Scrum is what many of us eat, drink, breathe and dream about. It's more than just a framework for delivering successful Agile projects. It's a lifestyle in the project community that we Scrumians live by. We uphold the values and principles of the Scrum Guide authored by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. We also attempt to apply Scrum in its purest unadulterated form, while being open to modifications that make sense for the particular project or as mandated by the organization.
But who or what process can verify that we are indeed living Scrum by the book? Well fortunately, there are some certification bodies that train, test and certify individuals in the Scrum framework. These certifications are the best way to know that a Scrum practitioner is indeed qualified to assist the organization with its Scrum implementation or increasing maturity level.
But one question that many hiring managers and certification aspirants rarely understand or ask themselves is: "Which Scrum certification is best?"
My fellow projectmanagement.com colleague Andrew Craig wrote a great article on his journey to the PSM certification when compared to the most popular Scrum certification; the CSM. However, we will look at some other major Scrum certifications that are both popular and trending, and assess their pros and cons.
Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
The most well-known certification for Scrum is the Certified Scrum Master by Scum Alliance. It has the most Scrum certified professionals, which may have more to do with their marketing intelligence and early adoption into the Scrum certification domain. The vast majority of job advertisements that ask for a Scrum certification ask for the CSM, but this is changing rapidly.
The reason for this change is that the CSM is very expensive and only delivered through face-to-face training, which many feel is over the top. To make matters worse, the exam's very low passing rate does not go well for its longevity as the predominant certification chosen by employers. In fact, for many years there was no exam for the CSM; the training course was enough to get certified.
- most well know Scrum certification
- most employers currently ask for the CSM
- the exam fee is included in the training course
- mandatory 2 day face-to-face training course
- very expensive training (up to $1,500 in many cases)
- very low passing score needed to pass the exam
- have to renew once every 2 years for $100
Professional Scrum Master (PSM)
This certification is managed by Scrum.org, which is run by Ken Schwaber, one of the two Scrum founders, so you know you are in good hands. The website provides a lot of resources as well as "open" exams to assist those prepare for the PSM. Further, they have varying categories of the PSM exam such as PSM 1, PSM II and PSM III to reflect complexity and a higher level of mastery.
The PSM is not an easy exam to pass in comparison with other certifications. In fact I read the blog of a 10-year Agile veteran who had also performed several Scrum projects and yet he only passed the PSM exam by just two questions. The pass rate is 85% so it is by no means a walk in the park.
- no training needed to apply for the exam
- no renewal fees
- low exam price
- not as well known (yet) as the CSM
Agile Scrum Master (ASM)
The Agile Scrum Master is managed by EXIN, which has a long and distinguished record for authoring and delivering certifications. They have been around for almost 35 years and certified over 2 million professionals. You may also be surprised to know that EXIN is one of the founding partners in the development of ITIL.
This exam is pretty tricky even though it has a lower pass rate than the PSM. It does not just involve Scrum, but Agile as well, and touches on some other Agile methods such as XP. To add complexity, there may be more than one correct answer during the exam, and you need to choose which ones are correct from a list. I personally found the ASM to be the most difficult of all the Scrum certification exams I participated in.
A major negative point is that like the CSM, there is a mandatory training course that can cost up to $750, but this training also has it's own assessments in order to get the training certificate to use to apply for the exam.
- the certification is almost as much about Agile as Scrum, and having the term "Agile" in it may tick some boxes for employers
- EXIN is well known in the certification world having certified over 2 million professionals
- the exam fee is $230
- mandatory training course
- double assessment
Scrum Master Certified (SMC)
This certification is managed by ScrumStudy, who also authors the SBOK (Scrum Body of Knowledge). While they don't make it mandatory for exam aspirants to first take a training course from their approved education providers, they "highly recommend it".
The exam price is almost obscene at $450, so if you fail the exam a couple of times, you may just run out of money to get any Scrum certification.
- extremely high exam price
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So, which Scrum certification is best? When evaluating all the above certifications, and weighing up all the pros and cons, the author has decided to select the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification as the gold standard in Scrum certification due to trending popularity, rigorous assessment, high passing score, certification body being owned and managed by one of the Scrum founders, expected increase in future value and market share, no training course required, and low exam price with no annual renewal fees.
Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!