Guide to choose a Scrum Master certificate

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PSM-CSM-LSM

Foreword

Agile is widely applied in today’s organizations, not only in IT industry but also in many other fields such as Marketing, Financial, Manufacturing, HR, Education … In particular, Scrum is the most favorite framework among Agile methodologies, see details in Agile state survey 2019. Therefore, learning Scrum and possessing a Scrum Master certificate is the necessary preparation for your career. However, since the first Scrum Master certificate was introduced in 2001 by the Scrum Alliance, there have been many Scrum accreditation organizations up to now, which can confuse you with different names of the Scrum Master certificates. This post will give you a full picture of the Scrum accreditation bodies and their Scrum Master certification program, from which you will have the right choice for yourself.

Scrum Accreditation Bodies and Scrum Master certificates

Scrum Accreditation Bodies and Scrum Master Certification

Please notice the above table does not include the Agile or Scaled Scrum Accreditation Bodies. For example,

  • Agile Project Managment certification PMI-ACP
  • ICAgile Coaching Certification Program
  • Scaled framework like SAFe, Less, DAD, Spotify, Scrum@Scale, Nexus

Brief history of Scrum Accreditation Organizations

History of Scrum Accreditation Bodies

(1) EXIN was founded in 1984, but Agile & Scrum certificates have just released in 2019.

(2) It has been not clear about the founded years of Scrumstudy & International Scrum Institute.

(3) Scrum Inc. was founded by Jeff Sutherland in 2006 when it was a training provider, a partner of Scrum Alliance. Since 2019, Scrum Inc. has built their own Scrum certification programs that includes the Licensed Scrum Master  – LSM certificate.

It should be noted that the list above is about the accreditation bodies, not the training organizations. We will distinguish these two concepts.

Accreditation Body vs. Authorized Partner

An accreditation body usually only build the certification program, learning paths, learning program, training content, handbook or guide documents, and provide online certification testing services. Some offer online training service but will not conduct offline classes. Each organization has many “Authorized Training Partners” who are licensed to use training resources and conduct class training. For example, the Scrum Alliance has its partners as REPs (Registered Education Partner), the Scrum.org calls its partners as PTNs (Professional Training Network).

Scrum Accreditation Bodies’ Requirement for “Authorized Partners”

Requirements-for-a-Scrum authorized-training-partner

(1) Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, Scrum Inc. require their training partners to have at least one “certified trainer” . “Certified Trainer” of Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, Scrum Inc. name CST, PST & LST respectively. Scrumstudy also has its certified trainer named SCT, but not require to have SCTs to become the partners.

(2) Class training followed Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, Scrum Inc. must be carried out by the CST, PST or LST. Scrum.org & Scrum Inc. trainers must use their approved training material for all training. That means learners of the Scrum.org và Scrum Inc classes will use the same learning material regardless trainers or training location. Scrum Alliance does not require a unique learning material, Scrum Alliance CSTs will use their own slides.

Can a training company be a Partner of several accreditation organizations?

YES. A training company can be partners of various accreditation bodies as long as it meets the organization’s requirements.

Steps to possess a Scrum Master Certificate

Usually, the Scrum Master certification process is the same across accreditation bodies, and it consists of the following steps:

♦ Step 1: Register for class training (online or offline, required or not)

♦ Step 2: Practice questions & create an account to take the exam.

♦ Step 3: Do the test & pass the minimum passing score.

♦ Step 4: Accreditation body will send an email to announce the results and certificates if pass.

Scrum Master Certification Programs

Scrum Master Certification programs

(1) Before 2012, Scrum Alliance issued the CSM certificates to learners after the class training. There is no online exam.

(2) Training fees of the offline training are varied depending on countries, areas, locations.

(3) For the certificates that have expired date:

  • Renewal fee of CSM is 100 USD
  • Scrumstudy requires 40 RCUs (online learning units) as a renewal fee of SMC
  • Renewal fee of LSM is 50 USD

(4) Scrumstudy refers a minimum passing score of 95% on the website, but this is not true. Scrumstudy does not declare the minimum passing score, but according to the Scrum Community, it’s rather easier to pass Scrumstudy’s certificates.

(5) It has been not clear about the number of questions and the minimum passing score of the LSM exam. However, it could be easier as it requires class training to take the exam like the Scrum Alliance’s CSM.

