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