Project Management Professional (PMP) vs Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

By Simpliaxis


Agile Methodology is one of the most implemented methods in many top organizations as it overcomes all the drawbacks that were faced by using traditional software methodologies. Agile has many frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, etc. which use the Agile values and principles in software development and delivery. Many organizations begin with Scrum as it is one of the simplest frameworks to adopt and implement. However, as the complexity of the projects increases, companies choose different frameworks that can support their software development. Project Management Institute is one such institute that provides certification courses such as PMP, PMI-ACP, etc to deal with a higher level of Project Management in an organization. Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org, on the other hand, are institutes that provide certification courses to become a Scrum Master. The CSM course is the most popular course offered by Scrum Alliance. As a professional enters the Agile world, the number of frameworks and courses that they have to learn and practice may be overwhelming. A thorough understanding of the courses offered by different institutes and understanding how it is relevant to the organization that they desire to work in would give candidates a better idea about which course to pursue. This article aims to distinguish the differences between PMP vs CSM and attempts to answer the question of which is better PMP or Scrum Master.

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The PMP certification is one of the most famous Project Management certifications offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The PMP course includes agile, predictive, and hybrid approaches and offers candidates expertise and experience in any way of working. The PMP course creates leaders who can handle complex projects and can establish a productive work environment. This certification proves to top companies that the candidate is a dedicated Project Manager who can work smarter and perform better in any circumstances. As companies are always starting new projects, there is always a higher demand for Project Management-oriented roles in the market. The certification validates that the individual is highly skilled in emphasizing soft skills and can effectively handle people and get work done out of them. Also, the individual knows about the technical aspects of Project Management and can connect the organizational strategy with the projects that they are dealing with. The three key approaches in PMP are Predictive (waterfall), Agile, and Hybrid.

Benefits of PMP Certification

  • Project Managers with the PMP certification get a higher salary than those without it.
  • Proves recruiters that the candidates have skills to manage projects and increase the business value of the organization.
  • Increases the chances of getting recruited by top organizations looking for Project Managers.
  • Gives more innovative ideas that enhance the productivity of the organization.

What is Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certification?

Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certification is one of the most popular courses offered by Scrum Alliance. The CSM course is exclusively focused on Scrum Framework which uses the principles and values of Agile. Scrum is one of the frameworks of Agile where development takes place iteratively and incrementally. The role of the Scrum Master is to facilitate the process of product development by removing the impediments that come in the way of the developers. The CSM course teaches individuals to handle real-life issues that companies face and solutions that would help tackle those issues. When a candidate chooses to take CSM, they are only certified to handle Scrum operations in Agile projects. There are also other courses in Scrum such as Certified Scrum Developer, Certified Scrum Product Owner, and Certified Scrum Professional.

Benefits of taking CSM

Here are the few benefits of Scrum Master certification: 

  • Better opportunities in top organizations that use Scrum to deliver their products.
  • Higher salary and better incentives for certified professionals.
  • It is the primary requirement for enrollment in advanced CSM courses.
  • Given more priority by recruiters than non-certified peers
  • Higher reputation and respect in the organization among team members and stakeholders.

PMP vs CSM: Who can take up these courses?

  • Software Developers
  • Team leads/Managers
  • Associate or Assistant Project Managers
  • Project Managers
  • Project Engineers/Executives
  • Any professional who aspires to work in Agile

PMP vs CSM: Prerequisites 

If candidates who choose to pursue PMP have a secondary degree, they have to complete 7,500 hours of leading and directing projects along with 35 hours of Project Management education. However, if they have a degree, they have to complete 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects along with 35 hours of Project Management education. On the other hand, the CSM course does not require any prerequisites as the Scrum Alliance does not specify any particular education or experience. However, to get certified as a CSM, the candidate has to undergo a CSM course from a Certified Scrum Trainer by attending a 16-hour in-person program.

PMP vs CSM: Study Time

To complete the PMP certification, an individual needs 1 to 3 months or even more depending on the daily commitment for the person. The candidate has to refer to information on the PMBOK and related materials and needs to be well prepared to crack the exam. Passing the PMP exam is a real challenge for candidates as it requires months of dedication and hard work.

The CSM certification, on the other hand, requires only 2 days to complete. As the candidates apply for the CSM certification, they have to attend the 2-day workshop with a Certified Scrum Trainer who will teach the Agile values and principles. After these two days, the individual can take up the CSM exam. The exam material is not as extensive as the information given in PMP certification. It may require one more day than the classes to consolidate the information given in the classes by the CST.

