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Scrum certification choices

By Simon Buehring on 21 Jun 2019

Scrum certification choices

Scrum is an agile product delivery method. It speeds up product delivery and improves the quality of products. Scrum certification helps you work on Scrum projects in any industry.

A range of Scrum qualifications are available from 2 accreditation bodies - Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance®. Each accreditation body offers its own Scrum certification based on best practice from The Scrum Guide™.

Scrum Alliance

Scrum Alliance was the first organisation to offer Scrum certification. It was established in 2001 by two signatories of the Agile Manifesto - Mike Cohn and Ken Schwaber. Ken authored The Scrum Guide™.

Scrum Alliance offers certifications to 5 Scrum and Agile target groups:

  • Scrum Master;
  • Product Owner;
  • Developer;
  • Scrum and Agile trainers and coaches;
  • Those in an Agile leadership role.

Scrum Master

These qualifications are for current or aspiring Scrum Masters. To maintain each certificate, you must renew it every 2 years with Scrum Education Units® (SEUs) and a renewal fee.

There are three qualifications available:

Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®)

This is the entry-level certification. You’ll learn the Scrum framework and fundamental skills. To get certified, you must attend CSM training and pass a 1-hour multiple-choice test.

Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM℠)

This qualification builds on your CSM knowledge. You’ll learn how to increase engagement, form better dialogue and respond to team issues. Scaling Scrum to multiple teams is also covered.

To gain A-CSM, you must have active CSM certification. You also need 12 months work experience as a Scrum Master and must complete A-CSM training. There is no exam.

Certified Scrum Professional® - ScrumMaster (CSP®-SM)

CSP-SM proves your Scrum Master knowledge to employers. To get certified, you must attend CSP-SM training, have 24 months experience as a Scrum Master and hold active A-CSM certification.

Product Owner

This certification is designed for Product Owners and those involved in the ‘business side’ of Scrum projects. Each qualification must be renewed every 2 years with SEUs and a renewal fee.

There are three qualifications available:

Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®)

This is the entry-level certificate. You’ll learn about the role of Product Owner, how to use the Product Backlog and how to work with teams and customers. To get certified, you just need to attend a course.

Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (A-CSPO℠)

A-CSPO certification build on your CSPO knowledge. You’ll learn how to identify opportunities, communicate with stakeholders, define business value and ensure the product stays focused.

To gain this certificate, you must hold active CSPO certification. You also need 12 months Product Owner work experience and you must complete A-CSPO training.

Certified Scrum Professional® - Product Owner (CSP®-PO)

CSP-PO demonstrates your advanced Product Owner experience to employers. To get certified, you must attend a CSP-PO course, hold active A-CSPO certification and have 24 months experience as a Product Owner.

Developer

This Scrum certification has been designed for software developers working in a Scrum environment. You’ll also need to renew these qualifications every 2 years with SEUs and a renewal fee.

There are two qualifications available:

Certified Scrum Developer (CSD®)

CSD equips software developers with an understanding of Scrum and agile techniques. Gaining this qualification proves you can build software using the Scrum framework. There are two ways to get certified:

  1. Complete a CSM course and a technical coding CSD course or;
  2. Complete an Intro to Scrum CSD course and either a technical coding CSD course, or a technical CSD elective course.

On the CSD courses, you’ll be given an exam or in-class assessment to complete.

Certified Scrum Professional® (CSP®)

CSP certification proves your advanced knowledge of Scrum software development to employers. You must have an active CSD qualification to get certified. You must also have:

  1. 36 months experience implementing Scrum/Agile successfully in an organisation;
  2. 70 SEUs from the past 3 years.

Guide-level Certifications

These qualifications are aimed at Scrum coaches and trainers. They don’t expire. Three qualifications are available:

Certified Team Coach℠ (CTC)

CTC certification proves your ability to coach multiple Scrum teams, stakeholders, departments and business leaders.

Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC)

This qualification demonstrates your ability to coach entire organisations. You’ll need to be a Scrum expert with considerable experience.

Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®)

CST certification enables you to train CSM and CSPO courses.

Agile Leadership

This Scrum certification is designed for leaders wishing to adopt agile at their workplace. They do not expire. Two qualifications are available:

Certified Agile Leadership I (CAL I)

CAL I is the introductory agile leadership certificate. It is designed for anyone wanting to learn how to adopt agile at work. There are no requirements for this certificate. Simply take a course.

Certified Agile Leadership II (Certification) (CAL II)

CAL II builds on the knowledge learnt on CAL I. It equips you with advanced agile leadership knowledge. You’ll need CAL I certification and specific education and experience.

Scrum.org

Scrum.org was established in 2009 by Ken Schwaber. He broke away from Scrum Alliance to offer a range of more rigorous Scrum qualifications. Scrum.org certification needs no maintenance or renewal fees.

Scrum Alliance offers certifications to 6 Scrum and Agile target groups:

  • Scrum Master
  • Product Owner;
  • Developer;
  • Those involved in Scaled Scrum projects;
  • Those using Scrum with Kanban;
  • Those in an Agile leadership role.

