Though the roles of a Scrum Master and Project Manager look similar to an entrant in an IT industry, the absolute fact is they are very distinct and separate from each other. The key differences lie in the leadership and how they individually manage and interact with their team members. 

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Scrum Master vs. Project Manager - At Glance 

The Project Manager manages the entire project, including risks and budget. Whereas, a Scrum Master ensures their team follows Scrum principles thoroughly and properly. 

Both these job profiles have complementary responsibilities. The Scrum Master is a coach-consultant and a leader for the technical Agile team. They act in the capacity of an agile expert. Whereas a Project Manager negotiates project details and manages time and risks by cooperating with other project managers, stakeholders, and clients. 

They both coach their team individually and train them to work effectively. They are held responsible for removing blockers to keep things running smoothly. The day and night duties of a Scrum Master and Project Manager are different. Their roles come together when it's time to test, track and release the project. 

Project Managers depend on a variety of team members when the transition from the traditional approach to Agile takes place. Some duties go to the Program Manager, some to Scrum Master, some to the Product Owner, and so on. 

What Does a Scrum Master Do?

The Scrum Master plans and implements the Scrum framework, which is a part of the agile methodology. They lead the Scrum team by facilitating Scrum-specific events like sprint planning, retrospective, and review. They train their subordinates on different ideas and assist their product owner by managing the product backlog. They help people understand and engage in Agile theories, rules, practices, and values. 

A Scrum Master guides the product owner in managing the teamwork, ensures the team is working properly and coaches them to align to the Scrum process properly. All this is done to facilitate the scope of benefits throughout the project with good communication and teamwork within the team. 

What Is Scrum?

Scrum is a lightweight framework within which people productively and creatively deliver products of the highest possible value. Also, organizations and teams can address complex adaptive problems to eliminate product backlog and generate value. 

Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where: 

  • The scrum team turns a selection of the work to generate value during a sprint. 
  • A product owner orders the work to remove product backlog for a complex problem.
  • The scrum team monitors the results and adj
  • usts the next sprint. 

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What Does a Project Manager Do?

A Project Manager is accountable for managing the business processes of the company as an employee or consultant. They are the leaders who manage the scope of business requirements and resources on a daily basis, irrespective of the company or industry. 

A Project Manager specifies the role and responsibilities down to the individual level. They do everything from defining the project scope to overseeing the budget and risk. They also take care of the risks associated with the project, quality of deliverables, tracking the schedule, and sourcing and approving resources till the project is completed. Also, a project Manager collaborates with stakeholders and other project managers and plans meetings to check the progress of the work.  

Is Being a Scrum Master an Integral Role of Program Management?

In most cases, being a Scrum Master becomes an integral role of program management. Although the emphasis is on how the delivery will be done in the Scrum execution model by the Scrum Master, it is more people-centric. Project Managers ensure the success of the end delivery. 

  • A Scrum Master is responsible for the product maintenance state, with requirements like small enhancements/break fixes / minor configurations to the already established product.
  • A Scrum Master communicates with the product owner to organize the backlog and ensure the team gets successful in gathering the requirements. 
  • A Program Manager typically understands the scope of the organization's requirements, plans them, defines the scope, develops the project teams required to accomplish the success, estimates the budget, and works with the senior leadership periodically. During each project management process, like initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closure, the Program Manager could use the Agile scrum framework during the execution of the program scope.

Difference Between Scrum Masters and Project Managers

Parameter 

Scrum Master

Project Manager

Team size

A scrum master has a small team to keep things simpler. 

They like to keep a large team with more people and a huge budget. By working like this, they improve to a Program Manager.  

Goals 

An SM makes sure the team is well-trained in Agile practices. They also coach Scrum teams to finish the project in time. 

A PM has a set of predefined goals, such as planning the risks and budget, scope of the project and completing the project on time. 

Quality assurance 

They ensure the quality at every product development stage as they know the importance of it. 

They are aware of the importance of quality assurance and know how to achieve it. They hire a consultant to fix the errors.

Job description 

  • Facilitate the Scrum ceremonies
  • Resolve controls and barriers from the Scrum processes 
  • Marks a team aware of Scrum and Agile to deliver the content successfully
  • Executes the product backlog per the product owner’s prioritization
  • Solves team conflicts with good and soft communication skills
  • Motivates the team
  • Monitors Scrum processes to increase efficiency 
  • Ensures the project is running efficiently with the help of allocated tools 
  • Has to work with upper management to ensure the alignment of the project
  • Plans, creates budget and executes everything related to the project
  • Works with other departments’ project managers, in case of emergency
  • Sometimes they work themselves and instruct the team to finish the goal 

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Similarities Between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager

  • Scrum Master and the Project Manager communicate effectively at every stage of the project to reduce the scope of errors. They take each other’s feedback, mitigate the risks, and enable great bonding within a team. 
  • Both of them work at the same level. Neither of them has supreme authority. The Scrum Master reports to the product owner alongside clients and stakeholders, whereas the Project Manager reports directly to the stakeholders and clients. 
  • Both of them will fail if they ignore the basic principles they were supposed to adhere to. They fail if they are less skilled for a particular task or disrespect other team members’ opinions. 

