So you want to become a Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA)?

Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA)


Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA) is the first of three certifications in Disciplined Agile.  Being a CDA indicates to colleagues and employers that you understand the fundamentals of agile delivery and are eager to learn strategies that enable you to increase your skills and abilities as a software professional.

This blog posting addresses the following questions:

  1. Why should I be interested in Disciplined Agile certification?
  2. Why should I become a CDA?
  3. How do I become a CDA?
  4. What’s after CDA?

Why should I be interested in Disciplined Agile certification?

First and foremost, this is respectable certification for agile practitioners who respect themselves. The Disciplined Agile Consortium (DAC) promotes a principled, Shu-Ha-Ri strategy to certification.  These are certifications that must be earned through learning and experience – if you’re looking for a quick, easy agile certification then this isn’t the path for you.  However, if your goal is to learn about Disciplined Agile ways of working, if it is to gain a better understanding of how to apply agile strategies within your organization, if it is to show employers that you’ve worked hard to gain this knowledge, then Disciplined Agile certification may be for you.

Disciplined Agile certification is for agile professionals working in enterprise-class settings such as banks, insurance companies, retailers, and government agencies to name a few.  You’re not working in ideal situations – you have legacy cultures, legacy systems, and legacy processes to overcome – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make things better.  You take pride in your work and you want to create environments where you can be effective, and you can do that by adopting Disciplined Agile strategies.

Why should I become a CDA?

To earn the CDA you must pass a comprehensive test that requires you to have a fundamental understanding of how the agile delivery process from beginning to end.  You understand how testing, analysis, design, programming, architecture, management, governance, and many more activities fit together in a streamlined manner from the start of a software endeavour to deployment into production. You understand that you have choices in how you work, that these choices have tradeoffs and that you must follow a strategy that makes sense for the context you find yourself in.

The CDA tells employers that you have a broad understanding of how agile works in practice, how it works in a pragmatic way.  It indicates that you’ll fit into agile teams better because you have a holistic understanding of agile delivery.  Disciplined Agile certifications are something that employers can trust because they need to be earned.

How do I become a Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA)?

There is a three step process:

  1. Learn about Disciplined Agile.  You need to have a comprehensive knowledge of how Disciplined Agile Delivery works from beginning to end.  You can do this by reading the Disciplined Agile Delivery book or by taking a Disciplined Agile workshop (in particular DA 101: The Disciplined Agile Experience, DA 104:Introduction to Disciplined Agile, or DA 105: Disciplined Agile in a Nutshell).  It is also possible for someone with deep experience in agile to read the articles and blog postings on this site to gain enough knowledge to pass the test, but there is far more information in the book and taught in the workshops.
  2. Pass the CDA test.  The CDA test is comprehensive and 10-15% of people fail it the first time (typically due to lack of preparation).  We suggest that you first read this advice on how to pass the CDA test.  Then, once you’re ready, take the CDA test.
  3. Apply for membership. The final, and easiest step, is to apply for membership at the Disciplined Agile Consortium (DAC).  This will get you publicly recognized as a CDA.

What’s after CDA?

To be clear, the CDA is an indication that you have comprehensive knowledge of agile solution delivery, it is not an indication that you have agile skills (yet).  Certified Disciplined Agile Practitioner (CDAP) and Certified Disciplined Agile Coach (CDAC) are better indicators of experience.  The CDAP requires you to have at least two years of experience in agile software development and the CDAC requires at least five years of experience plus proven give back to the community.  At some point you may even want to become a Certified Disciplined Agile Instructor (CDAI).


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