Gone are the days when overseeing a complex project had to be done manually. A software development team can now utilize Scrum to successfully complete work. If you’re interested in learning how to become a scrum master and build a career overseeing major tech projects, this comprehensive guide will show you what it takes.
What Is a Scrum Master?
A scrum master is a project leader who uses the Scrum framework to lead their team. The scrum master makes sure that the tenets of Scrum are followed and implemented throughout the project. Specifically, the scrum master monitors tasks, keeps track of accomplishments, and leaves room for adjustments when necessary.
A scrum master should not be confused with an Agile project manager. One way to think about the differences is that Scrum is an Agile project management methodology, so certain Agile values are incorporated into Scrum. An Agile practitioner should know about Scrum, but a scrum master need not know every Agile methodology to effectively lead an Agile development team.
Guided by basic Scrum principles, a scrum master may use cloud-based project management software to complete complex projects. Scrum masters may also branch out into careers that involve coaching and training others in the Scrum development process.
Scrum Master Job Description
The main task of a scrum master is to follow the Scrum framework, which is composed of a product backlog, sprint backlog, and increment.
The product backlog is where the scrum master manages all the required tasks. In the sprint backlog, there are time iterations or deadlines that the scrum master sets for each team member. Finally, the increment is the unit that marks the successful completion of a task.
Scrum Master Salary and Job Outlook
According to PayScale, the average scrum master earns around $89,594 per year, and the vast majority of scrum masters make between $62,000 and $124,000. However, if you are a certified scrum master, you will be compensated more. PayScale data also indicates that Certified ScrumMasters (CSM) earn an average salary of about $92,999 per year.
Being in the same line of work as software developers, scrum masters will remain in demand as long as there are clients for software development. Between 2020 and 2030, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 22 percent rise in the number of jobs for software developers. Scrum masters will see even more job opportunities as the digital revolution continues.
Top Reasons to Become a Scrum Master in 2021
According to the 2021 State of Agile Report, Scrum is trusted by 66 percent of organizations that use Agile practices for project management. This much interest in the Scrum framework should encourage you to become a dedicated scrum master in 2021. Below are a few more reasons to consider a job as a scrum master.
- Emphasis on teamwork. You get to work in a team-focused environment as the leader of three to nine of your coworkers. If leadership doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll be pleased to learn that Scrum promotes easy management and communication.
- Flexible workloads. The Scrum methodology is all about flexibility. You will have room to make adjustments on the fly, ensuring that your team’s progress on a project never stalls out.
- Competitive salary. The average scrum master salary is competitive, especially if you have earned a certification and already have some experience.
- Positive Job Outlook. There is a high demand for people power in software development due to industry needs, so you can expect more career opportunities for a scrum master in the near future.
Scrum Master Job Requirements
You must meet the following requirements to work as a professional scrum master.
- Software development background. You should have a strong understanding of software development, which is where Scrum is most commonly employed. Alternatively, if you are a software developer, then you can specialize as a scrum master.
- Mastery of foundational Scrum principles. A scrum master must understand the theory and practice of Scrum. If you’re not sure where to start your training, you can check out the best project management bootcamps.
- Scrum master certification. Earning one of the scrum master certifications offered by Scrum Alliance will prove your value to employers.
- Scrum Alliance membership. The two-year Scrum Alliance membership that comes with your certification will be useful to you as you start professional work as a scrum master.
Types of Scrum Master Careers
These are some of the job roles that you can explore if you want to pursue a scrum master career.
The role of a scrum master is to oversee the daily operations of a scrum team during software, web, or mobile development projects. You will be monitoring efficiency, tracking progress, initiating daily scrum meetings, and reporting to product owners. The minimum education requirement is a bachelor’s degree, and the annual average salary is $89,594 per year.
A software developer may specialize in Scrum to efficiently accomplish software design projects for clients and product owners. You will analyze needs and expenses and conduct daily meetings with the scrum team. The median salary for all software developers is $110,140 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and developers with Scrum skills can earn more.
Professional Scrum Trainer or Coach
A professional scrum trainer conducts training programs for entry-level scrum masters and those planning to take a certification exam. You must have the required technical background and a deep understanding of how Scrum works to pursue a career in coaching or training. The average scrum trainer earns $146,867 per year, according to ZipRecruiter.
