If you’re looking to break into software development, you might have come across the scrum framework.
Never heard of it? It’s essentially a method for teams to work together to update and improve upon software. It’s a process that’s closely related to Agile software development, an iterative approach to completing projects that’s very popular in the tech world. In a scrum project, team members must communicate to prioritize tasks, keep track of progress, and sum up what was done and what was learned at the end of an effort.
Teams that use the scrum framework have a Scrum Master who is responsible for assembling a team of developers and making sure that the software they’re working on actually works. A Scrum Master’s role is a combination of a coach, technical expert, and manager. They ensure clear communication within a team of developers or programmers, organize their focus on development tasks, contribute to tech development where needed, and take responsibility to deliver the team’s work on deadlines.
While it’s common for salaries to vary in any industry, a Scrum Master’s pay is particularly mixed. That’s because there’s a broad range of people (with varying experience levels) who can take on the role of Scrum Master on any given team. For example, Developers, Business Analysts, and Senior Project Managers can all be Scrum Masters according to Indeed; and average annual salaries for these jobs range from $46,582 to $106,121.
With all that in mind, let’s break down the salary range you might expect from a Scrum Master role, and what factors can affect it.
Range of roles and compensation
Because of the varied nature of Scrum Master positions, determining what their compensation is will also require breakdowns of the various titles that can be considered Scrum Masters. Here are just a few that will help give you a better idea.
Software Engineers are a key part of a scrum team, and can also be Scrum Masters. These engineers, or developers, should know key languages such as HTML, PHP, SQL, and Python. Even if the Scrum Master comes from a discipline other than software engineering, they need that programming knowledge to communicate effectively with the working team. Software Engineer compensation can range from $38,000 for the most junior professional to about $172,000 for the most senior and experienced software engineer.
Indeed gives a few different figures for Project Managers:
- Technical Project Manager: $103,144
- Senior Manager: $96,308
- Senior Project Manager: $108,249
- Program Manager: $77,107
However, a Project Manager’s title can be very general and doesn’t always connote the same thing as Scrum Master. A Scrum Master is different from a Project Manager because the Scrum Master’s sole focus is on the success of the team working on the project or product in question, while the Project Manager is also responsible for budgeting time and resources, among other issues.
Agile Coaches or Managers
Agile Coaches, also referred to as Agile Managers, focus on that type of software development approach. Glassdoor estimates the average salary of an Agile Manager at $115,277. An Agile Manager must have more specialized knowledge than a Project or Program Manager, and can even take an exam to be certified as an Agile Manager.
Similar Scrum Master roles that include Agile specialties have a much higher ceiling for pay. According to ZipRecruiter, a Safe Agile Coach can earn $152,236, while Glassdoor estimates that an Agile Scrum Coach can earn $111,874.
Naturally, your education and experience will affect your earning power in a Scrum Master role. For some people, that begins with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, such as information technology (IT), computer science, or business administration. That said, more and more tech companies are moving away from requiring specialized college degrees. There are many paths to tech careers that involve flexible education, and you can seek out online courses and certifications that will get you up to speed. If you want to learn to code, check out our course catalog for a range of options.
Of course, to become a Scrum Master, your education should be supplemented with work experience, particularly in using Agile or as an Agile Developer. You should also earn a certification as a Scrum Master. A preparation course for this certification lasts just a few days.
While certification is not an absolute must-have to work as a Scrum Master, it could help increase your salary prospects. A 2019 survey by Age of Product, an Agile software development company, found that 44% of Scrum Masters with certification earn over $100,000, while only 18% of those without a certification earn over $100,000.
Since the role of the Scrum Master is flexible and the definition varies, succeeding as a Scrum Master requires certain soft skills. To be a Scrum Master, you should be an adept communicator and comfortable interacting one-on-one and in groups. A Scrum Master should also be a motivator and administrator for the scrum team.
A wide Scrum Master salary range
Due to variation in experience, role, and levels of qualifications in Scrum Master roles, different sources and surveys show Scrum Master salary ranges and averages that are less consistent than those of other programming, computing, and technology jobs.
So while it may be difficult to say exactly what you’ll make in this industry, here are different sources’ ranges for what the salary you might expect to see:
- Glassdoor: $108,907
- PayScale.com: $90,312
- Salary.com: Entry-level Scrum Master averages $82,215, with a range of $63,627 to $107,825
- Salary.com: Scrum Master II averages $98,490, with a range of $76,485 to $125,879
- Salary.com: Scrum Master III averages $118,896, with a range of $90,409 to $143,747
- Salary.com: Scrum Master with Agile project manager experience averages $141,561, with a range of $127,544 to $156,906
- ZipRecruiter: average of $114,991, with a range of $52,500 to $157,000
As you might expect, salaries can vary depending on where you live. Four of the top 10 cities in terms of average salary for Scrum Masters, according to ZipRecruiter, are in California: San Jose, Oakland, Hayward, and Vallejo. The top 10 is rounded out by a few other cities:
- Santa Barbara, California
- Hoboken, New Jersey
- Jackson, Wyoming
- Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
- Seattle, Washington.
These average annual salaries range from $132,454 to $138,361.
A role with great potential
What makes a Scrum Master career path so unique is that the required experience — and thus salary — is flexible according to what you bring to the role and what you hope to get out of it.
Whether you’re interested in being an Agile Coach or Software Engineer, our programming courses can help you get started. Familiarize yourself with PHP, SQL, and Python to establish your foundation to become a Scrum Master, and take a look at our career paths to help figure out what other skills you need to succeed.