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Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: Differences & Similarities

19th Feb, 2024
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    Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: Differences & Similarities

    In the fast-paced world of business today, where adaptability and efficiency are key, project management is like the secret sauce for success. I've spent years in the trenches of project management, and let me tell you, it's a world where two key players take the stage: the Scrum Master and the Project Manager. They're like the dynamic duo, each with their own way of steering projects towards victory. 

    Through my experience, I understand the critical importance of understanding the nuances of the roles Scrum Master vs Project Manager to make informed decisions that align with an organization's unique needs and project requirements. Several courses from reputed sources such as the Certified Scrum Master course will help you understand the nuances in this context. In this comprehensive exploration, I will leverage my extensive experience to dissect the intricate distinctions and intriguing overlaps between the Scrum Master and Project Manager roles. In this article, you will gain profound insights into the specialized skills, responsibilities, and contextual applications of these positions, empowering you to make astute choices that drive your projects toward triumph. 

    Who is a Scrum Master?

    A Scrum Master holds a pivotal role in the world of Agile methodologies. Their primary duty involves guiding the Agile process with a servant-leader approach, steadfastly upholding Agile principles and practices. This dedicated individual fosters an environment conducive to teamwork, consistently eliminating obstacles, and empowering the team to efficiently achieve their objectives. Drawing from their experience, a Scrum Master is the linchpin that keeps the Agile project on course, ensuring that collaboration thrives, and Agile values are upheld throughout the journey.

    What Does a Scrum Master Do?

    The role of a scrum master is a multi-faceted one, they are in charge of acting as a servant-leader for the team, liaising with the team, product owner and overall business function, protecting the team as a change-agent, fostering communication, collaboration to mentor team members, promoting agile values as a process owner, and most importantly facilitating scrum processes/ceremonies, and removing impediments faced by the team in the fruition of deliverables. 

    Who is a Project Manager?

    A Project Manager serves as the cornerstone of project orchestration. This seasoned professional assumes the critical responsibility of meticulously planning, executing, and ultimately closing projects, all while keeping a watchful eye on the overarching objectives to meet process as well as organizational goals. Their methodical approach often involves the adept utilization of conventional project management methodologies, with Waterfall being a prominent choice. The Project Manager shoulders the weight of accountability, bearing the responsibility for project budgets, timelines, and the judicious allocation of resources, ensuring each facet aligns seamlessly to drive the project to successful outcomes. 

    What Does a Project Manager Do? 

    A Project Manager defines project scope, creates schedules, allocates resources, and manages risks to thereby, support the scrum masters in their pursuit to lead teams without any burden of handling overall organizational activities and keeping an overview of multiple teams/functions. They are responsible for orchestrating the entire project lifecycle, from initiation to closure, while ensuring that all stakeholders' needs and expectations are met. 

    In my extensive project management journey, I've encountered various unforeseen risks that demanded swift and strategic action. One instance that stands out was when a new privacy requirement was encountered which led to unexpected delays in the implementation workstream of the large-scale transformation that I was working on. By swiftly coordinating with key resources and implementing contingency plans, we managed to keep the project on track, meeting stakeholder expectations despite the unforeseen challenges. 

    Scrum Master vs Project Manager

    It is important to know the differences between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager, to find how they complement each other in large-scale projects.

    The Scrum Master is a coach and facilitator. The Project Manager is a leader, decision-maker and is responsible for managing the project, resources, and scope of business requirements. Sometimes, the Project Manager has to make sure whether the project is lined up with the necessary business requirements or not, whereas the Scrum Master has to look after one project team. Also, Scrum Master has to be a mediator between the project and the customer.

    Let’s look at how the Project Manager and the Scrum Master roles differ from each other in discrete terms.

    Project Manager
    Scrum Master
    GoalsHas defined goals like completing the project on time, planned budget, and scopeMakes sure that the team members are well trained to follow Agile practices appropriately. Also, SM coaches the Scrum teams and mentions the timeline to finish the project
    Quality AssurancePM also knows the importance of quality, but doesn’t know how to achieve this. Usually, a consultant is hired to fix the errorsScrum Master assures the quality and very well knows the importance of it.
    Team SizeProject Managers like to make things large. Project Manager works with more people and a huge budget. In this way, they improve to Program Manager.Scrum Master always tries to keep things smaller. They like to work in small teams irrespective of budget.
    Average salary in the United States (2019)$77,000 per year$97,500 per year
    Job Description
    • Planning, creating budget and the related documents
    • PM has to work with upper management to ensure a scope and direction of a project
    • PM has to work with another department also, in case of emergency
    • sometimes have to work themselves or instruct the team to finish a goal.


