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What is the value in Certified Scrum Master certifications? I'll be quite honest in saying that I've never put a lot of thought into such certifications, but it seems like if you are interested in Agile and wanting to deepen your understanding, that the two day class + test is a worthwhile investment.

Is the CSM valuable?

  • 1
    Fairly related question (not a dup at all, but raise an important point of view, that certifications guarantees nothing about someone): pm.stackexchange.com/q/2601/430 – Tiago Cardoso Apr 2 '13 at 19:52
  • I have had Scrum Master certification for 3 years and it hasn't done me any good. I got it before coming to a company that was pre-Agile and then went Agile about a year after I started. They knew I had the Scrum Master cert, but it didn't affect my role post-Agile or give me any benefit. When I interviewed they had never heard of Scrum. Just one anecdotal account. – Hack-R Nov 10 '16 at 18:39
  • "Primarily opinion-based", I guess. – Sergey Kudryavtsev Jul 27 '17 at 8:55
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Most trainers have never failed anyone on a CSM course, and not all CST (Certified Scrum Trainers) are good at getting useful learning across. For this reason, I don't put much faith myself in the certificates.

Unfortunately, managers in the industry do, so the certificate is valuable. If you can find someone who's recommended, or someone who's actually failed people on the course, then they're probably better than average.

Once you've got your CSM, be careful that you don't end up on a project where you're solely responsible for the Agile process with no support. A CSM is not enough. You'll need either some experienced Agilists or a coach around to help you.

Declaration of interest: I'm an Agile coach and make pretty good money sorting out the mess for people who've relied on CSMs.

Edit: Since answering this question, the Scrum Alliance has adopted an exam to go with the course, so it's actually possible to fail.

  • 1
    I think this is great feedback, especially about having additional experienced agile resources besides csm. – Aaron Corcoran Jul 1 '11 at 13:57
  • @boardtc wanted so say: "The instructor failed someone on my CM course who completely resisted the ideas of SCRUM" – Zsolt May 16 '13 at 19:01
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    @Zsolt There's now an exam to go with the course, created since I answered this question, and it is now possible to fail. Updated accordingly. Thanks! – Lunivore May 19 '13 at 22:21
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The value is in the training and that depends heavily on who the trainer is, how much experience they have, and how well their teaching style matches with the individual's learning style.

  • I shoulda been more clear above: The value is in the training, not the certificate itself, and that depends heavily on... – Mike Cohn Jun 30 '11 at 20:54
  • Mr. Cohn, I think it is telling that you responded to my post, as I am organizing a group of us to attend your CSM training in Dallas =). I look forward to the opportunity to be meet you and be trained by you. – Aaron Corcoran Jul 1 '11 at 13:27
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It depends mostly on your definition of 'value'.

As someone who is both certified, and on the Boards of two certifying organizations -

No certification can attest to your actual ability. Primarily the certifications are used to show that you some level of experience and knowledge of the subject, and that you were willing to invest the time and effort in attaining the credential.

As examples, the two I'm involved in -

asapm (IPMA-USA) offers several advanced, performance based certifications. These are fairly difficult to attain, and include providing documented evidence of your past performance. But this credential only attests to PAST performance at a certain level. It is no guarantee of future performance.

Similarly, the PMD Pro offered by PM4NGO's is a domain specific certification focused on the int'l development and aid sector. While still being developed, this certification attests to the holder understanding the specific contextual differences of project management within that sector. It does not guarantee that a project or pm will be successful.

So again, if by 'value' you mean it says you can actually DO the work, that may be stretching things. But if you mean that it signifies an interest and certain level of knowledge or experience, then yes, they do offer value.

  • I think this is a great definition, as value is definitely a term that needs context prior to answering. – Aaron Corcoran Jul 1 '11 at 13:28
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I have attended a CSM training course and guess I was lucky because it was run by Mike Vizdos and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Although I have to admit it wasn't a scrum primer for me as I have already had been working with scrum before. Also, much as it was an interesting panel for discussions and exchanging experiences and ideas it has not influenced much the way I worked with SCRUM. Other things have had much more significant effect for me.

From that perspective I would say that CSM is only as much valuable as the community it creates (assuming it creates a community of practitioners who are willing to exchange ideas and work together) but I don't see having a CSM as a prerequisite or even a strong enabler for such community.

Is a person who have achieved CSM any better as a Scrum Master than someone who doesn't have it - I honestly doubt. There are so many other ways to learn the basics of SCRUM and understand the principles that this is just one option. Perhaps CSM certification does provide some base, common level of knowledge. It's like asking if a certificate that you know all the letters of the alphabet (eg. you finished school) has value in determining if you're a good writer.

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I did a recent SCRUM certification and thought that it was one of the best training sessions I have attended. I did the SCRUM certification and our company has adapted this practice for a while. The certificate in itself is valuable and It has a lot of best practices that can be adapted to the company atmosphere.

The certification is just a stepping stone to Agile and I must tell you that learning these best practices are essential.

  • Is this answer localized, or is it generally useful to the entire population? (that is not a rhetorical question... I'm not sure what I believe). – Mark C. Wallace Apr 1 '13 at 17:58
  • It may be a little localized. I've submitted an edit that might give it broader applicability. – Willl Apr 2 '13 at 15:40
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I recently attended a CSM certification training by QAI as part of an effort to bring more agility into my own company's marketing processes and I found the entire experience very valuable.

However, CSM is a foundation level course and in no way adequate for a person to be able to lead any agile initiative within their organization. But it does build a very solid foundation for understanding Agile concepts and their relevance in what is a very fast changing marketplace. I would recommend it to everybody looking to bring more efficiency into their internal processes.

Just make sure to choose training organizations with consulting experience as they have a more real world approach using actual client stories and experiences that are far more interesting to learn from as compared to theoretical text.

As regards the certification, its always a positive differentiator especially since knowing that there is an exam to clear at the end of a training brings more seriousness and effort into the learning process.

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It depends how you get the certification and what it brings you.

More knowledge: it means you also take a class (for CSM this is mandatory, for PSM it is not). The reputation of the trainer is what makes or brakes it. Otherwise put, having 2 days learning in the company of a very good Agile Coach / Trainer will increase your knowledge of Scrum (and solve some of the dilemmas, questions you had on going with your teams).

Reputation: the Certification is required by some companies. So I guess it looks good in your CV. But if it’s not accompanied by solid knowledge of Scrum, I find it useless.

One more thing - I would love to suggest that you should do the course from Koenig Solutions because it is one of the best training centers in all over India.

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