Are Agile certifications worth it?

I recently came across this article on InfoWorld talking about “7 agile certifications to take your career to the next level”. I read it hoping to gain some insight on their opinion of how certification would benefit your career. Did they think the value came from the skills you learn from obtaining the certification or are there certain “Agile” qualifications sought after by employers?

Of course, I already have an opinion on the value of Agile certifications from my own experience – and I have to admit a large bias in that area. Now, whilst I’d actively encourage anyone to attend some of the various training courses and coaching sessions on offer to actively learn as much as they can (in addition to their own self-learning), I don’t personally place much value in Agile certifications. Most can be obtained after a short (in some cases, single day) course with a relatively easy exam at the end (many with near-guaranteed pass rates).

I find they’re usually required by companies that aren’t very agile and typically demonstrate a Dunning-Kruger failure to recognise genuine ability in others (and their own lack of knowledge) relating to Agile methodologies, practices and associated ways of working. This is usually evident from the questions they’ll ask you about your Agile experience. Instead of questions like:

  • What are the biggest problems you’ve encountered using Agile methodologies – how would you try to tackle them?
  • What was your role within the team and what other roles were included in the scope of your team’s work?
  • How many teams were working on the same product – how did you work together successfully?
  • What other methodologies do you have experience of – how do they compare?

You’ll probably just be asked:

Are you a “Certified ScrumMaster”?

It may (or may not) surprise you that this simple question is all too often the first (and only) question asked to assess my Agile credentials…

To me, most Agile certifications are purely a money making scheme for the companies that offer them – and are absolutely no guarantee of ability. The fact that a (very) high percentage of them require you to renew your qualification every 2-3 years – without any additional training or assessment – speaks volumes. Take them for what they are. If you can gain a qualification after just a few days training and with no practical application of those newly gained skills, great – just don’t place any more value on that piece of paper than you would for anyone else with a similar level of experience…

2 thoughts on “Are Agile certifications worth it?

    1. Thanks Joshua, that’s certainly been my experience too. I sympathise with businesses that are new to agile and are trying to recruit roles like Agile coaches or Scrum Masters. They’re often trying to import the related agile skills to their business, but certifications are the only way they have to qualify candidates. In a mature Agile organisation it’s not a problem (and certification isn’t necessary).

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