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Scrum Alliance Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Scrum Alliance logo

Founded in 2001, Scrum Alliance has historically focused on education and certification. In 2015, Scrum Alliance introduced a new mission, namely that of "transforming the world of work" through inspiring organizational change and equipping Agile practitioners with the skills to remove roadblocks that prevent the adoption of Scrum methodology. To accomplish its goals, Scrum Alliance has adopted five pillars of organizational transformation:

  • Advocacy – The Voice: Be an evangelist for Scrum practices and education.
  • Community – The Place: Provide a community where Scrum practitioners can come together and connect.
  • Education – The Knowledge: Continue to provide superior education and training for Scrum practitioners.
  • Sustainability (Operational Excellence) – The How: Provide superior services to its membership.
  • Product Development – Innovation: Develop new ideas, products and programs that support Scrum Alliance goals.

Boasting more than 450,000 members, Scrum Alliance, Inc. is currently the largest Agile membership organization worldwide. In 2015, Scrum Alliance reported substantial growth, with more than 5,000 new members joining the ranks of certified Agile practitioners monthly.

Scrum Alliance currently offers seven certifications ranging from basic or foundational-level certs for those with little to no experience, to senior certs for experienced Scrum practitioners possessing expert-level skills. In addition, Scrum Alliance also offers certifications targeting Agile trainers and coaches.

Scrum Alliance maintains a robust Community Membership program. Three types of annual membership are available: Student ($25), Professional Member ($50) and Executive ($100). Community membership provides numerous benefits: a free digital subscription to Agile Vox, the Scrum Alliance magazine, as well as discounts on products, services, events, resources, webinars and preferred registrations. Newly certified practitioners receive a free two-year membership to the Scrum Alliance community.

As the adoption of Agile and Scrum frameworks continues to grow in popularity, so does the demand for qualified Agile/Scrum professionals. One only has to take a quick look at such job websites as SimplyHired or Indeed.com to see that employers are actively recruiting certified Scrum professionals. On any given day, there are more than 5,000 open positions for those with Scrum skills and experience. And according to GlassDoor, ScrumMaster annual salaries range from about $60,000 to $124,000.

Some common job roles include transformational leads, transformation coaches, ScrumMasters, developers, managers, engineers, testers, technical writers and architects. Scrum Alliance also maintains its own job board for community members. In the Agile Careers section of the Scrum Alliance website you'll find job postings, blogs, career news and more.

Scrum Alliance offers seven certifications organized into three categories that target commonly found roles among Agile professionals. The majority of Scrum Alliance certs are focused on practitioners (four in all), with the remaining three split between trainers (one cert) and coaches (two certs).

In addition to its existing certifications, Scrum Alliance is creating a new program referred to as "Added Qualifications," which will extend the validated skills for existing certs. The first Added Qualification — Scaling Scrum Fundamentals — is targeted for release sometime in 2016.

Certification holders must renew every two years to maintain their credentials. Foundation-level certification holders can renew by paying a $100 renewal fee. Professional-level certification renewal requires the holder to earn 40 Scrum Education Units (SEUs) and pay $250. Coach and trainer certifications must be renewed annually and credential holders must meet all then-current requirements for each renewal.

There are four Practitioner certifications, each focusing on a different role within an Agile environment. The Practitioner certifications include:

