Which ScrumMaster certification to choose: PSM by Scrum.org or CSM by Scrum Alliance?

I wanted to get one of the Scrum certifications, but the question raised – which one to choose? Are they equal? One better? Pros/Cons? How well are they recognized? Therefore, I made an extensive comparison of PSM and CSM, and decided to go for PSM. In short, here is why I assert PSM I is better than CSM:

  1. Does not require person to attend a course – evaluates knowledge by test.
  2. The test is harder (68 of 80 question in 60 minutes versus 23 of 35 with no time limit) – assesses the deeper understanding of Scrum.
  3. Focused on software development industry.
  4. CSM was merely a certificate of course attendance for 10 of 14 years.

You may find a detailed table having differences considered from different perspectives below.

To further support this choice, let us look at the answers in the «PSM versus CSM» thread topic at Scrum.org forum [6]:

  1. PSM=CSM: Having both I can safely say that there really is no difference between the two.
  2. PSM >= CSM: PSM is certainly no less respected than CSM. Also, it is possible to sit Srcum.org’s PSM I a number of times [$150] for the price of a Scrum Alliance course [~$1000].
  3. PSM>CSM:
    1. PSM is better because many people who have both certificates have said so.
    2. Unfortunately, Scrum is not the same everywhere. If you look at the Scrum Core (Scrum Alliance) and Scrum Guide (Scrum.org) – they are quite different. We consider ScrumGuide is the primary source of knowledge as it was created and sustained by creators of Scrum: Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. Regarding the certifications, CSM is just a weak shadow of PSM I. CSM can be compared with PSF (Professional Scrum Foundations). PSM is more advanced level. Also, it’s very hard not to pass CSM «exam» and it’s really hard to pass PSM I.
    3. Being a CSM, CSPO, CSP, SPC, CLKF, ICP-ATF, PSM I, I would definitely rate PSM>CSM.
    4. Being a CSP, CSM, CSPO, and PSM I, I think that passing a Scrum.org assessments to be a much better indicator of Scrum knowledge than the CSM/CSPO courses. I learned a lot studying for the PSM I that I didn’t understand fully through my CSM/CSPO courses. So, from a learning perspective I would rate CSPO<CSM<PSMI<CSP. Another thing to consider is available classes and user groups for each Scrum.org or Scrum Alliance in your area as they can be vastly different. Scrum Alliance certifications are typically better known by US companies vs Europe where Scrum.org has a much bigger presence.

To evaluate the value of any certification we need to consider [5]:

  • How knowledge/competency in a subject is evaluated
  • How rigorous is the assessment process
  • How many certificates have been issued
  • How much the certification program costs
  • How likely is it that an unskilled person could pass
  • And may other things

The following sources were used to dig for necessary data:

  1. Scrum.org
  2. ScrumAlliance.org
  3. “How is a PSM through Scrum.org different from a CSM through the Scrum Alliance?” scrum.org/knowledgebase/articles/468945-how-is-a-psm-through-scrum-org-different-from-a-cs
  4. “Certified Scrum Master vs Professional Scrum Master” leanagile.in/post/54764080535/certified-scrum-master-vs-professional-scrum
  5. “CSM or PSM — which Certification to choose?” agile-scrum-master-training.com/certified-scrum-master-csm-vs-professional-scrum-master-psm/
  6. “PSM versus CSM” topic at Scrum.org forum Scrum.org/Forums/aft/496
Organization Scrum.org ScrumAlliance.org
Founded 2009 Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum, left the Scrum Alliance and founded Scrum.org 2001 Ken Schwaber founded the Scrum Alliance with Mike Cohn and Esther Derby
Mission Improving the profession of software development. Transforming the world of work. Scrum Alliance is
Industry of focus Only focused with software development industry Pushing Scrum beyond software development
Time of appearance 2009 2002, was the 1st Scrum certification available
Certification PSM I


Learning materials Free official Scrum Guide and Open Assessment of up to 40 real questions are available Course outline only
Course attendance NOT mandatory, although official courses are available. Certification is detached from the course – it is not proof of attendance, but is rather proof of Scrum knowledge 2-day Scrum Master training course is mandatory – attendance in a Scrum Alliance course is required for earning the certification. Certification is just a little more than a certificate of attendance
Renewal Not needed Yes, every 2 year
Renewal fee No, certificates are lifelong, and do not require any additional payments or renewal Yes, requires credential holders to pay it in order to keep their certifications active. $150 (price not confirmed)

Course / Training

Fee RUB 55’000 (now $920) Professional Scrum Master or RUB 45’000 Professional Scrum Foundations by Ilia Pavlichenko $950 or $1’150 in Kiev
Trainers Scrum.org trainers must have experience as software developer. It means that every Scrum.org trainer can answer questions about spikes, emergent design/architecture, test-first/driven approaches, failing tests as a means to assess progress, fitness-for-purpose vs gold-plating, technical debt, clean code, etc. Scrum Alliance trainers do not need to have experience in software development industry
Course content Standardized curriculum, context and depth – all students learn the same core course content. Courseware is reviewed by Ken Schwaber and is used by all trainers No standardization, vary by instructor. The course objectives are common, materials are created by the individual trainers, and are limited by that particular trainer’s experience and opinion
Course duration Standardized, 2 days No standard, 2-3 days
Attending the course guarantees a credential? No, a course and assessment are separated No (now), but until 2012 attending the course absolutely guaranteed that person would then become certified as a CSM – gaining a certification simply by paying a fee and by virtue of attendance

Assessment / Test

Time of appearance 2009 Was introduced only in 2012, although certification exists since 2002
Venue Online Online
Fee $150 without a course
$0 with a course (1 attempt included) – those who attend a Scrum.org course will also receive a complementary password to attempt 1 of assessments for certification
2 attempts included as part of the course fee
Can be taken without a course? Yes No
Time limit Yes, 60 minutes No
Can be paused No, need to be completed in one sitting Yes, it doesn’t need to be completed in one sitting
Incorrect answers Not highlighted, only the percentage by section is available after submitting the answers Highlighted and can be re-submitted after research
Type of questions Multiple choice, Multiple answer and True/False Multiple choice (not confirmed)
Questions 80 35
Threshold 85% = 68 questions 68% = 24 questions
Re-try fee $150 per any attempt $25

Number of certificates

Official data 72 482

PSM I (572 II and 356 III)

Russia – no country indication


5.6 times lower number can be attributed to 1) being relatively new, 2) the assessment process itself is far more rigorous. Therefore, must command more respect in the long run as it becomes more widely known

405 313


Russia 232 or 0,06%

LinkedIn search 10’018 «PSM I»

Russia – 44

96’880 «CSM» (dirty number because this abbreviation stands for diff. words)

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