Agile vs Scrum: Difference Between Scrum Alliance CSM and Scaled Agile SAFe Agilist Certification

Agile organizations have evolved in the past few years and industries have started implementing several Agile frameworks such as Scrum, Scaled Agile Framework, Kanban, Lean-Agile, etc. With all the options available for professionals, it becomes overwhelming to choose a specific domain to specialize in and gain mastery. However, we see that there is a growing demand for Scrum related courses as companies find Scrum easy to understand and adopt. In the past decade, many industries such as construction, aerospace, banking and finance, architecture, and government-related projects have been carried forward by using the Scrum framework of the Agile Methodology. Likewise, multinational corporations find Scaled Agile Framework more convenient to perform their operations with and have implemented all across their companies. Hence, we could see that there could be a growing distortion about what exactly may be the differences between both of these frameworks and whether an individual would benefit from a CSM course from Scrum Alliance or SAFe Agilist course from Scaled Agile Framework. This article gives a brief review on SAFe Agilist vs CSM certifications and distinguishes the differences between both these courses such that one understands which would be a better choice for them.

Certified ScrumMaster Certification

Scrum framework is one of the most widely accepted frameworks among all the Agile Methodology, according to the 14th state of Agile report. Scrum is an iterative and incremental approach towards product development that develops and delivers Product Increments in Sprints. The CSM course is one of the most demanded certifications in Scrum as a ScrumMaster is a highly respected individual in an organization. It is a primary certification that helps the professional to gain knowledge about the Agile values and principles and how work is processed in Scrum. CSM professionals help organizations implement the Scrum framework in various organizations and educate the members about the value of Scrum. 

Testers, Developers, Business Analysts, Architects, Quality Analysts, and anyone who is interested in learning the Scrum process and aspires to manage and lead Scrum Teams can apply for the Certified ScrumMaster certification. The CSM course educates candidates to handle Scrum teams and teaches skills such as communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, etc by giving real-world examples of product development. Handling small releases and different methods of managing various types of team members are also taught in the CSM certification. The course assures adequate knowledge which a professional would require to get started as a ScrumMaster and later becomes a prerequisite for advanced CSM, and Advanced Scrum Professional courses.

How does one get certified as a CSM?

Candidates interested to know more about the Scrum framework, its values, and principles can apply for the CSM course with a registered education provider affiliated with Scrum Alliance. After enrollment, the individual has to attend a 16-hour classroom training, where all the concepts about Scrum are taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer. Participants are given an in-detail explanation of Scrum principles and real-world examples are taught by using Agile Methods and practices. Scrum Artifacts, three pillars of Scrum, various meetings in Scrum such as Sprint Planning, Review, and Retrospective are elucidated. The participant is also taught about several Sprint Planning techniques such as planning poker, burn-down charts, etc. Exams are conducted after the individual completes the training course. A period of 90 days is given to prepare for the exam, during which the candidate is free to give the test. However, if the candidate surpasses this time limit of 90 days, they have to take up the course again to be eligible to appear for the CSM certification exam. Here are some points to be aware of:

  • Prequestities: No prior experience required to enroll in the CSM course. Knowing a few basics of the software process of Agile and Scrum would be helpful for the candidates during the training. 
  • Exam cost: The course fees also include the exam fees along with it and it varies based on the registered education provider. Ideally, the CSM course fees also include study materials, training fees, and exam fees. The person has two chances to attempt the exam, if failed twice, they can pay an additional amount of USD 25 to take a third chance. However, if failed again, the participant has to retake the course by paying the CSM fees.
  • Exam details: The CSM exam has 50 MCQs with participants getting a total time of 60 minutes. A minimum of 37 questions has to be answered correctly to pass the exam. After the exam is cleared, the CSM certificate is emailed to the mail ID provided during enrolment along with two years of Scrum Alliance membership.
  • Certificate Renewal: The certificate is valid for two years and the validity could be extended for another two years by earning 20 SEUs and paying a renewal fee of USD 100.
  • Levels of ScrumMaster Certification: 
  1. Certified ScrumMaster- CSM
  2. Advanced Certified ScrumMaster- A-CSM
  3. Certified Scrum Professional- ScrumMaster- CSP-CM

Why should you take up a CSM Certification course?

CSM course has been one of the most popular courses in the information technology industry. It is also looked for by recruiters in other domains such as banking and finance, aerospace, etc. Here are few features of taking up the CSM course:

  • Catches the eyes of recruiters and keeps the candidate ahead of their co-applicants.
  • Top-companies hire Certified ScrumMaster to handle the Scrum teams to deliver quality products. 
  • Makes the individual relevant to the market and opens them a plethora of career opportunities.
  • Professionals get to network with other Scrum experts in the Scrum Alliance platform with the membership provided after course completion. 
  • Make use of networking to get more job opportunities and connect more people related to the field.
  • CSM course becomes a stepping stone to pursue higher levels of ScrumMaster certifications as CSM is a prerequisite for advanced level ScrumMaster courses.
  • Getting a higher salary package that would progress as ScrumMaster takes up more challenges.

