Although the terms are often used interchangeably, a Scrum Master and a Project Manager do not serve the same function within a project or team. Although some of their duties may overlap, their roles are distinct and separate. 

Let’s look first at an explanation of Scrum, then move on to their roles and comparisons between the two. 

What is Scrum? 

Scrum or Scrum Project Management places emphasis on teamwork, accountability, and iterative progress. Used mainly in complex product development scenarios such as the IT industry, Scrum project management framework begins with a simple assertion—start with what is seen or known. Then, move on to tracking progress and making adjustments as necessary. Transparency, inspection, and adaptation are the three pillars upon which the Scrum project management framework is built. 

Scrum project management framework allows teams to deal with complex problems smoothly and quickly while also delivering high-value products. 

Who is the Scrum Master? 

The Scrum Master acts as a servant-leader to the team. The Scrum Master’s main objective is to maximize the value created by the team. 

The Scrum framework has set principles and rules that must be followed. As a servant leader, the Scrum Master extends his/her services to the team and to the Project Manager. These services include: 

  • Mentors and coaches the team concerning Scrum rules, making sure the team understands and follows all principles and rules 
  • Plans for the implementation of Scrum and assists individuals who are new to an agile environment or Scrum adoption 
  • Works to remove any impediments, hindrances, or roadblocks the team may face 
  • Assists in the management of product backlog, devising techniques as needed to accomplish this goal 
  • Clearly communicates product needs to the team, enabling the team to deliver high-value results 
  • Facilitates Scrum events 

Essentially, Scrum Masters assist teams, acting as facilitators or coaches. They work to maximize the worth of the team and acts as a guardian, ensuring adherence to the Scrum framework. 

Who is the Project Manager? 

A Project Manager has a larger scope of control and is often responsible for the management of various teams. Unlike the Scrum Master who must adhere to the Scrum framework, the Project Manager is also able to utilize more traditional methods of project management. Having said that, a good Project Manager promotes a more hybrid approach—using a combination of traditional waterfall and agile methodologies. The responsibilities of a Project Manager typically include: 

  • Delivering results that meet the project’s requirements 
  • Working with the team to define the scope of a project, then planning project activities to accomplish the project’s goals 
  • Responsible for delegating and assigning roles and responsibilities to each team member, then ensuring they understand what is expected of them 
  • Monitors and manages any project risks, highlighting any unresolved issues 
  • Responsible for effective project quality control 
  • Maintains documentation with real-time updates 
  • Detects and manages any project bottlenecks 
  • Maintains team dynamics and manages the stakeholders 
  • Makes timely reports of project progress to stakeholders 

The Project Manager guarantees project delivery by overseeing the constraints of the project, including budget, resource efficiency, time, and scope. 

7 Ways a Scrum Master and a Project Manager are Different

1. Job Focus 

A Scrum Master's responsibilities have a more narrow focus—helping the team deliver maximum product value; whereas, a Project Manager is responsible for a larger area of control—often supervising various teams to deliver a complex project result. 

2. Leadership Role

A Scrum Master acts as a facilitator and coach for the team—acting as the glue that holds the team together; whereas, the Project Manager is responsible for the management of the project’s resources, timeline and scope, and ensuring that business requirements are met. 

3. Team Bandwidth 

A Scrum Master is typically focused specifically on meeting the needs of one team. In contrast, a Project Manager is often responsible for the success of multiple projects. 

4. Purpose

The Scrum Master’s role is more intangible and isn’t necessarily tied directly to a deliverable. Great teams can rely on their Scrum Master to protect them from outside forces, enabling them to quickly get their work done and achieve results without outside interference. It’s important that the team understands the significance of the Scrum Manager’s role and is willing to be transparent about problems and needs as soon as they arise. 

5. Job Approach

A Scrum Master rigidly follows scrum rules and advocates scrum framework. The Project Manager is able to customize their approach choosing a hybrid methodology if that is what works best for the project. 

6. Daily Job Duties

The Project Manager sets the work schedules and assigns responsibilities to specific team members. The Scrum Master works to motivate and coach the team members to complete their assigned tasks. 

7. Industry 

Scrum Master is an IT industry-related role whereas Project Managers can be found in any industry. 

Bottom line: The Project Manager acts in more of a leadership role, while the Scrum Master acts as a facilitator and a coach. 

If you would like to pursue a career as a Project Manager or any other undergraduate or graduate degree, look no further than University of the Cumberlands. With professors who have years of real-world experience in the same field they are teaching, very competitive tuition rates, and a sense of honor in everything we do, why look any further? See what UC can do for you by contacting an admissions counselor for more information.