Difference between a Project Manager and a Scrum Master

A job search for Project Manager roles would bring out various roles including job openings with a Scrum Master job title. Some also have project manager/scrum master as the job title.

The scrum master role has become a highly requested job role, especially in product development and the Tech industry.

In this article, I would be answering the following questions:

  1. Is the role of a project manager different from that of a scrum master or are they the same?
  2. What are the pros and cons of both roles?
  3. How can a project manager evolve into a scrum master?

Is the role of a project manager different from that of a scrum master or are they the same?

To respond to this, it’s fundamental to understand what project management and scrum are about.

According to PMI, “Project management is the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people”.

Project management methodologies contain the knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques required to deliver a project (something of value to people). This means that I can simplify the definition of project management to this: Project management is the use of project management methodologies to deliver something of value to people.

Therefore, what are project management methodologies? 

There are three main methodologies:

  1. Predictive which is the waterfall methodology
  2. Adaptive which is the Agile methodology
  3. Hybrid – a mix of both waterfall and agile methodologies

The role of a project manager requires the effective use of project management methodologies which include both waterfall and agile.

Where does scrum come into play?

Scrum is a framework under the Agile methodology. There are other frameworks under the Agile methodology including eXtreme Programming (XP) and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

Wait a minute, this means that ideally, a Scrum Master role is included in the role of a Project Manager because ideally, a Project Manager should know how to use the Agile methodology of which the Scrum framework is part.

Therefore a Scrum Master role is a subset or type of a Project Manager role. 

Both roles deliver projects, however, the scrum master role uses a specific project management framework to deliver projects.

The role of a project manager is a generalist role (has the ability to use any project management methodology and frameworks to deliver something of value to people).

While the role of a Scrum Master is a specialized role (focused on using the scrum framework to deliver something of value to people).

For example, in medicine, you can be a medical doctor (general practitioner in medicine/health care) or you can specialize and focus on an area of medicine e.g. pediatrician or obstetrician-gynecology.

What are the pros and cons of both roles?

Both roles are vital and required depending on the organization.

For an organization that uses mainly the Scrum Methodology, getting a Scrum Master is preferred because of the following reasons:

  1. The scrum master as the name implies has mastered the scrum framework and knows how to effectively use the knowledge, skills, and tools and techniques required by the framework to deliver business value.
  2. There is less training required which means they can get the job done faster.
  3. They are familiar with working in a scrum environment and the scrum team which is self-organizing and cross-functional.
  4. They understand the scrum terminologies and language.

For an organization that uses any methodology depending on the type of business value to be delivered, a Project Manager is preferred because of the following reasons:

  1. A project manager is a generalist, hence has the understanding and experience using different project management methodologies and frameworks.
  2. They can assess various projects and determine what methodology would be best to deliver the project.
  3. Has broad experience using various project management methodologies.

This broad experience, knowledge, and skillset is an asset to such organizations as they are not limited to the use of any specific framework or methodology.

How can a project manager evolve into a scrum master?

Any professional can evolve their existing career and even switch to a new career. It all will depend on their career development and growth plans.

If you have delivered something of value to people, you have existing Project Management experience and skills. You can leverage this to switch to a career in project management or as a scrum master.

Also, both project manager and scrum master roles are project management roles that provide project management experience and expertise.

Therefore, if you have existing project management experience and have delivered something of value to people, you are a Project Manager.

Now, you have to develop and grow as a project manager by becoming certified. For example, you can become PMP certified. The PMP certification is globally recognized.

It also shows your credibility and proves you have expertise in the different project management methodologies.

The PMP certification tests your knowledge and experience in the use of the waterfall, agile, and hybrid methodologies. 

Want to know more about the PMP certification, take the FREE PMP Exam Roadmap course. It answers all your questions and provides everything you need to know to prepare, study, and pass the PMP exam.

To evolve into a Scrum Master, an existing project manager needs to have an agile mindset.

Finally, a project manager can take a Scrum program that includes a Scrum Master Certification. This would help the project manager understand and master the Scrum Methodology and become an expert in the use of the framework.


About Ogaga Johnson, PMP, CSM

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Ogaga Johnson, is a Project leader, Consultant, and Speaker. She is passionate about helping professionals to achieve their goals and accelerate their careers. She has helped hundreds of professionals to start and build successful careers in Project Management through her coaching programs.

Contact Ogaga if you would like to become a Scrum Master or take your PM career to the next level.


Wondering how to pass the new version of the PMP Exam? Join my PMP exam Group Coaching program. The program consists of everything you need to PASS the PMP exam.


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