A few years ago, I made a decision to stop renewing my certifications that expired. It was difficult to let go and see those hard-earned certifications expire, particularly those I had achieved 30 years ago. It was a difficult and emotional choice.
So why did I do it? Read on to learn more.
I had a lot of Agile and Scrum Certifications
I had a lot of Agile and Scrum certifications, more than most people. Just prior to the pandemic in early 2020, I set out on a quest to achieve one new certification per week. And I did really well, racking up 14 new agile and Scrum Certifications by April 2020. But the cost and the time investment started to look foolish as we learned about the pandemic and our clients canceled their training and coaching engagements.
Before I chose to end the experiment, I had achieved a total of 23 certifications. I also had the PMP certification from PMI from my days as a PM for a grand total of 23 certifications.
|Ref #||Designation||Cert Name||Certifying Authority|
|1||CSM||Certified Scrum Master||Scrum Alliance|
|2||CSP-SM||Certified Scrum Professional – Scrum Master||Scrum Alliance|
|3||CAL1||Certified Agile Leadership I||Scrum Alliance|
|4||PSM I||Professional Scrum Master I||Scrum.org|
|5||PSPO I||Professional Scrum Product Owner I||Scrum.org|
|6||PAL||Professional Agile Leadership||Scrum.org|
|7||SMAC||Scrum Master Accredited Certification||Scrum-institute.org|
|8||SPOAC||Scrum Product Owner Accredited Certification||Scrum-institute.org|
|9||SSEAC||Scaled Scrum Expert Accredited Certification||Scrum-institute.org|
|10||SLAC||Agile Scrum Leadership (Executive) Accredited Certification||Scrum-institute.org|
|11||STMAC||Scrum Team Member Accredited Certification||Scrum-institute.org|
|12||SFC||Scrum Fundamentals Certified||Scrumstudy.org|
|13||SDC||Scrum Developer Certified||Scrumstudy.org|
|14||SMC||Scrum Master Certified||Scrumstudy.org|
|15||SAMC||ScrumStudy Agile Master Certified||Scrumstudy.org|
|16||PMI-ACP||PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)||PMI|
|17||DA||Disciplined Agilist (DA)||Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)|
|18||CDA||Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA)||Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)|
|19||CDAP||Certified Disciplined Agile Practitioner (CDAP)||Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)|
|20||DALSM||Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Master (DALSM)||Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)|
|21||LeSS – Practitioner||Certified LeSS Practitioner||Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)|
|22||AHF||Certified AgilityHealth Facilitator||Agility Health|
|23||PMP||Project Management Professional||Project Management Institute|
PMI and Scrum Alliance Certifications Expire
I was always aware that the PMI certifications expire. I obtained my PMP in 1995 and faithfully renewed it every 2 years. That meant getting PDUs and paying the certification fee.
Getting the PDUs to re-certify was always easy for me since I delivered so many training courses and attended many as well. I wrote books targeting project managers, spoke at PMI chapter events, and even volunteered with the local PMI Chicagoland Chapter.
But I was surprised to learn that my Scrum Alliance Certifications would expire. I was certified as a Scrum Master in 2014 and as a Scrum Professional in 2015. At the time, I thought the certifications were for life. As it turns out, they expire.
I first heard about this from a friend who has his CSM. A colleague of mine reached out to me, alarmed that he had just found out he was no longer certified as a Scrum Master. He couldn’t find himself in the Scrum Alliance online certificant directory. (You may want to check for yourself.)
The colleague has been acting as a Scrum Master for nearly 7 years. He had achieved his Scrum certification like most of us – by sitting through a 2-day certification course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer from Scrum Alliance. When he took the class, he was not even required to pass the token quiz – that was added later.
Did he become any less competent as a Scrum Master once his certification “expired”? Actually, it is probably the opposite. So why should the certification expire?
Agile and Scrum Certifications Are a Money-Making Racket
That’s right, Agile and Scrum Certifications are a money-making racket. Through the use of Certified Scrum Trainers and PMI Registered Education Providers, they operate like a multi-level marketing scheme.
The Scrum Alliance approach has always felt a little like a puppy mill – churning out those “Certified Scrum Masters” certifications to anyone who paid for a 2-day training class. They created a virtual monopoly on Scrum certifications and controlled it through the limited number of certified scrum trainers that they controlled. As long as people paid and attended their 2-day training, they got their Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certification.
Despite widespread criticism, Scrum Alliance hasn’t changed its approach much. They did add an end-of-course exam for some of their certifications, but that is about it. This leads me to believe it really is only about money. The Scrum Alliance charges money to give you what I increasingly consider a meaningless certificate. I’ve met too many “certified” Scrum Masters who went through the 2-day class and still know little or nothing about Scrum.
