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CSM vs PMP

CSM vs PMP: Differences Explained & Which One to Choose?

Picture of Bharath Kumar
Bharath Kumar
Bharath Kumar is a seasoned professional with 10 years' expertise in Quality Management, Project Management, and DevOps. He has a proven track record of driving excellence and efficiency through integrated strategies.

Certified Scrum Masters and Project Management Professionals are introduced to organizations looking to streamline and optimize their internal activities. While serving different purposes, it is not uncommon to see professionals hold both certifications for a stronger approach to mid-level management. However for professionals looking at one or the other, here are the key points of assessment;

CSM Vs. PMP- Difference Between Both

The PMP or project management professional is a widely accepted accolade to gauge a professional’s ability to adequately handle the role of project manager. The PMP system is based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). This is a traditional approach to management systems and works best with legacy organizations. For professionals looking to contribute to smaller, agile organizations like startups, the Scrum method is likely one they already employ and would be better suited for professionals with the Certified Scrum Master certification.

1. Based on Earnings and Earning Potential

Within the United States, the average project manager’s salary sits at roughly USD 66,137 annually. When surveyed across the first world and developed economies, the average sits at a higher salary of USD 116,000. PMP certification holders were able to achieve a 22% higher salary on average in comparison to their uncertified counterparts.

The average Certified Scrum Master salary within the United States averages USD 97,319. Based on 2019 Scrum Master trends, 51% of respondents were able to make USD 75,000 or more annually. The certification was what pushed professionals into higher earning categories in comparison to their non-certified peers.

Either of the certifications offers a leg up professionally while the Scrum certification earns a little less than the PMP certification.

2. Based on Certification Costs

On average the PMP Certification costs roughly USD 550 from PMI which is the price for the PMP exam voucher for any individual. The supplementary PMP Exam Prep Training Course can go up to USD 3,000 depending upon the choice of the learning partner, mode of delivery, and your location. For professionals looking to cut down investment costs, there are self-study guides and principles including the PgMP handbook and PMBOK guide. The books cost around USD 60 each and can work best with individuals who prefer self-paced learning.

Depending on the Scrum master certification of choice, costs can vary. The three main types of Scrum Master Certification are the Certified Scrum Master, Professional Scrum Master, and SAFe Scrum Master. The PSM examination costs USD 150 with official courses priced at USD 500 and above. The examination can be sat without completion of the course. With the CSM on the other hand, the cost of the training includes the examination fee. The course itself can cost anywhere between USD 600 and USD 1500. The same applies to SAFe Scrum Master as well where the examinations cost USD 120 and the training costs in the region of USD 695 to USD 1295.

Pricing structures are bound to vary based on location, instructors, and whether the course is sat in person or remotely. Additionally, self-learning paced courses are likely to be less expensive as there is no requirement for an instructor but around-the-clock assistance is offered by some organizations.

3. Based on Content

The content of both course and examination structures strongly vary. The PMP accreditation follows the PMBOK model.

This model divides project management into five distinct processes

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Monitoring/Controlling
  • Closing


The PMBOK structure focuses on building a foundation of principles rather than a cut-and-paste way to implement better practices. The PMBOK structure is worked top down creating a solid structure that can be adapted as needed. Additionally, the structure requires a large amount of supplementary paperwork normally discouraged within agile practices.

The Scrum framework also consists of five processes or phases-

  • Backlog Refinement
  • Sprint Planning
  • Execution
  • Product Increment Review
  • Retrospective


While differently named, the system follows a similar transition as the PMBOK. However, the processes are cyclical and used with strong practical application. The foundational concepts revolve around loose definitions but strong segmentation. Much like the PMBOK, it can be adapted to different environments with ease.

4. At the Core

The PMBOK and Agile methods are high-level principles that allow organizations the flexibility to adapt them as needed despite differences in industry or organizational size. The biggest difference between the two, however, lies in the attitude or perception of stakeholder involvement.

PMBOK looks at strong structure and control mechanisms that only involve change should it be needed. Agile methods like Scrum, on the other hand, are constantly evolving and thrive off change. PMBOK only involves stakeholders at the early stages for input on planning and structure. The Scrum method, alternatively, involves stakeholder decisions that run throughout the project with inputs validated and necessary for the best possible outcome.

The Deciding Factor Between PMP and CSM

Both certifications come with pros and cons, though what any business professional should be zeroing in on is the applicability. The PMP Certification is great for familiar or ongoing projects. These are instances that do not require strong creativity but rather, straightforward results. The practices can be implemented with existing teams and do not need strong changes.

The Scrum certification on the other hand can be applied to environments that require versatility and a more dynamic approach. For new or unpredictable projects, this is likely to be the best option. Scrum can streamline even the most non-traditional workflows and can be used across organizations of any size.

Based on the end goal, professionals can decide between the two. At Spoclearn, we provide both PMP Exam Prep Training and other popular Agile and Scrum Training Programs including CSM, PSM, and SSM for both professionals and enterprise teams to understand them comprehensively before implementing which fits the best for their organization and personal career choices.

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