December 27, 2018
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, 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|
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?
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.
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:
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.
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?