Scrum Master Meaning: What Does a Scrum Master Do?
Scrum masters are usually mistaken for project managers. Though these two roles may have some similarities, Scrum is a very specific project management framework. As a scrum master, there are a few key responsibilities.
Assigns Tasks and Coaches Team Members
Though typically recognized as a project lead, a scrum master is primarily the coach of the product team. In this role, your job is to guide the product team to accomplish its tasks and use effective techniques to meet deadlines.
The Scrum master promotes the value of self-management, so team members are empowered to independently complete their tasks. At the same time, they emphasize cross-functionality, which means they help team members meet their goals.
Facilitates the Four Scrum Ceremonies
The scrum master makes sure to facilitate the four scrum ceremonies, which are scrum planning, the daily scrum meeting, the sprint review, and the sprint retrospective.
In scrum planning, you meet with the team to finalize plans for a specific project. The daily meeting is where you discuss developments and progress, and the sprint review is where you conduct tests on completed work. Finally, in the sprint retrospective, you evaluate the process and discuss which areas were effective and which ones need improvement.
Serves the Product Owners
The scrum master initiates meetings with product owners to reach a clear perspective on the desired product outcome. Together with the product owners, you will identify the tasks and all steps required to accomplish the project. At this stage, you are guiding the product owners to understand your approach to product development.
Essential Scrum Master Skills
Among their myriad duties, scrum masters monitor burndown charts and burn-up charts to ensure tasks get completed on time. Besides being great at team building and demonstrating leadership skills, there are other fundamental skills that a scrum master needs.
Mastery of the Scrum Guide
The Scrum Guide, written by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, will be your bible. Mastering the Scrum Guide means acquiring all of the necessary skills to be a scrum master. It should also help you prepare for certification programs and other core training.
Teamwork and Communication
You will be coaching teams, so you need to foster a collaborative culture and cultivate interpersonal skills. To reach your goals, you need to maintain clear communication with your product team. As a project lead, you will need good communication skills when meeting with product owners, clients, and other stakeholders.
Efficient Time Management
Efficient time management is one of the most important soft skills to be conscious of as a scrum master. A sprint backlog, which contains a list of tasks for each sprint, has deadlines that must be strictly followed. And meeting deadlines requires continuous effort in refining the product backlog. Strong time management keeps a product team organized throughout each sprint.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Scrum Master?
It can take a little over four years to become a professional scrum master. The first step is to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree. This is the entry-level requirement for most companies. Qualifying degrees include project management, data analytics, software development, and other related programs.
The next stage would be to secure Scrum Alliance’s Certified Scrum Master certification. You must enroll in a 16-hour program led by Certified Scrum Trainers (CMTs), which adds up to four days of training. Upon successful completion of the course, you will take the online CSM exam. Passing the exam grants the CSM certification.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Scrum Master?
A coding bootcamp can help you become a professional scrum master, whether it’s through a program in project management, one in data analytics, or one in software development. This is ideal for aspiring scrum masters who may have already completed their degree programs or are looking for a new specialization.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Can I Become a Scrum Master from Home?
Yes, you can become a professional scrum master from home. Online degree programs offered by well-known universities are more accessible now, thanks to a shift toward distance learning. The CSM course and exam are also both administered online.
How to Become a Scrum Master: A Step-by-Step Guide
To guarantee that you will become a professional scrum master, it will not hurt to take the following three steps.
Step 1: Complete Your Education
A Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Computer Science, or Software Engineering will provide you with the foundational knowledge you need for Scrum project management. On top of your education, you can attend coding bootcamps and short online courses. The most important thing is to learn and practice the core values and basic principles in the Scrum Guide.
Step 2: Get Certified
Earning your certification will validate that you have expert knowledge, and many employers require proof of certification. Moreover, a professional scrum master certification gives you more opportunities to earn a higher salary or earn a promotion. Most Scrum Alliance certification exams consist of 50 multiple-choice questions and a one-hour time limit.
Step 3: Renew Your Certification
The professional scrum master certification comes with a two-year membership. Once the two-year membership is up, you are automatically required to retake the course and retake the online exam to complete the certification renewal process.
