Why I am NOT Going to Renew My Scrum Certification

Why I am NOT Going to Renew My Scrum Certification

Scrum certifications from the Scrum Alliance expire if you don’t renew them. This came as a surprise to me.

I decided to let my Scrum Alliance Certifications lapse in January 2019. It does feel a little risky and feckless and it will put at risk my path to future scrum certification from the Scrum Alliance. But I am drawing a line in the sand.

Scrum Alliance Certifications Expire

Frankly 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 and at the time I thought they were for life. As far as I can tell, the renewal requirement began in 2017. (Updated Jan 5: The renewal requirement has been in place for at least 10 years.)

I first heard about it last year. 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.

Did he become any less competent as a Scrum Master that his certification should “expire”? Actually, it is probably the opposite. I know I’ve learned a ton as an active Agile Coach over the last 5 years since I was certified.

I don’t think that renewing your certification is necessarily a bad idea. Plenty of other organizations do it. In fact, I’ve been certified with the Project Management Institute since 1995 and always had to renew my certification every 3 years.

Scrum Certification Seems Like a Racket

The Scrum Alliance approach has always felt a little like a puppy mill – churning out those Scrum Master “scrum certifications” just for paying for a 2-day training class. They created a virtual monopoly on Scrum certifications and controlled it through the limited number of trainers that they certified. As long as people paid, they got their Scrum certification.

Despite widespread criticism, Scrum Alliance hasn’t changed their approach much which leads me to believe it really is only about the 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.

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.

Is shifting from one certification body to the other a good idea? I think it is too early to tell. The real test will be whether Scrum.org changes their certification model to require renewal. There may come a day when someone in the finance department at Scrum.org recognizes how much money they are leaving on the table.

How Does Certification Relate to Agile Training or Coaching?

I am hard pressed to see how lack of scrum certification will impact my role as an agile trainer and agile coach. In fact, as I continue to work, I deepen my knowledge and skills as a practitioner, trainer and coach. I continue to grow in my understanding of Lean, Agile Methods and the Scrum Framework.

And this is that is the irony.

I am less “certified” now than someone who took the training this week and got their CSM certification but has zero experience. Which is part of the problem with the certification racket. What does certified really mean??

What’s Next, Certification-wise

So that’s it for me and my Scrum Alliance certifications in 2019. Maybe I’ll take the Scrum.org assessment and get my PSM Certification. And maybe I’ll regret it and go back and renew or re-certify. Or maybe it will feel so good to let these expire that I will let my PMP and PMI-ACP lapse when PMI sends me a bill to renew.

Scrum Certification Update – July, 2019

As of today, two out of three of my certifications are still showing on the Scrum Alliance certification directory. I don’t know exactly why just one was removed (Certified Agile Leadership 1 or CAL1) and am puzzled because that was the most recently obtained certification and it won’t expire until October 2019. The CSM and CSP-SM are both showing as active though they were earned in 2013 and 2015.

Scrum Certification Update from Scrum Alliance CSP-SM and CSM


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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!

  2. 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).

    Best regards,

    Tim Baffa – CSM, PSM

    1. 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,

  3. 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.

    1. Thank you Thomas for your comment. I have not personally heard of the Agile Scrum Academy though I understand your sentiments.

    2. Hello Thomas, Is AgileScrumAcademy.org reputed?

      1. 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.
        Thanks, Anthony

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Menu