PMP vs CSM: Exam Details

Both the courses employ the electronic mode with multiple choice questions which has one question and four possible answers to execute the exam. However, both the exams are very different from one another.

The PMP exam has to be taken in a PMI authorized facility where the room is monitored by security cameras and the candidate does not have access to the internet. The duration of the exam is 4 hours and there are a total of 200 questions. There is no definite passing score for the exam as the score is decided by sound psychometric analysis. This implies that the passing score of every candidate is different and is based on the overall difficulty of that exam.

The CSM exam can be executed from any place (home, office) which has a stable internet connection. The candidate has to answer 37 questions in 1 hour and the pass rate is 74% (37 questions out of 50 should be correct). The CSM exam is easier compared to the PMP exam. Also, the exam has the functionality of pausing the test and resuming later. Most of the candidates pass the test on their first attempt.

PMP vs CSM: Certification Process

As we have understood the eligibility criteria of both the courses, let us understand the process the candidate needs to follow to get certified.

For the PMP certification, one has to qualify the eligibility criteria set up by the Project Management Institute. After meeting the requirements, the candidate has to register for the course at the PMI website. The candidate has to attend the online classes or in-classes sessions and fix a date for the PMP exam. Preparing for the exam requires an extreme amount of time along with hard work and dedication. The exam is conducted at a given facility which is monitored by security cameras. After taking the test and passing the psychometric analysis, the candidate qualifies for the test. The candidate has to maintain the credential by earning PDUs or Professional Development Units.

For the CSM certification, the candidate has to enroll themselves through a registered education provider who is affiliated with Scrum Alliance. They have to attend the two-day classroom training given by a certified Scrum trainer. After the training, the individual has to register for the exam and get the exam code. The candidate can take up the test online from any place with a stable internet connection. The candidate has to answer 37 MCQ questions in 60 minutes where they have to score 37 out of 50 (74%) to pass the exam. Following this, the candidate is a certified Scrum Master.

PMP vs CSM: Exam Content

The exam content of the PMP certification as given on the PMI website is divided into three domains:

  • People- 42%
  • Process- 50%
  • Business environment- 8%
  1. The exam content on the domain of people is topics such as conflict management, supporting a team, leading a team, negotiating project agreements, managing the stakeholders, etc.
  2. The process part of the course includes topics such as managing communications, assess and manage risks, plan and manage budget and resources, plan and manage schedule and scope, etc.
  3. The business environment part includes plan and manage project compliance, evaluate and deliver project benefits and value, support organizational change, etc.

The exam content for CSM certification which is taught by the CST are:

  • Product Backlogs
  • Sprints
  • Scrum roles
  • Scrum history and basics
  • Scrum scalability
  • Planning releases and sprints
  • Team organization and building
  • Conducting meetings which include Daily Scrum
  • Issues arising implementing Scrum methods
  • Creating tasks and reports

Which Certification should one take?

If we compare the PMP vs Scrum Master certification, the difficulty of both certifications is different. However, the choice of which certification to pursue entirely depends on the type of company the candidate has to work in or aspires to work in and also depends on the interest of the individual. If the candidate is interested in an organization that employs Scrum and has already some idea about how Scrum works, the CSM certification would be an added advantage to advance the career. Also, the CSM certification is easier to complete and does not demand much time to complete.

The PMP certification is beneficial to candidates who are working in organizations that use predictive methods such as a waterfall to complete their projects. Also, if the candidate is interested in working in organizations that require Project Managers to handle complex projects, then the PMP is an excellent choice. The individual should be willing to put in hard work and effort and dedicate a suitable amount of time to complete the course. Project Management professionals learn all the standards in Project Management practice around the world. The candidate knows about every aspect of a project such as project planning, project execution, monitoring project, and closing the project.


Both the certified Scrum Master vs PMP are popular courses that hold value in their respective domains. When a candidate is specific about working in an Agile environment that employs Scrum, then the CSM course is one of the best courses to pursue. However, if the candidate is interested in knowing about Project Management in a broader aspect which includes all other frameworks, then the PMP certification is the best one. Always before choosing the course, one has to understand how it will help them in their present career or how it will benefit them in the future. Choosing either of the courses entirely depends on the type of role candidates would want to execute in their organizations.



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