Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.
Scrum Masters and project managers can both be critical to the successful completion of a project. It’s not uncommon for Scrum Masters and project managers to work on projects together, but when you compare Scrum Master vs. project manager roles, there are clear differences.
Scrum Master and project manager are both excellent career options. If you’re contemplating becoming a Scrum Master vs. project manager, make sure to keep a few things in mind. In this article, you’ll find information on how both roles are similar and how they differ.
What Is a Scrum Master?
A Scrum Master works with a Scrum team to guide the teammates through creating large products in short cycles or iterations. This involves tackling tasks from a backlog of planned work, assessing each completed step and perfecting the work to reach set goals.
Scrum Masters ensure that their Scrum teams adhere to Scrum principles to achieve the best results in product development.
Scrum Master Role and Responsibilities
Scrum Masters work within the Scrum framework, using Agile methodologies to guide their teams toward specific goals. Below are a Scrum Master’s typical responsibilities.
- Keep a Scrum team on task and ensure team members are producing high-quality work while following Scrum principles. Have a thorough understanding of Scrum principles and Agile methodology as they pertain to product development.
- Guide Scrum teams as they work through sprint backlogs to reach each sprint’s goals.
- Facilitate daily Scrum meetings to assess the progress the team has made toward the set goals, and make adjustments if needed.
- Maintain communication with product development teams to meet any challenges or problems head-on. Resolve any issues that could stall the product development process.
Requirements to Become a Scrum Master
To become a certified Scrum Master, you must go through training to learn Scrum principles. Meeting Scrum Master certification requirements demonstrates that you are knowledgeable and have proven abilities as a Scrum Master.
A few organizations offer Scrum Master certification programs. While program requirements may differ, most require at least a two-day training course and a comprehensive exam. Some organizations offer the exam without the coursework, so if you choose this option, you must study on your own to prepare.
If you’re not sure if you want to commit to a certification program, look into organizations that offer free training options online. In most cases, these are trial versions of a longer, paid training program. You may not earn an official certification through these shortened programs, but you can learn enough to help you determine whether a Scrum Master career is right for you.
Because different organizations administer different certifications, Scrum Master certification costs vary depending on which program you choose. Fees for Scrum Master certification programs typically run between $150 and $1,995. Most of these programs include exam fees in the cost of their programs.
Benefits of Working as a Scrum Master
Being a Scrum Master can be a rewarding career for you if you enjoy motivating and guiding teams through the product development process. A Scrum Master is a servant-leader role that comes with many benefits for those who become certified.
Excellent Earning Potential
The income difference between a Scrum team member and a certified Scrum Master can be substantial. If you’re transitioning from a career as a Scrum team member to one of a certified Scrum Master, you should see increased earning power.
Scrum Masters earn an average annual base salary of over $95,000, according to a salary report from the Scrum Alliance. Scrum professionals who earn two certifications can earn over $103,000 per year on average.
Potential employers who see Scrum Master certification on your resume can know that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to work as a Scrum Master with any organization. This certification reflects your commitment to being a servant-leader for Scrum teams as you guide teams toward their goals using Scrum principles.
Increased Career Opportunities
Becoming a certified Scrum Master makes you eligible for additional certifications. The coursework and exams you complete to earn Scrum certification can help you build more in-depth knowledge of Scrum and Agile principles.
Additional certifications can help you qualify for higher-level, better-paying jobs working within the Scrum framework.
What Is a Project Manager?
Successful project managers assume leadership roles, handling important logistical elements of a project. Essential project management skills include planning, organizing, scheduling and ensuring that a project is completed successfully and on time.
Project managers stick with a project through its lifecycle, from beginning to end.
Project Manager Role and Responsibilities
Project managers manage activities through a project’s entire lifecycle, including the initiation, planning, execution and closure phases. Their responsibilities include the following.
- Handle the initial elements of a project, such as defining its scope and making plans for others working on the project to follow.
- Determine the cost of a project and make sure it stays within the allotted budget. This may include reallocating resources in the event of unanticipated expenses.
- Manage a project’s human resources, including interviewing and hiring team members and other staff.
- Monitor the progress of a project. This includes troubleshooting any problems, assessing risks and handling any aspects that could affect the quality of the project.
- Communicate with stakeholders to keep everyone informed about a project’s progress.
Requirements to Become a Project Manager
If you want to build a career as a project manager, you should plan to earn certification. There are several types of project management certifications, from entry-level credentials to those designed for seasoned professionals, and the requirements for each vary.
Common certifications include the Project Management Professional (PMP)® and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®.
PMP certification requirements entail at least a high school diploma, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. CAPM certification requirements are similar. Depending on the credential, you might also need several years of project management education, plus experience working in project management or a related field. You must also pass an exam to become certified.
Benefits of Working as a Project Manager
More Job Opportunities
Earning a project manager certification qualifies you for high-paying jobs that are in high demand. In fact, PMPs in the U.S. earn 32% more than their non-certified counterparts, according to a salary survey from the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Certification also demonstrates that you have the education, knowledge and skills to effectively manage a variety of projects. Certification can qualify you for jobs that you may not be able to get otherwise.
Improved Skill Set
Earning a project management certification is not easy, so this undertaking says a lot about your abilities and skill level. Project management certification requires you to apply and master project management principles, methodologies and essential skills that can help you succeed as a project manager.
Greater Earning Potential
As a certified project manager, you can expect to earn around more than project management specialists who do not have certification. On a global level, PMPs earn median annual salaries that are 16% higher than those of their non-certified peers, according to PMI’s salary survey.
What Are the Similarities Between Scrum Master and Project Manager?
Scrum Masters and project managers both play important roles in project development. They are responsible for communicating with team members, developers and other stakeholders. They must be able to assess situations and adapt as they work with others to complete projects that align with previously established goals.
What Are the Differences Between Scrum Master and Project Manager?
Scrum Masters work within the Scrum framework by implementing Scrum principles. They ensure that each segment of a project is executed properly, and they make adaptations as necessary to reach set goals.
Project managers focus more on the logistical elements of a project’s lifecycle, including schedules, budgets, risk management and resource allocation. These professionals can work with any type of project, not only within the Scrum framework.
Which Role is Right for You?
Since Scrum Masters and project managers fill such different roles, there are many factors to consider as you determine whether you want to become a Scrum Master or project manager.
If you like the idea of guiding teams through individual increments of a project to reach a successful outcome, then a Scrum Master position might be the best option for you. If you prefer to manage a project’s logistical elements in their entirety—from the planning and implementation stages through completion—then working as a project manager may be a better fit for you.