Path to Certified Scrum Professional

The Path to Certified Scrum Professional

The Gold Standard Pathway for Agile Professionals

Full Path to CSP Summary

What is the Path to CSP?

Scrum Alliance’s Path to Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) programs are the most robust advanced training programs in the Scrum and Agile space. The Path to CSP programmes package an expertly selected set of techniques and skills designed to address the progressively more complex organisational challenges that real-world Agile adoption involves.

The Path to CSP provides a best-in-class professional development program across the full breadth of roles in a Scrum or typical Agile team through role-specific tracks for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches, Product Owners and Developers as per the following diagram.

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What does the Path to CSP involve?

Three Incremental Steps

The Path to CSP for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches involves three incremental steps. Achievement of each designation is a prerequisite for the next as follows. 

  1. Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  2. Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM)
  3. Certified Scrum Professional-ScrumMaster (CSP-SM)

A more detailed description of the three steps to Certified Scrum Professional and the Elevated accreditations beyond this are shown in the diagram below.

Learn from real-world experience

Something that our Path to CSP learners particularly love about the A-CSM and CSP-SM experience is what they learn from the other experienced learners on the courses.

Our A-CSM course includes numerous exercises in which learners describe how they have implemented techniques in their work as well as exercises in which learners watch multiple others practice a skill in relation to a real work situation. An example of this is a “coaching dojo” in which learners witness others tackle real work problems in a coaching stance using a structured conversation model. Learning is achieved both by doing and studying how others do.

The assignment portion of our CSP-SM programme involves five rounds of presenting to other learners how an objective was achieved on-the-job at work. Since the objective is the same for all learners, seeing how 3-4 others chose to approach it given their unique contexts, allows learners to benchmark themselves and draw ideas and inspiration from the practical implementations from other learners.

Why is this relevant for Agile Coaches?

Agile Coaches tell us that it is relevant

A substantial proportion of our  A-CSM and CSP-SM graduates identified as Agile Coaches at the time of completing these programmes. Feedback from them indicates that they found the material covered just as relevant and readily applicable in their work as graduates who identify as Scrum Masters.

Similar roles require similar skills

The roles of Scrum Master and the most common interpretations of Agile Coach are more similar than many people realise. They both pursue similar organisational improvement objectives using a similarly broad set of stances and skills. Is it misleading and potentially damaging to see a Scrum Master as a junior Agile Coach. In a Scrum environment, the Scrum Master is the Agile Coach.

Appropriately broad

Agile Coaching involves a broader set of stances and skills than professional coaching alone. Unlike professional coaching and life coaching accreditations from ICF and related bodies, the Path to CSP curriculum covers skills including facilitation, teaching, mentoring, systems thinking among others as are needed to be effective as an Agile Coach. 

Not just about Scrum

The Path to CSP material explores when and how to use Agile frameworks beyond Scrum including Lean Startup, Kanban Method, eXtreme Programming and LeSS. The thinking tools and skills are relevant to adoption of a broad range of Agile frameworks and techniques, not just Scrum.

Why take the Path to CSP for Scrum Masters?

CSM is insufficient

A Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) course is a necessary step toward understanding Scrum. It is however insufficient toward becoming an effective Scrum Master or Agile Coach. Being effective in such roles requires more than knowledge, it requires a toolkit of thinking tools and practical skills honed through experience in the workplace. The Path to CSP offers an incremental path to acquiring and demonstrating these tools and skills.

Professional denotes competence

As with professional level accreditation in other industries, the “professional” level is designed to assure competence in a role. Professional is intended by Scrum Alliance to designate a level of competence at which an individual could spend a substantial or even all of their career.

Therefore, anyone wishing to attain a professional standard and demonstrate competence in their role to employees and colleagues should aim for the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) level designation rather than the entry-level CSM only or even the intermediate “advanced” level.

Demonstrate work experience

Meaningful accreditation in such roles requires not only fulfilment of learning objectives but also demonstrated proficiency in the workplace. Scrum WithStyle’s Path to CSP for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches provides opportunities to demonstrate proficiency in applying a broad toolkit of techniques with teams, managers and other colleagues in the workplace.

A-CSM and CSP-SM indicate to employers and others that the holder has substantial real world experience as a Scrum Master. This is assessed in two ways:

  • Relating stories from work experience to the trainer and peers during class exercises, and  
  • Scrum Alliance personnel reviewing work experience logged against the candidate’s profile. 

