Which Scrum Master Qualification Should I Choose?

Did you assume that there was just one ScrumMaster certification? Unfortunately it’s not so simple as a number of organisations offer their own variants. Some are more credible than others so take care when considering a Scrum Master course.

Scrum has become the most widely recognised and most international agile project management methodology. Use of it remains biased towards software development – but many of the tools and techniques can be applied to aspects of other projects.

In the early 1990s, Ken Schwaber used what would become Scrum at his company, Advanced Development Methods. Jeff Sutherland and others developed a similar approach at Easel Corporation, and were the first to refer to it using the single word Scrum. In 1995, Sutherland and Schwaber jointly presented a paper describing the scrum methodology.

An information, training and certification infrastructure built up around Scrum – coordinated by the US based Scrum Alliance. In 2009 Scrum.org was created by Ken Schwaber as an alternative to Scrum Alliance. Jeff Sutherland established Srum Inc which also offers training. In addition a number of other organisations have built their own training and certification variants.

The central role in a Scrum team is “Scrum Master” – and it is training and qualifications aligned with this role which are the most popular.

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Scrum Alliance

  • Established in 2001
  • The largest, most established and influential professional membership organisation in the Agile community
  • A non-profit association with more than 375,000 members worldwide, growing at a rate of 5,000 members per month
  • Promotes the scrum methodology and organises Global and Regional Gatherings to encourage sharing of expertise
  • Certifications include Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, and Certified Scrum Developer
  • Emphasis placed on attendance of training delivered by an accredited expert rather than exam success (though for several years an online exam does now form part of the CSM certification process)


  • Established in 2009 when Ken Schwaber broke away from Scrum Alliance
  • The core certification is “Professional Scrum Master” (PSM). Other certifications echo the Product Owner and Developer certifications offered by Scrum Alliance
  • The emphasis is on the exam rather than the training. Whilst there are courses delivered by accredited trainers, many take the exams following self-study or attendance of a non-accredited course
  • There is a PSMII certification which is more advanced and requires demonstration of practical skills
  • The organisation is more commercially oriented and operates a consultancy business

Scum Inc

  • This is the training and consultancy organisation of Jeff Sutherland
  • It mainly operates in North America but does offer Scrum training events

Scrum Study

  • Part of Edusys, a global training organisation specialising in low cost online learning
  • They have established a useful Scrum body of knowledge and a certification programme based around this.  The body of knowledge is available free of charge online
  • For those wanting to learn the basics of Scrum the online course is a useful and accessible option
  • It is unlikely that a Scrum Master certified via this route will have as comprehensive an understanding as those who have attended a classroom course delivered face to face by an experienced specialist

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  • A Dutch certification body offering qualifications such as ITIL, and information security worldwide
  • 30 years of experience in certifying the competences of almost 2 million ICT-professionals in more than 125 countries
  • Now offer Agile Scrum Foundation exam focusing on the concepts, roles and ceremonies of Scrum
  • Exin benefits from independence and credibility as a certification body but their Scrum qualification has only been launched quite recently and there is little availability in the UK


  • A number of training companies such as The Knowledge Academy and Edusys provide Scrum Master courses where the certification is based on passing their own exam
  • Delegates and employers need to be sceptical when there is no independent certification body involved


Certified Scrum Master – Scrum Alliance or Scrum.org


Scrum Headlines

  1. The name “Scrum” emerged as a rugby analogy where a self-organising team moves down the field – together
  2. Many projects involve learning, innovation and surprises, so a major recurring theme of Scrum is to “inspect and adapt”
  3. “Sprints” of intense activity are launched with a planning meeting and close with a Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective. The review questions “what we should start, stop and continue doing”
  4. “Daily Scrum” meetings are held during Sprints when each member briefly states what’s completed, what they will do next, and what’s in their way
  5. The “Product Owner” identifies product features in the form of a prioritised list and is responsible for ROI
  6. The “Scrum Development Team” is typically a dedicated group of 5-10 people with the different skill sets needed to deliver the product
  7. The “Scrum Master” is a facilitator rather than a manager – guiding the Team, resolving issues and promoting collaboration with the Product Owner
  8. The “Product Backlog” is a definitive and prioritised list of remaining features and tasks – so becomes a form of product road map
  9. The “Sprint Burndown” tracks estimated hours work outstanding against the “time-boxed” Sprint hours available
  10. Scrum is not just about processes – it’s a different style of working which is energetic, collaborative, and flexible.

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