Agile remains the gold standard in software building methodology, and Scrum remains the most popular Agile framework. Consequently, IT professionals and project leaders should gain Scrum Master certification in anticipation of future needs.

It's a sound idea that will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. However, there are different Scrum credentials available. Which one should you choose: PSM vs. CSM?

This article explores two certification types: Professional Scrum Master™ (PSM) and Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM). We will define both certifications and investigate their differences, benefits, respective certification processes, and how complex the respective exams are.

Let’s start by looking at the most popular of the two offerings: the Certified Scrum Master certification.

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What Is CSM?

Certified ScrumMaster certification, also called CSM, is the first and the most recognized Scrum Master certification. CSM is a credential provided by the Scrum Alliance® and its testifies that candidates with the required training can help their Scrum teams perform at the optimum level. The certification shows that candidates have a thorough understanding of the Scrum Framework, including Scrum’s principles and practices. As a result, the participants better understand the Scrum team's events, roles, and artifacts. Additionally, certified professionals should be able to detect how internal and external distractions can affect their Scrum Teams, as well as practical ways to deal with these distractions.

What Is PSM?

Professional Scrum Master certification, also known as PSM, is an advanced designation designed for Scrum Masters looking to become more effective and for professionals who want to coach a Scrum team. PSM-certified professionals understand empirical process theories and principles of the Scrum Framework and the role of the Scrum Master. A Professional Scrum Master should be able to facilitate their Scrum Team’s efficiency and effectiveness, how to accomodate the servant-leadership dynamic and behavioral shifts. 

Professional Scrum Master certification consists of two levels — PSM I and PSM II.

The Differences Between PSM vs. CSM Certifications

So how do these two certifications differ? This table illustrates the distinction between Certified Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Master, broken down by categories.

Category

Certified Scrum Master

Professional Scrum Master

Governing or Accreditation Body

The Scrum Alliance

Scrum.org

Background

CSM was developed in 2002 and is well recognized in the business world

PSM was established in 2009.

Prerequisites

None

None

Training

Certified Scrum Trainers conduct the mandatory training sessions held before taking the test

Professional Scrum Trainers run the training, but training is not required to give the test

Exam Form

50 multiple choice questions to be finished in one hour

80 multiple choice and true/false questions to be answered in one hour. This test is recognized as more complicated than the CSM.

Passing Criteria

Correctly answer at least 37 of the 50 questions

Answer at least 68 of the 80 questions correctly

Certification Renewal Requirements

Renew every two years. This requires a $100 renewal fee and 20 SEUs (Scrum Educational Units)

PSM is valid for a lifetime; no renewal is required

Continuous Learning

The CSM emphasizes continuous learning, particularly the need to gain 20 SEUs for renewal

Little to no emphasis on constant learning, as it’s not necessary

Advanced Certifications Learning Path

Complete the advanced courses in this order:

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Advanced
  • CSM Certified Scrum Professional
  • Scrum Master Certified Team Coach or Certified Enterprise Coach or Certified Scrum Trainer

Complete the advanced courses in this order:

  • Professional Scrum Master I
  •  Professional Scrum Master II
  • Professional Scrum Master III
  • Professional Scrum Master Trainer (Train-the-trainer certification)

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The Benefits of PSM vs. CSM

Both Scrum certifications bring advantages to the table. Here’s a breakdown of their benefits.

CSM

  • You gain opportunities to work as a Scrum Master in various industries adopting Agile practices.
  • The course becomes a steppingstone for advanced CSM courses like A-CSM, CSP-SM, or CST.
  • You get knowledge and proficiency in core Scrum practices, values, and principles, and learn more about Scrum’s foundation and the role of the Scrum Master.
  • Depending on your experience, certification level, and location, you can get a higher salary.
  • You gain better networking opportunities with many Scrum experts through the Scrum Alliance.
  • CSM certification increases the respect you receive from your peers.

PSM

  • You gain an in-depth understanding of Scrum concepts, including its framework.
  • You have access to better job opportunities since recruiters from top companies always look for enthusiastic professionals who enjoy learning; taking the PSM course demonstrates that passion.
  •  As a certified Scrum expert, you become a recognized professional in your organization.
  • The course is the perfect starting point for professionals who want to grow in their careers and take advanced Scrum-related courses like PSM II and PSM III.
  • The course connects you to other Scrum professionals on the Scrum.org platform and keeps you current on the latest Agile trends.

The Learning Outcomes of PSM vs. CSM

As a certified CSM, you will have all the skills needed to help Scrum teams perform at their maximum capability, including overcoming setbacks and using the Scrum framework as a guiding tool. CSM professionals are considered ‘servant leaders’, who lead by example and create an environment that makes it easier for team members to succeed.

Professionals who successfully achieve PSM I certification exhibit a foundational, basic level of Scrum mastery and are well acquainted with how to approach Scrum and its terminology. Scrum masters who pass PSM II gain a deeper understanding of Scrum's principles and the ability to apply Scrum in difficult, complex situations.

PSM vs. CSM: Explaining the Certification Process

If you want to work with Scrum, you should gain certification. Each certification has its unique process.

CSM Certification Process

  • You have to attend a live online or in-person course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer or receive training from a Certified Agile Coach (CAC). The training period is between 14 and 16 hours.
  • Once you finish the course, you must take the 50-question CSM test and answer 37 out of the questions correctly within the one-hour time limit.
  • Once you pass the CSM test, you will be requested to accept the CSM License Agreement and complete a Scrum Alliance membership profile. Your membership is good for two years.

PSM Certification Process

  • If you feel confident in your PSM I knowledge, you don't have to take a course. Instead, you can apply to take the PSM I exam. However, the course improves your chances of passing the exam on your first try.
  • Study for the test and take advantage of any learning resources.
  • Pass the test and receive your certification.

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PSM vs. CSM: What is the Difficulty Level of Each Exam?

Let's face it; difficulty is a subjective concept. Some people can breeze through the most demanding tests as if nothing happened; others struggle to answer even the most basic questions..

But, as a rule, the Certified Scrum Master exam is easier than the Professional Scrum Master I and II exams. We've already mentioned how the PSM exam doesn't require training class attendance. Although this is excellent for people who don't want to pay for or attend training, those classes exist for a reason; they make it easier for candidates to pass. Therefore, some students who forego voluntary training realize too late that they aren’t well prepared for the exam.

Are you a professional who is aspiring to be a Certified ScrumMaster? Then check out the CSM Certification Training Course now.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Scrum Master?

Now that you've been introduced to these in-demand Scrum resources, you may wonder where you can find the necessary resources to make you a Scrum Master professional. First, you can check out the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) Certification by Simplilearn to start you on your way. It is a complete, instructor-led Scrum master certification course that introduces you to all significant concepts of the Scrum framework required for Agile Project Management, focusing on providing an improved understanding of Scrum methodologies and their implementation.

Then, consider turning to Simplilearn again for their Professional Scrum Master (PSM) Certification. This live online classroom covers the principles and process theory underpinning the Scrum framework and ensures you will learn what is at the core of the Scrum and Agile movement. In addition, the course imparts a profound understanding of servant leadership, through which you can act as a practical Scrum Master. Your new training will help you lead a Scrum team, understand your roles as a Scrum Master, resolve conflicts, and increase the efficiency of Scrum in your organization.

Glassdoor says a Scrum Master can earn an annual average of $109,133.

Today’s organizations looking for a competitive edge are turning to Scrum. Consequently, there is a greater demand for Scrum Masters. So, if you're searching for a career that offers longevity, stability, and excellent compensation, check out Simplilearn and take those first steps on the road to becoming a Scrum Master!

About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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