I am not sure that the PMI approach is much better. They do require professional development units (PDUs) but those PDUs are pretty easy to obtain and there is no verification of continued learning. It really seems to be about the money.
So I Decided to Let My Certifications Expire
Once I realized how foolish certifications were, I decided to let them expire.
I admit that initially, it felt a little risky and feckless. It was emotional.
First, I felt like I was losing my investment. Like all my hard work to pass the exam in the first place was going to be thrown out if I did not renew. The reality is, that the investment is a sunk cost and should not factor into future decisions.
The second reason it was emotional was that it felt like it would put at risk my path to future agile and scrum certifications from the Project Management Institute and the Scrum Alliance. Would this block my future success somehow? I seriously doubt it.
As of March 2023, the following certifications have lapsed:
- Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Scrum Alliance
- Certified Scrum Professional (CSP-SM), Scrum Alliance
- Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), Project Management Institute
- Project Management Professional (PMP), Project Management Institute
- Disciplined Agile Senior Scrum Master (DASSM), Project Management Institute
- Scrum Developer Certified, ScrumStudy
- Scrum Master Certified, ScrumStudy
- ScrumStudy Agile Master Certified, ScrumStudy
- Scrum Fundamentals Certified, ScrumStudy
A Cleaner Scrum Certification Approach
I’ve started to steer clear of the Scrum Alliance certifications in favor of Scrum.org. I think that Scrum.org is using a cleaner and more scrupulous approach. To get the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification from Scrum.org, you need to demonstrate competency by passing a rigorous assessment. They don’t care how you get the knowledge. You can take training from them or self-study. Or get it from hands-on practice. And unlike the Scrum Alliance certifications, the PSM from Scrum.org won’t expire; it lasts for your lifetime.
Bottom Line – Agile and Scrum Certifications
Agile and Scrum Certifications are a racket. Sure you can learn and grow in the pursuit of certification. And they might help you as a candidate for a role in some organizations. But they mainly serve the certifying body.
If you decide there is value in having a certification, I recommend that you pursue certifications that do not expire, like those from Scrum.org. Why spend more on something than you need to?
Full disclosure… I am a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and have been a member of the Scrum Alliance for about 10 years.
I think this issue often comes down to the view of scrum certifications. For some, it’s about passing a one-time test and claiming the credential. I view CSM a little differently; as validation that you’ve been taught Scrum, as designed in the scrum guide, by a vetted and certified expert… a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). Further, the renewal for the CSM certification is not just for the credential, but also continued membership in a 500,000+ person community that offers support and benefits such as discounted global and regional conferences, free educational webinars, agile careers and job postings, and many much more. If a member wishes to attend a Scrum Gathering, they receive a $200+ discount on registration, so the bi-annual renewal fee of $100 easily pays for itself from a raw dollars standpoint. Additionally, Scrum Alliance sponsors many local events such as conferences and meetup events simply to support those local agile communities. Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization offering many benefits to the community for over 17 years where no other organization had existed. So I am proud to be part of this community and proud to continue to support it as I see it as offering a win-win-win situation. I suppose its each individual’s choice if $100 every 2 years is too much to contribute for continued membership in the largest global agile community, funding the support and outreach to local and underserved markets, and renewal of their own certification.
As for the certification renewal itself, Scrum Alliance certifications have been on a 2-year renewal cycle for at least 10 years (if not from the beginning), so this isn’t something new. What is new is the requirement for continued learning to maintain the certification. In 2018 the requirement for 20 SEUs (Scrum Education Units) was added to CSM renewal promote continued learning. And coming in early 2019 there will be an updated exam for CSM, and a new exam for CSPO.
In addition, in 2017 the Scrum Alliance began offering the Advanced level for CSM and CSPO to further provide a path on the journey for certification holders who choose to gain experience, in addition to training and self-study. The A-CSM and A-CSPO certifications both require 12 months of experience. The next level beyond that is the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) level, which requires an additional 12 months of experience in the role. I know of no other certification body offering this type of advanced learning path for agile or scrum certifications with various opportunities for class room learning as well as offerings for extended peer group collaboration, mentorship, coaching and other formats which are all actively supported by the most well vetted trainers in the agile community.
People that attend my CSM classes understand that this is the first step in a journey, and that the Scrum Alliance offers a path on that journey. It is up to them to decide if they chose to take this path. If they want to continue, I ‘m here to help them. It’s up to them to choose.
