Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) Certification versus Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certification

Home / Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) Certification versus Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Certification

After over 5 years of running Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) Training courses with Turlon & Associates, we boast an unrivalled record of 100% pass rate on the exam. It is safe to say our guidance and approach on the exam has been honed on experience and understanding of the practice of agile as well as the principles / theory that shapes the discipline. It is also safe to say that not everyone sees value in agile certifications. They’re subject to the same criticism that dogs other technical certifications, in that the certification does not outweigh the experience that is often sought. Or put is another way, having certification doesn’t always mean that the individual can walk the talk.

Does that mean these certifications are worthless? According to the Scrum Alliance’s 2015 State of Scrum Report, 81% of respondents said that agile certifications helped improve the scrum practice. For example the Certified ScrumMaster certification, which earned a spot on Global Knowledge’s list of the 15 top-paying certifications in 2015. But we can all say we certainty that an agile certification doesn’t reflect real-world experience or real-world technical knowledge. Likewise, it doesn’t predict on-the-job effectiveness.

In an ideal scenario, an agile professional would have years of experience and expertise across a range of frameworks and methods, capped by a respected certification program’s stamp of approval. So which certification is worthwhile? The most well-recognised agile certifications are those developed by the

  • Scrum Alliance which most popular is the Certified Scrum Master (CSM). Very often, if you are pursuing a foundational scrum certification, then the recommendation is the CSM because it is actually the most recognised in industry circles. To become CSM-certified, participants must complete a Scrum Practitioner led, two-day course and pass an online exam.
  • Scrum.org which offers the Professional Scrum Master (PSM). Again this is seen as an entry-level counterpart. This is where applicants can take the introductory course, but it’s not required to sit for the test. This course proves you know the vocabulary and you able to apply the theory. This is again a certification companies look for.
  • Project Management Institute (PMI) which offers the Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP). This is seen as a progression certification which covers scrum, lean, XP, Kanban, and other frameworks. Applicants need 2,000 hours of team-based project experience and another 1,500 hours working with agile methodologies or teams.

So which is best, the diagnosis is simple, if you are new to agile and want to get a foot on the ladder, then the CSM and PSM are greater options. If you have some skills in the agile game and want a certification that can prove who you are and what you can do, then the ACP may be a better bet

To hire the kind of employees built to excel in agile team models, there is pressure to get more creative, evaluating candidates not only on their experience and expertise but also on their potential. The number of practitioners certified in various agile frameworks, including scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban, and lean, is growing accordingly. The ACP certification confirms that a candidate had the minimum amount of experience needed to sit for that test, and that they wanted the certification enough. That can often stand out in the market place.

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