The concept of Agile in business and product development (especially software development) has taken the world by storm. Businesses of all sizes and across all industries are now using some form of Agile methodology to manage their projects, release new products and services faster, and respond to changes in the market more rapidly.
Scrum is one of the most popular Agile frameworks in use today, and Scrum Masters are in high demand.
In this comprehensive blog post, we will cover everything you need to know about becoming a Scrum Master, including:
- The key responsibilities of a Scrum Master
- The skills and qualities you will need to be successful
- How to get certified as a Scrum Master
- The career path and progression for Scrum Masters
- Salary expectations and job opportunities, and more
So, if you’re thinking about becoming a Scrum Master or are simply curious about what the role entails, read on for everything you need to know.
What is a Scrum Master?
A Scrum Master is a facilitator and servant leader for a Scrum team. The job of a Scrum Master is to help the team be as productive and effective as possible and to remove any barriers that are preventing them from doing their best work.
The Scrum Master is not a traditional project manager role; instead, they are more of a coach and mentor, helping the team to self-organize and solve problems themselves.
While the Scrum Master does have some authority within the team, they do not make decisions on behalf of the team. Instead, they facilitate decision-making so the team can move forward together.
The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the team follows the Scrum methodology and upholds the values of transparency, inspection, and adaptation as they are outlined in the Scrum guide.
They also work with the product owner to help them prioritize the backlog and ensure that the team has everything they need to be successful.
Key responsibilities of a Scrum Master
The key responsibilities of a Scrum Master can be summarized as follows:
- Facilitating scrum ceremonies, including sprint planning, sprint review, daily stand-ups, and more
- Working with the product owner to help them prioritize the product backlog
- Removing any impediments that are blocking the team from being productive
- Coaching the team in scrum, self-organization, and problem-solving
- Ensuring that the team adheres to the scrum process
- Protecting the team from external interference
- Providing support and guidance to the team
Depending on the type of organization and the specific project, a Scrum Master may also have other responsibilities such as stakeholder management, reporting, and more.
What skills and qualities do you need to be a Scrum Master?
There are certain skills and qualities that are essential for anyone wanting to become a Scrum Master. These include:
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- The ability to coach and mentor others
- Facilitation skills
- A good understanding of the Scrum framework
- A good understanding of Agile principles and values
- Stakeholder management skills
- The ability to work with people at all levels of an organization
- Patience, empathy, and a sense of humor!
Of course, not everyone will have all of these skills and qualities when they start out. However, if you are lacking in some areas, it is important to be aware of this and to be willing to learn and develop your skills. One of the best ways to do this is to get certified as a Scrum Master.
How do you become a certified Scrum Master?
There are a number of ways to become a certified Scrum Master. Here, we will outline the top Scrum Master trainings to help you get started on your journey.
Later on, in this blog post, we will also highlight other certifications that will prove invaluable as your career progresses.
SAFe Scrum Master (SSM)
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) can be used by organizations of all sizes to help them scale Agile across the enterprise. It centers around concepts such as the Agile Release Train (ART), which is a long-term continuous delivery vehicle, and Value Streams, which help to identify and deliver value to the customer.
The SAFe Scrum Master (SSM) certification is designed for both people who are new to the role of Scrum Master, as well as those who have some experience. Team Leads and Release Train Engineers are also welcome to take the course.
The certification is based on the latest version of SAFe. It covers topics such as facilitating Scrum events, supporting Program Increment execution, coaching teams to help them improve, and implementing DevOps.
At the end of the course, you will have the knowledge and skills you need to effectively scale Agile within your organization.
SAFe Advanced Scrum Master (SASM)
Adding on to the SAFe Scrum Master certification, the SAFe Advanced Scrum Master (SASM) course is designed for those who want to take their career to the next level.
The course covers more advanced topics such as coaching for change, servant leadership, and enterprise DevOps. You will also learn about facilitating in a multi-team environment, building communities of practice, and leading distributed teams in remote locations.
This Scrum certification may be overwhelming for those who are new to the role of Scrum Master. However, if you have some experience and are looking to expand your knowledge, this could be the perfect course for you.
Professional Scrum Master (PSM)
The Professional Scrum Master certification from Scrum.org is one of the most popular options for those wanting to become certified Scrum Masters.
There are three levels to the certification – PSM I, PSM II, and PSM III. The level you take will depend on your experience and knowledge.
PSM I is designed for those who are new to the role of Scrum Master and covers the basics of Scrum. You will learn about the Scrum framework, events, and terminology.
PSM II is for those who have a good understanding of Scrum, and covers more advanced topics such as coaching, facilitation, and team-building.
PSM III is the most advanced level and is only available to those who have already achieved PSM II certification. It covers topics such as scaling, DevOps, and similar.
Disciplined Agile Scrum Master (DASM)
DASM is a certification provided by the Project Management Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the project management profession.
The Disciplined Agile Scrum Master (DASM) certification is designed for Scrum beginners who want to understand how the framework can be used in a real-world setting. You will learn about Scrum fundamentals, as well as how to apply them in a variety of different industries.
The certification covers topics such as the Scrum Master’s role in the organization, team development, and product delivery. After completing the course, you will have a good understanding of how Scrum can be used to achieve success in your projects.
Scrum Master career paths
The role of a Scrum Master is quite a versatile one. There are quite a few different career paths that you can take, depending on your interests and skills.
Let’s take a look at all the different career path options for a Scrum Master.
Option number one is to become a project manager. This career path is perfect for those who are interested in both the technical and managerial aspects of Scrum.
