PSM vs. CSM: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A career in information technology can involve exciting technical work and the opportunity to work with new software and devices. As most information technology jobs require specialized skills and expertise, many professionals in IT choose to pursue certification in their area of specialization. For Scrum masters, a common job title in information technology, two of the most common certifications are the PSM certification and the CSM certification. In this article, we define the PSM and CSM certifications and explore a list of ways the two certifications differ from each other.

Related: 10 IT Certifications To Explore in 2021

What is the PSM certification?

The PSM, or Professional Scrum Master, certification provides a quick and efficient way for professional Scrum masters to get certified. While there are two courses available to prepare for the PSM certification, the organization that offers the certification allows candidates to schedule and take the PSM exam without first completing a course. This can be especially valuable to Scrum masters who have worked in the field for a while and are already familiar with the skills and expertise that a Scrum master needs, as they can qualify for certification in a short period of time.

There are also two additional tiers of certification that candidates can pursue after receiving their PSM certification, which are PSM II and PSM III.

Related: What Is a Scrum Master?

What is the CSM certification?

The CSM, or Certified Scrum Master, certification offers interactive opportunities for scrum masters to develop their skills and build their expertise. A unique aspect of the CSM certification process is that the courses are typically personalized to each learner to prioritize the concepts they most need training in. To obtain the CSM certification, candidates engage in training and prepare to take the CSM exam, which can provide them with certification after they earn a passing grade. The CSM certification uses three main concepts in its program, which are coaching, facilitation and leadership, communication and problem-solving.

Related: How To Become a Scrum Master

PSM vs. CSM

Here are a few key differences between the PSM and CSM certifications:

Who offers it

A key difference between the PSM and CSM certifications is who offers each certification. The PSM certification is provided by an organization called Scrum.org, which is a professional resource for seasoned Scrum masters that offers evaluations and community forums. To pursue the CSM certification, candidates can visit the organization Scrum Alliance, which focuses on training Scrum masters at different levels.

How to get it

One of the clearest differences between the Certified Scrum Master certification and the Professional Scrum Master certification is the process each certification requires to obtain it. For the CSM certification, candidates need to choose a course from Scrum Alliance's list of options, which provides many choices for Scrum masters at different levels of expertise. After completing a course, all of which involve at least 14 hours of training, candidates can take the CSM and qualify for certification if they receive a passing grade.

To obtain the PSM certification, there are two different paths that candidates can take. One option is for candidates to pay a fee and register for the PSM test immediately, using their own expertise from working professionally in the field to inform their responses. The other option is to enroll in one of Scrum.org's two training courses, which typically take around two days to complete, and then pay for and schedule a sitting for the PSM certification. Once a candidate takes the PSM exam, they can earn certification with a passing grade.

Related: How To Write a Scrum Master Resume (With Templates and Examples)

Passing score

The PSM certification and the CSM certification each require candidates to receive a different minimum score to receive a passing grade. According to Scrum.org, the organization requires candidates to receive a score of at least 85% or 68 questions correct out of 80. For the CSM certification, Scrum Alliance states that candidates need a minimum score of 74% or 37 questions correct out of the total 50.

Cost

Another way that the Professional Scrum Master certification and the Certified Scrum Master certification are different is in how much money each certification costs to obtain. According to Scrum Alliance, the current price to acquire a Certified Scrum Master certification is $495. This price covers the cost of courses and the CSM exam.

According to Scrum.org, the price to get the Professional Scrum Master certification is currently $150 for each attempt at the exam. However, candidates might pay a higher price if they choose to complete one of Scrum.org's preparation courses for Scrum masters. The Professional Scrum Master course begins at $1,195 and includes two days of training courses as well as the PSM exam. Candidates can also choose the course Applying Professional Scrum, which costs $1,095 and includes four part-time days of training and activities and the PSM exam.

Candidates who pursue the Professional Scrum Master Certification might also need to consider additional costs if they decide to complete the PSM II or PSM III levels of certification.

Exam pattern and duration

The exams for the Professional Scrum Master certification and the Certified Scrum Master certification showcase more differences between the two certifications. This includes the exam pattern, or the format of questions and how they're organized on the exam, and the exam duration, or how long candidates are given to complete the exam. The Professional Scrum Master exam includes a combination of multiple choice questions, multiple answer questions and true-or-false questions, and the exam gives candidates one hour to complete all 80 questions.

For the Certified Scrum Master exam, candidates are given one hour to complete the 50 questions included in the exam. The CSM exam contains only multiple choice questions.

Renewal

Another difference between the PSM and CSM certifications is the requirements they each have for renewal. For the CSM certification, candidates need to renew their credential every two years by submitting their required number of Scrum Education Units and paying a fee to Scrum Alliance. However, the PSM certification does not expire, which means candidates do not need to take any action to renew their credentials.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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