What a Great Time to Invest in an Agile Certification! Overview of Your Options: September, 2020

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If, like me, you find that you’re staying at home more recently, you might be looking for useful ways to invest your time. If you’re interested in Agile software development, I highly recommend you consider investing time in an Agile certification. But which one should you choose? In this blog, I will provide an in-depth review of the recognized Agile certifications, creating a map to help you make the best decision for your needs. I’ve reviewed the offerings from the best known providers (as of September 2020) and will provide you with an updated summary that includes: entry and advanced level requirements, costs, exam scores, renewal details, and also who typically takes these.

Why is this a great time for Agile certifications?

Until recently, most of the best-known Agile certification programs have required in-person training. Now, however, the current global situation has changed the way we learn, and many certification programs are offered virtually. Not only is virtual learning more convenient, it can save you money on travel costs.

Why should you get an Agile certification?

Software development gets increasingly competitive every year. Technology constantly evolves. For these reasons, IT professionals must be quick to adapt. Obtaining an Agile certification signals your expertise and commitment to continuous learning, equips you with the tools to do your job better, refreshes your perspective on how to develop software, and increases your attractiveness to future employers.

Which Agile certification is the best?

Before you choose an Agile certification, your first step should be to assess the current state of your professional career. Next, define your goals and what you intend to do in the next few years.

You will also want to consider the total financial commitment for the certification you choose. Most certifications start with an entry level that requires you to pay a fee to take a class, pass an exam, or both. Most certifications progress to more advanced levels as you gain more working experience. Some will require you to accumulate credits or years of experience. Some require you to pay a fee to retain the certification or advance to the next level. You should consider the full cost and time commitment of any path you choose, so you can get the most from your experience.

What are the most recognized Agile certification providers?

Although there are many Agile certification bodies, the most recognized and highly regarded organizations (as of September 2020) include:

Scrum.Org (founded in 2009) 

Scaled Agile Inc. (founded in 2011) 

Project Management Institute (founded in 1969) 

• International Consortium of Agile (founded in 2010) 

So that you can assess these options, I’ve summarized the information below.

What are the different types of Agile certification?

Not only are there different certification providers, there are different types of certifications, including:

• Scrum Master

• Product owner or product manager

• Scrum developer

• Agile coach

• Agile consultant or change agent

• Agile executive or change sponsor 

Scrum master certifications

Many of us have started our Agile journey with a Scrum Master certification (including me). This popular certification is an excellent start for anyone who wants to learn more about Scrum and Agile. If you are a leader/people manager, project manager, Scrum Master then you may want to consider any of these paths.

Note that I have included the Certified SAFe® Release Train Engineer (RTE) below, because an RTE usually becomes a Scrum Master first, and the role is similar but at a higher level. Check the resources at the end of this post if you are interested in the SAFe® framework.

*If viewing on mobile, be sure to turn your phone sideways for the best viewing experience for all tables.

CertificationCSM, A-CSM, CSP-SMPSM I, PSM II, PSM IIISSM, SASM, RTE
Full nameCertified ScrumMaster®, Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®, Certified Scrum Professional®-ScrumMasterProfessional Scrum Master™ I, Professional Scrum Master™ II, Professional Scrum Master™ IIICertified SAFe® Scrum Master, Certified SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master, Certified SAFe® Release Train Engineer
OrganizationScrum AllianceScrum.OrgScaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirementsCSM: Attend a course taught by a CST® or receive private coaching from a CAC.PSM I: Pass the exam and pay the fee.SSM: Experience working in a Lean-Agile environment, attend the SAFe® Scrum Master course. There are two: Safe 4 or Safe 5.
Exam detailsCSM: answer 37 out of 50 questions correctly within 60 minutes
PSM I: Passing score: 85%, 60 mins, 80 questions  
PSM II: Passing score: 85%, 90 mins, 30 questions 
PSM III: Passing score: 85%, 120 mins, 33 questions and essay

 

SSM4 = score 33 out of 45 (73%) in 90 minutes
SSM5 = 34 out of 45 (75%) in 90 minutes
SASM 4 = score 42 out of 60 (70%)
SASM 5 = 44 out of 60 (73%) in 2 hours
RTE4 = 44 out of 60 (73%) 
RTE5 = 45 out of 60 (75%) in 2 hours

 

Advanced level requirements 

A-CSM: Hold a CSM. Attend a course. Validate at least 12 months of work experience as CSM. 
CSP-SM: Hold an A-CSM. Attend a course. Validate at least 24 months of work experience as CSM.
PSM II and PSM III: Pay and pass the exam. 

