Of course, I am an advocate for experience over certifications. However, what certifications do is put you in a frame of mind to learn and validate said learning, which I think is pretty positive. Those telling you not to bother are usually lucky people who fell into the job you might be aiming for, therefore enjoy the luxury of sitting back and giving you shitty advice. If you want to do a certification and it’s not a scam, why not?
So they say you can’t learn Scrum in 2 days, this is completely true of course. And they say taking an exam doesn’t make you a Scrum Master or Product Owner or whatever, which is also true. You have to start somewhere and the usual path for Scrum Masters is to either take the Certified Scrum Master course from Scrum Alliance or take the Professional Scrum Master Certification from Scrum.org. I have taken the course for the CSM and done the exam for the PSM, let me tell you how they went.
Certified Scrum Master from Scrum Alliance
I took this course 2 years ago in 2018 in Sheffield, it will ‘run out’ this year and I will not be renewing. Not because I didn’t find the course of value, but because the idea of renewing a certification without any further training is simply a joke. The course was really good though. I think this is due to the fact the course was delivered by Tobias Mayer who is a giant in Scrum circles. He was incredibly passionate about what he was teaching and that made the course worth it. It felt like the activities in the course were primary to the actual subject rather than teaching the Scrum guide verbatim. Tobias is an incredibly animated character, very motivated by changing corporate culture which went over the heads of some of the project managers sharing the course with me. We did numerous exercises which all incorporated Scrum teachings and gave a detailed view on what Scrum was trying to achieve. We sat the exam on the last day and in pairs, it was incredibly easy: 35 questions and only 24 to pass if I remember correctly. This is what really sets the two certifications apart, you cannot take the CSM without doing the course.
In short, the 2 day course is only worth it with a very good tutor. The exam is very straight forward. In terms of real world weight, the certification is one of the two big ones but the course fee can enter into the £1000+ mark so that’s not worth it for me. Tobias does self funded discounts which might be worth googling, this took it down to around £600, which might be a good shout.
Professional Scrum Master from Scrum.org
If you, like me, enjoy self studying then this route is the best and most cost effective. Scrum.org is Ken Schwabers Scrum cert offering and has certified many tens of thousands of SM’s and PO’s around the world. You can take courses but what separates this from the above cert is that they make you work for it. $150 for the exam is not easy for newbies at all. For this reason, it is more real world applicable. It teaches you to go out and discover, learn, make a plan and apply it. It forces you to not only read the Scrum guide but actually understand it. You have 60 minutes to answer 80 questions and you have to get a whopping 85% correct. It’s a toughy, but worth it if you have the discipline.
In terms of real world weight, this certification is just as strong and more and more workplaces are sending their employees on these courses.
So whats the verdict? I would say just do the Scrum.org certification, it is hard enough to separate the weak from the strong and they are reasonably priced, plus you don’t have to pay £1000+ to get it.