Project ManagementWhat is a Scrum Master?

What is a Scrum Master?

Scrum Project Management

Is becoming a Scrum master your best career path? We will help you figure that out by revealing what Scrum masters do, how much money they make, and how to become one in terms of courses, classes, and what Scrum master certifications you will need.

What Does a Scrum Master Do?

Before we describe what a Scrum master does, let us first define Scrum. What is Scrum? A lightweight framework based on the Agile methodology that is quite popular with software development teams since it simplifies the process of solving complex problems. Scrum achieves this by continuously using short development cycles called sprints to improve products or services.

Although Agile has several frameworks under its umbrella, Scrum is one of the most widely used for fast-moving projects that demand efficiency, collaboration, and transparency to generate high-quality, up-to-date products. None of this is possible without the Scrum master’s leadership. And even though tech companies are credited with discovering Agile methodologies, they are used in a wide variety of industries and companies of all sizes worldwide.

Read more about the Scrum project management and software development methodology.

Now that you know more about the Scrum framework, let us dive deeper into the person who puts it to real-world use: The Scrum master. The official Scrum Guide defines the Scrum master as the person in charge of establishing Scrum and making sure that everyone in the team and organization understands its theory and practices. The Scrum master’s central role is to use the Scrum framework when leading a team and its members towards the goal of completing a project, such as a software release.

It is worth noting that a Scrum master and project manager are not necessarily the same thing. The main difference between the two is their focus. A Scrum master focuses on the team, ensuring that its members have everything they need to see success. On the other hand, a project manager focuses on the project and its outcome, keeping a close eye on the timeline, budget, resources, etc.

A Scrum master can serve the team in several ways, and tasks and responsibilities may vary from day to day. In terms of helping the team, the Scrum master may:

  • Remove any impediments that could stop the team’s progress.
  • Act as a coach and assist the team members with self-management and cross-functionality.
  • Make sure that all Scrum events are successfully executed promptly.
  • Help the team develop high-quality increments.

Besides the team, the Scrum master may also help the product owner with product planning, the product backlog, and stakeholder collaboration. And in terms of the organization as a whole, the Scrum master may:

  • Help the organization adopt the Scrum framework through training, coaching, and leading.
  • Help employees and stakeholders develop a plan to tackle complex work.
  • Eliminate any barriers between Scrum teams and stakeholders.
  • Plan and advise Scrum implementations.

Other general tasks that the Scrum master may complete include identifying and resolving issues as they appear, facilitating open discussions, helping team members with their tasks, documenting updates in project management software, and leading daily meetings.

Read: Introduction to Agile Software Development

How to Become a Scrum Master

What does it take to become a Scrum master? A combination of specific skills, experience, and education. As far as skills go, here are some that could come in handy as a Scrum master who is looking to help teams tackle complex problems and create high-quality products:

  • Since Scrum masters focus on ensuring their team has everything they need to complete projects, you will need motivational skills to bring out their best and boost productivity.
  • To help navigate complex projects, you will need problem-solving skills.
  • Scrum masters collaborate with team members and stakeholders, making strong communication skills a must.
  • You will hold the entire project together by managing several tasks and resources at once, holding meetings with different parts of the organization, and more, making organization skills essential.
  • The Scrum framework stresses adaptability so you can handle necessary changes and overcome issues as they are thrown at you. You will have to be adaptable to make changes on the fly and achieve optimal results in sometimes challenging conditions.

If you plan on working with development teams, you as a potential Scrum master should also be proficient in technical skills linked to software development and Agile management, with an emphasis on the Scrum framework.

Proficiency in Agile project management can give you the know-how to ensure that your teams adhere to processes that will allow them to execute and release products in stages using customer input. Software development knowledge will help as you work with teams creating software products, as you will have to know everything that goes into producing top-notch software, such as:

  • Planning
  • Processes
  • Structure
  • Goals
  • Expectations
  • Requirements
  • Monitoring

And lastly, it can help to have some technical skill in business analysis, as that will help with knowing how to refine products to meet company, stakeholder, and customer needs.

Having such skills can help you get your foot in the door as a Scrum master and advance your career, but what about education? That depends on the organization. Your best bet is to have a bachelor’s degree in IT, business administration, or something similar. And even if you do not get a Scrum master position right out of college, that degree can help you gain experience elsewhere, which many Scrum master job listings require.

Read: Ten Scrum Master Interview Questions You Should Know

Scrum Master Courses and Classes

If you are just getting started, you will gain practical knowledge of the Scrum framework from the following two-day core classes from the “home of Scrum” at Scrum.org:

  • Applying Professional Scrum
  • Professional Scrum Master

If you are experienced in Scrum, these two-day deep-dive classes from Scrum.org could help advance your professional journey:

Scrum Master Exam Prep and Practices

Scrum.org offers these additional practices that can help Scrum masters and their teams. Like their other offerings, these practices can be completed in just two days:

Scrum Master Certifications

You can give your resume and career a big boost via Scrum master certifications that demonstrate enhanced competency in the framework. While not all employers will require them, here are some of the most requested Scrum certifications on job search sites:

  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM I)
  • Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)
  • SAFe Scrum Master (SSM)
  • Professional Scrum Product Owner I (PSPO I)
  • Certified Scrum Developer (CSD)

Read: Top 5 Project Management Certifications

What is a Scrum Master Salary?

If you are wondering whether you should invest time, money, and effort into becoming a Scrum master, its salary and job outlook statistics say yes. In 2022, Glassdoor estimates that in the United States, the average Scrum master earns a salary of $99,492. How attainable is that lucrative salary? Very attainable since LinkedIn boasts over 129,000 job listings for Scrum masters. In other words, Scrum masters are in high demand, and they are paid handsomely for their efforts.

While the near $100,000 average salary for Scrum masters is great, you could earn even more in the future if you take this career track. The position made LinkedIn’s Most Promising Jobs report just a few years ago since there is plenty of opportunity for career advancement in the Scrum master field. And unless things change, you can look forward to job openings continuing to grow, as they have increased year-over-year for some time now.

Read more project management tutorials and PM Tool reviews.

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