CSM, PSM, PMI certifications explained

CSM, PSM, PMI certifications explained

In our agile work, we all hear acronyms about CSM, PSM, PMI certifications. What are these acronyms, do I need such a certification, how can I get it?
A short and sweet post by Dimitris.

There are two well-known Scrum Master Certifications in the Global Market + 1 and some smaller initiatives.

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM) by Scrum Alliance
  • Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) by Scrum.org
  • Project Management Insitute’s ACP (Agile Certified Practicioner)

Lets see them in more detail:

Certified Scrum Master (CSM) 

by Scrum Alliance

Prerequisites: Attendance of a CMS course by a certified Scrum Alliance partner

Cost: Included in seminar cost, which is rather pricey (last course in Greece in 2014, cost 950 Euros)

Certification test type: Online

Passing score: 24/35 Questions (69%)

Duration: No time limit

Expiration: Two years from test

Renewal prerequisites: None

Renewal cost: 100$, for 2 years.

Market perception: CSM was the first Scrum Master Certification on the market and had the ‘first mover’ advantage. Until March 2012, the certification was awarded to all course attendees regardless of score. The certification is still considered ‘very easy’ to obtain and, I believe, is perceived by the job market more as a ‘certificate of attendance’ of a Scrum Alliance course, and less as a professional certification. Nevertheless, it is by far the most popular. At the time this article was written, Dec 2015, 319.385  CSM certifications had been awarded.

Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I)

by Scrum.org

Prerequisites: None

Cost: 150 $

Certification test type: Online

Passing score: 68/80 Questions (85%)

Duration: 1 hour

Expiration: Never

Renewal prerequisites: N/A

Renewal cost: N/A

Market perception: PSM I was introduced in 2011, much later than CSM. It is perceived to be more ‘user friendly’, (no class prerequisites, no renewal costs) but also more difficult to obtain due to the higher passing score. The job market, I believe, perceives it to be more ‘valid’ as a basic Scrum knowledge safeguard, in the sense that not everyone that takes the test passes. At the time this article was written, Dec 2015, 45.697 PSM I certifications had been awarded.

Other certifications: 

Project Management Insitute‘s ACP (Agile Certified Practicioner) mostly follows the hugely successfull PMP model (Working experience and training prerequisites, multi-hour examination, serious renewal prerequisites), but with little success (9.625 PMI-ACP certificate holders at Sep-2015). The reason, in my mind, is fairly simple: PMI is perceived (and rightly so) as a “traditional” (waterfall) Project Management advocate, and not an active actor in the global Agile scene.

Prince 2 Agile is fairly new (introduced in 2015), and all others (scrumstudy.org, scrum-institute.org, …) are largely smaller initiatives.

Dimitris Dimitrelos

Agile Coach @Accenture / Founder of AgileForValue.com – Certified PSM I, PSM II, PSPO I, SAFe Agilist, PMP.
Dimitris has been practicing, teaching and preaching Agile and Scrum since 2011. He holds a degree in Computer Science, a PhD in High Performance Computing and an MBA. He has considerable experience in the Software Industry as a Developer, Project Manager, a PMO head and an Agile Coach. In 2016, Dimitris founded AgileForValue.com.