Best Schools and Education for a Scrum Master Career
To know more about how you can develop your technical and soft skills as a professional scrum master, you need a reliable educational pathway. Between bootcamps, vocational schools, community colleges, and university degrees, you have a variety of options.
Scrum Master Bootcamps
The best Scrum bootcamps of 2021 are available online and you can join one if you want to learn more about the principles and practices of Scrum. Most bootcamp programs in project management primarily teach Scrum. Most bootcamp courses typically range between 12 and 36 weeks and will help to prepare you for the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) exam.
Vocational school is a career-oriented educational journey culminating in a technical diploma or certificate. In vocational school, you may complete a course on computer science, information technology, or business, any of which would be helpful in project management.
Community colleges offer two-year associate degree programs on various topics, including project management, product development, and software development. A project management associate degree might focus on Scrum, or it could cover Agile management more broadly.
Scrum Master Degrees
Earning a bachelor’s degree is required training for becoming a scrum master. You may take any program that relates to management or the improvement of business processes.
The Most Important Scrum Master Certifications
Various organizations confer in-demand scrum master certifications, and each organization has its own certification training requirements. Scrum Alliance is the main organization, but there are other respected project management communities that you can check out.
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) | Scrum Alliance
CSM is the Scrum certification that industry experts value the most. You will complete essential courses to help you pass the CSM exam. There are two certification levels beyond CSM, which are Advanced Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Professional ScrumMaster. You can even become a Certified Scrum Trainer, a Certified Scrum Coach, or a Certified Scrum Developer.
Disciplined Agile Scrum Master (DASM) | Project Management Institute
The DASM certification course by the Project Management Institute focuses on the different Agile frameworks. The one on Scrum is made for beginners and will teach you the essential techniques and methods for leading Agile teams. As soon as you complete the self-paced course, you can take the test. Upon passing the exam, you will receive your DASM certification by email.
Professional Scrum Developer (PSD) | Scrum.org
The PSD certification is offered by Scrum.org for scrum team members in developer roles. It tests your knowledge of the techniques used in building software with Scrum. Passing the exam for this certification establishes your industry knowledge and mastery of Scrum for developer roles.
How to Prepare for Your Scrum Master Job Interview
Your interview for a scrum master job will most likely revolve around your basic knowledge of scrum and project management. The most common interview questions are about what’s in the Scrum Guide, which a scrum master lives and dies by. Below are a few additional questions to help you prepare for your scrum master interview.
Scrum Master Job Interview Practice Questions
- What makes Scrum different from other project management methodologies? As a follow-up question, would you say that Scrum is the Agile framework you are most comfortable with?
- Why is fostering a collaborative culture important in coaching development teams?
- What is the most important skill that you utilize to guarantee the successful completion of a software project via Scrum?
- Why is it important to conduct sprint retrospectives at the end of every completed project? How does this enrich the Scrum framework?
Should I Become a Scrum Master in 2021?
Yes. There is no more proven way to lead an entire team of software developers to success than with Scrum. With a good job outlook for software development, it will be a waste not to specialize as a scrum master. This is your chance to reach the pinnacle of project management as you lead a dedicated team of workers to greater efficiency.
Scrum Master FAQ
No. Most companies are looking for bachelor’s degree holders. However, you can join bootcamp programs and short online training courses as a form of continuous learning. Project management, data analytics, and software development are some of the topics that you can study to learn more skills.
You need an in-depth practice and understanding of the Scrum framework to become a scrum master. Certification is also necessary as it will test your knowledge of the guiding principles and how to put these to actual use. You will first need to complete a course taught by active practitioners of Scrum. Then, you need to take and pass a multiple-choice exam.
Scrum Alliance is considered the gold standard for scrum master certification. However, there are other reputable organizations that provide competitive programs, such as Scrum.org, the Project Management Institute, and Agile Alliance. These certification courses are usually taught by active practitioners of the Scrum framework and certified CSM trainers.
A scrum master coaches an entire team through a project. They conduct 15-minute check-ins known as daily standups. They are also responsible for product backlog refinement, making sure team members can meet deadlines. Finally, they conduct sprint retrospectives after the completion of every project. This helps maintain a culture of continuous improvement.
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