For those who work as project managers in any field or industry, earning professional certification has many benefits. Certification makes you more competitive in the market, it boosts your confidence in your industry, and it advances you within your business and your profession. Certification fosters an understanding of discipline, which in turn offers credibility with employers, peers, and stakeholders.
When you consider how much money it costs for certification and the time it takes from your schedule to attain certificates and qualifications, the commitment alone is a trait that many employers look for.
As most people find it a difficult task to fit training, education, and certification into their already busy work lives, many questions are posed about certification. One of the most common questions in regards to project management certification is which of the two main Agile certifications to consider. These certifications are the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner, awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI-ACP) and the Scrum Alliance-awarded Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM).
Although each organization and certification offers something slightly different, there are many reasons you may choose to do one over the other. Each of these two certifications features its specific value, and below we highlight the benefits of each.
Although not the only approach to Agile certification, Scrum is the most widely used method. In comparison, the PMI-ACP covers Agile from a more holistic approach.
The most beneficial part of attaining CSM is that there are limited amounts of people you can receive your CSM training from, which increases its value. A CSM course can only be delivered by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST); becoming a trainer in CSM includes rigorous testing and requires considerable hands-on classroom and fieldwork experience. Attaining your CSM means you train with Scrum experts who have a deep understanding of Scrum and many years’ experience working with Agile teams.
One key benefit of CSM certification is an affiliation with the Scrum Alliance, which is an organization purely dedicated to Scrum. Scrum Alliance members understand Agile and are a leading resource relating to all things Scrum. The courses for becoming a CSM are hands-on and must be taught in a person to person format. You cannot achieve CSM certification through online courses, which is a benefit for anyone working in the project management field.
PMI has long been the traditional, plan-driven approach to project management. However, one of the downsides of the PMI-ACP was that many people overlooked it because it was from PMI. Over time, their recognition has changed since they now put Agile front and center in their events and publications.
To be eligible for the PMI-ACP exam, there is an expectation that you have worked many thousands of hours as a project manager, that you have worked with Agile methods and practices, or that you have experience working with Agile project teams. It’s fair to say that eligibility for PMI-ACP certification requires extensive experience in the field. Having a PMI-ACP certification means you understand the numerous approaches to project management, you can explain the benefits of Agile, and you can determine when it is the right project approach.
You must complete 21 hours of Agile training via live classes or online training courses. The ACP education hours address concepts including Agile philosophy, principles, and techniques.
Here’s a brief summary of the differences in both exams:
The PMI-ACP exam process is far more concentrated than the CSM exam. The PMI-ACP is also more in-depth and requires much more training to achieve certification. More detailed information about each exam can be seen below:
The CSM exam is a mixture of 35 multiple-choice questions and true/false questions. To pass, you must get 24 out of 35 correct. As far as pricing goes, there is no separate exam fee: just the price you pay for the classes. You can take the exam online and you get two attempts to pass within 90 days of finishing the training. If you don’t pass in the first two attempts, you can retake the test for an additional $25 for each attempt.
The PMI-ACP certification is earned once you have completed the comprehensive training modules, which are notoriously laborious. PMI’s testing process for PMI-ACP exam is not as tricky as the PMP certification exam but achieving a pass is still much more difficult than the CSM exam.
The application and eligibility process requires the compilation of details like project experience, contact information, and more. The PMI-ACP exam itself is a three-hour exam that consists of 120 multiple-choice questions. It must be taken at an approved exam site, and if you don’t pass you must pay a substantial fee again.
For most people, PMI certification shows that anyone who has achieved it has taken their education seriously enough to make a substantial investment of time and money for this achievement. PMI’s certification program has a long tradition and is very well-developed.
After You Are Certified
Maintaining your PMI-ACP certification necessitates 30 additional hours of Agile education within three years of passing the exam. This further education is geared toward maintaining your skills and knowledge and will unfortunately incur additional fees.
Maintaining your CSM requires merely paying a Scrum Alliance membership fee for the two years after completion. Even if you have not worked in project management or Agile after your certification, you can continue to use the designation. Because of this, the PMI-ACP holds more value over time as an accreditation than the CSM.
Which Is Better?
So which certification is better: CSM of PMI-ACP?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clearly defined answer to this question. Some employers prefer PMI-ACP certification and won’t settle for anything less. However, that is not to say that someone with CSM certification is any less qualified or viable for certain careers.
Depending on what your preferences are for work, your employer’s choices, and how much time and money you can invest, either accreditation might be better for you. PMI-ACP certification means that you have achieved thousands of hours of in-field experience and invested many months of training to obtain the certification. However, CSM certification can provide comparable career opportunities for a fraction of the time and money.
Ultimately, both certifications have their benefits, so it’s best to do all the research necessary before choosing the one for you.