As an Agile “newbie” I have often wondered what the difference is between becoming a Certified Scrum Master® (CSM) vs PMI-ACP® (Agile Certified Practitioner).  Lo and behold, I found I’m not the only one who isn’t 100% sure of the difference between the two!

The CSM is the logical first step in furthering your Agile education.  This course covers the practices, principles and terminology that you will see when using the Agile methodology.  This class does not require any specific amount of hands-on experience and the test can be taken once you complete the 2-day CSM class.   To quote the ScrumAlliance website: “A CSM course is only the first step.  Becoming Agile is a lifelong journey.  Incorporating Scrum principles and practices into your world of work takes diligence, patience and a commitment to continuous improvement.”

On the other hand, the PMI-ACP® requires a certain amount of hands-on, practical experience using the Agile methodology.  The ACP class covers principles, techniques, tools and practices across various Agile methodologies (Scrum, Kanban, Lean, SDSM, TDD, XP, etc.).  In order to get your ACP certification you must have 2,000 hours of general project experience (within the last 5 years) and 1,500 hours working with Agile methodologies or on Agile project teams (within the last 3 years) in addition to the 2,000 general hours.   On top of these project hours, you must also go through 21 hours of training.  To quote the PMI website, the ACP is for practitioners who are seeking to: “Demonstrate to employers their level of professionalism in Agile practices, tools and techniques; increase their professional versatility in Agile techniques; and to hold a certification that is more credible than existing entry-level, training or exam-only based offerings”

As you can see, the PMI-ACP® is a much more in-depth certification that requires a lot more project experience while the CSM is a first step into the Agile journey.  PMI-ACP® is a more difficult exam that PMI expects only about 70% to pass while CSM, generally, is a no-fail exam.  If you’re ready to move ahead with your Agile training, Davisbase offers both CSM Workshops and PMI-ACP Prep classes across the country.

To make my findings easier to reference I have made a side-by-side chart to show CSM vs PMI-ACP

Certified Scrum Master® (CSM)

Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP®)


Scrum terminology, practices and principles.Principles, techniques, tools and practices across various Agile methodologies (Scrum, Kanban, Lean, SDSM, TDD, XP, etc.).


No experience required, 2-day CSM class.2,000 project hrs. + 1,500 hrs. Agile experience (non-overlapping) + 21 hrs. of training


Clarifying Scrum practices & proceduresTo standardize what Agile means across all organizations.

Exam Procedure:

35-question pass/fail exam, must get 24/35 correct.  First exam is included in course fee, each additional attempt is $25.120-question pass/fail exam, 20/120 questions are pre-test questions and do not affect the overall score.  Fees are based on PMI membership status.  1st attempt (computer based testing):  $435 (member), $495 (nonmember).  Reexamination (CBT): $335 (member), $395 (nonmember).

Taught By:

May only be taught by Certified Scrum Trainers, certified by the Scrum Alliance.Required training (21 hrs.) can be taught by anyone but PMI recommends obtaining PDUs from Registered Education Providers.


Must be renewed after 2 years.3 year cycles, credential holder will need to earn 30 PDUs in Agile project management per each 3 year cycle.


Typical cost is between $1000 – 2000.  However, some organizations offer “pay what you can” options.  The first exam is included in the course fee.  You cannot take the exam without taking the class.Classes to get the 21 PDUs required are $0-2500+.  There are many free and paid classes available to obtain PDUs.  Test fees vary: $435 member computer based, $385 paper based, $60 certification renewal fee.  $495 nonmember computer based, $445 paper based, $150 certification renewal fee.

Sources: http://www.scrumalliance.org, http://www.pmi.org