures their coordination.
  • Quality Assurance (QA) Manager: Integrate testing and quality assurance practices within iterative development cycles.

As a globally recognized certificate, it can elevate your standing in the project management community and increase your salary by an average of 20%. Career opportunities may vary based on factors such as industry, organizational size, and specific job market demands.

Choosing the Right Certification for Your Career

There are several factors to consider in deciding between PMI-ACP and Disciplined Agile, including your current experience and your career aspirations.

Scope and Depth of Agile Knowledge:

  • PMI-ACP offers a broad understanding of various Agile methodologies, including Scrum, Kanban, XP, and Lean.
  • Disciplined Agile provides a comprehensive framework that goes beyond individual Agile methodologies. It includes a broader set of practices and addresses the full delivery lifecycle.

Organizational Context:

  • PMI-ACP is well-suited for professionals working in Agile projects within diverse industries, especially those in project management roles or seeking to advance their careers.
  • Disciplined Agile is suitable for project managers, team members, coaches, and leaders and is more applicable in complex organizational contexts, large-scale projects, and for those involved in Agile transformations.

Career Goals and Specialization:

  • PMI-ACP is ideal for those looking to specialize in Agile project management roles, Scrum Master positions, or roles within Agile teams and aligns well with a career path focused on individual Agile methodologies.
  • Disciplined Agile works for professionals aspiring to lead Agile transformations, work in complex organizational environments, or adopt a holistic Agile approach. It aligns with broader project management and organizational roles.


Whether you choose the PMI-ACP or opt for Disciplined Agile, your path should align with your specific goals and the demands of your organizational context. PMI-ACP’s emphasis on project management and diverse Agile practices caters to those seeking a well-rounded understanding, while Disciplined Agile’s holistic framework provides a flexible toolkit for teams and organizations to tailor Agile practices to their unique circumstances.

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