SASM: Experience working in a Lean-Agile environment. Attend the SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master course. There are two: SAFe 4 or SAFe 5. 
RTE: Launch or participate in at least one ART and one PI. Minimum three months of real-world, hands-on experience as an RTE, plus more additional skills. Also attend the SAFe® Release Train Engineer course.
Renewal requirements 

Earning Scrum Education Units® (SEUs) and pay renewal fee. 
CSM: 20 SEUs
 A-CSM: 30 SEUs
CSP-SM: 40 SEUs
Does not expirePay fee
Course required?Yes, at all levelsOptionalYes
Exam required?Yes, only at entry levelYes. Can skip PSM I by passing PSM II exam. Same for PSM III.Yes, at all levels
Approx. course cost 

$700 (CSM) 
$1200-$1500 (other levels)
Optional 

SSM, SASM: $800-$1000 
RTE: $2200-$2700
Approx. exam costIncluded in course 

PSM I: $150 
PSM II: $250
PSM III: $500
First exam attempt is included as part of the course registration fee if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake attempt costs $50.
Renewal cost 

$100 (CSM)
$175 (A-CSM)
$250 (CSP-SM)
Does not expire 

SSM, SASM: $100 
RTE: $295
Expiration timeEvery 2 yearsDoes not expire1 year
Typically taken byProject managers, facilitators, leaders

 

Product owner or product manager certifications

If you would like to be an Agile product owner or product manager, you might want to follow any of these certifications paths. These are typically for managers who own a product roadmap, need to write user stories, have a very close engagement with stakeholders, and are accountable for a product and its metrics/results.

CertificationCSPO, A-CSPO, CSP-POPSPO I, PSPO II, PSPO IIIPOPM, APM
Full nameCertified Scrum Product Owner®, Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner, Certified Scrum Professional®-Product OwnerProfessional Scrum Product Owner™ I, Professional Scrum Product Owner™ II, Professional Scrum Product Owner™ III,Certified SAFe® Product Owner / Product Manager, Certified SAFe® Agile Product Manager
OrganizationScrum AllianceScrum.OrgScaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirementsCSPO: Attend a course taught by a CST® or receive private coaching from a CAC.PSPO I: Pass the exam and pay the feePOPM : Experience with Agile/Lean. Attend the SAFe® Product Owner/Product Manager course. (applies to both POPM4 or POPM5)
Exam detailsNot required 

PSPO I: Passing score: 85%, 60 mins, 80 questions
PSPO II: Passing score: 85%, 60 mins, 40 questions
PSPO III: Passing score: 85%, 120 mins, 35 questions
 

POPM4 = 35 out of 45 (77%)
POPM5 = 33 out of 45 (73%) in 90 mins
APM: 45 out of 60 (75%) in 2 hours
Advanced level requirements 

A-CSPO: Hold a CSPO. Attend a course. Validate at least 12 months of work experience as CSPO. 
CSP-PO: Hold an A-CSPO. Attend a course, Validate at least 24 months of work experience as CSPO.
 

PSPO II and PSPO III: Pay and pass exam. 
For PSPO III, you also need to pass both PSPO I and PSPO II.
APM: Experience being a Product Manager, Product Marketer, Product Owner, Business Owner, or bringing products to market. Attend the Agile Product Management course.
Renewal Requirements 

Earn Scrum Education Units® (SEUs) and pay renewal fee.
CSPO: 20 SEUs
A-CSPO: 30 SEUs
CSP-PO: 40 SEUs
Does not expire.Pay fee.
Course required?YesOptionalYes
Exam required?Not requiredYes. Can skip PSPO I by passing the PSPO II exam. For PSPO III, you need to pass both PSPO I and PSPO II.Yes, at all levels
Approx. course cost 

$700 (CSM)
$1200-$1500 (other levels)
Optional 

POPM: $800-$1000 
APM: $1900-$2100
Approx. exam costIncluded in course 

PSPO I: $200
PSPO II: $250
PSPO III: $500
First exam attempt is included as part of the course registration fee if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake attempt costs $50.
Renewal cost 

$100 (CSPO)
$175 (A-CSPO
$250 (CSP-PO)
Does not expire 

POPM: $100
APM: $295
Expiration timeEvery 2 yearsDoes not expireEvery year
Typically taken byProduct Managers, leaders

 

Scrum developer certifications

Scrum developer certifications are more suitable for those technical enthusiasts who are passionate about technology. These courses are typically taken by software engineers, developers, and solutions architects. 

