6 Popular Agile Certifications in 2021

Written by Coursera • Updated on Jul 13, 2021

Agile certifications can focus solely on broad Agile principles, be specific to Scrum or other methodologies, or solidify your Agile scaling skills.

Project manager leads an Agile team in a business meeting

An Agile certification recognizes your expertise in Agile concepts, and signals to employers that you’ve taken the time to study and earn a credential. Agile certifications can level up your career in project management, and help you bring Agile practices into your work environment. Though Agile practices originated in software development, the fluid project management style continues to be adopted by other business sectors, including IT, operations, marketing, and HR [1]. 

6 popular Agile certifications

The following Agile certifications include broad ones that cover the Agile philosophy as a whole, certifications specific to Scrum (the most common Agile methodology), and a certification for scaling Agile in organizations.

1. PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

Administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the PMI-ACP is designed for those in Agile teams or organizations adopting Agile practices. The PMI-ACP covers several different Agile methodologies, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, extreme programming (XP), and test-driven development (TDD). To be eligible for the exam, you’ll need to have at least eight months of Agile project experience in the last three years, and twenty-one hours of training in Agile, among other factors.

Cost: $495 for non-PMI members, $435 for PMI members

Read more: What Is Agile? A Beginner's Guide

2. ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP)

The International Consortium for Agile’s (ICAgile) broadest certification offering is the ICAgile Certified Professional, a foundational certification that serves as a gateway to other certifications administered by the organization. The certification focuses on Agile concepts and principles, without targeting any specific methodology like Scrum or XP. This makes it a good option for those who are looking to understand the fundamentals behind Agile. ICAgile administers other Agile certifications at various levels, like the ICP Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF) certification, which can help if you hope to become an Agile coach. You’ll have to take an online or in-person course with a certified training provider in order to earn the ICP.

Cost: Depends on course, starts at around $600 for US offerings. Courses include ICP certification, no exam is required.

3. AgilePM Foundation - APMG

The AgilePM Foundation certification is administered by APMG International. The certification is designed for current project managers, Agile team members who want to become Agile project managers, and those who want to go on to get the AgilePM Practitioner certification. You’ll be tested on the broad philosophies and principles of Agile, as well as more specific techniques, roles, and responsibilities with an Agile project. You’ll have to pass an exam to earn the certification; coursework is optional and will be an added cost.

Cost: $333

4. Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

Scrum is the most popular Agile methodology, and being certified in Scrum can give you the specific tools to actually bring Agile concepts to life in the workplace. Becoming a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) means taking the corresponding course and passing the exam. Scrum Alliance, which administers the certification, recommends the CSM for a variety of professionals across industries, including Scrum masters, business analysts, and new Scrum team members.

Cost: Depends on course, starts at around $450. Courses include exam costs.

Read more: What Is a Scrum Master (and How Do I Become One)?

5. Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I)

Scrum.org, which administers the PSM I certification, was founded by the co-developer of Scrum Ken Schwaber. The PSM I shows a mastery of the fundamentals of Scrum, and how to apply Scrum in teams. A course is not required (but recommended). The exam concentrates on interpreting the Scrum Guide (available for free download in thirty languages at the time of writing) and applying Scrum principles to a team.

Cost: $150

Read more: Agile vs. Scrum: Which Should You Use, and Why?

6. SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager (SAFe POPM)

SAFe POPM, administered by Scaled Agile, is a certification that helps to solidify your expertise in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), which was the most popular framework used to scale Agile practices within organizations in 2020 [1]. The POPM in particular is designed for project managers, Scrum masters, and others in managerial positions. Key areas you’ll be tested in include the Lean-Agile mindset, SAFe principles, identifying customer needs, and prioritizing work for an enterprise. You’ll need to enroll in a corresponding course and pass an exam to be SAFe certified. 

SAFe POPM is one of thirteen certifications offered by Scaled Agile that range from foundational to advanced levels. Others include SAFe Agile Product Manager, SAFe Scrum Master, SAFe Program Consultant, and SAFe Agile Software Engineer. 

Cost: Depends on course, starting at around $450. Courses include exam costs.

Getting started in Agile

Many have touted the benefits of incorporating Agile into their teams—including adaptability, increased transparency, and quicker delivery speed. Whether you’re learning the essentials of Agile or diving straight into mastering Scrum, getting a grasp of what makes Agile unique can make you a better project manager and professional.

Ready to learn?

Consider the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate, which includes an entire course on Agile Project Management. You’ll earn a professional certificate after completion—plus, the first week is free.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do I need an Agile certification?

While they aren’t always necessary, certifications may give you an advantage in the job search process. The process of getting a certification can teach you plenty about Agile or Scrum, and some organizations place preference on those with a certification. Generally, your experience will count over certifications—being able to actually do the job is often what matters most.

Which certification should I start with?

Some Agile users recommend having a firm grasp of Agile concepts before leaping into specific methods like Scrum. Others maintain that jumping straight into learning Scrum is better. To help decide what’s best for your situation, try looking up the job descriptions of some positions you’d be interested in, and see which certifications they call for.

What are the limitations of an Agile certification?

Agile is only one approach to project management. There are several other types of project management, most notably the more traditional Waterfall approach, that you likely won’t learn much about with an Agile certification.

Are there other project management certifications?

There are several other project management certifications. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is popular. If you’re looking for a broad entry-level project management credential, consider the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). Or, learn both traditional and Agile approaches with the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.

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Article sources

1. Digital.ai. "14th Annual State of Agile Report, https://stateofagile.com/#." Accessed July 13, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Jul 13, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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