Scrum master certification: Top 9 certs for agile pros


Agile has revolutionized software development and project management, and has increased demand for IT pros skilled in the methodology and its many flavors, including Scrum, Lean, Kanban and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). When it comes to benchmarking knowledge and competency, a Scrum master certification is widely valued across all industries, and can prove you have the required training and skills to guide agile teams successfully.

While agile certified professionals are in high demand, there are only a handful of certifying bodies whose credentials are worthwhile to employers and to certification candidates. Which one is right for you?

Top 9 Scrum master certifications

  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM)
  • Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster (CSP-SM)
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) I
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) II
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) III
  • Project Management Institute – Agile Certified Professional (PMI-ACP)
  • SAFe 4 Scrum Master
  • SAFe 4 Advanced Scrum Master

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

The Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) credential is the Scrum Alliance’s introductory level certification for candidates seeking to fill a Scrum master or Scrum team member role. When Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber launched Scrum Alliance in 2002, the CSM was offered without prerequisites, but as organizations adopted Scrum and agile, it became clear that gatekeeping was necessary to increase the value of the certification to candidates and employers. The certification now requires an in-person, 16-hour training course before candidates can take the test.

Through CSM training, candidates learn the Scrum framework and gain an understanding of team roles, events and artifacts, as well as how to guide agile teams through a project successfully. Once the course is completed, candidates must pass a 50-question, 60-minute exam. Those who pass must accept the CSM license agreement and complete a Scrum Alliance membership profile.

Organization: Scrum Alliance

Price: From $1,000 to $2,000 (for example, a CSM course taught in Detroit, Mich., is currently $1,460)

Renewal: CSM certification must be renewed every two years at a cost of $100; candidates must also earn 20 Scrum education units (SEUs) during that time.

Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM)

The Scrum Alliance’s Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) is an advanced course for those who currently hold a CSM certification and have one or more years of experience working in a Scrum master role. A-CSMs attend educational offerings to gain techniques and skills that go beyond the basics and introductory mechanics of Scrum, expanding into interaction, facilitation, coaching and team dynamics, according to Scrum Alliance.

Once all aspects of the educational offering are complete and approved by a Scrum Alliance-approved educator, candidates must accept the A-CSM license agreement and complete their Scrum Alliance membership profile. They also must validate at least 12 months of work experience as a Scrum Master within the past five years.

Organization: Scrum Alliance

Price: From $1,000 to $2,000 (for example, an A-CSM course in Burlington, Mass., is currently $1,495)

Renewal: A-CSM certification must be renewed every two years at a cost of $175; candidates must also earn 30 SEUs during that time. (To renew more than one Scrum Alliance cert, use the “Combined Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner and/or Certified Scrum Developer” option.) 

Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster (CSP-SM)

The Scrum Alliance’s Certified Scrum Profressional ScrumMaster (CSP-SM) certification is the pinnacle course for experts who want to develop mastery of the Scrum Master track and improve the way Scrum and agile principles are applied in their organizations. Candidates must currently hold an A-CSM certification and have demonstrated experience, documented training and proven knowledge of Scrum.

To earn the cert, candidates must also attend a certified CSP-SM educational offering to gain advanced agile facilitation and coaching skills and learn progressive techniques in service to the product owner and development team, according to Scrum Alliance. In addition, candidates must complete all aspects of an educational offering approved by a Scrum Alliance-approved educator. Once that is complete, candidates must accept the CSP-SM license agreement and complete their Scrum Alliance membership profile. They also must validate at least 24 months of work experience as a Scrum Master within the past five years.

Organization: Scrum Alliance

Price: From $1,000 to $2,000

Renewal: CSP-SM certification must be renewed every two years at a cost of $250; candidates must also earn 40 SEUs during that time. (To renew more than one Scrum Alliance cert, use the “Combined Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner and/or Certified Scrum Developer” option.) 

Professional Scrum Master (PSM) I

The Professional Scrum Master (PSM) I is the entry-level certification from Scrum.org, which was formed by Ken Schwaber in 2009 after he left Scrum Alliance. Candidates must demonstrate a fundamental level of Scrum mastery, understand Scrum as described in the Scrum Guide and be able to apply Scrum principles and methodologies in Scrum teams, according to Scrum.org.

Though there’s no formal prerequisite for candidates who want to sit for an exam, the material tested is difficult, and candidates won’t pass unless they’re well-versed in Scrum principles and have on-the-job experience. Scrum.org recommends taking a training course to gauge knowledge and areas of strength and weakness before sitting for an official assessment — what Scrum.org calls its certification exams — to improve the chances of success.

Candidates who complete a training course receive a complimentary pass to try the corresponding assessment, which are hands-on, practical exams to demonstrate a candidate’s ability to interpret the Scrum guide and apply agile principles to real-world scenarios. Scrum.org courses are standardized to avoid discrepancies that might crop up based on the experience and/or popularity of instructors. This means all instructors are working from the same curriculum, and students are learning from the same knowledge base.

