Training and Certification


December 30, 2015

Bita Beigishah

Photo Credit: Workshop Exploring Agile Project Parameters via Improve It cc

Students often ask us whether CSM (Certified ScrumMaster) or PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) would be an appropriate certification for their careers. While both certifications teach Agile methods for project management, the correct certification for you depends on experience and professional needs.

Who Should Consider CSM and PMI-ACP Certifications?

ACP and CSM courses are intended for project managers and team members who work with Agile methods. Assume you have a basic understanding of Agile terminology and principles going into them. These certifications are meant to fortify your knowledge in Agile approaches, and make you a strong project leader. Here’s a quick breakdown of what each course offers:

Agile Certified Practitioner

ACP covers a broad range of Agile methods, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Extreme Programming, and Test Driven Development. The broad approach to Agile methods that ACP takes makes you a flexible manager with knowledge of a variety of tools to help you best adapt to change in a dynamic work environment.

The advantage here is in variety. Sometimes one particular agile method isn’t the best approach to a project, and knowing several allows you to shift your approach and come up with a more effective strategy. ACP is for those with experience working in Agile environments. It is not intended for the novice.

Certified ScrumMaster

CSM is open to anyone that wishes to take it. Although it’s advisable to at least read a Scrum book, or have experience working in an environment that uses this structure. While CSM focuses on software development, the methods can be applied to many forms of complex work.

A ScrumMaster will be able to help a team self manage, oversee proper implementation of Scrum and ensure obstacles blocking progress are removed. While CSM will be easier to attain for those with experience in an Agile environment, it is certainly attainable and useful to an Agile newbie.

Here’s a comparison of some of the key differences between the two certifications:

PrerequisitesNone, basic understanding of Scrum is recommended2,000 hours of project experience
1,500 hours working with Agile methods
21 hours of Agile training
Test30 Questions, 24 to pass200 Questions, 61% to pass
FocusIn-depth focus on ScrumFocus on a variety of Agile methodology
RenewalNone30 PDU’s every 3 years

PMI-ACP vs CSM: What Certification is Ideal for You?

Ultimately, when deciding which certification to take, ask yourself one simple question: “Do I have enough experience to take ACP?” If the answer is yes, then that’s the certification you should begin with.

ACP’s broad approach to Agile methods makes you a more versatile manager and allows you to apply various Agile methods (including Scrum) to your work place.

By earning ACP first, you acquire a broad overview of multiple Agile methods. Later on you can specialize with Scrum while studying for CSM. CSM also gives you 14 PDU’s towards renewing the new ACP certification.

If you don’t have enough experience for ACP, CSM is a great alternative. If you learn all about Scrum now, that part of the ACP exam will be a breeze. Plus you get a highly respected certification in the meantime.

If you are entirely new to project management, check out Ashley Wheeler’s blog post on the project management certification career path. There you will find guidance on various project management certifications, their requirements, and more.

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