CSPO Vs PSPO: Deciding Between the Two Scrum Certifications

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Last updated on
06th Jun, 2022
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07th Jan, 2019
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CSPO Vs PSPO: Deciding Between the Two Scrum Certifications

As Mike Cohn puts it:

“The Scrum product owner is typically a project's key stakeholder. Part of the product owner responsibilities is to have a vision of what he or she wishes to build and convey that vision to the scrum team. This is key to successfully starting any agile software development project. The agile product owner does this in part through the product backlog, which is a prioritized features list for the product.”

In other words, a product owner responsibility is to maximize the value of the products created by a scrum development team.

The expertise of product owner is centered around the following:

  • It’s about the product
  • It’s about understanding product benefits
  • It’s about customer experience
  • It’s about design thinking
  • It’s about collaboration

As Scrum.org puts it:

“Product ownership is about more than mechanics: it’s about taking accountability and focusing on value in everything you do. The role of a product owner is to identify, measure, and maximize value throughout your entire product lifecycle.”

CSPO® and PSPO are two of the premier and globally accepted certifications that help validate the holder’s expertise and skills as a product owner in the Scrum framework. Both relate to product ownership which in turn requires business acumen and competency on product vision and roadmap aspects.

The training leading up to each of the two certifications offers a learning of wide array of principles, rules, practices, techniques and practical tools that help product owners become effective and successful.

So, how exactly are the two different? Let’s have a look

If you’re someone who is comfortable with the "business side" of projects, you are probably the right person to aim for a Certified Scrum Product Owner® certification.

-Scrum Alliance

What is CSPO?

As defined by the Scrum Alliance, a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) is someone who has been taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer about the Scrum terminology, practices, and principles that will enable them to fulfill the role of Scrum Product Owner.

What is PSPO?

PSPO stands for Professional Scrum Product Owner, a course and certification offered by Scrum.org. The Scrum.org mission is “To Improve the profession of Software Development”.

Differences between CSPO and PSPO

As we saw above, CSPO is an abbreviation which stands for Certified Scrum Product Owner and it is a certification offered by the Scrum Alliance, specifically for the Product Owner role.

PSPO is an abbreviation for Profession Scrum Product Owner. This is a certification offered by Scrum.org, specifically for the Product Owner role.

In my opinion, both certifications are equivalent and define high- standards of quality. The differences between the two lies in the way of obtaining the two certifications and maintaining/renewing them.

Certifications issued by Scrum Alliance are obtained by taking an online exam after mandatory completion of a 2-day training given by a Certified Scrum Trainer. 

Certifications issued by Scrum.org are obtained by taking an online exam without the prerequisite of attending a training. Certifications issued by Scrum.org do not expire. Of course, to test and validate your knowledge, having a decent understanding of the product owner role is mandatory, therefore preparation and study are key. Participating in a training to learn, and to experience what Scrum is about, is always highly recommended.

While it is quite easy for the people who are very involved in the Agile community to identify the most recognized certifications, it is not a simple task for those who just forayed into the Agile world.

Through this blog, I aim to give you a short overview on the differences between CSPO and PSPO credentials to help you make an informed decision.

The CSPO workshop is usually informative about Scrum and Agile although the quality may be variable and would depend, on a large part, on the specific instructor and the materials they provide.

The basic Comparison of CSPO and PSPO

CSPOPSPO
CSPO is offered through Scrum AlliancePSPO is offered through Scrum.org
CSPO has continuing education credit requirements every three years and is renewable.PSPO never has to be renewed

Accreditation Body

The accreditation body of the CSPO and PSPO certifications are as follows:

  • PSPO - Scrum.org
  • CSPO - Scrum Alliance

Renewal of CSPO and PSPO Certifications

  • PSPO - once earned, credential does not expire and does not require renewal.
  • CSPO - once earned, credential valid for two years. Starting Feb 2019, renewal would require 20 Scrum educational units(earned in last 2 years only) and a renewal fee of USD 100 

Price

  • PSPO - 200 USD for certification license only. Attending the workshop could cost around 500 USD.
  • CSPO - 500 USD. The cost varies based on the location from which you attend the workshop.

Need for training 

  • PSPO - No need to take up a training course.
  • CSPO - To earn CSPO certificate, you must attend 2 days CSPO classroom training from  a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) from Scrum Alliance.

After Exam Certification

Once you pass the PSPO I exam, you will get industry-recognized "PSPO I" certification, along with a PSPO I logo that you can use to identify your achievement. There is no exam for CSPO, and you will get a certificate from Scrum Alliance on completing the 14-16 hour training from a CST.

Passing Score

  • PSPO - 85%
  • CSPO - None. Activities to be completed to achieve the credential is at trainer discretion. 

Time limit: 

  • PSPO - 60 minutes
  • CSPO - None

Number of Questions: 

  • PSPO - 80
  • CSPO - None

Format: 

  • PSPO - Multiple Choice, Multiple Answers and True/False
  • CSPO - None

Language: 

  • PSPO - English
  • CSPO - None

Difficulty level

  • PSPO - Intermediate
  • CSPO - None

PSPO has subsequent complexity levels in the form of PSPO I, II, III

CSPO has subsequent complexity level in the form of A-CSPO. 

Password Expiration Date

  • PSPO - When you purchase a password, it is set up in Scrum.org system and emailed to you within one business day. All Students completing a PSPO course are emailed a password upon completion of the course (typically within 3-5 business days). No expiration date for passwords.
  • CSPO - Depends on the online workflow set up by the Certified Scrum Trainer.

Membership

  • PSPO - Membership of Scrum.org and the membership do not expire
  • CSPO - 2 Year Membership with Scrum Alliance. You are eligible to join local user groups and social networks, enjoy discounts on global events, search for careers on our online job board, and more.

Other benefits

  • PSPO:  Once you get certified, your name will be listed on Scrum.org.
  • CSPO: Once you receive the credential, your name is listed on Scrum Alliance portal.

The Verdict

The main aim of the CSPO certification is to understand the working of Scrum and the role of the Product Owner playing in a Scrum team. While the objective of the Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) certification is to develop a solid understanding of the Product Owner to maximize the value of the software products and systems.

PSPO has a level of difficulty associated with it. The things which I like about PSPO certification is that the certification does not mandatory require you to attend an in-person workshop. You can prepare all on your own and directly proceed to the examination. Also, PSPO has a lifetime validity. once acquired, no need to renew the certificate. 

To evaluate the value of any certification we need to consider:

How knowledge or competency in a subject is evaluated by the certification assessment

  • How rigorous is the assessment process
  • The cost involved with attaining the certification
  • The validity of the certification

But before you make up a decision on whether to pursue the CSPO or PSPO, remember that while earning certifications is the best way to get noticed by potential recruiters, get your skills endorsed and demonstrate your willingness and commitment to self-improvement, it is also important to prove your worth to your employers by being productive, confident and self- reliant.

Note: Please note that the opinions expressed here reflect my personal views only.

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Meghana Parwate

Blog Author

Meghana Parwate is a coach, mentor and trained several team members on Agile-Scrum, SAFe, etc. she has a consistent track record and a merit rank holder at HSSC. She also leads a 150+ people strong member team to deliver the next generation advanced visualization software with SAFe methodology with consistent achievement of 85%+ team goals every program increment. And she also Successfully delivered projects of variable team sizes with Agile-Scrums Scrums-of-Scrums and SAFe methodologies ranging from 1 to 20 scrum teams augmented with a blend of TDD and CI techniques.