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CSM®️ or PSM™ - Which Certificate Is More Valuable?

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Last updated on
28th Mar, 2022
Published
15th Oct, 2018
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CSM®️ or PSM™ - Which Certificate Is More Valuable?

What is Scrum?
The source of a correct definition of Scrum is the official Scrum Guide, authored and maintained by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schaber. Scrum has its roots in software development, but nowadays Scrum is applied in several contexts and industries.
From the Scrum Guide:

“Scrum is a framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products. Scrum is not a process, technique, or definitive method. Rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment."

The latest update to the Scrum Guide also lists possible uses for Scrum:
- Research and identify viable markets, technologies, and product capabilities;
- Develop products and enhancements;
- Release products and enhancements, as frequently as many times per day;
- Develop and sustain Cloud (online, secure, on-demand) and other operational environments for product use; and,
- Sustain and renew products.

Origin of Scrum
Scrum is a process framework that has been used to manage work on complex products since the early 1990s. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland worked on Scrum until 1995, when they co-presented Scrum at the OOPSLA Conference in 1995. This presentation essentially documented the learning that Ken and Jeff gained over the previous few years, and made public the first formal definition of Scrum.

The Scrum Guide documents Scrum as developed, evolved, and sustained for 20-plus years by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber.  Both, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber were present at the event when the Agile Manifesto was written.

Scrum was one of the several lightweight processes presented at that gathering in 2001. The Scrum Alliance - a non-profit organization promoting Scrum, was also founded in 2009.


Throughout the years Scrum has evolved, and in fact, has been become simpler, but therefore not more easy to apply and practice. In case you're interested, you can look at the Scrum Guide revision history, and see the changes since 2010. To me personally, the beauty of Scrum lays in its simpleness, although some people would advocate they still find Scrum too complicated in terms of process.

Scrum Alliance vs Scrum.org

In 2001, Ken Schwaber left the Scrum Alliance and found Scrum.org. There was a bad impression of the Scrum Master about implementing a Scrum in the organization. The Scrum Masters misinterpreted that the 2-day Scrum Alliance CSM®️ certification course is enough to certify them as a Scrum Master.  Even organizations took amiss that those who attended 2-day training are the Scrum experts.

The PSM™ certification of Scrum.org is different than CSM®️ certification. For PSM™ certification, attending a workshop is not mandatory. But, it is little harder to clear the PSM™  assessments which at least assures a precise level Scrum understanding.

Note: The Scrum.org assessments are based on the Scrum Guide (fabricated by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland).

Let’s see these two certifying bodies in details and figure out the difference between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org.

Scrum Alliance- The CSM®️ certifying Body

Founded in 2001, Scrum Alliance® is the largest membership and certification organization in the Agile community. The Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization and is governed by the Board of Directors. The Scrum Alliance has certified more than 750,000 practitioners worldwide, clearly contributing a lot to the spreading of Scrum worldwide. But, the Scrum Alliance is not simply a company providing training. The Scrum Alliance also organizes twice a year a global gathering and several regional gatherings and supports agile community events.

From the Scrum Alliance website:

"Scrum Alliance’s vision is to “Transform the World of Work” with a mission to guide and inspire individuals, leaders, and organizations with practices, principles, and values that create workplaces that are joyful, prosperous, and sustainable."

Scrum Alliance certifications

As there are 3 roles in Scrum, the Scrum Alliance offers 3 entry-level (foundational) certifications - there are CSM®️ (Certified Scrum Master), CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner), and CSD (Certified Scrum Developer). Next, you could apply for a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), after indicating your practical experience with Scrum.

Recently, the Scrum Alliance has changed the certification path and added an "advanced" certification and course. Today, the Certified Scrum Professional is specific for either Scrum Master, Product Owner, or Developer.

These are the certifications:

Scrum Alliance certifications
- Certified Scrum Master: CSM®️ --> Advanced CSM®️ --> CSP-SM
- Certified Scrum Product Owner CSPO --> Advanced CSPO --> CSP-PO
- Certified Scrum Developer (CSD)
Next, you can obtain so-called "elevated" certifications, which involves a more rigorous screening and test to validate your knowledge, experience.

The elevated certifications target to be an accredited trainer or coach:

CST (Certified Scrum Trainer) - people with this certification can provide official training in Scrum, on behalf of the Scrum Alliance. Trainers go through a rigorous process of co-training, and an application in order to pass the bar of becoming a CST.
- CTC (Certified Team Coach) - to be recognized and accredited as a coach on the team level
- CEC (Certified Enterprise Coach) - to be recognized and accredited as a coach on the enterprise level

The coaching certifications involve more than Scrum, but agile & lean coaching in general.

The Scrum Alliance also provides an Agile Leadership track - this is relatively new and split into two levels:
- Certified Agile Leadership I
- Certified Agile Leadership II
The Agile Leadership courses increase your leadership effectiveness and learn how to be a better leader, no matter what your role.

The Scrum Alliance provides also "extended" continuing education, courses.
The Scrum Alliance is taking a broad view of how to transform the world of work (e.g. also applications of Scrum outside IT).

Scrum.org- The PSM™  certifying Body

In 2002, Ken Schwaber with others founded the Scrum Alliance and set up the Certified Scrum accreditation series.  Ken Schwaber left the Scrum Alliance in late 2009 and founded Scrum.org which oversees the parallel Professional Scrum accreditation series.
On the Scrum.org website, there's a page called "Why Scrum.org?" explaining Ken Schwaber's motivation to separate from the Scrum Alliance and found Scrum.org. These are the motivations as formulated by Ken Schwaber:
- I would create a new organization, Scrum.org, to continue developing and sustaining the Scrum Developer program.
The program would lead to assessments and certifications based on a body of knowledge.
- I would also redevelop a new, more advanced version of the Scrum courseware. This courseware, called Scrum-In-Depth, would focus on how to use Scrum in advanced circumstances. I would publish the Scrum body of knowledge on Scrum.org and formulate beginner, intermediate, and advanced assessments and certifications based on this body of knowledge.
- I would form a new group of Scrum Trainers who welcomed openness and transparency.

