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What Is a Scrum Master Certification 

 May 13, 2021

Does the role of a Scrum Master interest you? Then you’ve probably heard about Scrum Master certifications. 

A Scrum Master certification is a credential that allows professionals to practice the Scrum Master role. The most popular Scrum Master certification is the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) by Scrum Alliance. 

If you want to find out more about this certification, stick around as we walk you through everything you need to know about CSM, how to prepare for it, and its requirements and benefits. We’ll also give you an idea about other popular Scrum Master certifications.

The Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certification: Explained!

So, why do you need certification to become a Scrum Master? Put simply, the role of a Scrum Master is unique, and it should only be taken by someone who has a robust background in Agile and is using the Scrum framework. 

About Scrum Alliance

Scrum Alliance is one of the largest Scrum organizations around the globe, with over 750,000 members from various parts of the world. 

The non-profit organization has helped hundreds of thousands of professionals get certified as Scrum Masters. It also grants other entry-level Scrum and Agile credentials, like the Certified Scrum Developer and the Certified Scrum Product Owner. 

What’s the Role of a Scrum Master?

Scrum Masters lead small Scrum teams in Agile environments. A Scrum Master’s responsibilities typically include some or all of the following:

Scrum Leadership 

A Scrum Master ensures that the team follows the Scrum framework. In essence, a Scrum Master is a servant leader who helps team members get their job done efficiently through self-managing and self-organizing.

It’s worth noting that a Scrum Master isn’t really a manager; they’re an integral part of the team whose primary role is to provide support and organize the workflow.

Goal-Oriented Coaching

A Scrum Master facilitates the progress of their team to achieve their goals by continuously coming up with new ideas in the areas of predictability, quality, flow, and velocity.

Work Closely With the Product Owner

One of the main responsibilities of a Scrum Master is to team up with the Product Owner and help them guide the team in the right direction and manage the backlog. 

Additionally, both practitioners ensure that the project’s priorities are handled correctly.

Benefits of a Scrum Master Certification

There are countless perks of becoming a CSM, which can be summed up as follows:

Career Advancement

Acquiring a Scrum Master certification will open up a whole new world of opportunities for you.

Even if you won’t work as a Scrum Master, acquainting yourself with the Scrum framework will make it easier for you to work in Scrum teams. 

Validation

Getting certified as a Scrum Master is an excellent way for you to validate your skills and establish credibility when applying for jobs. 

Having the certification listed down on your CV will definitely make you land more job interviews and increase your chances of getting hired. 

Acquiring New Skills and Knowledge

The Scrum Master exam tests your knowledge of Scrum in every possible way, which is why you need to study for it really well. 

Throughout your preparation journey, you’ll get the chance to broaden your knowledge and do some practical workshops with other practitioners in the course. 

The certification prepares you for entry-level Scrum Master roles by teaching you about the Scrum framework and how to apply it in an Agile environment.

On top of that, once you get certified, you’ll have access to lots of learning resources at discounted prices. You’ll also be able to attend Scrum events with discounted tickets.

Global Recognition 

Scrum Master certifications are globally recognized, which means that you can get a job with your certification in any country. Employers around the world are fully aware of the value of a Scrum Master certification.

Networking

After you get certified, you’ll have the opportunity to make new connections with other professionals who hold the credential by joining local user groups and membership-based online social networks.

You can also cooperate with them in finding ways to earn SEUs (more on that later).

Scrum Master Certification Requirements

There are no prerequisites for you to attempt the Scrum Master exam other than finishing your Scrum training. If you want to get certified as a Scrum Master, follow these steps:

1. Educate Yourself About Scrum and Agile

The first step to becoming a Scrum Master is to learn about the basics on your own. The Scrum Master course lasts for two days only, which is why you need to have some pre-existing knowledge before attending it. 

2. Complete a Scrum Master Course

The Scrum Master course is a two-day, in-person course that teaches topics like Scrum events, roles, and artifacts. The course must be taught by a certified Scrum trainer in order for you to qualify for the exam.

3. Practice With Mock Tests

Practicing with some mock tests before the real Scrum Master exam is an essential step that many candidates seem to ignore. 

Mock tests make it easy for you to get acquainted with the type of questions that you may come across in the exam. They also allow you to identify your weak points.

For best results, make sure that the mock tests are timed. There’s no point in practicing with mock tests if you’ll finish the test in double the amount of time that will be available in the real exam. Well, maybe you can do that with the first one, but starting with the second one, you should keep your stopwatch ready. 

Also, ensure that you attempt at least 2-3 mock tests, and remember, you only get two free attempts for the exam, so don’t waste them!

4. Attempt and Pass the Official Exam

The exam consists of 50 multiple choice questions, and to pass; you need to get 37 of them correct. 

The exam’s duration is 60 minutes, which should be enough for you to answer all the questions and even revise them if you’re well-prepared.

On a side note, the exam is available in several languages, including English, Danish, Spanish (Castilian), French, Italian, Latin American Spanish, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Czech, Russian, and Polish.

Maintaining Your Scrum Master Certification

Your Scrum Master certification must be renewed once every two years if you want to maintain it. All you have to do is earn the required SEUs (Scrum Education Units) through attending courses, events, and seminars, and pay the required $100 fees. 

The whole point of recertification is to encourage learners to keep learning on a continuous basis and stay updated with the latest trends and best practices.

What Comes After Getting a Scrum Master Certification?

