Certified Scrum Master (CSM) or Professional Scrum Master (PSM)? An honest comparison.

CSM and PSM are the two recognized Scrum Master certifications. What’s the difference? There are many one-sided “comparisons” out there. We offer you an honest one – written jointly by a Scrum Alliance and a trainer.


–> Hier geht es zur deutschen Version vom Artikel.

Scrum Alliance

The Scrum Alliance was the first organization to offer a certification program around Scrum and whose Certified Scrum Master (CSM) is the first known certification.

One of the founders of the Scrum Alliance, Ken Schwaber, left it and founded a new organization called, which has introduced a competing certification called Professional Scrum Master (PSM).

Which certification is better?

There is no “better” certification. What you prefer depends on what you expect from the certification and what your personal goals are. I am a trainer of the Scrum Alliance, but I also know good colleagues from At this point many thanks to Dominik Maximini ( trainer), with whom I wrote this comparison together.

The essential difference between a CSM and PSM certification

The big difference between Scrum Alliance (Certified Scrum Master – CSM) and (Professional Scrum Master – PSM) is the basis of the certification. With the Scrum Alliance the certification is based on an interaction with a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) or a Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC). At the certification is based on a test.

While in the Scrum Alliance the unity of interaction and certification is the unique selling point, in it is exactly the opposite, namely the separation of training and certification. Because of these different philosophies, the two organizations separated …

A Certified Scrum Master of the Scrum Alliance has always attended an official training. A Professional Scrum Master of has passed the test – he does not have to have had a training.

The main difference between licensed and unlicensed Scrum Training

The bar licensed trainers have to pass is extremely high. At Scrum Alliance this is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). At this is a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST). To become a trainer you need several years of experience, co-training and an examination before a committee. In order to remain a licensed trainer you need to demonstrate continuous personal development. Typically, licensed trainings are interactive workshops with “training from the back of the room“.

Trainings without licensed trainers (i.e. without a CST of Scrum Alliance or a PST of are not subject to any quality control. Often the trainers do not have several years of practical experience. As a result, content is often incorrect (e.g.: “in the Sprint Review, the product owner accepts the increment”) and the training is didactically questionable (slide show). If that weren’t the case, the trainer would probably have had himself (or herself) certified.

The essential difference between a CSM Training and a PSM Training

In case of an official training with a licensed trainer, the content provided by the Scrum Alliance and is largely the same. The requirements to become a licensed trainer are also similar.

However, a CSM training must always be conducted by a licensed trainer of the Scrum Alliance. A “CSM Training” is thus a certain seal of quality for the training.

The risk with an apparent “PSM training” is that it is not necessarily an official training. Since the exam can be taken without training, there are many unlicensed trainers who simply pay you the PSM exam afterwards. It is often not recognizable for laypersons whether it is a “PSM training” or a “training with PSM test”. So you have to take a good look here.

Point by point comparison

Here is a comparison of the trainings and certifications of the two Scrum organizations, point by point.

Certified Scrum Master (CSM) oder Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) Professional Scrum Master (PSM) or Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO)
Certification Through interaction and a test.

The philosophy of the Scrum Alliance is that a certification as a CSM is based on interaction (typically training), experiencing Scrum and a test.

A test.

The philosophy of is that certification as a PSM is independent of participation in a training.

Training As a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) the person has always attended a licensed training by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). The training is optional and does not lead to any certification alone.

As a Professional Scrum Master (PSM), the person does not need to have attended any training.

Critique There are Certified Scrum Masters who have simply completed the training without really paying attention and passed the test so la-la. There are Professional Scrum Masters who have never experienced Scrum. Either because they only took the exam, or because they attended an unlicensed slide show and then took the exam.
Foundation Official Scrum Guide – published jointly by both organizations (Scrum Alliance and

Official Scrum Guide – published jointly by both organizations (Scrum Alliance and

Costs of training and certification Between 1.200 EUR – EUR 1.600 EUR for an official training (incl. test).

Since certification and training are a unit, the CSM course always includes the cost of certification.

Between 1.200 EUR – EUR 1.600 EUR for an official training (incl. test).

The test alone costs $150. Official trainings include the cost of the test.

