Many software development teams rely on the Scrum methodology and Scrum tools to improve collaboration and transparency, empower and motivate members, quickly adapt to change, increase productivity, speed, product quality, and customer satisfaction, and minimize risk. If you are a current or aspiring project manager of a software development team, the Scrum certifications in this guide can help you acquire the knowledge to reap those organizational rewards while advancing your career.
Top Scrum Certifications
The following are some of the top Scrum certifications for project managers of varied experience levels.
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) by Scrum Alliance
The Certified ScrumMaster course is designed for beginners and is viewed by many as the gold standard of Agile certification. If you are a project manager, new Scrum team member, software engineer, etc., this certification can teach you how to solve complex problems, regardless of industry. According to Indeed.com, 95 percent who took the course would recommend it, while 72 percent said it helped progress their careers. After completing this certification, you will be able to:
- Guide a team to effectively use Scrum and Scrum principles
- Understand the Scrum values
- Grow your career opportunities and potentially increase your salary
- Enhance your leadership skills
- Influence organizational change and key stakeholders
Through the hands-on and interactive CSM certification course from Scrum Alliance, you can gain a deeper understanding of the Scrum framework and events, artifacts, and team accountabilities. Once finished, you will know how to implement Scrum and guide your team via its principles.
The Certified ScrumMaster certification begins with taking the live in-person or online course that consists of 14 hours of interactive instruction from verified trainers. Once complete, you must pass a 60-minute CSM test by answering 37 out of 50 questions correctly.
The cost of the CSM certification varies according to the provider. Look to pay between $400 and $700 to get certified.
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) by Scrum Alliance
Once you become a Certified ScrumMaster and are well-versed in the framework’s principles, practices, and applications, you can enhance your knowledge, skills, and marketability even more by tackling the Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) course by Scrum Alliance. During the course, you will learn:
- Facilitate better communication and collaboration between stakeholders, developers, Scrum team members, Scrum Masters, customers, managers, and executives
- How to respond to resistance to change, low morale and motivation, poor engagement, and other issues with stakeholder management
- How to increase engagement among stakeholders and team members, and inspire accountability, commitment, and team buy-in
- How to scale Agile and Scrum to multiple teams
Requirements for this advanced PM certification include having the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) certification with Scrum Alliance, plus 12 months of applicable work experience within the last five years. Skills taught include improved collaboration with Scrum team members, product owners, stakeholders, and customers, plus how to motivate and overcome resistance to change. Scrum Masters can learn how to increase engagement and accountability, how to scale Agile and Scrum beyond a single team, and more.
The Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) course takes approximately two days to complete. It spans 16 hours and involves hands-on online sessions with expert instructors.
There is no exam to earn this advanced Scrum Master certification, and the cost ranges from $1,000 to $2,000, according to the provider.
Professional Scrum Master (PSM I) by Scrum.org
Scrum.org offers three Professional Scrum Master certifications, beginning with PSM I. Project managers who hold this certification can show that they understand Scrum’s terminology and approach and can correctly apply it with their teams. It tackles the following focus areas:
- How to understand and apply the Scrum framework
- How to develop teams and individuals, including facilitation and mentoring
- How to manage products with agility, including forecasting and release planning, product backlog management, and more
Although course attendance is not required prior to taking the exam, Scrum.org recommends taking either Applying Professional Scrum or Professional Scrum Master to help pass it. Topics covered in the one-hour, 80-question online exam include understanding the Scrum framework and how to apply it (values, events, artifacts, team, etc.), how to develop people and teams (coaching, mentoring, facilitation, etc.), and how to manage products with agility (forecasting, release planning, product backlog management, etc.).
The PSM I exam costs $150 per attempt. You must score 85 percent to pass.
Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) by Scrum Alliance
The CSPO by Scrum Alliance is the first Agile certification for product development in the world. Taught through live and interactive online training, this Scrum certification has no prerequisites. It is designed primarily for Product Owners, project managers, and Agile team members looking to learn about evidence-based product development that relies on data-based decision-making. An Indeed.com survey revealed that 39 percent of Product Owners with the CSPO certification could yield a higher salary. Topics covered include:
- The Agile mindset and Scrum framework
- Scrum team roles
- How to use conceptual tools and project management software
- How to test and apply evidence-based decision making
There is no exam for the CSPO. You must complete at least 14 hours of class time to earn the Scrum certification. Many providers offer the CSPO certification training for $595, although that cost may vary according to when you enroll and which provider you choose.