CertificationCSD, CSPPSDASE, SDP, ARCH
Full nameCertified Scrum Developer®, Certified Scrum Professional®Professional Scrum Developer™Certified SAFe® Agile Software Engineer, Certified SAFe® DevOps Practitioner, Certified SAFe® Architect
OrganizationScrum AllianceScrum.OrgScaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirements 

Track 1: Attend a 5-day CSD course taught by a Scrum Alliance REP® and CSD instructor
Track 2: Earn a CSM and attend a 3-day CSD course
Pass the exam and pay the fee. 

ASE: Background in engineering, development, managing development, or QA. Attend the SAFe® 5 Agile Software Engineering course. 
SDP: Experience working in a development and/or operations environment. Attend the SAFe® 5 DevOps Practitioner course.
Exam detailsYes, for CSDPassing score: 85%, 60 mins, 80 questions 

ASE: score 42 out of 60 (70%) in 2 hours 
SDP: score 33 out of 45 (73%) in 90 minutes
ARCH: score 45 out of 60 (75%) in 2 hours
Advanced Level RequirementsFor CSP: hold a CSD. Validate 36 months of Agile/Scrum work experience in any role. Gather 70 SEUs from the past three years.N/AARCH: Application of Lean-Agile principles. Attend the SAFe® for Architects course.
Renewal Requirements 

Earning Scrum Education Units® (SEUs) and pay the renewal fee. 
For CSD: 20 SEUs
For CSP: 40 SEUs
Does not expirePay fee
Course required?YesOptionalYes
Exam required?YesYesYes, at all levels
Approx. course costCSD: $1500-$3250, depending on the track you chooseOptional 

ASE: $1400-$1900
SDP: $800-$100
ARCH: $1900-$2100
Approx. exam costIncluded in course$200First exam attempt is included as part of the course registration fee if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake attempt costs $50.
Renewal cost 

$100 (CSD) 
$250 (CSP)
Does not expire 

ASE: $100 
SDP: $100
ARCH: $295
Expiration timeEvery 2 yearsDoes not expireEvery year
Typically taken bySoftware engineers, DevOps engineers, solution architects

 

Agile coach certifications

If you enjoy coaching people, or are an experienced Agile practitioner, this path may be most suitable.

Please note the following table does not include the SAFe RTE, SPC or SA certifications. These options are also excellent coaching career options, and are included in the Agile consultants certifications section below.

CertificationCTC, CEC, CSTPMI-ACPICP, ICE
Full nameCertified Team Coach®, Certified Enterprise Coach, Certified Scrum Trainer®Project Management Institute Agile Certified PractitionerICAgile Certified Professional, ICAgile Certified Expert
OrganizationScrum AlliancePMI (Project Management Institute)ICAgile (International Consortium of Agile)
Entry level requirements 

CTC & CEC: Active CSP-SM, CSP-PO, or CSP
CST: Active CSP-SM.
It is a very rigorous process. In Part I, you need to meet the checklist requirements; in Part II, there will be a peer assessment. See https://www.scrumalliance.org/get-certified/ctc-certification/how-do-i-apply
 

Secondary degree
21 contact hours of training in Agile practices
12 months of general project experience within the last 5 years 
8 months of Agile project experience within the last 3 years
ICP: At least 12 months of experience. Take the Agile Fundamentals course.
Exam detailsPeer assessment120 multiple-choice, 3 hoursN/A
Advanced level requirementsN/AN/AYou must earn the ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP) certification and the two specialty certifications on the track you’re interested in. There are multiple tracks to choose from, including coaching, which is very popular.
Renewal requirementsAvailable in the Renewal Program 2018–19 under Coach Resources Dashboard (restricted access)30 professional development units (PDUs) in Agile topics every three yearsDoes not expire
Course required?N/AStrongly suggestedYes
Exam required?Peer assessmentYesNo
Approx. course costN/AOptional$1100 – $2200
Approx. exam cost$250 application fee and annual $500 license fee.$435 – $495N/A
Renewal costN/A$150Does not expire
Expiration timeN/AEvery 3 yearsDoes not expire
Typically taken byCoaches, consultants, senior managers

 

Agile consultant or change agent certifications

If you envision yourself as a consultant, change agent, or need to scale Agile these are excellent options.

Typically these professionals are excellent communicators, negotiators, who are able to adapt their communication style to different audiences, they are also able to influence.