Professional Scrum Master™ (PSM)

The range of PSM certification is aimed at Scrum Masters and anyone else working on Scrum projects. There are three qualifications available:

PSM I

This is the entry-level qualification. It has been designed for anyone wishing to prove their knowledge of Scrum. To gain PSM level I certification, you need to pass the exam.

To sit the exam, you don’t have to take a PSM I course. However, we do recommend this course for complete beginners. You will learn everything needed to work on Scrum projects successfully.

Exam

  • Duration: 1-hour;
  • Questions: 80 multiple-choice (multiple answer and true/false questions);
  • Pass-mark: 85%;
  • Suitable for: current/aspiring Scrum team members, or anyone looking for a solid understanding of Scrum.

PSM II

PSM level II builds on the knowledge gained on PSM I. It demonstrates advanced Scrum knowledge and your ability to use it in real-life. To gain PSM II certification, you must pass the exam.

You need to be PSM I certified to take this exam. You don’t need to complete PSM II training, but due to the difficulty of the exam, training is highly recommended.

Exam

  • Duration: 90-minutes;
  • Questions: 30 multiple-choice (multiple answer and true/false questions);
  • Pass-mark: 85%;
  • Suitable for: experienced Scrum professionals who want to prove they can apply Scrum to real-life situations.

PSM III

PSM level III demonstrates you have a deep understanding of Scrum. It proves you can apply Scrum in practice and can coach individuals or teams too. The 2-hour exam consists of multiple-choice and essay.

You will need PSM I and PSM II certifications to take this exam. You don’t need to attend PSM III training, but as the exam is complex, training is recommended.

Exam

  • Duration: 120-minutes;
  • Questions: 34 multiple-choice and essay;
  • Pass-mark: 85%;
  • Suitable for: experienced Scrum professionals who want to prove they have advanced knowledge of Scrum and can coach others.

Professional Scrum Product Owner™ (PSPO)

These Scrum qualifications are for Product Owners. You don’t need to attend training for these, but it is recommended for newcomers. The PSPO II exam is also difficult so training is a good idea.

Two certificates are available:

  • PSPO I - the entry-level Product Owner qualification. Must pass a 1-hour multiple-choice exam.
  • PSPO II - demonstrates advanced Product Owner knowledge. You must hold PSPO I certification. You’ll also need to pass a 2-hour exam consisting of multiple-choice and essay questions.

Professional Scrum Developer™ (PSD)

PSD is for software developers. Achieving this certificate demonstrates your ability to build software according to the Scrum method. Agile, Scrum and DevOps methods are examined on the PSD course.

To gain PSD certification, you’ll need to pass a 1-hour multiple-choice exam. Taking a PSD course is not necessary but highly recommended. The course equips you with practical and essential skills.

Scaled Professional Scrum™ (SPS)

SPS certification proves you can scale Scrum using Nexus. This means you can manage a large Scrum project with multiple teams. Training is not necessary but is highly recommended.

You’ll need to pass a 1-hour multiple-choice course to gain SPS certification.

Professional Scrum with Kanban™ (PSK)

The PSK qualification demonstrates your ability to use Scrum and Kanban together. Training is not necessary but recommended. You’ll learn the Scrum framework, agile metrics and Kanban practices.

To get certified, you’ll need to pass a 1-hour multiple-choice exam.

Professional Agile Leadership™ (PAL)

This qualification is for leaders wanting to prove they understand agile, how it benefits organisations and how to lead an agile team. Training isn’t necessary, but highly recommended.

To gain PAL certification, you will need to pass a 1-hour multiple-choice exam.

Which Scrum certification?

This table compares the Scrum certification from Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org.

Accreditation body Training necessary Exam necessary Certificate maintenance
Scrum Alliance Yes. You need to attend training to get certified. Not always. Experience & education often suffice. Yes. You need to pay to renew your certificate after 2 years. Also need to gain Scrum Education Units.
Scrum.org No. You can take exams without proof of training. Yes. All certifications require you to pass an exam and/or write an essay. No. Once certified it never expires. You won’t have to pay to renew or accrue education units.

Scrum Alliance courses don’t need to be approved, so the quality varies between providers. Over the years this has attracted a lot of criticism of the Scrum Alliance.

This was one of the reasons why Scrum’s founder - Ken Schwaber - left Scrum Alliance to set up Scrum.org. Its courses are more rigorous and therefore more respected by employers. Training materials on Scrum.org courses are standardized. No matter where you take a course, the course materials will be the same.

Best Scrum Certification

We think the best Scrum certification is offered by Scrum.org. This is for 5 reasons:

  • Its courses offer consistency;
  • Its qualifications are of a higher standard;
  • Training is not mandatory to become certified;
  • No renewal fees to pay;
  • No education units to accrue.

That’s why we offer Scrum.org PSM I training.

Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master, Professional Scrum Product Owner, Professional Scrum Developer, Scaled Professional Scrum, Professional Scrum with Kanban and Professional Agile Leadership are trademarks of Scrum.org and may be registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.

Scrum Alliance®, Certified ScrumMaster®, Certified Scrum Developer® & Certified Scrum Product Owner® are registered trademarks of Scrum Alliance, Inc. Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM℠), Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (A-CSPO℠), Certified Team Coach℠ (CTC), Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC), Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®) are service marks of Scrum Alliance, Inc.

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