SAFe Scrum Master (SSM) by Scaled Agile, Inc.
Scaled Agile, Inc. offers the SSM certification to teach project managers the necessary skills to become effective Scrum Masters in SAFe organizations. Some of the specific topics covered in this certification include:
- How to facilitate Scrum events like team syncs, iteration planning, and retrospectives
- How to support PI execution
- Ways to coach teams for continuous improvement
- How to implement DevOps for continuous flow and delivery
If you earn the SAFe Scrum Master certification, you will know how to lead and empower an Agile team so they can plan and complete their work, gain a deeper understanding of servant leadership principles, and more.
The cost for SSM certification depends on the provider you choose and can range from $500 to $2,000. The 45-question exam lasts 90 minutes. You must score 73 percent to pass.
Scrum Certification Benefits
Project managers have several reasons to acquire Scrum certification, as it can benefit them personally, plus their affiliated software development teams and organizations as a whole. Some ways you can benefit from Scrum certification include:
- Better understanding of the Scrum framework, resulting in increased optimization of project performance
- Increased knowledge of how to bring projects to a successful conclusion and plan projects effectively
- Ability to make better informed decisions based on actual data, as well as adapt to changes on the fly
- Increased hireability and better salary
Scrum is a popular Agile framework that is a favorite of many software development teams. Through Scrum certification, project managers of such teams can gain a deep and thorough understanding of the framework’s principles, events, roles, and artifacts. They can then use this knowledge to optimize their overall project management practices, planning, and execution and increase team efficiency and productivity. All of the above can increase the chances of project success.
Scrum PM certifications can teach project managers many valuable skills. They can learn how to help software development teams self-organize, hold effective meetings, and resolve conflicts as they appear. They can learn how to break down large, complex projects into smaller tasks that are easier to manage. Project managers certified in Scrum can improve at prioritizing tasks, tracking progress, and spotting obstacles and risks early on. And they can also learn how to gather feedback, adapt to changes on the fly, and make better decisions.
With the added knowledge of the framework, enhanced skills, and a Scrum certification on their resume, project managers can also enjoy increased credibility among their team members, stakeholders, and potential employers. Scrum project management certification shows an advanced level of knowledge and commitment that can lead to a promotion within your current organization or landing that dream job with a new team. And with that promotion or new job, a PM certification typically brings a higher salary.
How to Choose a Scrum Certification
With so many Scrum project management certifications on the market, you may wonder how to pick the one that is right for you. You can filter through the available options by considering several factors, including:
- Choose a reputable organization
- Choose a project management certification that is in-demand or valued by your company
- Check the certification level to see if it is appropriate to your goals and knowledge
- Check to see if the certification fits your calendar, schedule, and whether you must physically attend or can do so remotely
- Check the price of the certification and weigh whether it fits into your budget or will return dividends in your career path
- Check if there are renewal requirements or continuing education demands. Ensure that they fit within your ability to comply
For starters, you want to ensure the Scrum certification is offered by an organization that is reputable and well-known in the industry. Examples include Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance. Second, the PM certification should be in-demand and valued by your current organization or prospective employers to help you advance your career and bolster your resume.
Third, check the Scrum certification level. Some are entry-level certifications, while others are advanced. The former may have little to no prerequisites, while the latter may require you to have a certain number of years of experience along with specific certifications before enrolling for the course. Fourth, check if the certification requires in-person training or allows you to complete the course online for convenience.
Fifth, consider the cost of the certification and make sure it fits your budget. Some Scrum certifications can vary in price according to the provider you choose and the materials, resources, and training they provide. Lastly, look for any renewal requirements to keep the certification valid, plus any online reviews to cement your decision.
Final Thoughts on Best Scrum Certifications
The Scrum certifications listed above can significantly enhance your skills and knowledge while advancing your career. Whether you are looking to get your feet wet with the framework or want to become a Scrum master, consider all the essential factors before picking the proper project management certification for you.
Next Steps for Scrum Project Managers
Educating yourself and pursuing additional learning opportunities and further certifications are part of being a successful project manager. In addition to the PM certifications listed in this tutorial, there are many other certs worth pursuing. We highlight some of them in our roundup of the overall Best Project Management Certifications.
In addition to further education and certifications, project management tools are also an important part of a project manager’s career. To help you learn more about PM tools, we have a great round-up of the Best Project Management Software and Tools for Developers we recommend checking out. We also have a great guide to Scrum-specific tools: Top Scrum Software and Tools for Project Managers and Developers.