The world is full of Agile certifications. Everyone has their list of favorites or ones they think are vastly superior to others. Here is my list. If you are like me and you hate the boot-camp style of education, it may provide some good options for you to look into.
*More information on Kanban Certifications
5. The Agile Business Consortium and DSDM (AgilePM, AgileBA, AgileDS, AgilePgM)
Everything in Agile always seems to be about Scrum. That is the biggest reason why I listed Scrum higher on the list. More companies seem to want Scrum as an Agile solution. There are other great Agile educational resources out there that can give you a different, and sometimes better, perspective depending on your situation.
The largest problem I have with these exams are that they require 50% of your answers to be correct if you pass. That, unfortunately, means you don’t really have to learn much about DSDM to pass. I probably cover 90% of what you need to know here for the foundational exams: A Full Lifecycle Agile Approach: Dynamic Systems Development Methodology (DSDM). This contributed to it being placed at number 5.
The body of knowledge surrounding DSDM is great. It is well thought out, detailed, and can provide an excellent perspective on Agile. The point of certifications are to gain knowledge (or should be). I would suggest that you strive to do better than the 50% required of you.
Exams are available through APMG.
New for 2019! – Agile Business Consortium Scrum Master: https://apmg-international.com/product/agile-business-consortium-scrum-master
DSDM Handbooks: https://www.agilebusiness.org/resources/dsdm-handbooks
See More on DSDM Certification: DSDM Certifications
AgilePM Books and Educational Material
- AgilePM Handbook from DSDM
- Agile Project Management Best Practices Assessment Exam
- App: AgilePM Coach
4. ICP-ACC from ICAgile
I am not a fan of boot-camp style learning. I don’t think it works. You need to acquire knowledge slowly and work with it long term to retain it. Boot-camp style of learning doesn’t allow for that.
Therefore, I am not a fan of a lot of options from ICAgile. They provide boot-camp style classes in Agile training. The information can be good, but I don’t believe the training method is.
What ICAgile does is maintain a body of knowledge and then accredit trainers in that knowledge. Being trained by an accredited trainer grants you a certification upon successful course completion. I don’t want to just complete a course, I want to retain the information from the course.
This is the only certification on this list that I myself do not have, but I have been considering it since I discovered a non-bootcamp option. This company called “It’s Understood” offers a 12-week course that has more flexibility and potential for knowledge retention than any boot-camp learning can offer. I think sometime next year, I will be taking this. It depends, it’s still pretty expensive and I have to decide if the cost is worth it.
It’s Understood ICP-ACC Class: https://itsunderstood.com/agile-training/new-coach-circles/
Additional Books on Agile Coaching
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Agile Coaching
- Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))
- Coaching the Agile Enterprise: The Essential Guide to Team, Organizational and Leadership Coaching in the Aspiring Agile Enterprise (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))
3. Scrum.org (PSM, PSPO, etc) or the Scrum Alliance (CSM, CSPO, etc)
These two organizations share a founder and a body of knowledge. Their body of knowledge is the most developed and widely recognized authority on Scrum.
The frequent argument you see is, “Which one is better?”.
I am partial to scrum.org. Is it better? I will let you decide.
Scrum.org provides cheaper certification options with a harder to pass test. It requires getting 85% of the questions correct in order to pass. I have had tests that required 50 or 65 percent correct answers, walked in without studying, and passed. You are not likely to pass these tests this way. No official Scrum education is required for these exams, which is a big positive because education can be gained in multiple ways and you don’t have to go to one of their boot-camp style classes (which, if you are like me, you won’t learn anything from those). I have provided my educational tips on the PSM here: My PSM I Exam Experience; and my own homemade practice exam here: Scrum Master – PSM I and PSPO I Exam Sample Questions
The negative side of the scrum.org tests – they are not proctored exams. No one is verifying that you are who you say you are when you take the exam. You could get your intelligent Agile friend to take the exam for you and no one would know until you messed up a Scrum project really bad.
The Scrum Alliance tests, in a lot of ways, is the exact opposite of the Scrum.org exams. You have to go through their learning path and take their courses. It is very expensive and if you don’t learn well that way it may not be money well spent. The percentage needed to pass the exam is much lower at 65% of correct questions answered.
The one advantage, in my opinion, of the Scrum Alliance (and it was not always present), is that exams are now proctored.
Scrum Alliance: https://www.scrumalliance.org/get-certified
View a breakdown comparison of the PSM and CSM certifications: The Difference Between the PSM and the CSM Certifications.
Additional Study Guides and Sample Questions for the PSM and PSPO Exams
- Professional Scrum Master (PSM)
- Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO)
- Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
2. Lean Six Sigma Green or Black Belt from the International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC), the American Society for Quality (ASQ), or the Pyzdek Institute.
