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How to Become a Scrum Master

Are you a quick thinker and love to solve problems? If you’re a good leader and a fantastic communicator, you might be a good fit as a scrum master. 

Scrum is a popular methodology in Agile software development that allows a cross-functional team to self-organize and move quickly on projects. A scrum master oversees the scrum and development team. They have a deep understanding of Agile methodology and bridge the needs of product management, sales, marketing, operations, and product development. The scrum master works closely with the product owner to translate ideas and stories into actionable tasks for developers. They need to have a good understanding of the reasoning and implications behind each initiative. 

Scrum masters ensure the team delivers what’s asked of them. They assign tasks to the appropriate team members, ensuring the work aligns with priorities and stays on schedule using processes of the Agile methodology. The methodology also promotes communication among the team and allows them to quickly address issues. The goal of a scrum master is to maximize productivity and speed up delivery to customers.

Sample job description

In this role, team members are responsible for facilitating the scrum process on self-contained scrum teams. You will be responsible to guide the scrum team(s) and the organization to follow generally accepted Agile/Scrum practices and daily activities to actively promote prioritization practices, team readiness, and commitments for each Sprint. This will be executed using empirical data to help the team(s) assess their scrum maturity and optimize scrum team velocity. The scrum master will manage organizational KPIs, and identify improvement opportunities to achieve higher levels of team performance. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Lead the scrum team by applying Agile methodology and scrum practices
  • Help the product owner and development team to achieve customer satisfaction
  • Lead the scrum and development teams in self-organization
  • Coach the scrum team to reach a consensus
  • Help the scrum and development teams to identify and enhance the Agile framework
  • Resolve conflicts and issues 
  • Plan deliverables and monitor performance

Education and experience

  • Degree in computer science, business or related field
  • Scrum Master certification is a plus
  • 3+ years of product development experience on an Agile team or equivalent experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent problem solving and conflict resolution skills
  • Good working knowledge of scrum techniques 
  • Leadership skills 
  • Exceptional communication, interpersonal and mentoring skills
  • Ability to adapt to a changing environment
  • Self-motivated  
  • Familiar with software development
  • Outstanding organizational skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience with successful Agile techniques
  • 2+ years experience in a scrum master role
  • Experience facilitating meetings and understanding facilitation techniques
  • Intermediate working knowledge of Microsoft Office applications
  • Knowledge of other Agile approaches: XP, Kanban, Crystal, FDD, etc.

Typical work environment

Scrum masters normally work in an office setting and spend most of their time in front of a computer. They usually sit for extended periods whether at a desk or in meetings. Scrum masters frequently communicate with team members. They also schedule meetings and monitor the progress of projects. Scrum masters work in a variety of industries, including technology, government, manufacturing, nonprofits, and education.

Typical hours

Scrum masters typically work in an office setting during normal business hours, from 8 AM to 5 PM. They might occasionally have to work overtime to meet deadlines.

Available certifications

Scrum masters work in a variety of industries and many institutions offer certifications, including:

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM). The CSM is offered by the Scrum Alliance, and is available in three levels: Certified ScrumMaster, Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM), and Certified Scrum Professional-ScrumMaster (CSP-SM). Each certification demonstrates a level of knowledge related to applying project management principles in the scrum framework. You must attend an in-person training course and pass the exam to earn the CSM certification. Additional requirements for the A-CSM or CSP-CM are an active certification of the prior level and proof of relevant work experience. All CSM certifications require renewal every two years.
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM). This course is administered by Scrum.org and offers certification in three levels: PSM I, PSM II, and PSM III. Each level shows an understanding of scrum methodologies and their applications in project management. To earn a PSM at any level, you have to pass an online exam. To be eligible to sit for the PSM II and III, you need certification from the previous level. PSM certifications are valid for a lifetime.
  • Certified Scrum Developer (CSD). The CSD is awarded to professionals who have demonstrated that they have a good working knowledge of scrum and Agile principles, and have learned specialized Agile engineering skills. To earn a CSD, you are required to participate in at least two days of formal training taught by a Scrum Alliance-approved CSD Educator. Certification is valid for two years.

Career path

Although it’s possible to become a scrum master without a college degree, the vast majority earn a bachelor’s degree to be competitive in the job market. Most earn degrees in engineering or business administration. 

Scrum masters work in a variety of industries and generally receive on-the-job training where they learn about the company’s specific policies and procedures and the products or services they create. Certification as a scrum master gives you an advantage when moving up in your career.  

It’s common for scrum masters to participate in ongoing education and training to ensure they maintain current knowledge and to learn new techniques. Many scrum masters can also attend scrum conferences in their industry to stay up to date on the latest trends and techniques and to network with fellow professionals.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-3021

2020 Employment482,000
Projected Employment in 2030534,600
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift52,700 increase

Agile methodologies continue to evolve and companies need to adapt to keep up with the demands of the environment. One trend in Agile methodologies will be the development of simpler, more user-friendly interfaces. This will lower the Agile learning curve and allow more companies to take advantage of the Agile framework. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is emerging as a leader among Agile methodologies, helping to improve productivity in the organization, not only within the team, which is where most Agile methodologies are focused. As the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in Agile methodology grows, scrum masters will be able to make more confident and timely decisions based on more and better and data delivered faster. This will promote greater productivity for both developers and testers.