    • Resolves barriers and controls the Scrum processes.

    • Making a team aware of Agile and Scrum to deliver successfully

    • Facilitates the Scrum ceremonies

    • Ensures that a project is running smoothly with the help of the tools

    • Executes the Product Backlog as per the Product Owner prioritization

    • Solves team conflicts with good communication skills

    • Motivates the team

    • Monitors the Scrum processes to increase efficiency

    Difference Between Scrum Master and Project Manager

    A Project manager and scrum master can play crucial roles in the success of a project. Scrum Masters and project managers frequently collaborate on projects, yet there are main differences between Scrum Masters and project managers. 

    Project manager and scrum master are fantastic job choices; however, it's good to consider a few things. This article will explain the scrum master vs. project manager with different parameters to make you an informed decision. 

    1. Scrum Master vs Project Manager: Salaries  

    There are a few of the roles that scrum masters and project managers plan in the organization, along with their salaries listed below. As you compare scrum master vs project manager salary, you will get a clear answer to your dilemma. 

    Scrum Master Salary Details:

    • Agile Scrum master: $116,125 
    • Certified Scrum Master: $121,00 
    • Scrum Master Consultant: $122,600 
    • Safe scrum master: $125,000 
    • Lead Scrum Master: $133,900 
    • Project Manager Salary details 
    • Project coordinator: $52,100 
    • Project manager consultant: $85,200 
    • Project director: $98,800 
    • Product owner: $107,400 
    • Engineering Project manager: $99,500 

    2. Scrum Master vs Project Manager: Certification  

    Even though their jobs overlap, there are various certifications and professional paths that you can explore to advance your career as a Scrum Master or project manager. 

    Scrum Master Certification: 

    • Certified Scrum Master (CSM): If you want to grow more agile with Scrum, this certification is the best to pursue. It familiarizes you with the Scrum structure, team responsibilities, events, artifacts, and how to lead your team in implementing Scrum. 

    • Professional Scrum Master (PSM): The Professional Scrum Master certification verifies the ability to use the Scrum framework, support Scrum Teams, and handle complex problems in the real world as a Scrum Master. When taking the PSM, you should have advanced Scrum understanding and extensive Scrum Master experience. 

    Project Manager Certification: 

    • Project management Professional (PMP): Project managers with the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential belong to an exclusive group. It demonstrates experience and proficiency in project leadership in all modes of operation. 
    • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): To start a career as a project manager, obtaining the CAPM certification is crucial. It familiarizes you with every aspect of project handling, from project integration to cost, quality, and resource management. 

    3. Scrum Master vs Project Manager: How to Become  

    Getting an undergraduate degree in management is the best place to start if you want to work as a project manager or scrum master. This degree offers the candidate a foundation in crucial areas such as overall management and human resources abilities that immediately apply to the job. The courses required for this degree also improve communication and interaction skills, which are necessary to pursue a good career path in both fields. 

    How to become a Scrum master vs. project manager 

    • Take a course: Enrol yourself online or offline course to learn and upgrade your skills 
    • Build Experience: Add your learnings to your current work to be efficient and gain experience. 
    • Get Certified: Certifications can help you with your application, and they communicate your degree of competence to potential employers. Take any of the courses mentioned above to become certified. 

    4. Scrum Master vs Project Manager: Skills  

    There are many common skills like communication, leadership, and organization that both scrum masters and project managers should have. However, there are some specific skills that a scrum master and project manager must have given below 

    Scrum Manager Skills 

    Project Manager Skills 

    Agile Expert 

    Time management 




    Risk Management 

    5. Scrum Master vs. Project Manager Roles and Responsibility 

    Scrum master roles and responsibilities 

    Project manager roles and responsibilities 

    Sprint Planning 

    Plan project goals, and requirements 

    Daily scrum meeting 

    Prioritize the project-related features 

    Team assistance to follow the scrum process 

    Risk mitigation 

    Help and monitor the team to speed up the work 

    Maintaining a healthy relationship with all stakeholders 

    Product backlog removal 

    Project completion at a set time 

    6. Scrum Master vs Project Manager: Career Path  

    After getting certification and acquiring skills in scrum master and project manager, many career paths open up to several lucrative careers and organizations. 

