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Home Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

By Ed Tittel and Kim Lindros

Scrum is a framework or process, that organizations use to develop software. It involves testing code very early during development and at each step along the way. Scrum also reduces development complexities by following Agile processes, which focus on business needs along with coding. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland created the Scrum method of software development back in the 1990s.

For years, the Scrum Alliance was the primary organization that supported Scrum and Agile. In 2009, Schwaber started to improve "the profession of software development by reducing the gaps so the work and work products are dependable." Both organizations offer certifications — the Scrum Master credential being the most recognized — as well as training, forums, professional development, events and lots of resources for developers.
Because both organizations have similar missions and offer similar certifications, developers have a hard time choosing which path to follow. We're not going to make that choice for you, but keep this in mind: certification exams tend to cost less, but are more difficult to pass than Scrum Alliance exams, and does not require training.

Job Opportunities for Certified Professionals

Searching job boards such as SimplyHired and Indeed for and its related certifications result in 150 to 200 open positions across the U.S. However, if you look for the more generic "Scrum Master," the numbers jump to nearly 5,000. Scrum-related job position titles include software engineer, Agile coach, IT project manager, consultant and web developer, as well as the ever-popular Scrum Master.

According to GlassDoor, Scrum Master annual salaries range from about $60,000 to a little more than $130,000, with the national average salary just less than $92,000. Certification

The structure of the certification program is simple — four certifications, two of which have two levels of difficulty, for a total of six credentials:

Professional Scrum Master (PSM): A Scrum Master thoroughly understands Scrum and Agile practices and values, and is the person who keeps all other parties in a software development project on task and ensures they adhere to Scrum. This certification has two credentials — PSM I (beginning to intermediate level) and PSM II (advanced level).

Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO): A Scrum Product Owner is, well, the owner of the product or its key stakeholder. He or she understands the business value of the product and what drives it, as well as how to apply Scrum and Agile practices. This certification also has two credentials — PSPO I (beginning to intermediate level) and PSPO II (advanced level).

Professional Scrum Developer (PSD): This certification is called PSD I, but there isn't a level II at this writing. A PSD develops complex software using Scrum, in line with Agile practices such as Test-First Development and Continuous Integration (CI).

Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS): Referred to as the "exoskeleton of scaled Scrum," the SPS focuses on the Nexus framework for software and product development. An SPS knows Agile and Scrum inside and out and how to apply it to different Scrum teams.

The number of certification holders may be an indication of the difficulty of the two advanced credentials. There are about 60,000 PSM I certification holders, but less than 350 PSM II holders. Similarly, there are about 9,000 PSPO I certification holders, but the number drops to less than 100 for PSPO II. Although all certifications are worthwhile achievements, anyone at level II deserves an extra pat on the back for sheer persistence.

Each certification (and level) requires candidates to pass a single exam. The PSM I and II exams cost $150 and $500, respectively, and the PSPO I and II exams are $200 and $500, respectively. The PSD exam costs $200, and the SPS is $250. certifications are good for life. Certification holders do not have to take recertification exams or pay fees to maintain their certification status. Training and Resources

The first step for anyone thinking about pursuing a certification is to read The Scrum Guide, which defines Scrum and Scrum theory, describes the Scrum team and provides an overview of Scrum events from Sprint planning through review. Even if you aren't on the path to SPS certification in particular, you should browse The Nexus Guide as well for a better overview of Scrum, Agile and Nexus. works with several third parties to deliver consistent Scrum courses in support of its certifications. Courses are either public or private. Public courses are offered around the world and throughout the year. These are typically instructor-led classroom events that last for two or three days and cost between $1,295 and $2,500. Organizations can reach out to a Scrum trainer for tailored, private courses or coaching. also offers Open assessments for Scrum, Product Owner, Nexus and Developer, which are essentially practice tests for the four primary certifications. For example, Scrum Open assesses a candidate's basic Scrum knowledge, whereas Nexus Open helps a candidate determine their knowledge of the Nexus framework. Open assessments are free, have 30 questions and must be completed within 30 minutes — you can't save your work and start again later