Once you become a certified Scrum Master, your best bet would be to look for entry-level Scrum Master jobs and gain a year or two of experience before seeking other more advanced certifications, like the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), Certified Scrum Coach (CSC), and Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) certifications.

Scrum Master Competencies

Becoming a professional Scrum Master is more than just earning a certification. Here are some of the most sought-after skills that employers seek when hiring Scrum Masters:

  • Strong Agile and Scrum background
  • Technical background (a BSc. in computer science is preferred)
  • Communication skills
  • Effective handling of conflicts
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Organizational skills

Other Scrum Master Certifications

Scrum Alliance’s Certified Scrum Master certification isn’t the only Scrum Master certification out there. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular Scrum Master certifications:

Scrum.org: Professional Scrum Master (PSM)

Scrum.org’s Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification is another popular Scrum Master certification that has no official prerequisites, making it a good choice for entry-level practitioners.

The exam costs $150 per attempt, and it consists of 80 multiple choice and true/false questions that must be answered within a 60-minute time frame. The passing score is 85%.

Project Management Institute: Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP)

PMI is one of the most prestigious certification bodies in the field of project management and Agile. 

And While the organization is better known for its Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, its Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) is highly valuable, too.

The prerequisites include having a secondary degree, 21 contact hours of agile training, 12 months of project experience in the last 5 years (or PMP/PgMP certifications), and 8 months of Agile project experience in the last 3 years.

The $495 exam consists of 120 multiple choice questions and has a duration of 3 hours. To maintain your certification, you must acquire 30 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every 3-year period and pay the required fees. 

Scrum Inc: Scrum Master (SM)

Scrum Inc’s Scrum Master credential is yet another certification that qualifies professionals to take on Scrum Master job roles. 

Pursuing this certification is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is enroll in one of the courses on the website, attend the 16 hours+ of live instruction, and pass the exam. 

Scaled Agile: Certified SAFe Agilist (CSA)

This one is a bit different from the rest; it’s centered around the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) instead of the traditional Scrum framework. This framework is designed to guide organizations in scaling their lean and Agile practices.

Both frameworks are pretty close to each other; their applications are what differentiates them.

The minimum requirements for this certification include having at least 5 years of experience in software development and having some experience in Scrum. You must also attend the Leading SAFe course and access its learning materials.

As for the exam, it includes 45 multiple choice questions, and you got 90 minutes to answer them. The passing score is 74%.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Scrum Master Certification Worth It?

Certifications improve career prospects and salaries, and Scrum Master certifications are no exception. Just make sure that acquiring a Scrum Master certification aligns with your professional career goals. Otherwise, the certification might just be as good as nothing for you. 

Are Scrum Masters in Demand?

Yes! The demand for Scrum Masters is increasing day by day. The development teams usually get too consumed with their day-to-day tasks and deadlines to the point that keeping the workflow organized seems to be impossible. 

That’s where a Scrum Master adds value, and companies are fully aware of how important the role is.

According to study.com, the Scrum Master role is expected to see an annual growth of 24% by 2024. It’s one of the fastest-growing jobs in the field of software engineering and development.

How Much Do Scrum Masters Earn?

According to glassdoor.com, Scrum Masters earn an average annual income of 96,000 in the United States. Payscale.com has posted a pretty close figure, estimating the salary to be 94,000 per year on average. 

Obviously, the more experience you gain, the higher your salary will be. There are other variables that come into play, like location and company size.

Does the Scrum Master Participate in the Development Process?

There’s a popular debate on whether the Scrum Master should be involved in the software development lifecycle and get assigned tasks just like the rest of the team. 

However, it’s generally preferred that the Scrum Master focuses on their supporting and mentoring role rather than bugging themselves with deadlines and tasks. 

The Scrum Master should only be involved if the company has a limited budget, and hiring more team members isn’t a viable option.

Can a Project Manager Become a Scrum Master?

Yes, a project manager may switch roles and become a Scrum Master. However, it’s not a requirement for the Scrum Master to have a background in project management. In fact, despite popular belief, the two roles are completely different.

Project managers create a project charter, assign tasks, define the project’s scope, and are responsible for submitting the project’s deliverables. 

On the other side of the coin, a Scrum Master is a servant leader that offers support for the team in the daily meetings, monitors the project’s progress, and makes suggestions on how to accelerate it.

Is Scrum Master a Good Career Path?

Becoming a Scrum Master is undoubtedly an excellent career choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. 

For example, if leadership is second nature to you, the role of a Scrum Master might just perfectly suit you. It also requires strong teamwork skills.

Per contra, if you don’t perform well in team environments, becoming a Scrum Master may not be that appealing for you. 

However, everything can be learned with dedication and practice, so even if you think that you don’t have what it takes to become a Scrum Master, you can definitely learn it!

Final Thoughts

By now, you should be familiar with what a Scrum Master certification is. 

If you’re feeling intrigued to learn more about this job, you can start pursuing the certification right now by educating yourself about Agile and the Scrum framework.

Remember, acquiring a Scrum Master certification isn’t that hard, but you need to get relevant work experience as a Scrum Master before you can take on better job roles. 

It’d be best for you to work under the leadership of an experienced Scrum Master before you take the role yourself.

To learn how you can pass your PMP certification exam in the next 6 weeks, sign up for a free class to get a study plan + valuable tips & tricks!

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Learn how you can get PMP certified in the next 6 weeks. Sign up for a free class & get our free study plan.