Scrum Master vs Project Manager – Understanding the Differences

In the world of project management, Scrum Master and Project Manager are two roles that are often used interchangeably, but they are, in fact, quite distinct from one another.

Both Scrum Masters and Project Managers play crucial roles in ensuring the success of a project, but their responsibilities, duties, and approach to management vary significantly.

In this article, we will compare the roles of Scrum Master and Project Manager, exploring the similarities and differences between these two roles.

By understanding the distinctions between these two positions, you will be better equipped to decide which one is the right fit for you and your team.

Scrum Master

Scrum Master is a key facilitator and coach in an Agile development process, who helps the team to follow the Scrum Framework and its values and practices.

They ensure that the team is productive and adheres to the Scrum methodology. They help the team to remove any obstacles or issues that hinder the team’s progress and ensure that the team is following the Scrum principles.

They are also responsible for protecting the team from external distractions and ensuring that the team’s sprint commitments are met.

Project Manager

Project Manager, on the other hand, is responsible for the overall planning, execution, and closing of a project.

They develop detailed project plans, schedules, and budgets, and are responsible for ensuring that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of the customer.

They also manage the project team, which includes the resource allocation and management of personnel, and are responsible for communication with stakeholders and clients.

What Does The Scrum Master Do?

Scrum Master is a “servant leader” who supports the team by removing obstacles, promoting collaboration and helping the team to work efficiently and effectively within the Scrum framework.

It’s one of the three roles on a Scrum Team, alongside Product Owner and Development Team.

Responsibilities of a Scrum Master

  • Facilitating meetings: The Scrum Masters are responsible for leading and facilitating important meetings such as daily stand-ups, sprint planning, and retrospectives.
  • Addressing Issues: They also play a key role in addressing any issues that may arise that inhibit a team member’s ability to work effectively.
  • Fostering Communication and Teamwork: The Scrum Masters are also responsible for fostering good communication and teamwork within the team, and coaching team members on best Scrum practices.

What Does Project Manager Do?

Project Manager is a professional that organizes a team to ensure the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the stakeholders’ satisfaction by leading meetings, creating schedules, managing budgets, liaising with stakeholders and managing risks.

Responsibilities of a Project Manager

  • Defining project scope and goals: Project managers are responsible for defining the scope of a project, including the objectives and deliverables, and ensuring that the project goals are clearly understood and aligned with the overall organizational strategy.
  • Maintaining consistent communication with stakeholders: They also have the responsibility to keep all stakeholders informed of project progress, any issues that may arise and any decisions made on the project, to ensure the stakeholder needs are met.
  • Setting a budget and schedule: Project managers are in charge of creating a project budget and schedule and ensuring that the project stays within the parameters of that budget and schedule.
  • Creating a communication plan: They also responsible to create a communication plan and keeping a consistent line of communication with the team, stakeholders, and any other parties that may be involved in the project.
  • Managing risk: Identifying and mitigating potential project risks, which means evaluating potential risks, and creating a plan to avoid or minimize their impact.

Difference Between Scrum Masters and Project Managers


Scrum Master

Project Manager

Team size A scrum master has a small team to keep things simpler. They like to keep a large team with more people and a huge budget. By working like this, they improve to a Program Manager.
Goals An SM makes sure the team is well-trained in Agile practices. They also coach Scrum teams to finish the project in time. A PM has a set of predefined goals, such as planning the risks and budget, scope of the project and completing the project on time.
Quality assurance They ensure the quality at every product development stage as they know the importance of it. They are aware of the importance of quality assurance and know how to achieve it. They hire a consultant to fix the errors.
Job description
  • Facilitate the Scrum ceremonies
  • Resolve controls and barriers from the Scrum processes
  • Marks a team aware of Scrum and Agile to deliver the content successfully
  • Executes the product backlog per the product owner’s prioritization
  • Solves team conflicts with good and soft communication skills
  • Motivates the team
  • Monitors Scrum processes to increase efficiency
  • Ensures the project is running efficiently with the help of allocated tools
  • Has to work with upper management to ensure the alignment of the project
  • Plans, creates budget and executes everything related to the project
  • Works with other departments’ project managers, in case of emergency
  • Sometimes they work themselves and instruct the team to finish the goal

Salary Comparison

The salary for a Scrum Master and a Project Manager can vary depending on several factors, including location, company size, and years of experience. However, on average, Scrum Masters tend to earn slightly less than Project Managers.

According to Glassdor:

Scrum Master: $70,000 – $120,000

Project Manager: $85,000 – $120,000

It’s important to note that the salary range for Scrum Masters and Project Managers may vary depending on the industry and organization. Also, Scrum master and project manager salary could vary by region and city, and salaries may be higher or lower based on the location.

It’s also worth noting that the salary is not the only factor to consider when evaluating these roles. Job satisfaction, company culture, and opportunities for growth and advancement should also be taken into account.

Approach to Management

Scrum Master: A Scrum Masters approache management in an Agile way, focusing on the team’s ability to work efficiently and effectively within the Scrum framework. They coach team members on best Scrum practices and remove any obstacles that inhibit the team’s ability to work effectively.

Project Manager: A Project Manager approaches management in a more traditional way, focusing on planning, execution, and closing of the project. They manage resources and people, budget, schedule and communication with stakeholders.

Team Structure

A Scrum Master is one of the three roles on a Scrum team, alongside Product Owner and Development Team, while a Project Manager is usually the sole leader of the project.

How to Become A Scrum Master or A Project Manager

Regardless of whether you’re new to project management or already have experience, getting formal education, building experience, and getting certified can help you break into the field of Scrum Master or project management.

With the right approach, you can set yourself on the path to a successful and rewarding career in either of these roles.

1. Take a course

If you’re new to Scrum or project management, taking a course online or in-person can help you build foundational knowledge.

Community colleges usually offer in-person courses and online options like the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate to learn the basics of project management and Scrum.

2. Build experience

Practical experience can teach you a lot. You can try incorporating elements of your desired role into your current work.

For example, you can take the lead on small projects or suggest improvements in the current workflow.

Talk to your manager about your interest in project management or Scrum and see if they have any opportunities to gain experience.

3. Get certified

Certifications can signal to employers your level of competency, especially if you don’t have much relevant experience. For aspiring Scrum Masters, certifications such as CSM or PSM I are good options.

If you’re interested in project management, the CAPM is an entry-level certification that can give you a good starting point.

Certifications for Scrum Masters and Project Managers

Scrum Master Certifications

  • Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) Certification Training Course
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) Certification Training
  • Certified Scrum Master
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) Certification Training.

Project Management Certifications and Certificates

  • PMP® Certification Training Course
  • PMP® Exam Practice Test
  • PMI-RMP® Certification Training
  • CAPM® Certification Training Course
  • PMI-PgMP® Certification Training

The Main Difference of Scrum Master vs Project Manager

For summary, the main difference between the two is that Scrum Masters are more focused on facilitating the team to work efficiently and effectively within the Scrum framework.

Whereas Project Manager is more focused on planning, execution and closing of the project, with a broader role that includes managing resources and people, budget, schedule and communication with stakeholders.

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