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What is a Scrum master? A key role for project success

What is a Scrum master? A key role for project success

With agile fast becoming standard practice at most companies, scrum masters are in great demand. Here is a look at the Scrum master role, relevant certifications, expected salaries, and job listings.

Scrum is a powerful framework for implementing agile processes in software development and other projects. This highly adopted framework utilizes short iterations of work, called sprints, and daily meetings, called scrums, to tackle discrete portions of a project in succession until the project as a whole is complete. There are three key roles within Scrum: the Scrum master, product owner, and Scrum team members.

What is a Scrum master?

As the leader of a Scrum team, the Scrum master champions a project, provides guidance to the team and product owner, and ensures all practices are followed by team members. The Scrum master not only addresses all facets of the agile development process but also serves the business, product owner, team, and individuals, in the following ways:

  • At the business level, the Scrum master creates a development environment that is creative, safe, productive and supportive and enables multi-direction collaboration.
  • At the product owner level, the Scrum master facilitates planning and helps product owners understand and adhere to scrum techniques and practices.
  • At the team level, the Scrum master provides guidance, coaching, support and facilitation, and helps remove any obstacles that teams may encounter along the way.
  • At the individual level, the Scrum master supports individual efforts, addresses any issues that arise, and removes obstacles to help individuals be focused and productive.

Scrum master training and certifications

Two well-recognized organizations, Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org, offer Scrum training and certifications.

Scrum Alliance

Scrum Alliance, established in 2001, is one of the more influential organizations in the agile community. It is a nonprofit association with more than 500,000 certified practitioners worldwide. The Scrum Alliance offers the following Scrum certifications:

  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): CSMs “act as ‘servant leaders,’ helping the rest of the Scrum team work together and learn the Scrum framework.”
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO): CSPOs are “individuals who are closest to the ‘business side’ of the project. They are charged by the organization to ‘get the product out’ and are expected to do the best possible job of satisfying all the stakeholders.”
  • Certified Scrum Developer (CSD): The CSD certification “exposes students to the most important tools and techniques that need to be applied in order to build good software in the iterative and incremental fashion that Scrum requires.”
  • Certified Scrum Professional (CSP): A CSP “challenges Scrum teams to improve the way Scrum and other Agile methods are implemented for every project.”


Scrum.org was founded in 2009 as a “global organization, dedicated to improving the profession of software delivery by reducing the gaps, so the work and work products are dependable.”

Scrum.org offers Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certifications at three levels:

  • PSM I:PSM I certificate holders “prove they understand Scrum as described in the Scrum Guide and the concepts of applying Scrum.”
  • PSM II: PSMIIcertificate holders “prove that they have an understanding of the underlying principles of Scrum and can effectively apply Scrum in complex, real-world situations.”
  • PSM III: PSMIIIcertificate holders “have a deep understanding of the application and practices of Scrum and the Scrum Values in a variety of complex team and organizational situations.”

Scrum master salaries

Based on findings by the Project Management Institute’s “Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey, Ninth Edition,” project manager’s working in Agile/interactive/incremental project management/Scrum earn:

Years experiencePercent25th percentileMedian75th percentileMean
None 39% $105,000 $129,000 $160,000 $135,597
1 to 5 47% $110,000 $135,000 $165,000 $142,816
6 or more 14% $135,000 $158,000 $188,000 $164,593

Scrum master jobs

Since Scrum can be applied to virtually any organization, Scrum masters are in high demand as companies continue to look for ways to get their projects completed and their products to market faster. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s “Most promising jobs of 2017,” job openings (by year over year growth) for Scrum masters is up 104%, and the career advancement score is 8 out of 10. These findings are based on the potential for career advancement, job growth, and salary. Project Management Offices (PMOs) or product development departments within many business sectors hire Scrum Masters to streamline their development process. This can include software, healthcare, aviation, technology, engineering, construction, real estate, publishing, financial, marketing, manufacturing, education, insurance, government, and others.

Where to find Scrum master jobs:

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