How to Get Your Scrum Master Certification
In recent years, the demand for project management skills has risen substantially. While there are several approaches to project management, Scrum has become one of the most popular frameworks.
In this post, we’ll cover the different types of Scrum Master Certifications and their knowledge requirements.
Let’s start by reviewing the significance of Scrum and the importance of a Scrum Master.
Last Updated July 2021
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What is Scrum?
Traditional project management approaches focused on completing projects in phases.
But many business leaders argue that we need to take a more flexible approach. This is especially true given the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of work today.
According to Scrum.org, Scrum is a “framework for effective team collaboration on complex projects.” Pretty much describes any type of work that’s happening today, right? The founders of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, write that Scrum is:
- Simple to understand
- Difficult to master
The Scrum Guide encourages teams to build a product in several quick, short cycles. This approach focuses on continuously improving your product, team, and work environment. The Scrum approach also takes customer feedback into account on an ongoing basis.
There are many people and processes important to the Scrum framework. The one we’re focusing on here is the Scrum Master.
What is a Scrum Master?
The Scrum Master is the person who helps everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.
According to Scrum.org, the Scrum Master serves the product owner, the development team, and the organization where they work.
Here are a few other examples of the Scrum Master’s typical tasks:
- Ensuring the team understands the goals, scope, and product domain
- Facilitating Scrum events
- Coaching the development team in self-organization and cross-functionality
- Helping the development team to develop high-quality products
- Planning Scrum implementations within the organization
- Helping employees and stakeholders understand Scrum
You can see from this list that being a Scrum Master takes a broad range of skills. You need to understand the technical aspects of projects and be able to communicate clearly with both technical and non-technical stakeholders.
How do you become a Scrum Master?
There are several professional certifications to validate your knowledge as a Scrum Master.
Some of the most popular Scrum Master Certifications include:
- Professional Scrum Master (PSM), from Scrum.org
- Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), from the Scrum Alliance
- Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), from the Project Management Institute
Let’s consider each one in more detail.
Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification
Ken Schwaber, one of the original creators of Scrum, founded Scrum.org. This organization offers the famous Professional Scrum Master Certification or PSM.
The PSM has three levels: PSM I, PSM II, and PSM III.
Microsoft uses PSM for validating knowledge of its Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) competencies.
The PSM I is ideal for beginners who want to validate their agile skillset. It costs $150 and after passing PSM, you receive the Scrum certification.
During the PSM I assessment, you need to complete 80 questions in 60 minutes. You must achieve a score of 85% or higher to earn the certification. There are no prerequisites and you can take the exam whenever you’re prepared.
The PSM certification is valid for life, it does not require any renewal fees or re-certification costs.
The PSM II demonstrates an advanced level of Scrum mastery. The exam costs $250. You must achieve a score of 85% or higher to earn the certification. During the PSM II assessment, you’ll answer 30 questions in 90 minutes. These questions are a mix of multiple-choice, multiple answers, and true/false questions.
The PSM III demonstrates a distinguished level of Scrum mastery. The exam costs $500. During the PSM III assessment, you need to complete 30 questions in 120 minutes. The questions are a mix of multiple-choice and essay questions. You must achieve a score of 85% or higher to earn the certification.
Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certification
The Scrum Alliance offers the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certification. The CSM exam is considered easier than the PSM and enjoys a high reputation in the industry.
The CSM has certain requirements you need to fulfill before taking the exam. You need to attend an in-person or online training course by certified Scrum trainers. Or you can choose to receive private coaching from a Certified Agile Coach (CAC) instead.
Next, you take the exam, which consists of 50 questions. You must get at least 37 correct answers in a 60-minute time limit to pass.
The CSM requires you to renew your certification every two years. You need to earn Scrum Educational Units (SEUs) and pay a renewal fee. This costs $100 each time.
Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification
The Project Management Institute (PMI) also has its own certification offering on agile.
The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) covers several agile methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and more.
There are several prerequisites to meet before taking the ACP exam:
- 2,000 hours of general project experience
- 1,500 hours working in Agile teams
- 21 hours of training in Agile practices
The PMI-ACP exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions. The PMI-ACP costs $435 for PMI members, and $495 for non-members.
You need to renew your certification every three years. The renewal costs $60 for PMI members and $150 for non-members.
Which certification is right for you?
A Scrum Master certification is a great addition to your skillset. According to the Project Management Institute, “Organizations that are highly agile and responsive to market dynamics complete more of their projects successfully than their slower-moving counterparts — 75% versus 56%.”
How do you choose which certification is right for you? Consider all the details we’ve discussed above. Do you meet the criteria for the exams that have prerequisites? Do you want a certification that requires continuing education? Is there one that would be more beneficial in your current work environment? Weigh the costs and benefits to help you make the decision.
You might also try talking to your manager or coworkers whose opinions you respect. Which certification do they recommend?
There’s probably no single right answer here, but you may discover there’s one option that stands out for you.
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