Demonstrated application to real work contexts contrasts with programmes from other Agile-related accreditation bodies based solely on passing a series of theory-based tests online.

Distinguish yourself

There are an enormous number of people with an entry-level CSM accreditation but far fewer with a more advanced certification. With growing recognition amongst employers of A-CSM and CSP-SM, you can expect such qualifications to put you ahead of job candidates with a CSM only.

Advance your career

We are frequently contacted by employers looking for exceptional Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches who can lead change effectively in challenging organisational situations. Strong demand means that such individuals have bargaining power to negotiate significantly higher remuneration than Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches with only entry-level credentials who cannot demonstrate skilled change leadership to employers.

For Agile Coaches, the world’s highest bar of accreditation is Scrum Alliance’s guide-level Certified Team Coach (CTC) and Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) accreditations. These accreditation have as a prerequisite Certified Scrum Professional.

Teach Scrum Foundations courses

The Scrum Alliance offers Certified Scrum Professionals the opportunities to teach the foundational subsets of CSM and CSPO programs known as Scrum Foundations. Learners earn a Scrum Foundations badge issued by Scrum Alliance. This ability to offer a globally recognised training programme adds additional value to employers and clients. It may expand the employment and income opportunities for a CSP.

Lead by example

Scrum Master and Agile Coaches are advocates for continuous improvement which involves continuous learning. Leading by example involves those individuals engaging in learning opportunities themselves on a regular basis.

Expand and level up to the big challenges

The Path to CSP learning objectives are designed and maintained by an world-class expert panel of Agile trainers and coaches to both:

  • expand the scope of the learner’s thinking tools and skills, as well as to
  • incrementally level up cognitive skills and ability to apply knowledge to context.

Expand your toolkit

Operating in the role

Unlike a CSM, the starting assumption for the A-CSM and CSP-SM programmes is that the candidate understands core Scrum concepts. Given this, full focus is given to the thinking tools and skills necessary to operate as Scrum Master or Agile Coach. Since Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches serve Product Owners, Developers and others, topics related to such roles are approached from the perspective of how the Scrum Master or Agile Coach enables performance in others through teaching, facilitation, coaching etc.

Breadth of stances and skills

A skilled Scrum Master does far more than just facilitation and a skilled Agile Coach does far more than just professional coaching.

Scrum WithStyle’s A-CSM explores no less than nine stances to operate out of as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach. Each stance involves mastery of a different set of skills in order to achieve fluency.

Overall fluency as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach involves not only mastering specific skills in each stance, but also knowing when to use which stance and the personal agility to switch between them seamlessly. It takes years of practice to achieve such overall fluency in a Scrum Master or Agile Coach role. Without the Path to CSP programme as a launchpad for embarking on this journey, an individual is unlikely to ever achieve such fluency and may spend years of their career unaware of the skills that they are missing.

Level up to the big challenges

The Path to CSP Learning Objectives are designed to progress the learner incrementally through the levels of the widely used ordering of cognitive skills in learning environments known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. The levelling up progression can be summarised as follows.

  • CSM is primarily focused on Knowledge and Comprehension level learning objectives.
  • A-CSM explores similar and additional topics at the level of Comprehension and Application.
  • CSP-SM explore similar and additional topics with many learning objectives at Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation levels.

The Path to CSP track for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches is intentionally rigorous because the reality of leading transformational change in many organisations is unforgivingly challenging. Successful Scrum Master and Agile Coaches level up in order to be match fit.

Why not stop at Advanced Certified ScrumMaster?

Whilst you can certainly do this and get significant benefits, doing so is likely to result in a relatively low ceiling on your team(s) ability to improve their value creation. The reality in every organisation that we have worked with is that after the first few months of Agile adoption, the biggest limiting factors shift to matters controlled outside of the team. This is what the CSP-SM level curriculum tackles.

Put another way, Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches who cannot effect change to the organisation beyond the Scrum Teams that they work with are limited to local optimisation. In our experience, this results in wasting time and effort each and every month working around organisational constraints that are misaligned with improvement goals and should be eliminated as constraints. Succeeding in partnering with (senior) managers to do this is highly unlikely without skill and confidence in areas such as Lean Thinking, Systems Thinking, agility-related organisational design as well as structured organisational impediment analysis and resolution design. All of these topics are explored in our CSP-SM programme.

Further Information


If you have any questions, please see the Frequently Asked Questions, Call us on 1300 1 SCRUM, or Send us a message.

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