    Scrum master Job roles 

    Project Manager Job Roles 

    Product Owner 

    Project Coordinator 

    Senior Scrum master 

    Assistant project manager 

    Agile Coach 

    Technicl Project managwer 

    Project Manager 

    IT project manager 

    Chief Informative Officer 

    Senior project manager 

    Relationship Between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager

    Relationship between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager

    Next, you might be wondering, what is the role of a Project Manager in Scrum? If you know the transition from Waterfall to Agile, you might think that the title ‘Project Manager’ is just shifted to the title ‘Scrum Master’. However, the Project Manager’s responsibilities cannot be directly converted to a Scrum Master role.

    role of a Project Manager in Scrum

    When you transit from traditional approach (Waterfall model) to Agile, the responsibilities of a Project Manager are distributed among the variety of team members. Some responsibilities go to the Program Manager, some to the Product Owner, some to the Scrum Master and some to the remaining team. On the other hand, switching from Waterfall to Agile is not an easy process.

    Unlike Scrum Master, we can say a Product Owner’s role is closely aligned to the Project Manager’s role. The highly responsible entity in a project can be identified as Product Owner. They have to maintain the product backlog and ensure that the product fits with the business requirements. In case of any changes in the product, the Product Owner has to adjust and re-prioritize the current product backlog to fit these changes and maneuver the project. This is a tedious task for the Product Owner.

    So, the Scrum Master is there to play a consultant role and take care of the project from all perspectives. The Scrum Master guides the Product Owner on how to manage the teamwork with the use of product backlog, sprint planning and meetings.

    The Scrum Master supports the Product Owner in managing the teamwork, coaches the team and ensures that the team is properly aligned to the Scrum process. The Scrum Master manages the Scrum process, ensures its correct implementation and increasing the scope of its benefits throughout the project.


    Top Cities where Knowledgehut Conduct CSM Certification Training Course Online

    CSM Certification in BangaloreCSM Certification in New YorkCSM Certification in Singapore
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    CSM Certification in WashingtonCSM Certification in Los AngelesCSM Certification in Atlanta

    Organizations that are new to Agile and Scrum commit some deadly blunders. The most common and overlooked one is the lack of clarity of the roles of the Scrum Master and the Project Manager. This is more often seen in smaller Scrum teams, where these two discrete roles overlap.

    There are of course similarities between Scrum Master and Project Manager roles. But that does not give way to ignoring the distinct differences between an Agile Project Manager and Scrum Master.

    Upgrade your project management expertise with our flexible PMP self-paced training. Access our comprehensive course material anytime, anywhere and prepare for success at your own pace. Enroll now to accelerate your career growth.

    Similarities Between Scrum Master and Project Manager:

    Even after all this talking, I bet you're still wondering, “Is the Scrum Master a Project Manager?”. Despite their unique roles, they share key similarities rooted in their unwavering commitment to project triumph. Both roles demand effective communication skills, an innate ability to embrace change, and an unyielding dedication to achieving project goals. Moreover, they serve as vital catalysts for fostering collaboration among team members and stakeholders, functioning as leaders steering their teams towards efficiency in project execution

    Furthermore, I reiterate my answer to the question you might ask, “Is Scrum Master and Project Manager same?”. There exists a common thread of expertise in risk management and adept problem-solving. This expertise becomes pivotal when unforeseen challenges rear their heads during project execution. By acknowledging and appreciating these shared attributes, organizations can make informed decisions when choosing the ideal role to cater to their specific project management requirements. 

    The roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master

    Scrum Master is referred as a facilitator, who manages the teams that are implementing the Agile methodology. Scrum framework is the best framework for smaller teams of developers, who can break their work into a Sprint in order to get your project done at the end of every sprint.

    Great teams rely on the Scrum Masters to get their work done within a time limit. You might as well say that being a Scrum Master is a kind of art. All depends on the sprint planning and release planning processes which give scientific clarity to SM in ensuring that the team is able to execute the amount of assigned work in the right way.

