Five Best Scrum Master Certifications for Agile Professionals
The Best Professional Scrum Master Certifications
If you want to be a successful Scrum Master, or are looking to hire a professional Scrum Master for your next project, the top five professional Scrum Master certifications an Agile practitioner should have on their resume are:
- The Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master Certification
- AWS Practitioner designation from Amazon
- The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) certification
- JIRA Certification from Atlassian University
- An Agile coach or technical trainer certificate
Professional Scrum Master Certification from Scrum.org
The gold standard for Scrum Master certification comes from Scrum.org.
A quick web search for Scum Master certifications will reveal a host of organizations that offer online courses and follow-up exams that allow the candidate to hang a “Professional Certified Scrum Master” shingle on their doorstep. But without any industry standards applied, the quality, difficulty, and proficiency asserted by the professional certifications issued by these various organizations vary wildly.
Ken Schwaber is co-creator of Scrum, co-author of the Scrum Guide, and founder of the Scrum.org website. Schwaber’s pedigree gives the Agile training and Scrum Master certifications provided through Scrum.org a level of respect and authenticity that other training institutes simply cannot match.
Scum Master Certification Levels
Scrum.org offers three uncreatively named Scrum Master certifications:
- Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I)
- Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II)
- Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III)
The Professional Scrum Master certification exam numerical differentiator indicates the level of difficulty and depth of knowledge required to pass it.
The PSM I certification tests candidates on their basic knowledge of the Scrum Guide, their understanding of the Scrum values, and their knowledge of the pillars of Scrum. If an IT professional wants to be taken seriously as a professional Scrum Master, the PSM I designation is a bare minimum.
The PSM II exam covers the application of Scrum and how to use Scrum-based methods to guide a team of developers, how to properly produce Scrum artifacts, how to avoid ScrumBut, and how to perform key Scrum activities like the daily stand-up and the retrospective sprint.
The PSM III certification is the most advanced of the three. It not only tests the developer on how to use Scrum to solve complex team problems and deal with difficult organizational situations, but it also requires the candidate to understand how to solve challenges from the perspective of the Scrum developer and of the owner of the Scrum product. While other PSM exams are multiple-choice, the PSM III exam requires candidates to include the need to answer questions in a short essay format.
|Scrum Master Certification Comparison|
|MSP i||Beginner||$300||+460,000||60 minutes||85%|
|MSP II||Intermediate||$250||+18,000||90 minutes||85%|
|MSP III||Expert||$500||+1,000||150 minutes||85%|
The number of professional Scrum Masters certified at each of the three levels testifies to how progressively difficult and demanding each certification becomes. In 2022, there are over 460,000 Scrum Masters certified at the PSM I level. There are only 18,000 Professional Scrum Masters certified at the PSM II level, and there are just over 1,000 people certified at the elite PSM III.
PSM III certification is definitely worth pursuing if you want to differentiate yourself from others.
JIRA Certification for Scrum Masters
A great Scrum Master needs more than a thorough understanding of the Scrum Guide.
The ability to use industry-standard tools that will communicate team progress to Scrum developers, product owners, and other stakeholders is also a must for Scrum Masters.
The most popular software used by organizations to manage a software development team is Atlassian’s JIRA tool, which is why I’m always impressed when I see a JIRA certification alongside a Scum Master designation.
With JIRA, a Scrum Master can plan sprints, update Kanban boards, measure development speed, assign bug tickets to developers, and even merge feature branches into GitHub.
Transparency is one of the three pillars of Scrum. With a properly maintained JIRA instance, project stakeholders can log into the tool and get an immediate update on the current sprint status. A JIRA certification that attests to an individual’s ability to use and administer JIRA is one of the best certifications a Scrum Master can have.
AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification
Modern software development happens in the cloud.
A Scrum Master does not need to be technical. But a Scrum Master should be familiar with the tools used to build modern cloud-native applications. A Scrum Master should also be familiar with how modern DevOps teams deploy applications.
The AWS Cloud Practitioner certification shows that an individual understands the key technologies used in modern enterprise IT departments. It also demonstrates knowledge of how to monitor costs, encrypt data, and apply security best practices.
I like to see the AWS Practitioner certification on a Scrum Master’s resume because it tells me that the individual understands how enterprise applications are built and deployed. Azure, Oracle, and Google all have entry-level cloud certifications that I would put on par with Amazon’s. The seller is not important. Appreciation of the fundamentals of cloud-based development is.
Scaled Agile Framework Certification (SAFe)
Successfully implementing Scrum on small projects is a challenge. This challenge multiplies as the size of the team and the project increases.
SAFe is the Scaled Agile Framework, and it’s built on Scrum, Kanban, and Lean project management best practices.
SAFe certification requires knowledge of important DevOps tools such as GitHub and Jenkins, as well as an understanding of how these tools enable continuous delivery.
A certified Scrum Master with additional SAFe certification will know how to bring Scrum, Agile, and the DevOps toolchain together.
Agile coaching or technical training certification
The eight positions of a Scrum Master include the roles of coach, facilitator, mentor, and servant leader.
To attest to proficiency in these areas, I like to see some type of coaching or training designation on a Scrum Master’s resume. Being certified as a professional Scrum Master Trainer is at the top of my list in this category. But even certification from AWS or Google as a Certified Technical Trainer is enough to prove to me that the individual will have the skills to communicate effectively with other team members.
I’m not picky about what coaching or training certification a Scrum Master gets. I just want an indication that the person has the character and behavior required by a coach or teacher.
The effectiveness of a Scrum Master can mean the difference between project success and failure. A set of certifications cannot guarantee a Scrum Master’s performance over time, but they are a good indication of an individual’s depth of knowledge. From my perspective, the designations listed above are the top five Scrum Master certifications an IT professional can have.