There are now two major* ScrumMaster certifications available. I’m often asked which is ‘better’ – so I decided to do a comprehensive trawl and summarize my findings here.
Firstly, I should state that I am a Professional ScrumMaster (PSM), and offer training courses for PSM – so with that in mind….
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from ScrumAlliance has been on the go for 14 years, since 2002. For its first 10 years there was no exam/assessment – once you attended a two day CSM course, whether you slept in the corner of the classroom or paid close attention, you graduated a ScrumMaster. It has always been expensive to attend CSM training, because there are a carefully limited number of trainers, and its very difficult and expensive to become a CSM trainer – you need to be ‘nominated’ by 5 existing trainers, pay $10K to register, etc. As a result, there are no trainers in Ireland, and the daily trainer fees charged are very high.
In 2010 the guys who created Scrum and founded ScrumAlliance left and set up an alternative body, scrum.org. Through scrum.org they offered a 60 minute online ScrumMaster assessment (85% to pass). Although they also offered ScrumMaster training, you didn’t have to attend one of their courses to qualify for the exam. This opened up the field to all training companies, thereby driving down costs. It also introduced a much more credible certification because to become a PSM you had to pass a rigorous exam. This didn’t reflect well on the ScrumAlliance certification, so they introduced an exam in 2012 – however their assessment is pretty half-hearted, allowing candidates up to 90 days (sic) to answer 25 of 36 multiple choice questions correctly (68%). And you still had to attend one of their expensive courses…
So although CSM has been 3 times as long in the market, PSM is rapidly gaining ground with about 60,000 PSMs globally today. Its a much more rigorous assessment, much cheaper to get, and is backed by Scrums creators, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber.
Here is a comparison table with more detail:
|Certified Scrum Master / CSM||Professional Scrum Master / PSM Level 1|
|Attainment||✗ By attendance||✔ By assessment|
|Learning Materials||✗ Course outline only||✔ Free downloadable guide|
|Training Cost||✗ Typically €995-€1195||✔ Typically €700-€900|
|Must Attend Approved Training||✗ Yes||✔ No|
|Training Materials||✗ Vary by instructor||✔ Standardized|
|Assessment||✗ superficial: 35 questions, 68% pass mark, 90 day time limit, as many sittings as you like||✔ Comprehensive: 80 questions, 85% pass mark, 60 min time limit, one sitting|
|Feedback||✗ Incorrect Answers are highlighted and can be resubmitted after further research. Answers to all questions (correct and incorrect) are shown after passing||✔ Only feedback is your assessment mark – there is no feedback on which questions you got correct, or what the right answers were.|
|Advanced Certification Available||✗ No||✔ Yes: you can progress to the much more difficult PSM Level 2 exam for experienced ScrumMasters|
|Certificate Renewal||✗ Every 2 years ($150)||✔ Not required|
|Certificates Issued (Mar 2014)||230,000||60,000|
* I haven’t considered more niche certifications such as BCS