Scrum.org  aims to improve the Profession of Software Delivery and targets its courses and certifications in that area. The Scrum Alliance focuses on Scrum, and takes a broader view, as the Scrum Alliance's slogan is to "transform the world of work".

Scrum.org certifications

The certifications provided by Scrum.org are similar to the certifications of the Scrum Alliance. The certifications are called "Professional" The certification path is as following:

Scrum.org certifications
- Professional Scrum Master: PSM™  level I --> level II --> level III- Professional Scrum Product Owner: PSPO
- Professional Scrum Developer: PSD

- Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS), based upon Scrum.org Nexus framework for scaling Scrum

- Professional Scrum with Kanban (PSK I): to validate knowledge of how Scrum Teams can use Scrum with Kanban ability to support value creation and delivery. Kanban is a lean method to streamline work. Scrum has its foundations in lean, so it does make a lot of sense for teams to learn and apply Kanban. In fact, agile & lean are blending philosophies.

- Professional Agile Leadership (PAL-I): Agile Leadership track
There’s an optional (non-mandatory) PAL-E (Professional Agile Leadership - Essentials). The workshop provides a foundation for the role that leaders play in creating the conditions for a successful agile transformation.

In summary,
In a comparison to Scrum Alliance, remember the following practical points when you consider one or the other certification:
Scrum.org certifications have no expiration date.
Scrum.org certifications can be obtained by taking an online test. Physically attending a classroom course is not required.
Scrum.org offers “open assessments” which are interesting for anyone to validate your Scrum knowledge, regardless of if you intend to get certified or not.

To know more about various Agile and Scrum certifications and paths to learning these certifications to make a career move, you can refer certification pathway.

Choosing between the best Scrum Master Certifications: CSM®️ vs PSM™ 

Agile and Scrum are today’s latest trends. Not only IT-based organizations but also non-IT organizations hire individuals who know the concepts of Scrum framework and its applications. Scrum is the Agile framework, focuses on the complex projects.

Initially, the Scrum framework was used for software development, but today it is used as any other projects to get the fastest results. So, there is a rising demand for Agile-Scrum professionals in the organizations.

CSM®️ and PSM™  are two major Scrum Master certifications. CSM®️ stands for Certified Scrum Master. CSM®️ is a certification issued by the Scrum Alliance. CSM®️ is a first (entry-level) certification for the Scrum Master. PSM™  stands for Professional Scrum Master. PSM™  is a certification issued by Scrum.org. PSM™  and PSM™  both are the entry-level certifications for the Scrum Master.    

PSM™  by Scrum.org has a different approach than CSM®️ by Scrum Alliance in the following ways:
- According to Scrum.org, there's no need to attend a class, to be able to take an online test to get certified. A practice assessment is available online, called "Scrum Open"
- According to Scrum.org, a certification is a proof of knowledge and therefore has no certification date

Let’s see the differences between the CSM®️ and PSM™  in the tabular form.

Certified Scrum Master (CSM®️)
Features
Professional Scrum Master (PSM™)

50 multiple-choice questions, usually with four possible answers

Exam Pattern

- Number of Questions: 80
- Format: Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer and True/False

Passing score: 74%
Passing grade
Passing score: minimum 85%

Time limit: 60 minutes
Exam duration

Time limit: 60 minutes

Every 2 years

Certification renewal duration

No expiration (Lifetime certification)

Fee: $1000 (cost of training and 1 attempt)

Certification cost

Fee:
PSM I- $150
PSM II- $250
PSM III- $500
(1st free attempt is given to those who attend the PSM training)

The exam is easy once you attend the two-day CSM®️ training program. Also, you can practice with CSM®️ practice test/mock test, to know which areas you need to improve and pass the test with a good score.
Level of the exam

Difficulty: Intermediate
PSM assessments are difficult to pass. But, attending PSM training is highly recommended in order to pass the exam with a fair score, though it is not mandatory. Also, prepare with the Scrum practice tests to get a fair idea on this.

Attending a 2-day CSM®️ course taught by a Scrum Alliance's Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)®️

Prerequisite
No prerequisite for taking the test
$119,040  per year

Salary

$100,500 per year


Final Thought

A search on “Scrum Master”, in the job title with as prerequisite “Certified Scrum Master” gives more than 1000 jobs results. If you want to get an idea of what companies and organizations ask in terms of Certified Scrum Master, you can have a look at the AgileCareers website (by Scrum Alliance). (there are mainly USA based jobs listed)

This is all about the comparison between the CSM®️ and PSM™  and various certifying bodies like Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org that offer these certifications.

In the end, knowledge matters whether it is CSM®️ or PSM™ certification. Both certificates have the same value in the job market. Also, both programs are highly compatible. It is very crucial what you earned during the certification process and the trainer will definitely help you to make the difference there.

To know in-detail about the Scrum master certification benefits, roles, salaries and many more refer: Scrum Master Certification - The Definitive Guide

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Frederik Vannieuwenhuyse

Blog Author

Frederik is an experienced consultant, professional facilitator, coach and trainer. Frederik is constantly looking to help organisation to gain more agility and to create happy workplaces