“Scrum Guide” of the Scrum Accreditation Bodies

Perhaps, when it comes to Scrum, most of people know the Scrum Guide, the official Scrum written and updated by the co-authors Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. The Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org builds a set of CSM and PSM I exam questions based on knowledge from Scrum Guide. However, some organizations such as EXIN, Scrumstudy or International Scrum Institute also issue their own Scrum documents.

Scrum-Guide-of-Accreditation-Bodies
    • All learning guides are free except the Scrum Fieldbook of Scrum Inc.
    • Except Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, Scrum Inc. mostly base on Scrum Guide, others have some deviations.
    • ASM is a mix of PMI-ACP & Scrum with knowledge of other Agile methodologies asked beside Scrum framework
    • While ASM is a mix of PMI-ACP & Scrum, SMC is a hybrid of PMP & Scrum. SBOK Guide is far different from Scrum Guide.
    • The Scrum Framework basically comes from Scrum Guide added with practical situations.

Criteria to choose a Scrum Master certificate

If you only want to improve Scrum knowledge without certification, then no worry much about Scrum Master certification programs. Otherwise, you should consider the following criteria:

I. The brand name

It’s easy to have 2 groups on this criteria. Firstly, Scrum Alliance & Scrum.org were founded earlier & backed by the 03 most influenced persons in Scrum world – Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland & Mike Cohn. Secondly, trainers of these two organizations are well trained with high standards, “imbued” with the philosophy of Scrum. Thirdly, and most importantly, the communities of PSM and CSM certificate holders are numerous and spread all over the world.

Group I: PSM I, CSM

Group II: LSM, SMAC, SMC, ASM

Unfortunately, the group I does not include the LSM certificate while its accreditation body – Scrum Inc. was founded by Jeff & J.J Sutherland. This is because Scrum Inc. has just released the LSM program since 2019 and mainly provided training in USA. Consequently, the LSM certificate is not very common to the global Scrum community yet.

II. Cost

Group I: SMAC, PSM I, ASM

Group II: SMC, CSM, LSM

The three certificates in the group I do not require a class training and have the affordable exam fees of 69 USD, 150 USD & 268 USD for SMAC, PSM I & ASM respectively. Among them, SMAC is the cheapest one as the SMAC exam fee is only 69 USD and exam takers have 10 re-attempts without extra fee. In other words, you can’t spend more than 69 USD for a SMAC certificate. On the other hand, you have to pay the same fee for every time you take the PSM I & ASM assessment.

III. Training Quality

If you plan to join the in-person class training, you should consider the quality of the training. It’s hard to evaluate this criteria exactly as the training quality depends on a few factors such as training providers, trainers, learning materials. Regarding high standards to become a training partner of Scrum.org, Scrum Inc., Scrum Alliance, the PSM, LSM & CSM classes are more secured.

Group I: PSM I, LSM, CSM

Group II: ASM, SMC, SMAC

Notes:

  • The CSM class content is designed by the trainer, so the training quality may be various among trainers.
  • Scrumstudy has the Scrum Certified Trainer program to get SCT certificate, but it does not require a SMC class conducted by SCT.
  • EXIN & International Scrum Institute don’t have Certified Scrum Trainer programs.

In short, the quality of the in-person class training depends much on the trainer. This also reflects in the fee of offline classes provided by Scrum.org & Scrum Inc partners.

IV. “Learning path”

Group I: PSM, CSM, SMC, LSM

Group II: ASM, SMAC

“Learning path” is about the opportunity that the accreditation organization can support learners to continue their learning journey. About this criteria, after possessing PSM I, CSM, SMC, LSM, learners can continue the learning journey & take the higher certifications. For example, higher level than PSM I are PSM II, PSM III certificates or become PST. After CSM, learner can take A-CSM, CSP or become CST.

V. Difficulty level

Personally, I think this is not a big matter as it’s not so important than what you learnt & the certificate. However, to give a full picture I have 2 groups as follows:

Group I (easy): CSM, SMC, SMAC, LSM (?)

Group II (not so easy): PSM I, ASM

Note, I have no information about LSM exam, but normally it’s super easy for the exam that requires in-person class training.

Closing

I am not a “Certified Trainer” of any organization and no one pay me for this post. What I shared is from personal experience and opinion. If you find anything wrong in my post, I appreciate to receive your feedback.

Check out my videos on Youtube channel Agile Education

Thank you for your reading !

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