    • Sprint planning
    • Scheduling the daily Scrum meeting
    • Managing Scrum process responsibly
    • Helping the Scrum teams to follow Scrum practices
    • Removing barriers so the team can focus on their work
    • Assisting with the Product Backlog
    • Co-operating with Product Owner in designing Product Backlog items for the next Sprint
    • Protecting the team from external distractions
    • Recording and assisting to improve team dynamics

    • Guides the Product Owner on the project
    • Helps teams to speed up the processes
    • Monitors the sprint progress
    • Promotes team discussions
    • Motivates the team
    • Scrum Master acts as a cement to bind the team together

    The roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager

    Project Manager’s role is to manage the projects and ensure that the project meets the requirements. There is a time or place for a Project Manager in the large projects. The Project Manager can cover multiple teams and can work with other dependent teams as well. PM can coordinate with multiple teams, help them to meet project timelines and collaborate when resources are required. The roles and responsibilities of the Project Manager are as follows.

    • Defining project scope to the team
    • Planning project target
    • Preparing the work schedule for the team members
    • Gathering requirements
    • Defining the resource requirements for the project
    • Preparing the budget for a project
    • Assuring quality
    • Mitigating the risks
    • Monitoring the plans
    • Getting user feedback
    • Managing relationships with the client and the stakeholders
    • Ending the project

    • Managing the finance related issues budget
    • Reporting to business leaders on the project progress
    • Task allocation
    • Risk management
    • Focusing on processes
    • Prioritizing the project related features
    • Coordinating with other teams if required

    What Should You Choose Between Scrum Master or Project Manager? 

    There are many things to consider when deciding if you want to become a Scrum Master or project manager because the tasks that Scrum Masters and project managers fill are different. A position as a Scrum Master may be the perfect fit for you if you enjoy the idea of leading teams through distinct project phases to a successful conclusion. Project management may be a better fit for you if you prefer to oversee all logistical aspects of a project, from planning and implementation to conclusion.


    It's vital to understand the importance of both roles in successful project management, in the debate of an Agile Scrum Master vs Project Manager. Scrum Masters shine in Agile settings, where they promote teamwork and guide teams to produce top-notch results. On the flip side, Project Managers excel in traditional project management setups, where they manage the whole project journey, from start to finish, keeping it on track in terms of time and money. 

    The choice between these roles’ hinges on your project's nature and needs. To maximize success, you might even consider combining both Scrum Masters and Project Managers. You can develop yourself as an efficient professional in the industry through training programmes like KnowledgeHut CSM certification course. This way, you can benefit from the unique strengths each role brings to the table, ensuring your projects are managed with precision and adaptability, no matter the circumstances.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1Can scrum masters become project managers?

    Whereas a project manager focuses on projects and oversees related timelines, a scrum master mentors and leads their team. A CSM shows that you are an expert in the various activities, roles, and artifacts. A scrum master specializing in agile project management can become a project manager. 

    2Is Being a Scrum Master an Integral Role of Program Management?

    In most cases, being a Scrum Master becomes an integrated program management role. Scrum is an agile project management paradigm that enables teams to create valuable products iteratively and progressively while continuously inspecting and changing the process. 

    3How does a project manager approach project planning and execution?

    There are five-step processes for project planning and execution 

    1. Identify the project 
    2. Determined the desired outcome 
    3. Identify the team and their responsibilities for them 
    4. Determine the timeline 
    5. Review, revise and reallocate 
    4Is a scrum master the same as a project manager?

    Project managers oversee all project aspects, including budget, timing, and risk, while Scrum masters ensure that their teams adhere to Scrum standards. Scrum masters and project managers can both be Scrum masters, but they are not the same thing. 

    5Is Scrum Master a good career?‎

    A Scrum Master certification is valuable if you wish to work as a Scrum Master or in an agile project management setting. It demonstrates your expertise and grasp of the Scrum framework, which can help you advance in your profession and earn more money. 


    Lindy Quick

    Blog Author

    Lindy Quick, SPCT, is a dynamic Transformation Architect and Senior Business Agility Consultant with a proven track record of success in driving agile transformations. With expertise in multiple agile frameworks, including SAFe, Scrum, and Kanban, Lindy has led impactful transformations across diverse industries such as manufacturing, defense, insurance/financial, and federal government. Lindy's exceptional communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills have earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor. Currently associated with KnowledgeHut and upGrad, Lindy fosters Lean-Agile principles and mindset through coaching, training, and successful execution of transformations. With a passion for effective value delivery, Lindy is a sought-after expert in the field.

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