Key Differences Between A Scrum Master Vs Project Manager

Updated 5 June 2023

Scrum Masters and project managers are fundamental to the product development lifecycle. They are both responsible for achieving management and product goals that contribute to project completion. Learning how these roles differ can help you decide which one best aligns with your career goals. In this article, we discuss the duties, skills and requirements of a Scrum Master vs project manager and explore the differences between these jobs.

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Scrum Master Vs Project Manager

To understand the differences between a Scrum Master vs project manager, it is helpful to understand the meaning of Scrum and how it differs from project management. Scrum is a project management framework that focuses on teamwork, problem solving and continuous improvement. Scrum focuses on empiricism and lean thinking, and follows an iterative approach.

Often a part of Agile software development, Scrum has specific values, practices and events. Some Scrum events include the daily Scrum meeting, sprint, sprint planning meeting, sprint review and sprint retrospective. Sprints are short time frames to finish fixed goals or increments. The Scrum framework relates only to product development, whereas general project management incorporates all aspects of the project lifecycle, such as initiation, budgeting, execution and performance assessment.

Related: What Are Scrum Values? (Definition, Types And Benefits)

What is a Scrum Master?

Scrum Masters are project facilitators who mentor and educate team members about implementing Scrum practices. They resolve technical issues, ensure strong communication and teamwork, collect feedback, observe changes, manage product backlog and monitor the Scrum process to improve efficiency. They coach members of the team to produce high-quality work, organise meetings, adjust goals and timelines, offer guidance and remove impediments to the team's progress.

Related: Learn How To Become A Scrum Master (With Tips And Skills)

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Duties of a Scrum Master

Here are some duties of a Scrum Master:

  • Implement Scrum principles. The Scrum Master plans and implements the Scrum framework to achieve high-quality results. They guide the team in using these values and Agile methodologies to work in an empirical environment.

  • Facilitate coordination and collaboration. Scrum Masters foster coordination, Scrum values and an Agile mindset in the team to achieve sprint goals. They help the team improve agility by managing product backlog effectively and developing cross-functional collaborations.

  • Resolve conflicts. They communicate with team members to identify challenges and obstructions. They offer viable solutions, support and resources to resolve these issues to ensure progress.

  • Mentor team members. They train members of the team to apply Scrum values and principles. They also help product owners, developers and those outside the team understand the Scrum process better by acting as a coach.

  • Organise Scrum events. Scrum Masters facilitate Scrum-specific events, such as daily meetings, sprints, reviews and retrospectives. This includes coordinating with different members, collecting feedback, sharing solutions, gathering observations and coaching people during the event.

Related: A Complete Guide On Daily Scrum: Meaning, Steps And Tips

Skills and job requirements of a Scrum Master

Here are some essential skills and requirements for a Scrum Master:

  • Leadership: Leadership skills are essential for Scrum Masters to guide team members and act as a coach. Leadership skills also allow them to give constructive feedback and motivate people.

  • Communication: Communication is key in Scrum teams to facilitate collaboration and resolve challenges. Scrum Masters communicate with team members and foster communication channels to promote coordination between different functions.

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills: Analytical skills enable Scrum Masters to consider complex issues using empirical evidence and find practical solutions. Their strong problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills help teams to implement data-driven solutions.

  • Technical skills: Scrum is an Agile framework that follows specific values, principles, rules and practices. A Scrum Master requires knowledge of Scrum planning and theories to implement them effectively.

  • Education and training: Scrum Masters require extensive training in applying Scrum principles and practices. They also typically complete specialised certifications to become an expert in this field.

What is a Project Manager?

Project managers oversee the planning, execution, progress, scope and delivery of project goals. They guide team members to achieve deliverables, hire people, resolve conflicts, monitor quality control, monitor progress, assess risks and work with clients. They also account for project budgets, expenses, documentation, the business case and overall efficiency.

Related: Importance Of A Project Manager In An Organisation

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Duties of a Project Manager

Here are some responsibilities of a project manager:

  • Establish project goals, schedules and budgets. Project managers set project goals, timelines and quality standards for projects as per client expectations, and budgetary considerations. They create achievable milestones, processes and plans based on these variables.

  • Delegate tasks and offer guidance. They divide large project goals into smaller tasks and delegate them to team members. They also monitor the progress and completion of these tasks, provide support and feedback and resolve operational challenges.

  • Ensure on-time delivery of results. Project managers ensure the completion of project goals and deliverables within the stipulated timeline. They supervise the completion of different milestones and guide team members.

  • Manage project resources. They oversee the use of project resources, tools, assets and talent. They distribute these resources and facilitate access to ensure smooth operations and timely delivery of results.

  • Interact with clients. Project managers interact with clients to hold discussions, feedback sessions and update meetings. They also supervise the documentation and reporting process.

Related: What Is a Project Manager? (Duties and Qualification)

Skills and job requirements of a Project Manager

In addition to the skills of a Scrum Master, a project manager can benefit from developing the following competencies:

  • Budgeting: Project managers create budgets and fiscal plans for various activities before initiating the project. This requires strong budgeting, accounting and financial planning skills.

  • Risk assessment: They perform risk analysis and prepare mitigation reports to identify potential challenges. They also devise appropriate solutions to respond to these challenges using their analytical and problem-solving skills.

  • Delegation: Project managers delegate tasks according to the expertise and skills of team members. This requires strong task management, planning, organisation, delegation and feedback skills.

  • Client management: Project managers work with clients to achieve project goals, provide updates and incorporate feedback. This makes strong client management, negotiation and persuasion skills essential for these managers.

  • Education and training: Organisations usually hire project managers who have adequate leadership and management experience. Typically, a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement, but higher qualifications and specialised certifications can also be beneficial.

Related: How To Improve Project Management Skills (With Tips)

Key Differences Between A Scrum Master Vs Project Manager

Here are some differences between a Scrum Master and a project manager:

Core responsibilities

Scrum Masters focus on applying Scrum values and practices to ensure that product development occurs through an iterative approach and that the team works efficiently. Project managers oversee all aspects of the project, including budgeting, risk analysis and performance and client management. Scrum Masters communicate only with Scrum team members, whereas project managers also interact with external clients, customers and other team members.

Project framework

Scrum Masters work exclusively in the Scrum project management framework, whereas project managers can apply other management models, such as the waterfall or Kanban framework. This means that Scrum Masters need expertise in Scrum framework and practices, whereas project managers require knowledge of different project management models. Scrum Masters have strong coaching, mentoring and facilitation skills in addition to skills such as leadership and communication, which are necessary for project managers.


The certifications required by Scrum Masters and project managers vary, as implementing Scrum involves specialised knowledge and expertise. For example, Scrum Masters can complete the Certified Scrum Master certification provided by the Scrum Alliance. In contrast, project managers may pursue the Project Management Professional certificate from the Project Management Institute.

Related: 16 Types Of Scrum Master Certifications And Their Benefits

Team size

Scrum Masters work with smaller teams comprising the product owner and developers. This is because they only focus on developing a quality product with high efficiency using Scrum values and are not involved in other aspects of the project. In contrast, a project manager oversees a large team that may include people with diverse skills and expertise, such as budgeting, client management and performance evaluation.


Scrum Masters typically have a prominent role in the IT industry and support product development of digital tools, apps and software. They operate the Scrum framework and have limited jobs in other sectors. In contrast, project managers work in many industries, as they use a variety of management frameworks. For example, they may find opportunities in manufacturing, business development, engineering and marketing.

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