Lower prices indicate that it is not a certified PST trainer or an official PSM training, but an unlicensed training where they simply cover the cost of your PSM I exam.

Official TrainingMaterials The “what” of the trainings is standardized, but not the “how”.

There are detailed standards for what needs to be covered in a training (the “Learning Objectives”). These standards leave open how knowledge is conveyed. Many trainers work without slides and moderate an interactive workshop.

Each trainer has his own material (slides, exercises, books). However, this must be handed in too and approved by the Scrum Alliance.

The “what” and the “how” are standardized.

There are predefined slides that must be handed out to each participant. There are a number of exercises that must be completed, and only a few additional slides may be added.

However, trainers can communicate the content interactively.

Quality control of trainers The trainers must be a Certified Scrum Professional for several years, train together with several already certified trainers and receive a recommendation from them, and appear before a commission.

Here are all criteria for the Certified Scrum Trainer.

Trainers must have at least four years practical Scrum experience, they must have passed the PSM III exam with 95%, attend a Train-the-Trainer training and step before a commission.

Here are all criteria for the Professional Scrum Trainer.

Advanced Certifications With the Scrum Alliance, all certifications include an interaction with a Certified Scrum Trainer or Certified Enterprise Coach.

The levels are:

·       Certified Scrum Master (CSM) or Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) (training + examination)

·       Advanced CSM or Advanced CSPO (interaction + experience)

·       Certified Scrum Professional (interaction + experience)

·       Certified Team Coach (experience + commission)

·       Certified Enterprise Coach and/or Certified Scrum Trainer (co-work + commission)

At all certifications are based on a test and independent of the learning path.

The levels are:

·       Professional Scrum Master I (exam)

·       Professional Scrum Master II (exam)

·       Professional Scrum Master III (exam)

·       PSM Trainer (Train the Trainer Training)

PSM I is a multiple choice exam that tests whether someone has understood the basics. PSM II are case studies with multiple-choice questions and test whether someone can apply the basics to practice cases. PSM III are case studies with free text questions and testing whether someone has understood why Scrum is the way it is.

Re-certification The Scrum Alliance requires continuous personal development and practice to uphold a certification. Therefore every 2 years a re-certification is necessary, for which personal development must be demonstrated.

The re-certification at the CSM or CSPO currently costs 100$.

Advanced certifications (see previous paragraph) always include the re-certification of the “lower” levels of experience. So whoever becomes an A-CSM also stays a CSM.

There is no re-certification.
Market share approx. 2/3 approx. 1/3

That’s what our readers think

  1. “Certified Scrum Master (CSM) or Professional Scrum Master (PSM)? An honest comparison.” is a well-structured and insightful post that provides a thorough analysis of the two major Scrum Master certifications. Its balanced approach, detailed breakdown, and inclusion of practical scenarios make it a valuable resource for individuals looking to enhance their Scrum expertise through certification.

  2. There is one thing that should be made more clear:

    The exam on the CSM is not very difficult. There wasn’t even one a few years ago. Whereas the PSM certification asks for 85% correct answers in a 80 question exam with a timebox of 60 minutes.
    If you don’t know your stuff by heart you fail, hard.

    The CSM on the other hand is mostly smooth sailing.
    I let you decide which certification is more meaningful.

  3. This is a really comprehensive step by step comparison and answers every single question that I had. I’m impressed!

  4. Simple and Clear answers. Nice blog. Very well appreciated. Thank you Malte Foegen.

  5. The Scrum master certifications from Scrum Alliance and seems to be same and it doesn’t make any sense to go after both.

    PSM certifications from looks better in comparison to me.

    be it their certification exam questions, lifetime validity ,the way trainings are conducted..

  6. Really, so appreciable fact that you have posted about CSM training & this can be a great inspiration for people. I have a better experience about this because now I am working in Scrum Master Field with completing a course about this from “tryScrum” for which I could gain more knowledge about this for which now I can utilise them in my job sector.

Leave a Reply

Your contact:

Malte Foegen

wibas GmbH

Malte Foegen

Otto-Hesse-Str. 19B

64293 Darmstadt

+49 6151 5033490