PMI-ACP® Certification Vs. CSM Dilemma

  • Project Management
  • Agile and Scrum
Created on :
February 14, 2018
Updated on :
June 5, 2023

In this blog series addressing some of the frequently asked questions, my next pick is – Which certification should I do? – PMI-ACP® Certification or CSM.

So, which is the best certification to opt for? This is one of the most common questions that I get often. I would like to flip this question a bit before answering. The right question to consider would be – which of these is the right certification for you? Certifications are a great way to advance one’s careers and all of them have their pros and cons. It will hence be difficult to choose between two varied certifications. The best way to explore certifications will be to identify and pursue those that are pertinent and add value to one’s career aspirations.

Let’s explore these certifications to see which will be your best fit.

CSM is Focused on Scrum Methodology

Certified Scrum Master is a basic certification that is offered by Scrum Alliance. CSM is widely preferred by those who are a part of a scrum team or those playing the role of a scrum master.

This certificate can be acquired by attending a 2-day training session and thereafter appearing for an exam. The course is delivered by a Certified Scrum Trainer, which ensures you are learning from a professional with deep expertise in the scrum. At the end of the course, one can expect to be proficient in scrum techniques and methodologies. This is an entry-level certification that primarily focuses on generic Agile and Scrum. Although simple, CSM is an industry acclaimed certification and is well-recognized amongst corporates.

PMI-ACP® Certification is Focused on Comprehensive Set of Agile Practices

PMI-ACP® certification is offered by Project Management Institute. One of the main differences is that PMI-ACP® certification goes beyond scrum and focuses on a comprehensive set of agile practices including Kanban, Lean, TDD and many more. The scope of PMI-ACP® Certification is much wider than that of CSM and is applicable across industries. The certification process is also more rigorous as compared to CSM. In order to qualify for PMI-ACP® Certification, one would require 1500 and 2000 hours of Agile project experience and generic project experience respectively. It also requires completing a rigorous Prometric based exam. In short, obtaining PMI-ACP® Certification is more difficult and requires a lot more work than getting CSM certification.

Which is best for you?

If you are considering to embark a certification journey within the Agile context, CSM will be a good starting point. The overall investment both from time and effort perspective is lesser for CSM. At the same time, CSM also has a better industry wide recognition. In addition, the 2-day CSM course content is also relevant for PMI-ACP® Certification.

My view is that CSM is your best bet as a first certification. There is only one exception to this, which is when your organization is focused on agile concepts other than scrum. When the primary focus is on agility and a combination of various approaches and emphasis on project management, then PMI-ACP® Certification should be your first choice.

Reach out to us for more details on CSM or PMI-ACP® Certification, we will be glad to answer your questions.

You can watch my video on this topic: 

Enroll to our FREE PMI-ACP® Certification Introductory Program to learn more about PMI-ACP® certification