CSM certification: What you need to know

The Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) certification sets the standard for establishing Scrum theory, developing practical applications and rules, and leading teams and stakeholders through the development process.

CSM certification guide: Certified ScrumMaster exam explained
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CSM certification

Agile practices are being rapidly adopted in project and product management across many industries, and the Scrum master is an important leadership role in agile development. The Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) certification, available through the Scrum Alliance, is an entry-level certification aimed at providing professionals with an awareness of the methodologies and values of Scrum, including team performance, accountability, and iterative progress. This certification is beneficial for people in product delivery who use the Scrum framework or those responsible for optimizing Scrum, including Scrum masters and their teams.

Becoming a CSM offers individuals various valuable benefits, including increased recognition and credibility as a leader, additional opportunities within organizations with agile practices, and a demonstrated knowledge of Scrum.

CSM requirements

There are no prerequisites to enroll in CSM training but training is required to become certified. To earn a CSM credential, applicants must understand the Scrum framework and its principles and practices. The Scrum Alliance offers numerous resources on Scrum fundamentals, including the Scrum Alliance expert blog, member articles, videos, presentations, and reports.

Applicants must attend a two-day (16 hour) CSM course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer. The course provides a full overview of how to organize and support a Scrum team. The CSM course covers learning objectives and includes scope, Lean, agile, Scrum, agile facilitation, coaching, and service to the development team, product owner, and organization.

Applicants must then pass the CSM exam through the Scrum Alliance portal. If it has been more than 90 days since you passed the course, you will need to pay $25 to take the exam. The exam cannot be taken without attending the two-day course.

Once you have taken the CSM exam you must accept the license agreement. Next you will need to complete your Scrum Alliance membership profile.

CSM cost

The initial certification fee for each student who successfully completes a Certified ScrumMaster course is paid by the Certified Scrum Trainers. If you do not pass and need to retake the test the fee is $25 for each additional attempt.

The training course fees cover the following:

  • The first two years of certification
  • Two attempts to take the exam (within 90 calendar days of attending the course)
  • Course materials provided by each instructor in class (must be Scrum Alliance approved)
  • The two-day in-person course
  • Two-year membership to the Scrum Alliance community

CSM exam

The CSM exam consists of 50 multiple-choice and true/false questions in 60 minutes. You’ll need correctly answer 37 questions, for a passing grade of 74%. The exam covers key Scrum elements, including general Scrum knowledge, Scrum roles, Scrum meetings, and Scrum artifacts. Applicants can only attempt the test twice within the 90-day timeline of having completed the required two-day course.

CSM value

There are real benefits to getting CSM certified, not just for your organization but also on a personal level. Benefits include, improving team management, collaboration, and performance to ensure project work progresses seamlessly and efficiently. It also ensures Scrum is being applied correctly and consistently and that everyone is aligned in their understanding of the framework. CSM certification also provides a career-boosting benefit and opens up opportunities for professional growth.

Additionally, after completing all the steps and becoming a CSM, you will receive a two-year membership to the Scrum Alliance and can join local user groups and online social networks, as well as get access to discounts on gatherings, and more.

CSM renewal

Your CSM must be renewed every two years. Doing so requires a total of 20 hours of Scrum Education Units (SEUs) and a renewal fee of $100.

Staying up to date requires staying current through SEUs. For every hour you spend on continuing education you receive one SEU. SEUs fall into five subcategories:

  • Scrum Alliance Scrum gatherings
  • Scrum Alliance courses or coaching
  • Outside events, volunteer service
  • Independent learning

Eligible activities include the time you spend reading articles, volunteering, attending events, and taking courses. Examples of SEU options include watching a community webinar, giving back to the agile community through volunteer work, participating in a local user group, attending a global/regional Scrum gathering, writing about Scrum/agile in a blog post, or reading a book about Scrum/agile. As an additional benefit, taking the CSM earns PMI-certified professionals Professional Development Units (PDUs).

CSM training

Applicants must attend a two-day (16 hour) CSM course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) prior to taking the CSM exam. CSTs are the only trainers approved by the Scrum Alliance to prepare you for the exam, and courses provided by CSTs are listed on the Scrum Alliance course search page. Live online options are available as well as in-person training with CSTs across the globe. Self-paced online training is not available at this time.

CSM training should cover Scrum principles, the Scrum framework, definitions, how to run a Scrum project, how to work with teams, how Scrum fits into your organization, and the various roles involved with Scrum. By the end of your training you should be able to understand:

  • Foundations of Scrum and rules
  • How to act as a Scrum master for Scrum teams and stakeholders
  • Servant-leadership
  • How to effectively use Scrum
  • How to increase the effectiveness of Scrum at your organization

Once your training is complete, you can expect your instructor to assist with creating an account for you to access a CSM exam test site.

Sample CSM exam questions

To prepare for the CSM exam, there are many online practice tests with questions that might look similar to these on your exam:

  • Tracking project impediments in a Scrum project is whose primary responsibility?
  • Which concept of the following is NOT defined in the Scrum framework?
  • Which of the following main events are defined in the Scrum framework?
  • Who is responsible for prioritizing the product backlog?
  • What is the difference between product backlog and sprint backlog?

CSM salary

Becoming a CSM can also provide a big boost to your salary. The national average salary for Scrum masters is $118,353, according to ZipRecruiter, with some salaries as high as $160,000. Some roles like these are typical of what can be expected:

Job title Average salary
Agile coach $153,810
Scrum trainer $146,867
Senior Scrum master $138,825
Agile Scrum coach $137,400
Lead Scrum master $132,325

CSM jobs

Depending on where you are within your career track, Scrum roles are plentiful and come with different job titles. Having achieved Scrum Master certification opens up doors to more senior roles such as Sr. Scrum Associate, Scrum Master, Sr. Scrum Master, Agile Coach, Scrum Trainer, Agile Leader and others. Regardless of the role you choose, the outlook for Scrum Masters paints a bright future full of opportunities.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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