I hope that helps to clarify a bit of the Scrum Alliance / CST perspective.
Hi Aaron, thanks for the detailed explanation. I was not aware that the Certifications were on a renewal cycle for the last 10 years. I must have renewed them 2 years ago and not remembered it. And though the renewal fee isn’t significant (as you’ve pointed out), I am still not convinced there is value to me in renewing the certifications.
Happy New Year!
Aaron, in your answer you confirm that ScrumAlliance certification is not about getting knowledge and learning practical professional skills, but about being a “proud” member of the “proud team” on their journey to the “Agile new normal”, – that’s definition of a religious cult, more like a Scientology-type cult rather than something with real value.
You may have success in trying to convince kids that a 2-day training can produce anything valuable, by using your awkward cyclical logic that ScrumAlliance certification is good, because it is being taught by a certified ScrumAlliance coach. You have a multi-layer marketing system that emphasizes structure and highly formalized levels, – just like sort of Herbalife…
Try to change my mind… )
Anthony, I am also considering not renewing my CSM when it expires. And my reasons are similar to yours. I question the value of the CSM certification ($50/year), the need for certification renewal (revenue generator?), and the lack of a member community within the Scrum Alliance web site (they disbanded it in early 2018).
In addition, the online webinars offered through Scrum Alliance have become increasingly lacking in value, in my opinion. As you know, I originally started as a CSM through Scrum Alliance, but I’ve found a much more robust online Scrum community through Scrum.Org. I am currently preparing for my PSM2 certification through Scrum.Org. I would encourage you to explore the Scrum.Org community, along with their many certifications (gained through what you know, and not based on time logged).
Tim Baffa – CSM, PSM
Tim, thanks so much for your comments. I’ve seen that you are active on the Scrum.org discussion boards and I’m glad you find value in it.
After posting this, I received a stern note from Scrum Alliance about misuse and disparagement of their badges and their service marks. I’ll comply but it just reinforces the notion that I’m probably going to be OK going outside the SA Community.
Happy New Year,
Thanks for your comments. Honestly, why should you have to spend hundreds or thousands for scrum certifications. I spent $19 at AgileScrumAcademy.org. Now I am scrum certified for life. It doesnt expire.
Thank you Thomas for your comment. I have not personally heard of the Agile Scrum Academy though I understand your sentiments.
Hello Thomas, Is AgileScrumAcademy.org reputed?
Hi Poonam, I have never heard of AgileScrumAcademy.org. A quick visit to their website reveals a pretty thin site with security issues. I tried to take the online exam for “Agile Scrum Master” which cost $19 but the site kept erroring out.
There is an odd statement on their about page (/about-agile/) which I think is indicative of the quality:
About Agile scrum academy the Best scrum
certification Statistics say that by using Agile Project
Management, on average, the time to
is 37% faster and the efficiency
of you team is increased with a
productivity higher by 16% that the average.
Bottom Line: I would avoid the AgileScrumAcademy and stick with either Scrum Alliance or Scrum.org for Scrum Master certification training.
So, my CSM has expired on March 25 2020 and have not renewed yet. Checked my online profile and it still shows as active and it is searchable. Am I under a grace period? Will it be like this for ever if I do not renew? My point is…what exactly will happen if you do not renew? You just get removed from their searchable database? If yes, can I just pay the renewal fee and reinstate it, if needed? The whole thing seems a bit scummy…
Hi George, thanks for your comments. I don’t know exactly how this is being implemented. After a friend alerted me, I checked my own and it had not expired. I obtained my CSM in 2014 and so technically it should have been renewed in 2017?? It is still showing as valid in the Scrum Alliance directory so I don’t know if they have a grace period, or if this is just behind schedule or what is exactly their approach. You would have to check with someone from the Scrum Alliance. Perhaps they are not worrying about it, in particular with all the real world problems people have.
I know if it was PMI that would be a different story :).
Let me know if you learn anything different.
It’s likely for the same reason News Paper companies continue to deliver after you have canceled… active subscriber count increases their sales (ads in the case of News Papers). FWIW I never even thought about renewing my cert, or any cert for that matter. Once you have work experience the cert only gets you search hits, not contracts/jobs. My Java cert from back in the day still gets filtered on Job sites, and people mostly want to see something there for a specific job, but again it comes down to the interview and your skills/fit. I’ll likely check out Scrum.org for actual career benefits, as SA seems more sales-based vs knowledge-based.
Appreciate the lively debate as it helps inform decisions.