Having a good foundation in Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma is critical to fully understanding the major drive behind Agile and indeed the entire point of Agile. This is why I place some sort of Lean Six Sigma knowledge in second place. Without learning a bit about it, can you really understand Agile? I don’t think so.
I chose these three organizations because they tend to be the most well-known and reputable organizations for Lean Six Sigma. I am not saying they are the only good sources of Lean Six Sigma knowledge (I have been informed that APMG has a good certification in this area as well). These three are very dedicated to the idea of continuous improvement and have a robust body of knowledge to help support them in that goal.
Pyzdek Institute: https://www.pyzdekinstitute.com/
Additional Books and Educational Material for the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
- The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook: A Quick Reference Guide to 100 Tools for Improving Quality and Speed
- Six Sigma Green Belt Study Guide: Test Prep Book & Practice Test Questions for the ASQ Six Sigma Green Belt Exam
- Six Sigma: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide: A Complete Training & Reference Guide for White Belts, Yellow Belts, Green Belts, and Black Belts
- The Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Handbook: Tools and Methods for Process Acceleration (Management Handbooks for Results)
1. PMI (Project Management Institute) – PMI-ACP.
PMI has a lot of project-centered certifications. It is mostly known for the PMP certification. It now includes an Agile variant known as the Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP).
Now I fully realize that many in the Agile community would disagree with me placing it in the number 1 spot, and many of their disagreements are valid. I place it here because I have met way too many PSM or CSM certified people who lack an understanding of Agile. They think Scrum is Agile, and all of Agile is Scrum. Many of them seem incapable of looking beyond the dogma of Scrum.
Learning about Agile as a whole, as you would have to do if you wanted to pass the PMI-ACP, can help get rid of some of that dogmatic and closed off thinking of only knowing a lot about Scrum and nothing else Agile. If you only know Scrum, you are really hurting yourself and limiting your knowledge. You don’t need a certificate to gain that knowledge, but having the certification as a goal can help you focus your learning path.
You can learn more about the PMI-ACP here: https://www.pmi.org/certifications/types/agile-acp
I also have provided my own tips on how to pass the PMI-ACP exam here: 4 Tips for Passing the PMI-ACP Exam
Additional PMI-ACP Books and Educational Material
- PMI Agile Practice Guide
- PMI-ACP Exam Prep, Updated Second Edition: A Course in a Book for Passing the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) Exam
- PMI-ACP Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner Exam Study Guide
There are a lot of options for Agile certification and it can be hard to find decent reputable bodies of knowledge in which to further your education. Many other certifications may be fine and work for you.
In addition, there are great certifications available with DAD and SAFe which I did not put on my list. I am contemplating getting a DAD certification myself and I am halfway through the Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioner’s Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enterprise (IBM Press). These are great sources of information for scaling up Agile. I recommend though, starting with more core Agile like I listed above and then move to these other Agile flavors.
Categories: Agile, Agnostic Agile, Certifications, DSDM, Kanban, Lean Six Sigma, PMI-ACP, Professional Scrum Master, Scrum
From this top 5 I deduce that PMI has the best Agile certification. I find this very striking, since PMI is a supporter of more traditional project management. They have only added an Agile variant because it is commercially interesting. I also think that Lean Six Sigma is not an agile methodology. Lean is indeed about Agile, but six sigma is a quality methodology in which statistics play a central role. I also miss a number of less well-known, but equally good non-IT agile certifications such as IIABC.org or IIBA
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It is my opinion that the well-rounded approach to Agile that PMI offers is very good. The PMI-ACP was developed with help from the Agile Alliance and the Agile community. – As far as including Lean Six Sigma in the list, Agile is about working to continuously improve. That is an important part of Agile. Learning and understanding much of this improvement process (Lean especially) is critical to understanding Agile. I believe that the broader Agile understanding can be more important than a framework specific one. The IIBA Agile certification is only a year old, I have been looking into it and I think I will include it on a 2020 list for certifications because it seems to be a good well-rounded approach.
The Scrum master certifications from Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org seems to be same and it doesn’t make any sense to go after both.
PSM certifications from Scrum.org looks better in comparison.What do you suggest?
I have a preference for Scrum.org. The tests are harder (I have the PSM and CSM, so I have taken both – and no it doesn’t make sense). There are downsides to both as well as upsides. With the CSM, you know the person got the training because you have to go through a verification process and all of that. With the PSM, you can buy the test, sit at home, and never talk to anyone. You don’t know if the person who passed the test is the same person claiming the certification – you can cheat the system too easily.
That being said, both certifications are still knowledge-based and say little about the actual experience of the person – but I think with the PSM you will have a harder time passing it without some exposure to working Scrum.
I should update this post for 2020 (or 2021). I think most of the cert choices are still valid, but I would make some minor changes. At the time I wrote it I didn’t have the CSM for example – its process is a little different than I expected.