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 scrum.org trainer.
One of the founders of the Scrum Alliance, Ken Schwaber, left it and founded a new organization called Scrum.org, 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 scrum.org. At this point many thanks to Dominik Maximini (Scrum.org 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 Scrum.org (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 Scrum.org the certification is based on a test.
While in the Scrum Alliance the unity of interaction and certification is the unique selling point, in Scrum.org 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 Scrum.org 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 Scrum.org 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 Scrum.org) 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 Scrum.org 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.||A test.
The philosophy of scrum.org 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 Scrum.org).||Official Scrum Guide – published jointly by both organizations (Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org).|
|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.||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.|
|Advanced Certifications||With the Scrum Alliance, all certifications include an interaction with a Certified Scrum Trainer or Certified Enterprise Coach.
The levels are:
· Advanced CSM or Advanced CSPO (interaction + experience)
· Certified Scrum Professional (interaction + experience)
· Certified Team Coach (experience + commission)
|At Scrum.org all certifications are based on a test and independent of the learning path.
The levels are:
· 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|