PSM vs CSM: Here’s the Difference

Scrum has garnered widespread acclaim as the gold standard for managing complex product development efforts. For those looking to learn more about Scrum and earn a certification you’ll eventually encounter a fork in the road.

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Over the years, Scrum has evolved and so has the options for learning Scrum and earning a certification. This ultimately led to the creation of two distinct certifications (PSM vs CSM) and schools of thought on how best to certify and train those interested in learning Scrum.

The BIG Two

The two individuals who are credited with creating Scrum, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, worked together and gave a presentation at OOPSLA 1995 where the concept of Scrum was initially introduced. This paper was published after that conference. 

In the years since two of the largest Scrum communities have developed their own curriculums that are associated with different assessments and certification strategies. This is why we’ve put together this guide on the PSM vs CSM.

The Scrum Alliance

In the few years after Scrum was created, the framework gradually gained a dedicated following, comprised primarily of programmers and project managers in the software industry who were looking to break free of slow, traditional development methods. 

As the framework’s benefits became well-known use cases quickly multiplied and earned devoted followers in a variety of domains. Recognizing this opportunity to further amplify the reach of his creation, in 2002 Ken Schwaber co-founded The Scrum Alliance, chairing the organization and overseeing the development of various courses and certifications. 

Upon observing the framework’s implementation in actual business environments, Schwaber was dismayed by the lack of Scrum knowledge throughout many organizations especially as it became diluted to the lower-ranking team members. What’s more, he felt like existing Scrum training programs (including his own organization’s offerings) were in it only for the money

In an attempt to revolutionize Scrum due to the poor results from training programs (less than half of those practicing Scrum were developing in incremental iterations, which are the heartbeat of the framework), Schwaber exited his leadership at the Scrum Alliance and founded

He devised a bolder, more transparent philosophy for how the framework could be practiced. The Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification requires practitioners to pass a more rigorous exam (although no other coursework is required). Schwaber also chose to drop the requirement to renew your credentials— PSMs are certified for life.

PSM vs. CSM 

While the PSM and CSM certifications each originated from the same Scrum framework, the two credentials have branched down different paths, making each approach suitable for a different audience. 

Here are the main differences between PSM vs CSM:

Passing Score85%74%
TrainingNot requiredRequired
Certification Cost Average/Range$150 (optional training class ranges from $1100-2000)$1000-1400 (mandatory class included)
Renewal FeeNone$100 every 2 years (No assessment required, just updates date of Scrum certification)
# of Questions8050
Time Limit60 minutes60 minutes
Assessment Fee$150/Free with classNo Fee/But cannot be taken outside of a class
Exam FormatMultiple choice, multiple answer, and true/falseMultiple choice
Main BenefitsMore rigorous certification, deeper knowledge of Scrum principlesLarger network of practitioners, easier training, lower threshold for final assessment
Number of Certification Holders833,400+ worldwide1,437,565+ worldwide

Whether you’re looking to join a larger pool of practitioners, or you’re seeking a more in-depth study of Scrum, there’s a significant amount of differentiation between PSM vs. CSM accreditation offerings.

The Best Approach to Scrum

Using the Scrum framework can dramatically influence the long-term success of your organization. Receiving the right certification, with the right trainers, is essential for your team’s transformation into skilled Scrum practitioners.

Partners like Responsive Advisors can help guide you through this process, walking you through every step required to enact meaningful changes to the way your organization works. With a coalition of experienced industry experts, well-versed in the study of the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification, Responsive Advisors can provide versatile training programs that will confidently lead your team to fully-certified status. Through Scrum, leaders can completely transform their businesses, leveraging increasingly efficient and effective processes to spark innovation and reinvent their industries.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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