Scrum Master is one of the most dynamic, quickly growing and exciting jobs in the world at the moment. I have worked as a Scrum Master and it is a job that I really loved and recommend. This article will explain how you can be Scrum Master certified. Including the ways that you should do, and some that you definitely shouldn’t!
Scrum Master is one of the three roles (or accountabilities) in Scrum. The other ones are Product Owner and Developer.
A Scrum Master is accountable for the effectiveness of the Scrum team. It is their job to coach, mentor and improve the Scrum team, and eventually the organization, on Scrum.
Scrum is a difficult but very rewarding job! It is also in high demand and well paid, in many countries around the world. Becoming a Scrum master involves many important skills. These include Scrum, coaching, conflict resolution, planning, negotiation, and continuous improvement.
Becoming Scrum Master certified will increase your chances of getting a Scrum Master job. It is also a stepping stone on to other roles such as Agile Coach, Agile Consultant or Enterprise Coach.
There are a wide range of different certifications and organizations that issue these certifications. However, beware: most of them are totally bogus!
There are only two organizations in the world that actually issue Scrum Master certifications that are respected throughout the world:
There are hundreds of other organizations that are trying to cash in on the Scrum framework popularity, by issues their own made-up certifications. These are worthless – do not invest any time or money in them!
Scrum.org has three certifications: PSM-1, PSM-2 and PSM-3.
PSM-1 is Professional Scrum Master level 1 certification. It is the “entry level” certification. It can be obtained after receiving a pass result (currently 85%) in an online exam. As of writing, the exam consists of 80 multiple choice questions. You must pay a $150 fee to attempt the exam.
PSM-2 is a level 2 certification and demonstrates an advanced knowledge of Scrum. While having PSM-1 is not required, I would not recommend attempting until you have passed PSM-1 and had some years of on-the-job experience. Similar to PSM-1, passing the exam requires a pass score (currently 85%) in an online exam. As of writing, this exam is made up of 30 multiple choice questions. There is a $250 fee to sit this exam.
PSM-3 is the highest level of Scrum Master certification issued by scrum.org. You are required to have completed PSM-1 and PSM-2 to receive a PSM-3 certification. While it is an online exam, it includes both multiple choice and essay questions. It is considered very difficult to pass, and is only recommended for people with many years of experience. You need to get a pass score (currently 85%) out of 30 questions. There is currently a $500 fee to sit this exam.
The Scrum Alliance also offers three certifications: CSM, A-CSM and CSP-SM.
CSM, or Certified Scrum Master, is their entry-level certification. To receive this certification, you have to attend a Scrum Alliance approved training session (usually two days). The person running the training must be satisfied that you have attended and participated to a satisfactory degree (their discretion).
The cost of this training can vary widely from provider to provider and country to country, but will probably be between $1000 and $2000. It is not possible to get the CSM certification by sitting an online exam. You must attend and complete an approved training session (in person or online).
The certification lasts for two years, after which it must be renewed. This involves validating Scrum Education Units (SEUs, which you get by attending agile events or conferences), and paying a $200 fee.
A-CSM is an Advanced Scrum Master certification, and is the next level from CSM. You need to already be a CSM, and to have 12 months industry experience as a Scrum Master. You need to also attend a two day training workshop. Like CSM, the certification must be renewed every two years.
CSP-SM (Certified Scrum Professional – Scrum Master) is the highest level of Scrum Master certification from the Scrum Alliance, and requires an A-CSM certification and two years of industry experience as a Scrum Master. You also need to attend an approved training workshop, and renew your certification every two years.
The main difference between the certifications (apart from the names) is the fact that Scrum Alliance requires you to attend training, which can cost thousands of dollars. While Scrum.org only requires you to sit an online exam, which costs $150 (for the basic level).
If you already feel you understand the basics of Scrum, or aren’t getting funding from your existing employer Scrum.org is therefore a good choice. It can save you thousands of dollars. Not just from the initial certification, but also because you don’t need to renew and pay a fee every two years.
I am certified from Scrum.org and recommend others do the same too. That is, unless your employer is happy to pay for an approved Scrum Alliance training session.
If you want to become a Scrum Master, I would recommend getting one of the two entry-level certifications. Either the PSM one from Scrum.org, or the CSM one from Scrum Alliance.
If you want to further and improve your career path, you have some options. You could continue on those Scrum Master certification paths (e.g. PSM-2 and PSM-3 for Scrum.org, and A-CSM / CSP-SM for Scrum Alliance). Alternatively, you could look into other certifications in other frameworks or systems.
These could be scaling / de-scaling frameworks such as LeSS, SAFe, Scrum @ Scale or Nexus. Or they could be certifications in other disciplines related to agile, such as Lean Kanban (there are a number of certifications from the Lean Kanban University), Coaching (there are many internationally recognized coaching organizations), or one of many certificates in the leadership / management space.
I would recommend the latter. I have found few organizations are interested in the second and third level Scrum Master certifications. Having a well-rounded education is more beneficial as you start progress along your career path and up the organization’s ladder.
That being said, if you really like being a Scrum Master and want to focus on that path, then go for it.
In summary, I think the best Scrum Master certification to get is the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification from scrum.org. You can get it by just sitting an online exam, it is universally respected, and it does not expire. You can continue down that certification path if you want, or look into other paths, depending on your career goals.
Do you have more questions or a different opinion? Let me know in the comments!