The perks of being a Scrum Master II - Earning a salary and being market competitive

The last time we talked about the Scrum Master role in this blog, we covered its relevance in the current labor market. We even had the chance to talk with some experienced Scrum Masters from the Encora community and gather their insights around various matters. We recommend you take a look.

While researching this topic, one related term that stood out was "salary." Many professionals seem to be attracted to this career path due to its potential compensation. LinkedIn considered it to be one of the top promising jobs of 2019. Still, specialists such as Mountain Goat Software's Lance Dacy and Encora's Karen García consider it the most competitive industry.

Take a look at the estimated average yearly salaries for the Scrum Master position in some of the most relevant markets. This sample is based on countries from which we get the most readers. Salaries are based on the data we could get from LinkedIn and Glassdoor.

If you would like to land a job with compensation that fits these standards, you might want to learn about some factors you just can't overlook. Let's go through the facts and experiences of some specialists.

Topics to check

  1. The Scrum Master salary
  2. Industry expectations
    2-a. General understanding of the industry
    2-b. Communication, organization and leadership skills
    2-c. The will to go beyond Scrum
    2-d. Getting an agile certification
    2-e. Role perception anti-patterns
  3. Growth opportunities
    3-a. Opting for another Scrum role
    3-b. Turning into an Agile Coach

1. The Scrum Master salary

The figures shown before are based on the average income reported by surveyed users both of LinkedIn and Glassdoor. For example, the USA median is $105,000 yearly, but the lowest salary reported stretches down to $70,000, representing 33% less. Just consider these differences to keep your expectations realistic.

Karen García, success coach at Encora, thinks that "Being a Scrum Master does not necessarily mean that you get a greater salary than a developer, a good QA or a Product Owner. That is what I can say regarding the software industry."

However, you should aspire to earn good money while performing as a Scrum Master. Our in-house specialist at SoftwareDevTools, Damian Cabrera, believes that "salaries are competitive in most companies. It tends to be lower in organizations that consider a Scrum Master only scheduling meetings and sending emails. If there exists that conception, they obviously will think you ask for too much."

Both experts agree on investigating the company like in any other job search. Tools such as LinkedIn or Glassdoor can be useful, but you can also check other forums. Just bear in mind that almost anybody can post on most of these sites, so consider several perspectives before deciding.

2. Industry expectations

When recruiters look for a person to fulfill this position, there are several factors they might consider, both in general and specific ways. Some companies may look for a solid technical background, while others focus on prior experience and soft skills. Remember that, after all, a Scrum Master is a facilitator, a person who can help specialists do their job at their best.

Any knowledge related to the industry you would like to work in will be beneficial. It's also good to have practical experience with agile frameworks in other positions. What a good Scrum Master should bring to the table, according to Damián Cabrera, is:

2-a. General understanding of the industry

As Scrum and agile frameworks are expanding to other industries aside from IT, the need for specialists in different fields is a variable you should consider when preparing for a job. It will let you foresee potential blockers and workarounds and better understand each team member's expertise.

2-b. Communication, organization and leadership skills

Soft skills are a must. A Scrum Master has to make sure the best conditions are met so the team can effectively deliver value. And that means engaging with different stakeholders, both inside and outside the Scrum team.

Both rookie and experienced Scrum Masters face one significant challenge: Making the most out of their time without completely disrupting their schedule. To prevent it from being an issue, we suggest using Stand-Bot, a tool that connects to Slack and automatically gathers the work status of your team, rendering daily Scrums shorter or even not necessary at all!

Stand-Bot can reach your teammates in different time zones, keeps track of all those conversations and is easily configurable with Slack commands. Its brand new Premium Plan has even higher customizable features, such as asking tailored questions. Try it for free.

2-c. The will to go beyond Scrum

Making sure the team keeps agile-compliant is the minimum you should do. If you really want to differentiate yourself, you must act as ‘another member of the team' and be fully committed to its success, actively listening and supporting them with suggestions and ideas. Damián believes this is the best way to connect with the team/company and to differentiate yourself as a Scrum Master that isn’t afraid of getting a little dirt in his hands to get things done.

2-d. Getting an agile certification

Certifications can be useful. Karen and Damián consider them valid assets for any Scrum practitioner and a the best method to understand how would agile frameworks function in an ideal world. This theoretical foundation can be a power-up, but none of them considers it essential. Learn more about their opinions regarding the Scrum Master certifications here.

Even after considering all of that, you might occasionally come across a job offer with a low salary (compared to the stated standards) and not-so-attractive working conditions. It's obviously up to you chasing after it, but our advice would be to go for a better, profiled one.

2-e. Role perception anti-patterns to be aware of

  • The company considers that a Scrum Master's only purpose is to schedule meetings and file in documentation.

  • The perception is that a Project Manager and a Scrum Master's duties are the same.

  • They expect the person to persecute the team due to underperformance issues.

You are more likely to face these red flags when applying to an organization with no experience with agile. Remember that carrying out a transformation on a whole company can be a big deal. In some cases, the support of an Agile Coach, an "experienced Scrum master with advanced training. The Agile Coach focuses on increasing overall agility and has a companywide view of progress, providing support for multiple teams, as well as a leadership level", according to Toptal.

3. Growth opportunities

Like any other career, this one has its own progress line. A first-time Scrum Master may not be assigned to work in the team developing the main product, but it doesn't mean he won't have a chance after developing more expertise and connections across the company. But then, after some years, you might want to try something a little different. The good news is that there are some options to choose from:

3-a. Opting for another Scrum role

Karen Dakhlaoui, actual Scrum Master at Imagine Learning, thinks that it can be very enriching to have had worked before in another role of a Scrum team. She has been a Product Owner in the past and is sure that this prior experience helped her understand things from a 360 perspective. "It can be easier for you to put in someone else's shoes and understand what difficulties that person might be facing to deliver a task.

She also believes that coming from another industry should not be a blocker, but an asset that can be leveraged, as you can adapt some of your acquired skills in a different context.

3-b. Becoming an Agile Coach

The Agile Coach is yet another option to level up. It focuses on a higher-level scope, keeping the agile compliance of a whole organization. It naturally requires lots of experience working as a Scrum Master with different teams. This is definitely not an entry-level job, but mastering it can lead you to some great job experiences. And maybe one day, you will be ready to start your own freelance agile consultancy services.

Conclusion

There's definitely room to keep growing in this path, as Karen García states. For her, this is a really welcoming career, where lots of people are eager to share their knowledge and help other people to be better. "Anyone looking to get into this lane should do it, regardless of his background. Just consider all the skills that the role requires, and you'll be fine."

It seems that becoming a Scrum Master can be a good choice for many professionals, but a daring one, like anything worth the effort. This is the second part of a mini-series focused on The perks of being a Scrum Master, intended to guide you towards performing a successful career shift. Check out the first part, focused on developing soft skills and avoiding anti-patterns.

Many thanks for their participation to:

Karen García - Success Coach @ Encora Mexico

Karen Dakhlaoui - Scrum Master @ Imagine Learning

Damián Cabrera - Scrum Master @ SoftwareDevTools


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