Getting a certification in project management helps you to improve your earning potential and put yourself aside from your peers, but which is the better one for you? CSM Vs PMI-ACP Certifications both have pros and cons of their own. Agile methodology has been used worldwide today in countless industries to streamline projects. According to PMI (Project Management Institute), organizations that follow agile methodology complete more projects compared to their non-Agile peers (75% vs 56%).

PMI-ACP (PMI Agile Certified Practitioner) and CSM (Certified Scrum Master) are the two common certifications related to Agile for project managers. Find out which option is better for you, whether to become a PMI-ACP or a CSM certification holder.

The difference between PMI-ACP and CSM certifications:

Before deciding which path to pursue as a career, you need to understand more about the two methods first and how they differ from one another.

● PMI-ACP (PMI Agile Certification Practitioner) certification:
Project Management Institute sponsors this certification and encourages the project managers to confirm that they have learned the basics of the Agile procedure. You can improve your earning potential with this certification. It also helps you to bring your career in different directions from project manager to Scrum master or a consultant and many more.

● CSM (Certified Scrum Master) certification: Scrum Alliance administers CSM and illustrates that you have expertise in various things related to Scrum. It is focused solely on Scrum and how to manage projects based on Scrum.

How are they different from one another? Even though both the certifications are dealing with subject matter based on Agile, getting your CSM focuses only on the Scrum strategy to Agile. Though Scrum is a well-known approach, there is a broad range of strategies to carry out Agile. So, CSM certification applies only to Scrum while PMI-ACP certification applies to several Agile projects such as Kanban, Scrum, etc.

Focusing on CSM certification can be a flaw in many ways. It restricts you to one Agile method. But it can work wonders if you are functioning only on Scrum projects exclusively. Both PMI-ACP and CSM certifications have their advantages and disadvantages. They differ from each other in both structure and requirements of the exam. The requirements of each exam also play an important part in which way you choose to pursue.

Prerequisites of the certification: Whether you qualify?

Before taking CSM or PMI-ACP exams, you should make sure that you meet the certification requirements.

Eligibility requirements for PMI-ACP certification:

● General project experience of 2,000 hours working on teams. Also, if you possess a PgMP (Program Management Professional) or PMP (Project Management Professional) credential currently, then this requirement will be satisfied. However, these certifications are not needed to take up the exam).
● Working on the project teams of Agile or with Agile strategies for 1,500 hours. ( Along with the general project experience of 2,000 hours, these hours are needed).
● Training in Agile methods for 21 contact hours.

Eligibility requirements for CSM certification:

● An in-person two-day (16 hours) course tutored by a Scrum Trainer who is certified must be completed.

As explained above, the CSM exam prerequisites require less work and time when compared to the PMI-ACP exam needs. This is an important factor to analyze. If you have just begun your career or if you have no time to complete PMI-ACP conditions, then persevering in CSM certification is the best choice for your future.

What will the exams be like in both PMP-ACP and CSM?

PMI-ACP exam:

● 120 MCQs ( 20 sample item questions are asked out of 120 for the research basis and are not counted for the final score).
● A time limit of 3 hours for the completion of the exam.
● Reference materials are not allowed.
● PMI members should pay $435 and PMI non-members should pay $495 for the exam.

The ACP PMI Exam will include questions that cover the below-mentioned areas but not in the same order as given below. Refer this to know how much focus you need to give on which domain.
16% Agile mindset + principles
20% Delivery – Value Driven
17% Engaging with the stakeholder
16% Performance of the team
12% Adaptive planning
10% Detecting problem and resolution
9% Continuous process, people and product improvement

CSM exam:

● 50 questions are asked ( 37 questions out of 50 must be answered correctly).
● A time limit of 60 minutes.
● The exam cost is encompassed in the training cost. It may vary depending on the course. Hope to pay $1000 upwards.

Once the CSM exam is passed, a CSM license agreement must be accepted, and also Scrum Alliance membership form must be completed. The following topics are covered in the exam:

1. Scrum and Agile
2. Scrum Events
3. Scrum Values
4. Scrum Theory
5. Scrum Team
6. Scrum Artifacts
7. Scrum Master

Which one to pursue? PMI-ACP or CSM certification:

Obtaining a professional certification increases your career path. Both options will be useful for your future. But, as they are major money and time investments, you must choose carefully which certification to pursue.

As CSM needs a slight effort to allow for the exam, you could choose this alternative if you desire to obtain the certification quickly. You just have to finish a two-day class and then clear the exam. However, you must know that this certification is restricted if you want to apply to your career in project management as it is directed mainly on the Scrum method to Agile.

In contrast, PMI-ACP certification can be connected to a wide extent of career paths. It helps you to expertise in Agile strategies which you can apply to a broad range of implementations of Agile. It requires more work to prepare and qualify for the exam, but it is a smart choice for all project management professionals. Moreover, the work level needed to qualify for the exam makes the PMI-ACP certification just more beneficial to employers.