October 23, 2018

So Many Agile Certifications! Which One is Right for You?

Post by: Rachael Wilterdink

Ever since the Agile manifesto was written in the early 2000s, it has taken off like a rocket, and it seems that every professional certifying body wants to jump on the bandwagon. There are numerous certifications available, and more seem to pop up every day. Hopefully this will help guide you through some of the myriad options.

But before we jump into your certification choices, you need to analyze your motivation in earning a certification:

  • Is it a requirement for your job?
  • Are you looking to grow into an agile role from a more traditional one?
  • Do you want to earn a higher salary?
  • How much time and study are you willing to invest in certification?
  • Do you have the necessary experience to qualify and pass the exams?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself before starting down any certification path. Once you have done that little bit of introspection, there are many options available. Let me lay them out for you:

Scrum.org

This organization is run by one of the original authors of the Agile Manifesto, Ken Schwaber, and split from another organization when Ken was faced with two choices: the desire to make money, or the desire to do the right thing. He chose to do the right thing.

This organization is very transparent and is more about spreading Scrum than making money. The certification and classes offered are rigorous; passing any of the exams is no small feat. If you have a smaller budget, a lot of experience, and can self-direct your own learning, this might be a good choice for you.

Professional Scrum Master™ – PSM (Levels I, II, III)

Certification Level Number/Format TimePassing Score Cost
PSM-IIntermediate80 multiple choice questions60 minutes85% or above$150
PSM-IIAdvanced30 multiple choice questions90 minutes85% or above$250
PSM IIIAdvanced34 multiple choice and essay120 minutes85% or above$500

Professional Scrum Product Owner™ – PSPO (Levels I, II)

Certification Level Number/Format TimePassing Score Cost
PSPO-IIntermediate80 multiple choice questions60 minutes85% or above$200
PSPO-IIAdvancedMultiple choice and essay120 minutes85% or above$500

Professional Scrum Developer™ – PSD

Certification Level Number/Format TimePassing Score Cost
PSD-IIntermediate80 multiple choice questions60 minutes85% or above$200

Scaled Professional Scrum™ – SPS

Certification Level Number/Format TimePassing Score Cost
SPS-IIntermediate40 multiple choice questions60 minutes85% or above$250

Professional Scrum with Kanban™ – PSK

Certification Level Number/Format TimePassing Score Cost
PSK-IIntermediate45 multiple choice questions60 minutes85% or above$200

Professional Agile Leadership™ – PAL

Certification Level Number/Format TimePassing Score Cost
PAL-IIntermediate36 multiple choice questions60 minutes85% or above$200

Pros:

  • No formal education requirements
  • No renewal fees
  • Open assessments
  • Highly credible
  • Searchable registry of certificate holders
  • No periodic recertification required

Cons:

  • Much more difficult than other exams, given the requirement to have 85% or above in a short period of time
  • Must be highly experienced and good at self-directed learning if a course is not taken
  • Classes are optional, but are still pricey (but can help increase your chance of passing)

ScrumAlliance.org

This organization also has its roots in the original Agile Manifesto, but it is more driven by providing formal education along with certifications. To sit the exams, you must first take one of their classes, which are only taught by their certified education providers. These tend to expensive, but the cost of the class includes the exam fee. However, their requirements are less stringent, and the tests are also much easier (in my experience) than those of other organizations. If you have the budget for training, this might be a good way to spend your money.

Certified Scrum Master® – CSM®

Basic, entry-level Scrum Master certification.

Advanced Certified Scrum Master – A-CSM

Advanced Scrum Master certification. Must have at least one year of experience as a Scrum Master and must have previously passed the CSM.

Certified Product Owner® – CSPO®

Basic, entry-level Product Owner certification.

Advanced Certified Product Owner® – A-CSPO®

Advanced Scrum Product Owner certification. Must have at least one year of experience as a Product Owner and must have previously passed the CSPO.

Certified Scrum Developer® – CSD®

Focuses on the developer role on a Scrum team, specifically for software programmers (versus “development team members” on a Scrum team)

Certified Scrum Professional® – CSP® (-PO or -SM)

Must have an active advanced certification as either a Scrum Master or Product Owner and must have two years of experience specific to one of those roles within the past five years.

Etc.…

(There are numerous other advanced offerings to become coaches and trainers, but that’s beyond the scope of what I want to cover in this blog.)

Pros:

  • Exams are short and easy by comparison to other certifications
  • Searchable list of people who have been certified

Cons:

  • Must take an expensive, multiple-day course from certified trainers before being allowed to sit the exam (although class includes the cost of taking the exam)
  • Recertification required every three years, plus recertification fees

IIBA®

The International Institute of Business Analysis® has finally thrown their hat into the ring as far as agile certifications go. The IIBA® published an Agile Extension to their Business Analysis Book of Knowledge many years ago. With the recent introduction of version 2, they now also offer a certification that is specifically related to analysis on an agile team. It requires real-world experience in addition to book learning. At this point, there are only 81 people certified. However, given the popularity of agile, I expect that number to grow quickly.

Agile Analysis Certification

Certification Number/Format TimeMember Price Non-member Price
IIBA®-AAC85 multiple choice questions2 hours$250$375

Recertification requirements – TBD, $85 renewal (members), $120 (non-members)

Pros:

  • It’s the new kid on the block. If you’re looking to add another agile feather to your cap, this is a slightly different take on agile skills
  • It’s in a similar price range to Scrum.org and less expensive than Scrum Alliance or PMI

Cons:

  • Re-certification is required every three years and there is a nominal cost involved
  • It’s an intense exam, requiring real experience

PMI®

Founded in 1969, the Project Management Institute® is a very large and established global organization. As a result, they have been a bit slower to adopt agile practices, but they now have one of the most respected agile certifications around. Nearly as intense as the PMP, this certification has more extensive requirements than most of the other certifications in the agile space, but also more expensive. It also has ongoing recertification requirements.

Agile Certified Practitioner

Certification Number/Format TimeMember Price Non-member Price
PMI- ACP®120 multiple choice questions3 hours$435$495

Recertification requirements – Must earn 30 PDUs every three years to maintain certification.

Prerequisites:

  • 2,000 hours general project experience.
  • 1,500 hours on agile project teams or agile experience
  • 21 contact hours of agile training

Pros:

  • PMI’s size, reputation, and global recognition, and PMI’s fastest growing certification
  • No recertification fees

Cons:

  • Recertification is required every three years, with 30 PDUs
  • Exam cost is higher than other organizations
  • The exam was recently re-vamped with the release of the sixth version of the PMBOK®, which included the Agile Practice Guide, so there might not be a lot of great tools out there yet to help prep

Conclusion

So, now that I’ve given you the details, and you have all the information you need to decide – which certification is right for you?

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