Organization: Scrum.org

Price: Courses are taught worldwide; the price per course in the U.S. is approximately $1,495. Participants who complete the Professional Scrum Foundations course receive a free voucher to attempt the PSM I assessment; otherwise, the PSM I is $150. Candidates who complete training, attempt the assessment within 14 days and do not pass are granted a second attempt at no additional charge.

Renewal: Scrum.org certs do not require renewal

Professional Scrum Master (PSM) II

PSM II is the intermediate-level certification from Scrum.org. Candidates must demonstrate an advanced level of Scrum mastery, prove that they have an understanding of the underlying principles of Scrum and can effectively apply Scrum in complex, real-world situations, according to Scrum.org.

Scrum competencies from the PSM II, as with the PSM I, include understanding and applying the Scrum framework, developing people and teams, managing products with agility, developing and delivering products professionally and evolving the agile organization. Attending a two-day PSM II course is highly recommended, as is completion of PSM I assessment.

Organization: Scrum.org

Price: Courses are taught worldwide; the price per course in the U.S. is approximately $1,495. Participants who complete training receive a free voucher to attempt the PSM II assessment; otherwise, the PSM II is $250. Candidates who complete training, attempt the assessment within 14 days and do not pass are granted a second attempt at no additional charge.

Renewal: Scrum.org certs do not require renewal

Professional Scrum Master (PSM) III

PSM III is the advanced-level certification from Scrum.org. Candidates must demonstrate a distinguished level of Scrum mastery, have a deep understanding of the application and practices of Scrum and the Scrum values in a variety of complex team and organizational situations, according to Scrum.org.  

No additional courses beyond the PSM II are required, and whereas the PSM I is only recommended for completion of the PSM II assessment, both PSM I and PSM II assessments are required to achieve the PSM III.

Organization: Scrum.org

Price: $500; candidates who complete PSM II training course receive 40 percent off

Renewal: Scrum.org certs do not require renewal

Project Management Institute – Agile Certified Professional (PMI-ACP)

Although the Project Management Institue (PMI) doesn’t offer specific Scrum certifications, its PMI-ACP certification is popular among Scrum masters and hiring employers because it covers several agile and Scrum practices and principles. The certification formally recognizes candidates’ knowledge of agile principles and skill with agile techniques. It spans many agile approaches, including Scrum, Lean, Kanban, extreme programming (XP) and test-driven development (TDD).

The PMI-ACP requires 2,000 hours of general project experience working on teams. A current Project Management Professional (PMP) or Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification will satisfy this requirement, but neither are required. Candidates must also have 1,500 hours working on agile project teams or with agile methodologies and 21 contact hours of training in agile practices. The exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions and candidates have three hours to complete it. As of April 1, 2019, PMI offers online exam proctoring — meaning candidates can take the exam from their home, office or any remote location.

Organization: PMI
Price: $435 for PMI members; $495 for non-members
Renewal: PMI-ACP certification holders must earn 30 professional development units (PDUs) involving agile topics every three years to renew the certification.

SAFe 4 Scrum Master

Unlike traditional Scrum Master training that focuses on the fundamentals of team-level Scrum, the SAFe 4 Scrum Master course explores the role of the Scrum master in the context of the entire enterprise, and prepares attendees to successfully plan and execute agile and Scrum throughout all levels of a SAFe organization, according to the certifying body, ScaledAgile.com. This includes learning the key components of agile at scale development, how Scrum is facilitated throughout the enterprise, and how to execute iteration planning.

Candidates will also discover how to build high-performing agile teams by becoming a servant leader and coach, and how to coach those teams to deliver the maximum business value at scale.

There are no formal prerequisites, but it’s recommended that candidates be familiar with agile concepts and principles, are aware of Scrum, Kanban and XP, and have a working knowledge of software and hardware development processes, according to ScaledAgile.com.

The web-based exam consists of 45 multiple-choice questions in 90 minutes.

Organization: ScaleAgile.com

Price: Exam is included as part of the $1,297 training course registration fee; each retake attempt is $50.

Renewal: SAFe Scrum Master certification holders must renew annually, at a cost of $100, and complete at least 10 continuing education hours each year.

SAFe 4 Advanced Scrum Master

This certification is for current Scrum masters who want to take on a leadership role facilitating agile teams, programs and enterprises in a SAFe implementation. Candidates learn how to better manage cross-team interactions and to enhance the Scrum paradigm. They are also  introduced to scalable engineering and DevOps practices, learn to apply Kanban to facilitate the flow of value and support interactions with architects, product management and other enterprise stakeholders, according to ScaledAgile.com.

There are no formal prerequisites, but it’s recommended that candidates already hold a SAFe 4 Scrum Master, CSM or PSM credential.

The web-based exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions in 120 minutes. The first exam attempt is included as part of the $1,099 training course registration fee; each retake attempt is $50.

Organization: ScaleAgile.com

Price: Exam is included as part of the $1,099 training course registration fee; each retake attempt is $50.

Renewal: SAFe Scrum Master certification holders must renew annually, at a cost of $100, and complete at least 10 continuing education hours each year.

This story, “Scrum master certification: Top 9 certs for agile pros” was originally published by

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