As a project manager, you will be responsible for overseeing the entire project, from start to finish. This includes working with the product owner to define the scope of the project, as well as ensuring that the team has everything they need to complete their tasks.
You will also be responsible for ensuring that the project stays on track and that any risks are identified and mitigated.
The role of a project manager may be similar to that of a Scrum Master, but it is important to note that the two are not the same. A project manager is responsible for the overall success of the project, whereas a Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the team adheres to the Scrum framework.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a project manager is $93,019 per year.
Another popular career path for Scrum Masters is to become a product owner. This role is perfect for those who are interested in the business side of things and want to be involved in product development. It is also a great role for scrum masters who have product knowledge.
As a Scrum product owner, you will be responsible for defining the product roadmap and ensuring that the team is working on tasks that align with the company’s goals.
You will also be responsible for managing stakeholder expectations and communicating progress to them on a regular basis.
The SAFe Product Owner/Manager (POPM) certification is a popular option for those wanting to become certified product owners. It covers topics such as product strategy, backlog management, and delivery planning.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a product owner is $109,274 per year.
Senior Scrum Master
If you have a few years of experience under your belt, you may want to consider becoming a senior Scrum Master. This role is perfect for those who want to take on more responsibility and help mentor other Scrum Masters.
As a senior Scrum Master, you will be responsible for leading multiple teams and providing them with guidance and support. You will also be responsible for coaching and mentoring other Scrum Masters and helping them troubleshoot any issues they may have.
The average salary for a senior Scrum Master is $122,070 per year, according to Glassdoor.
From Scrum Master to Agile coach
A career path that deserves an entire section is going from Scrum Master to Agile coach. This is a popular transition for those who want to take on more of a leadership role and help organizations to implement the Agile framework.
As an Agile coach, you will be responsible for helping organizations to adopt the Agile mindset and guiding them through the transition process. You will also be responsible for training and development, as well as helping to resolve any conflicts that may arise.
The average salary for an Agile coach is $129,010 per year, according to Glassdoor. Agile coaches may work with a variety of clients, from small startups to large enterprises. They typically act as independent contractors, which means that they are not tied to any one organization.
But how can a Scrum Master become an Agile coach?
Required skills for an Agile coach
The technical skills required for an Agile coach are similar to those required for a Scrum Master. However, there are a few additional skills that are needed for this role.
Some of the most important skills required for an Agile coach include:
- Change management: As an Agile coach, you will need to be able to help organizations to effectively manage change. This includes being able to identify the need for change, as well as helping to implement change management processes.
- Leadership: As an Agile coach, you will be responsible for leading and guiding organizations through the transition to Agile. This includes being able to inspire and motivate others, as well as being a strong communicator.
- Coaching: As an Agile coach, you will need to be able to effectively coach individuals and teams. This includes being able to identify development opportunities, as well as providing feedback and mentorship.
Your knowledge of Agile principles and practices will also be essential in this role.
Soft skills required for an Agile coach include:
- Empathy: As an Agile coach, you will need to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand their perspectives. This includes being able to see both sides of every issue and being open-minded.
- Patience: As an Agile coach, you will need to be patient with those who are resistant to change. This includes being able to effectively manage your own emotions and remaining calm in challenging situations.
- Flexibility: As an Agile coach, you will need to be flexible in your approach. Adapting your style to the needs of each individual or team is essential in this role.
- The ability to build rapport: As an Agile coach, you will need to be able to build strong relationships with those you work with. This includes being able to communicate effectively and being a good listener.
Agile coach certifications
One of the most straightforward ways to become an Agile coach is to pursue an Agile coach certification program. There are plenty of such programs available, from online courses to in-person training.
To narrow down your options and point you in the right direction, we’re going to highlight one certification program that has proven itself to be popular and effective time and again: the ICAgile Agile Team Coaching learning track.
There are three professional certifications in this track leading up to an expert-level certification:
- ICAgile Agile Fundamentals (ICP) – This certification is designed for those who want to learn the basics of Agile. As a Scrum Master, you are likely familiar with many of the concepts covered in this certification already. However, if you feel like you need a refresher or want to learn more about Agile fundamentals, this certification is a great place to start.
- ICAgile Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF) – Since facilitation skills are essential for an Agile coach, this certification is designed to help you hone your facilitation skills. The course covers topics such as how to create a collaborative space, facilitate full participation, retrospectives, stand-ups, and a lot more.
- ICAgile Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC) – In this final not expert-level certification of the learning track, you will learn how to effectively coach individuals and teams. The course covers topics such as ways to develop a coaching approach, active listening, being present and engaged, identifying and exploring issues your team might have, and more.
The expert-level certification is the ICAgile Certified Expert in Agile Coaching (ICE-AC). The requirement for obtaining this certification is that you must already hold the ICP-ACC and the ICP-ATF certifications.
If you are serious about continuing down the path of becoming an Agile coach, we sincerely recommend checking out the ICAgile learning track.
Scrum Masters play an essential role in Agile teams, and the demand for Scrum Masters is only increasing. If you’re looking to transition into this role or are simply curious about what it takes, we hope this guide has been helpful.
Becoming a Scrum Master requires a mix of both hard and soft skills. You need to be well-versed in Scrum principles and practices, and also have the right personality traits to effectively facilitate, coach, and lead teams.
Your career path as a certified Scrum professional can evolve in many different directions – you may choose to stay in a pure Scrum Master role, or you may move into Agile coaching or a product owner or project manager role. The important thing is to keep learning and to be open to new opportunities.
If you are interested in becoming a certified Scrum Master who has the skills and knowledge to successfully lead development teams, feel free to reach out to us at The i4 Group. We would be happy to discuss our Scrum Master training options with you and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today!