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

September 11, 2020 Johaff Chanto

Agile Certifications

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 Alliance (founded in 2001) 

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.

Certification CSM, A-CSM, CSP-SM PSM I, PSM II, PSM III SSM, SASM, RTE
Full name Certified ScrumMaster®, Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®, Certified Scrum Professional®-ScrumMaster Professional Scrum Master™ I, Professional Scrum Master™ II, Professional Scrum Master™ III Certified SAFe® Scrum Master, Certified SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master, Certified SAFe® Release Train Engineer
Organization Scrum Alliance Scrum.Org Scaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirements CSM: 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 details CSM: 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 expire Pay fee
Course required? Yes, at all levels Optional Yes
Exam required? Yes, only at entry level Yes. 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 cost Included 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 time Every 2 years Does not expire 1 year
Typically taken by Project 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.

Certification CSPO, A-CSPO, CSP-PO PSPO I, PSPO II, PSPO III POPM, APM
Full name Certified Scrum Product Owner®, Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner, Certified Scrum Professional®-Product Owner Professional 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
Organization Scrum Alliance Scrum.Org Scaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirements CSPO: Attend a course taught by a CST® or receive private coaching from a CAC. PSPO I: Pass the exam and pay the fee POPM : Experience with Agile/Lean. Attend the SAFe® Product Owner/Product Manager course. (applies to both POPM4 or POPM5)
Exam details Not 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? Yes Optional Yes
Exam required? Not required Yes. 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 cost Included 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 time Every 2 years Does not expire Every year
Typically taken by Product 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. 

Certification CSD, CSP PSD ASE, SDP, ARCH
Full name Certified Scrum Developer®, Certified Scrum Professional® Professional Scrum Developer™ Certified SAFe® Agile Software Engineer, Certified SAFe® DevOps Practitioner, Certified SAFe® Architect
Organization Scrum Alliance Scrum.Org Scaled 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 details Yes, for CSD Passing 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 Requirements For CSP: hold a CSD. Validate 36 months of Agile/Scrum work experience in any role. Gather 70 SEUs from the past three years. N/A ARCH: 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 expire Pay fee
Course required? Yes Optional Yes
Exam required? Yes Yes Yes, at all levels
Approx. course cost CSD: $1500-$3250, depending on the track you choose Optional  
ASE: $1400-$1900
SDP: $800-$100
ARCH: $1900-$2100
Approx. exam cost Included in course $200 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 (CSD) 
$250 (CSP)
Does not expire  
ASE: $100 
SDP: $100
ARCH: $295
Expiration time Every 2 years Does not expire Every year
Typically taken by Software 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.

Certification CTC, CEC, CST PMI-ACP ICP, ICE
Full name Certified Team Coach®, Certified Enterprise Coach, Certified Scrum Trainer® Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner ICAgile Certified Professional, ICAgile Certified Expert
Organization Scrum Alliance PMI (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 details Peer assessment 120 multiple-choice, 3 hours N/A
Advanced level requirements N/A N/A You 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 requirements Available in the Renewal Program 2018–19 under Coach Resources Dashboard (restricted access) 30 professional development units (PDUs) in Agile topics every three years Does not expire
Course required? N/A Strongly suggested Yes
Exam required? Peer assessment Yes No
Approx. course cost N/A Optional $1100 – $2200
Approx. exam cost $250 application fee and annual $500 license fee. $435 – $495 N/A
Renewal cost N/A $150 Does not expire
Expiration time N/A Every 3 years Does not expire
Typically taken by Coaches, 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.

Certification CSaSP SPS SPC, SA
Full name Certified Scrum@Scale™ Practitioner Scaled Professional Scrum Implementing SAFe® with SAFe® 5 Program Consultant certification (SPC), Leading SAFe® With SAFe® 5 Agilist Certification (SA)
Organization Scrum at Scale, LLC is a joint venture between Scrum Alliance and Scrum, Inc. Scrum.Org Scaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirements CSaSP: 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 fee SA: 5+ years experience in software development, testing, business analysis, product or project management. Experience in Scrum. Attend the Leading SAFe® course.
Exam details N/A Passing 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 requirements N/A N/A SPC: Facilitation skills, Agile experience, technical fluency, emotional intelligence. Attend the Implementing SAFe® course.
Renewal requirements N/A Does not expire  
SA: Pay fee 
SPC: Pay fee, 160 hours of SPC consulting, 40 continuing education/outreach hours
Course required? Yes Optional Yes
Exam required? Yes Yes Yes
Approx. course cost $1000 Optional  
SPC: $2800-$3000
SA: $800-$1100
Approx. exam cost Included in course $250 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 $250.
Renewal cost N/A Does not expire  
SPC: $895
SA: $100
Expiration time N/A Does not expire Every year
Typically taken by Consultants, 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.

Certification CAL I, CAL II PAL LPM
Full name Certified Agile Leadership I, Certified Agile Leadership II Professional Agile Leadership Certified SAFe® Lean Portfolio Manager
Organization Scrum Alliance Scrum.Org Scaled Agile Inc
Entry level requirements CAL I: No requirements Pass 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 details N/A Passing score: 85%, 60 mins, 36 questions Passing score: 42 out of 60 (70%) in 2 hours
Advanced level Requirements CAL II: Active CAL I, Advanced Education and validated practice (year-long journey) N/A N/A
Renewal requirements  
CAL I: Not required
CAL II: Gather 40 SEUs and pay $250
Does not expire Pay fee
Course required? Yes Optional Yes
Exam required? Not required Yes Yes
Approx. course cost $1750-$4000 Optional $2000
Approx. exam cost N/A $200 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  
CAL I: Never expires
CAL II: $250
Does not expire $295
Expiration time  
CAL I: Never expires
CAL II: 2 years
Does not expire Every year
Typically taken by Executives, 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/

 

Subscribe to our Blog

Previous Article
From Distributed to Virtual PI Planning: How We Successfully Adapted Our Approach
From Distributed to Virtual PI Planning: How We Successfully Adapted Our Approach

Long before most of us shifted, almost overnight, to a full-time, work-from-home model, our Gorillas have b...

Next Flipbook
The Gorilla Way: What it’s like to work with us
The Gorilla Way: What it’s like to work with us

Agile. Unstoppable. It’s a lot more than just a saying. It’s what drives how we think and what we do. It’s ...