  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): This foundation-level cert covers the basics of Scrum methodology. A CSM is part of a project team, providing input about Scrum and helping members apply Scrum practices. To obtain the credential, candidates must complete a two-day training course (approximately $1,195), pass the exam and accept the license agreement.
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO): This foundation-level certification targets Agile professionals close to the business end of projects. Typical product owners work with project stakeholders, manage project vision, create user stories and define expectations for completion. Candidates must attend a two-day course (approximately $1,195 to $1,295) to obtain the designation.
  • Certified Scrum Developer (CSD): This credential aims at software developers and programmers who work in an Agile environment. Candidates should already have technical coding skills prior to attempting the credential. Earning the credential requires a significant commitment in terms of time and financial resources. Upon completion, candidates will have an understanding of Agile engineering practices as they relate to Scrum principles in a software development environment. Two paths are available to certification:
    • Track 1: Complete the CSM course plus the three-day Agile Engineering Practices course (about $1,600 for the Engineering Practices course).
    • Track 2: Complete the CSD Intro course (one day), the CSD Agile Engineering Practices technical course (three days), plus one CSD technical elective course. Prices vary depending on whether courses are purchases separately or as part of a bundle. Candidates can expect to pay around $3,200.
  • Certified Scrum Professional (CSP): The CSP is for experienced, senior-level Scrum practitioners. To obtain the credential, candidates must possess an active CSD, CSPO or CSM credential, plus at least 36 months of hands-on experience using Scrum or Agile within the past five years. In addition, candidates need at least 70 SEUs prior to applying for the CSP designation. Candidates must pay an application fee of $100 (nonrefundable) and an additional $150 upon application approval.

Scrum Alliance has a single cert focused on trainers — the Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). This cert is for individuals who possess in-depth knowledge and expertise of Agile practices and wish to train others. Successful completion of CST requirements enables credential holders to teach CSM or CSPO courses.

To obtain the credential, candidates must possess an active CSP, have direct Scrum experience in the role of team member, ScrumMaster or product owner, have taught Scrum to at least 100 students, and have led 10 or more training sessions (must be multiday). Interested candidates should submit an application plus a $250 application fee. Candidates interested in teaching CSPO courses must also possess a valid CSPO credential.

Scrum Alliance has two certifications for those interested in coaching individuals and organizations towards transforming to a more Agile work environment — Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) and Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach (CTC). The CEC is for Agile professionals seeking to guide organizations through the process to transform to a Scrum framework. A CTC works directly with individuals to promote adoption of Scrum practices.

A Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) is an expert in Scrum principles and practices. CECs serve as subject matter experts, coaches and Scrum evangelists as they assist organizations seeking to adopt Scrum practices. Through the Certification Via Coaching program, CECs are able to empower individuals and organizations and foster a speedier adoption of Scrum practices by referring individuals who've received at least 25 hours of coaching to sit for CSM or CSPO exam.

At a minimum, CEC candidates must have:

  • Expert knowledge of Scrum practices and proven leadership and coaching skills
  • An active CSP (for at least a year)
  • Experience coaching at least three organizations
  • 2,000 hours or three years of enterprise or multi-team coaching, along with demonstrated Scrum leadership roles (three or more years)
  • Served as a direct contributor to at least five or more Agile/Scrum events

To apply, candidates must submit an application along with a nonrefundable application fee of $250. The application process is two-fold: a review of requirements and peer assessment. Upon acceptance, candidates pay a $750 annual fee.

The Certified Team Coach (CTC) is a new member of Scrum Alliance certification portfolio and is specifically geared to the Scrum evangelist interested in coaching at a more granular level. CTCs typically engage at the team level, working with managers, individual team members and project stakeholders. Successful CTCs are able to work with multiple teams, programs or projects concurrently.

Some required skills for a CTC include:

  • An active CSP, 1,000 hours of Agile coaching experience within the past two years
  • Extensive experience working on Scrum teams and coaching within Scrum or Agile frameworks
  • Participation in at least five Agile events

To apply, candidates should submit an application along with the $250 application fee (nonrefundable). Applications are first reviewed to ensure required skills are met. Upon application acceptance, a peer assessment is performed. Once approved, candidates must pay an annual $500 fee.

Scrum Alliance maintains an up-to-date training program for its entry-level credentials along with learning objectives and content outlines. Community membership in Scrum Alliance provides access to community forum, user groups, continuing education, Scrum Gatherings and other resources. In addition, Scrum Alliance also maintains a presence on LinkedIn (both for Scrum Alliance organization in general as well as various groups for individual certifications) and Facebook.