Well. Scrum Alliance can have something to say inactive or active instead of deleting the name from their list for the expired certificates
The CSM is a joke. There is no accountability to prove the person actually has any experience. The fact that anyone can take a 2 day class and have a CSM says it all. The PMI-ACP is much more stringent and subject to a rigorous audit process. When I’m looking for agile PMs I only look for ACPs.
The PMI-ACP doesn’t really follow Scrum in its purity. There’s ALOT of PMO influence on the PMI-ACP. Its PMI’s attempt to remain relevant in a growing Agile world. Although I agree that the CSM just says you can sit through a 2 day class and pass a basic exam. Forget the CSM. You want to impress me? Show me your PSM-III along with your ICAgile and ICF accreditations. That way I’ll know you know the ins and outs of Scrum and how to Coach individuals and teams.
Thanks for this informative blog. its really helps me as this blog gives all the detailed information, Thank you so much
Thank you Steven!
Anthony thanks for the valuable information. I was thinking about scrum certification, but was not crazy about that I had to take a course before taking the exam with scrum alliance. I think I will check out scrum.org. I have had PMI PMP since 2008, do you know if the PMI Agile Hybrid Project Pro Micro – Credential is worth pursuing? As I understand it, it tags along with your PMP certification.
Hi Steve, thank you for your comments. I have not heard of the PMI Micro credential and I’ve no idea if it is any good or not. It looks like it might be a way to push more agile ways of working without killing the PMP cash cow. If you do decide to pursue it, please let me know how that goes for you.
Interesting take. I am keeping my ScrumAlliance certs, but I am planning on acquiring certs through Scrum.org. I like the rigor and depth of the certs offered through Scrum.org. I also like that they make you work to be certified after the basic Scrum classes. I think that adds value to the certification.
I thought about completing the PMI-ACP exam. There is definitely some good content. I have been approved to take the test. However, I opted not to do so since it doesn’t look like the PMI-ACP content has been updated to accommodate the changes to the Scrum Guide. If PMI has plans for updating the PMI-ACP exam, then I would reconsider.
Hi Mary, thanks for your comments. I agree with you on the Scrum.org certs and the value of the PMI-ACP. In terms of the updates to the PMI-ACP, the exam content outline doesn’t look like it has been updated since 2014. I don’t know if they keep up with the changes in the Scrum Guide for 2017 or 2020 but I would be surprised.
Thanks for visiting the website and sharing your insights.
Made the same decision early this century because I had the nerve to ask “How would this work with Agile?” at a PMI conference (’03? ’04?… something like that.) The question didn’t go over well with the speaker who accused me of an ethics violation. I guess I didn’t understand the gravity of the PMI ethics code – at least as that speaker understood it – and had his view of it explained to me in front of all the other attendees in the room. The short version: Waterfall. Love it or leave it. I left it and the PMI. Never looked back.
About 10 years later, while attending a Gartner conference at Disney World, I relayed my story to a gentleman sitting next to me at the hotel bar. Turned out that he was on the PMI board. The next night a few PMI board members came over to hear the story. So, that was interesting and hopeful…
All these organizations should look at how the US Olympic Committee sports train coaches. It’s a combination of books, lectures, clinics, mentoring, and skill evaluation. It’s costly but if the USOC sports can do it, I don’t see why other orgs couldn’t adopt the same. Using the varied approach, with time and effort one can obtain some level of proficiency.
The biggest risk I see with all process-based orgs is that they lose the sense of being a learning organization and calcify into an institution. The PMI started by collecting best practice into the PMBOK. But, by 2004 there was zero interest in hearing if the Snowbird conference might have identified a better way – at least not from a conference speaker and a bunch o’ attendees. I fear Agile Alliance, Scrum Alliance, SAI, and others risk the same fate. Dogma’s never the path to truth.
Frameworks aren’t inherently bad, but study them intensely to understand the “why” so you can follow them rather than mimic them. I attended Agile2 training to hear their perspective (well worth it, btw.) I’ve read Cockcroft’s Heart approach. I read Radical Enterprise. I look at Holacracy. We only gain understanding by seeking out all sides. Certifications can serve that purpose, but little else. They certainly don’t convey mastery, and it’s silly and naïve to think they could.
PS- Why the explosion of process frameworks? What does it all mean? If we agree with Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” then perhaps we’re on the cusp of something new. Or, maybe it’s been out there all along, evolving at Haier waiting to be “discovered.”
Thank you Bob for sharing your experience. Professional certifications are a thorny issue. Some organizations are so calcified by the cash cow of certifications that they are unwilling to consider new approaches or adapt. What is missing is a focus on the needs of the professionals who are practicing in the field.
Thanks for adding your voice!
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