Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: 3 Key Differences

When deciding whether to go in for a Project Management certification or a Scrum certification, one needs to understand the basic differences between the roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager vis-a-vis a Scrum Master.


The role of Project Manager has been around for ages and can be applied to varied industries that follow either Waterfall or Agile methods of product development. On the other hand, the role of a Scrum Master was devised within the Agile software development milieu to deal with increasingly volatile environments and rapidly changing customer needs.

Both roles have some similarities in that neither has the final authority over the project, they both require superior organization and communication skills, and they are both responsible for coaching their team to improve overall effectiveness.

Let’s look at what each role entails and what the main differences are between each of them.


Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is a person who helps the team to understand and implement Scrum principles. They lead team meetings and provide necessary coaching to the team. The Scrum Master also supports the team by resolving any issues that they may have.

A Scrum Master does all this in a collaborative and supportive way by encouraging the team members to take responsibility for their own work.

On the flip side, a Scrum Master is not responsible for creating project plans, managing the team and tracking deliverables, or communicating results or issues to anyone beyond the Scrum Team.


Responsibilities of a Project Manager

Project managers can be seen as the glue that holds a project together. They are responsible for defining the scope and goals of a project, setting a budget and schedule, managing risk, communicating with all stakeholders, and making sure that everyone is on the same page.

They also delegate work among team members, create and manage all forms of documentation related to the project, and are responsible for tracking performance and collating reports.


3 Key Differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager roles

Scrum Master vs. Project Manager
Differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager

Both Scrum Masters and Project Managers are both responsible for the success of a project. But the way they go about it is different.

  1. A Scrum Master is responsible for making sure that the team follows the Scrum process. They focus more on the team and help improve the team’s efficiency in delivering value. They make sure that the team operates with transparency and trust. They ensure that all tasks are completed in a timely manner and help resolve any conflicts between team members. In contrast, a Project Manager focuses more on the day-to-day operations and logistics of a project such as budgets, timelines, and other external factors that can affect its success or failure.
  2. A Project Manager performs the role of a taskmaster who directs the team, delegates tasks, collects status, manages risk and communicates with the stakeholders. A Scrum Master functions more as a “servant-leader” who coaches and facilitates the team and removes roadblocks but does not lead the team.
  3. A Project Manager is the point of contact for the project and is responsible for collating reports, negotiating with third-party vendors and communicating with stakeholders. A Scrum Master guides the organization and stakeholders in implementing and following Scrum principles. In a Scrum Team, the Product Owner is the one responsible for communicating with stakeholders, not the Scrum Master.


Scrum Master and Project Manager Certifications

Now that we’ve explored the ways in which the two roles differ, let’s look at the most popular certifications for Scrum Masters and Project Managers.

The most popular certification for Scrum Masters is the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) by ScrumAlliance. The CSM certification gives an aspirant their first in-road into the agile world and equips them with a better understanding of agile values and Scrum framework, including team roles, activities and artifacts.

The world’s leading certification for project managers is the Project Management Professional (PMP)® from the Project Management Institute. It is considered the gold standard in project management and now includes predictive, agile and hybrid approaches to cover all ways of working.

There are some differences between these two certifications with respect to difficulty level, prerequisites and the time taken to successfully complete.

  1. The PMP requires previous project management experience, while the CSM does not require any prior knowledge or experience.
  2. The PMP takes about 3-4 months to complete, while the CSM can be completed in just 2 days.
  3. THe PMP exam has 200 questions and takes 4 hours to complete, while the CSM test has 35 questions to be completed in 1 hour.

Despite their differences, both certifications have the power to boost your career and give you different tools to apply to your organization and project.


Scrum Master vs. Project Manager: Which is Better?

After going through the differences between the roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master versus a Project Manager, you would have realized that one is not better than the other. While the Project Manager role is a broader one than that of a Scrum Master which is more specific, both roles are important depending on the kind of organization and project being undertaken.

Scrum had its birth in the IT industry, but its application is being expanded to other industries like manufacturing, education, marketing and the military as well. This is the right time to get your foot into the agile world with your very first Scrum certification.

Check out our upcoming Scrum certification courses.

Related Posts

Need Help in Our Courses

Get a Call from our Course Consultant


More than 5 Participants?

Please fill the form below and get a call from our Course Consultant

Please provide valid phone number to reach

Get Started on Your Scrum Journey Today!

Unlock your team’s true potential with Scrum methodologies. Sign up now for a free consultation.