Main image of article Scrum Master Certification: Is It Necessary?

Scrum masters are vital parts of many organizations, using the principles of Scrum project management to guide teams in the creation of products and services. If you want to become a Scrum master, do you need certifications?

If you’re interested in Scrum, start with the Scrum Guide, which was written by people who originally started Scrum. Given how Scrum is an implementation of Agile, you’ll also want to learn as much about the latter as possible.

In basic terms, Scrum methodology centers on using a board to organize a team’s tasks. Information about each task can be reduced to a Post-it Note, which then moves across columns on the board (i.e., from Backlog to Todo to In Progress to Done). There are variations, of course; some teams prefer working with a Kanban Board, which is a variation on the “standard” Scrum board.

Those seeking to master Scrum will also need to know the relevant terms (including Artifacts and Increments) and tools (Jira, Trello, Asana, and any other platforms that can keep you organized). True masters utilize “soft skills” such as communication and empathy to effectively guide the team.

Scrum Master Certifications

All of which brings us back to a key question: do you need certifications to become a Scrum master? The short answer is “no.” As with so many other jobs for tech professionals, if you can demonstrate that you have the background and knowledge to fulfill the role, a hiring manager or recruiter could give you a shot.

That being said, hiring managers and recruiters like to see certifications on a resume and application materials because it’s ostensibly a guarantee that the candidate has the necessary skills for the job. Having certifications can help you stand out in a crowded hiring market.

But which certifications are popular/important for Scrum masters? Here are some of the ones that pop up frequently in job postings:

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): Offered via the Scrum Alliance, this certification demonstrates you’ve learned the Scrum framework and know how to guide a team in the appropriate Scrum manner.

Certified Scrum Developer (CSD): Those possessing this Scrum Alliance certification have demonstrated a thorough understanding of Scrum and Agile development; as you can see on the organization’s website, there are a handful of different “tracks” toward earning this cert.

Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO): Also available via the Scrum Alliance, this certification is for those who want to show they’ve mastered product ownership in a Scrum context. That means managing teams to focus on projects with the most impact, and then guiding those projects to successful completion.

Professional Scrum Master (PSM): From, the PSM attempts to show the owner’s ability to apply Scrum learnings to “real-world situations.”

Certified Scrum Professional (CSP): Another Scrum Alliance certification, this one has a number of requirements, including at least 24 months of work experience as a Scrum Master. Once earned, it shows you have advanced Scrum knowledge and skills.

Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO): This certification is aimed at the fundamentals of Scrum-centric product ownership.

“Agile practitioners really can’t go wrong with a certified Scrum Master and/or Product Owner from either the Scrum Alliance or Typically, this involves attending a 2-day certified class and a relatively simple exam administered online,” Stephen Gristock, Agile Delivery Leader at Eliassen Group, recently told Dice.

Can Certifications Impact Salary?

According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the starting median salary for jobs that prominently mention “Scrum master” as a skill is $98,000 per year. Those with more than nine years’ experience working with Scrum can earn a median salary of $118,000.

That’s pretty good, especially in comparison to the average tech professional salary of $104,566 (according to the most recent Dice Tech Salary Report). And having certifications can certainly give you some additional leverage when negotiating with a manager for an increased salary. If you’re a valued player within your organization, you can also ask your manager if they’d be willing to pay for you to obtain additional certifications—it will boost your utility to your team while increasingly your morale.


Related Scrum Master Jobs Resources:

How To Become a Scrum Master

Scrum Master Interview Questions

Scrum Master Resume Template

Scrum Master Salary

Scrum Master Skills