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

  • Plan the sprint 
  • Organize the Scrum meeting daily
  • Manage the Scrum process with proper attention 
  • Help the team to understand and follow Scrum practices
  • Assist the product owner on the project and guide them properly 
  • Help teams to speed up the work
  • Monitor the sprint progress
  • Promote team discussions
  • Motivate the Scrum team
  • Bind the team together in complex times
  • Remove barriers so the team members can focus on their work
  • Help eliminate the product backlog
  • Be prepared for the next sprint to design the product backlog items
  • Protect the team from external distractions
  • Record and assist in improving team dynamics

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager

  • Lay down the scope of the project clearly to the team
  • Plan the overall project target
  • Assist the team members to prepare the work schedule 
  • Gather all the necessary and relevant requirements
  • Define the project’s resource requirements 
  • Prepare the project’s budget 
  • Assure quality at every stage
  • Manage the finance-related issues 
  • Report to business leaders on the project's progress
  • Task allocation
  • Prioritize the project-related features
  • Coordinate with other teams in case of emergencies
  • Mitigate the risks
  • Monitor the plans
  • Gather user feedback
  • Focus on processes
  • Maintain healthy relationships with the client and the stakeholders
  • Risk management
  • Complete the project 

Is a Scrum Master a Project Manager?

Yes, they are; however, they are not! Scrum Masters practice a type of project management requiring them to have particular project management skills, such as organizational and communication skills. If they have these skills, they can be considered project managers. However, the Scrum Master must not necessarily be a formal project manager. Professionals with leadership experience from software design, development, or any other field relevant to the project can be project managers. 

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Scrum Master vs. Project Managers: Salaries

Given below are the average October 2022 US salaries per year for Scrum Masters and Project Managers. 

Positon 

Glassdoor

Payscale 

Talent

Scrum Master

$104,679

$95,346

$115,000 

Project Manager

$91,315

$89,239

$90,486

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Certifications for Scrum Masters and Project Managers

Scrum Master Certifications

To become an official Scrum Master, take the two courses given below.

Certified Scrum Master (CSM) - It is administered by the Scrum Alliance and is the most-mentioned Scrum certification in job descriptions at various organizations. To get the certification, take the course and pass the exam. 

Professional Scrum Master (PSM I) - It is an often-cited course, an alternative to the CSM. No particular coursework is needed; however, the aspirant must pass the exam to be PSM certified. 

Other Scrum Master certifications include:

Project Management Certifications and Certificates

In order to become an official Project Manager, take these certifications to kick-start your career in project management. 

Project Management Professional (PMP) - It is administered by the Project Management Institute and is widely recognized as a leading project management certification. The ones who take this certification need at least three years of project management experience to qualify for the exam. 

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) - It is also administered by PMI. This is an entry-level management certification, for which a secondary degree (high school diploma or equivalent) and twenty-three hours of project management training are required to qualify for the exam. 

Other Project Management certifications include:

Becoming a Scrum Master or Project Manager

  • Take a course: If Scrum Master or Project Management are alien terms for you, take an online course or in-person training to build foundational knowledge. Enroll in various courses mentioned above to learn the basics of both job profiles. 
  • Build experience: Experience can help a lot. Try to incorporate elements into your current work based on both job profiles. Engage in projects that will help improve the current skills and workflow. Approach your senior authorities and let them know about your interests in Scrum and project management. 
  • Get certified: Certifications can boost your application. They signal to employers your level of competency. Take any of the courses mentioned above and get certified. 

Tips for Project Managers Working With Scrum Masters

  • Ask questions! The more you know about complex problems, the better.
  • Let the Scrum Masters know as soon as things are getting ready for development so they can include that in the next sprint. 
  • Project managers must collaborate on a weekly basis to coordinate smoothly and review everything in time. 
  • Understand the basics of Jira so you can follow the tickets and not have to ask the Scrum Master for the state of a ticket.
  • Project managers should focus on driving the dependencies external to the App Dev teams. 
  • Understand the deadline and time to minimize interruption to the sprint commitment. Asking for a change and prioritizing one over the other should be done in the next sprint, not the current one. 

Tips for Scrum Masters Working With Project Managers

  • Be transparent about resource capacity and availability, particularly when it needs changes. 
  • Train each other to meet the project requirements and strengthen the working relationship with proper knowledge. 
  • Loop the project manager when Scrum events occur, delay, or change, including what sprint features are slated for discussion. 
  • Set up Jira boards, stories, and epic numbers and share the access so that the project manager can independently navigate the system for status updates and details released. 
  • Scrum Master should understand the complexity of Jira and must track all technical information that can be confusing at times. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Is Scrum Master a good career?‎

Being a Scrum Master will help you get lucrative offers and excellent growth opportunities. It is a great career path for experienced team management professionals. The skills will help you become a mentor, manager, and product owner or will help you work with more challenging teams. 

2. What's an Agile project manager?‎

An Agile project manager leads the technical team to drive the business with key strategies. They are highly skilled and responsible for the timely delivery of high-quality technical solutions. They lead across all the production phases of product development - from discovery to the launch. 

3. What's a product owner?‎

Every Scrum team has a product owner responsible for defining user stories and creating a product backlog. A product owner ensures the success of a project in Scrum as they are the primary point of contact on behalf of the customer to identify product requirements for the development team. 

About the Author

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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
  • *According to Simplilearn survey conducted and subject to terms & conditions with Ernst & Young LLP (EY) as Process Advisors