CertificationCSaSPSPSSPC, SA
Full nameCertified Scrum@Scale™ PractitionerScaled Professional ScrumImplementing SAFe® with SAFe® 5 Program Consultant certification (SPC), Leading SAFe® With SAFe® 5 Agilist Certification (SA)
OrganizationScrum at Scale, LLC is a joint venture between Scrum Alliance and Scrum, Inc.Scrum.OrgScaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirementsCSaSP: Hold a CSM. Attend a 2-day certified Scrum@Scale course with a certified Scrum@Scale trainer. A CSPO is suggested as well.Pass the exam and pay the feeSA: 5+ years experience in software development, testing, business analysis, product or project management. Experience in Scrum. Attend the Leading SAFe® course.
Exam detailsN/APassing score: 85%, 60 mins, 40 questions 

SA: SA4 = 34 out of 45 (75%)
SA5 = 35 out of 45 (77%) in 90 minutes
SPC: 45 out of 60 (75%) in 2 hours
Advanced level requirementsN/AN/ASPC: Facilitation skills, Agile experience, technical fluency, emotional intelligence. Attend the Implementing SAFe® course.
Renewal requirementsN/ADoes not expire 

SA: Pay fee 
SPC: Pay fee, 160 hours of SPC consulting, 40 continuing education/outreach hours
Course required?YesOptionalYes
Exam required?YesYesYes
Approx. course cost$1000Optional 

SPC: $2800-$3000
SA: $800-$1100
Approx. exam costIncluded in course$250First exam attempt is included as part of the course registration fee if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake attempt costs $250.
Renewal costN/ADoes not expire 

SPC: $895
SA: $100
Expiration timeN/ADoes not expireEvery year
Typically taken byConsultants, professionals looking to scale Agile within their organizations

 

Agile executive or change sponsor certifications

If you are an executive, senior manager, Agile change sponsor or consultant, you may be interested in these certifications.

CertificationCAL I, CAL IIPALLPM
Full nameCertified Agile Leadership I, Certified Agile Leadership IIProfessional Agile LeadershipCertified SAFe® Lean Portfolio Manager
OrganizationScrum AllianceScrum.OrgScaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirementsCAL I: No requirementsPass the exam and pay the fee 

Basic to intermediate understanding of SAFe
Basic understanding of strategy
Basic understanding of funding models
Understanding how to organize value streams
Attend the Lean Portfolio Management course
Exam detailsN/APassing score: 85%, 60 mins, 36 questionsPassing score: 42 out of 60 (70%) in 2 hours
Advanced level RequirementsCAL II: Active CAL I, Advanced Education and validated practice (year-long journey)N/AN/A
Renewal requirements 

CAL I: Not required
CAL II: Gather 40 SEUs and pay $250
Does not expirePay fee
Course required?YesOptionalYes
Exam required?Not requiredYesYes
Approx. course cost$1750-$4000Optional$2000
Approx. exam costN/A$200First exam attempt is included as part of the course registration fee if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake attempt costs $50.
Renewal cost 

CAL I: Never expires
CAL II: $250
Does not expire$295
Expiration time 

CAL I: Never expires
CAL II: 2 years
Does not expireEvery year
Typically taken byExecutives, senior managers, Leaders, change agents, coaches, consultants

 

 

Pro tips for Agile certifications

• Remember that one SEU equals one hour of education, training, and so on. Holders of multiple Scrum Alliance certifications, please use this calculator.

• It’s easy to accumulate SEUs. You can use your other non-Scrum Alliance Agile certifications to claim SEUs. You can also use webinars, conferences, virtual summits, and so on. You may also be able to claim PDUs from the PMI for other certifications; for example, SAFe certifications also grant you PDUs.

• Note that CAL I will be replaced by CAL-Essentials (CAL-E), CAL for Teams (CAL-T), and CAL for Organizations (CAL-O).

Agile certifications should be part of your continuous learning commitment

Whether you  are a people manager, software engineer, coach, or consultant, you should now have a clear picture of which certification may best meet your needs or your career ambitions. Refer back to this article whenever you need to compare your options against your current career path. And be sure to share it with anyone who might need some guidance in their professional development.

I hope this post will inspire you to take the next step in your professional career, or give you the tools to help someone you know who needs it. Earning a certification may be your key to unlocking a world full of possibilities. As Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

 

References

1. Scrum Alliance. About the Scrum Alliance. June 30th, 2020.

https://www.agilealliance.org/sponsors/scrum-alliance

2. Scrum.Org . About. June 30th, 2020.

https://www.scrum.org/about

3. Scaled Agile Inc. The Scaled Agile Story. Story. June 30th, 2020.

https://www.scaledagile.com/about/about-us/

4. Project Management Institute. PMI Founders. June 30th, 2020.

https://www.pmi.org/about/learn-about-pmi/founders

5. International Consortium of Agile. About. June 30th, 2020.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/icagile

6. Scaled Agile Inc. Certification FAQs

https://www.scaledagile.com/certification-faqs/

 

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