SAFe Agilist Certification

The SAFe Agilist Certification is for candidates who have gained a certain amount of experience in Scrum and want to advance their careers in multinational corporations. These larger organizations incorporate more complex frameworks such as Scaled Agile Framework where individuals who are trained in SAFe are employed. The SAFe Agilist Certification teaches the participants about accountability, iterative processes to complete Sprint Goals, and teamwork. The training also gives more emphasis on communication, self-management, and handling complex products. SAFe Agilists are trained in Agile Release Trains (ART) which implements and delivers significant product increments. SAFe Agilist certifications would be helpful for individuals who want to advance their careers after gaining significant experience while working as a ScrumMaster. This course also covers building delivery pipelines without interruptions, DevOps culture, etc which is essential for any SAFe specialist working in bigger organizations. 

How does one get Certified as a SAFe Agilist?

The SAFe Agilist certification is offered by many registered education providers who are affiliated with Scaled Agile Framework. The candidate has to enroll in an institute that offers this certification and complete a 2-day classroom SAFe training which is a 16-hour training session. The candidate has to appear for the online test after completing the training session and pass the exam to be certified. Here are few important points to keep in mind:

  • Prerequisites for SAFe Training: Professionals who have experience of at least five years in software development are eligible for attending the SAFe training program and getting certified as a SAFe Agilist. 
  • Cost of certification: This depends on the institute that the participant enrolls in. This cost includes the cost of the 2-day training, exam fee, study material, and one-year membership with the Scaled Agile community. The exam has to be taken within 30 days of finishing the training session. If the participant takes up the exam after 30 days, they have to pay an additional amount of USD 50 to appear for the test.
  • Exam pattern: There are nine subheadings where the top three subheadings are ART, SAFe, and Lean Portfolio. The SAFe online exam has 45 objective questions, where one must answer at least 34 questions correctly to pass the exam. 
  • Certification Renewal: To extend the certificate validity for another year, the candidate has to pay an additional amount of USD 100 with the login credentials received before attending the exam.

Why should you get the SAFe Agilist Certification?

There are numerous reasons why one should take up the SAFe Agilist certification. Here are few salient features of the Leading SAFe certification:

  • Globally recognized certification where candidates get an opportunity to work anywhere in the world.
  • Increased salary when compared to non-certified peers along with incentives and benefits. 
  • Enhanced decision making abilities by attending the training sessions from SAFe Certified Practitioners. 
  • Getting better opportunities in top companies that have adopted SAFe as the certification catches the eye of the recruiters. 
  • Acts as a foundational course for anyone who wants to learn more about Scaled Agile frameworks.
  • Networking with SAFe experts around the world as the certification comes with a one-year membership to the Scaled Agile community.
  • Being known as an expert in SAFe in the organization.

Key Differences Between Certified ScrumMaster vs SAFe Agilist Certification


Certified ScrumMaster

SAFe Agilist

Accreditation Body

Scrum Alliance

Scaled Agile Inc


Anyone who is interested in the Scrum framework. 

A professional with at least five years of experience in Software Development, testing, business analysis, product, or project management

Learning involved

  • Scrum values and principles
  • Scrum artifacts and roles
  • Iteration planning and execution
  • Different Scrum meetings and real-world examples 
  • Embracing Agility and lean thinking
  • Agile Release trains
  • Building SAFe enterprise
  • Constructing a portfolio.

Exam Pattern

50 Multiple choice questions and 60 minutes to complete it.

45 multiple choice questions and 60 minutes to complete it.

Passing Criteria

The candidate has to score 37/50 to pass the exam

The candidate has to score 34/45 to pass the exam.


When it comes down to SAFe Agilist vs CSM, it always depends on the work experience and interest of the candidate to decide either of the certification programs. If an individual is a fresher and does not have any experience in software development, the Certified ScrumMaster course is a basic course that could educate them about the Scrum framework. Likewise, if the candidate has a good understanding of Scrum and at least five years of experience in software development, testing, business analysis, product, or project management and your product/team needs a scaling framework to support then you should go for the SAFe Agilist certification. SAFe is a growing framework employed by top organizations which offers excellent salary along with incentives. Here candidates get to work with more complex projects and handle large operations. Hence, it all comes down to the work experience of the professionals and in which field they want to continue their career.

Useful Links:

CSPO Online Training Checklist

ICAgile Devops TrainingDaily Scrum Meeting TipsPython For Big Data CourseDesign Sprint And Innovation TrainingCertified Scrum Product Owner

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