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CSM or CSPO: Which Certification is Right for You?

by Scrum Alliance

You're new to agile and Scrum. You've visited the Scrum Alliance® website and seen that there are various certification options available to you. But how do you know which one to choose?
We suggest you learn a bit more about the differences among the certifications. Then give some thought to your goals once you've attained your certification. We can help.
What are the foundational agile and Scrum certifications offered by Scrum Alliance?
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®)
This certification covers the fundamental aspects of the Scrum framework. Your CSM course will review the basics of the Scrum Guide and will set you on your way to being the impediments remover for your current and future Scrum teams.
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®)
The Product Owner in the Scrum process is typically close to the business side of the organization. This person understands the needs of the stakeholders and the vision for the finished product. The aspiring CSPO may be someone who already has a basic understanding of the Scrum Guide and wants to take his or her Scrum education just a bit further, or may be someone ready to specifically focus on the unique aspects of the PO role.
Certified Scrum Developer® (CSD®) 
This is a specialized certification designed for software developers. Participants are expected to have a sound knowledge of coding and will discuss multiple projects in depth during the CSD course. This is an intensive class that requires a 5-day commitment.
Why do you want to become certified?
To figure out which certification is right for you, it is important to think about your long-term goals.
Are you a job seeker who would like to become certified to enhance your resume (as well as gain links to the global Scrum community)? Then maybe the CSM is right for you. It offers a baseline of knowledge, allows you to become a useful addition to any Scrum team, and helps you stay on top of Agile industry trends and techniques.
Do you instead have a specific interest in understanding and communicating your company stakeholders' point of view when developing a product? Then you're likely a good CSPO candidate.
Maybe your interests lie somewhere in between. Keep in mind that the CSM and CSPO are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we recommend that you take both courses to gain a more rounded view of the Scrum process and increase your value on any Scrum team.
What to do once you become a CSM or CSPO?
Once you attain your certification, you'll want to consider taking some next steps:

  • Add the certification to your resume. Let potential employers know about your new knowledge.
  • Add the certification and digital badge(s) to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Network and stay active through the Scrum community. Scrum Alliance offers a membership platform with a robust community experience, including user groups, forums, job opportunities, discounts, and webinars.
  • Use the Scrum framework every day. If your organization is already using Scrum, use your certification to become a more effective participant in the process. If your organization is not using it, be an advocate. If you're searching for a job, showcase your new agile knowledge.
  • Enhance your overall agility. Don't stop after attaining just the CSM or the CSPO. You can gain further skills and learning by gaining both certifications. Remember, Scrum Alliance certifications are not mutually exclusive.
  • Continue brushing up on the basics. Long after you receive your certification, you may realize that you may need a refresher on one or two aspects of the framework. Since all certifications are based on regularly updated agile learning objectives, the easiest way to make sure you remember every detail is to keep a copy of the Scrum Guide handy.
  • Become a Certified Scrum Professional® (CSP®). The Certified Scrum Professional has proven knowledge and real-world experience with the Scrum process and framework. If you're interested, check out the website for CSP requirements. Then begin preparing yourself to continue your Scrum journey through the Certified Scrum Professional certification.

Whether you're interested in Scrum because you want to be a more agile employment candidate or you want to improve your organization's work flow, there is a certification that's right for you. Visit the Get Certified section of our website to learn more about the individual qualifications required to earn your certification today.