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What is the difference between a SAFe and Certified Scrum Master certification

In this article, we will discuss the significant differences between the two prominent certifications in Agile space:

SAFe Agilist certification (Leading SAFe) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certifications are amongst the most popular, renowned and well- recognised in the industry. However, despite being well known, there are many confusions such as are these certifications similar? How are they different? What are the key differences between them?

This article provides answers to all these questions. We will explore the basics of SAFe Agilist and Scrum, prerequisites, exam procedure and many other factors.

Leading SAFe with SAFe Agilist

Scaled Agile Framework is designed to resolve scaling issues in an agile environment, that was challenging to be sorted by Scrum or such agile frameworks. SAFe not only bridges the breaches/gaps between the teams of a large program but also enhances communication between teams, improves the predictability & quality of the product.
Here, there is an abundant significance for the release of a product in sustainably shorter lead time. This scaled framework authorises the organisation to bring changes in the work culture starting from the leadership team. Additionally, this makes it easier to scale up a company and to see a steep growth in the team’s productivity.

Collaboration, synchronisation of alignments, delivery of multiple agile teams, etc can be smoothly done by implementing SAFe framework leading to the success of the organisation.

Certified Scrum Master

Certified Scrum Master (CSM) is one of the primary certifications you can have with an elementary knowledge of Scrum and Agile. This helps to have a thorough understanding of the Scrum framework. CSM also helps professionals to know the value of Scrum and how to implement Scrum framework.

SAFMeanwhile, you will also learn about accountability, iterative process to achieve sprint goal and teamwork. Besides, professionals with CSM certification can play the role of Scrum team member or Scrum master. A few predominant responsibilities of the Scrum Master Training include improvising the communication, self- managing team members to accomplish their goals, helping in self-organising, etc.


Differences between SAFe Agilist and CSM

SAFe Agilist CSM
Prerequisites A professional with a minimum of five years of experience. A fresher/newbie with basic knowledge of software development
Certification body Scaled Agile Scrum Alliance
Learning involved Understand lean thinking while embracing agility. Build a SAFe enterprise, build a portfolio, implement the Agile Release Train (ART). Agile principles, roles, Scrum framework, values, artefacts, planning, organising and executing.
Eligible Attendees DevOps practitioners, program consultants, architects, Scrum Masters, Release Train Engineers, Program Consultants, Product Owners and Product Managers Developers, Project managers, Team Leaders, Business Analysts, QA Managers.
Duration of Exam 45 questions in 60 minutes (MCQs) 50 questions in 60 minutes (MCQs)
Level of Difficulty Difficult Easy


Even though both the certifications are distinctive in their ways, choosing one that best suits your requirement must not remain as a tough nut to crack after this detailed explanation. In simpler words, individuals willing to have a basic understanding of the Scrum framework must get CSM certification. However, get a SAFe Agile certification for embracing agility and implementing Agile at the enterprise level.

CTA SAfe Agilist

Author's Bio

Preeth is a pragmatic coach, Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) & SAFe 5.0 Program Consultant (SPC 5.0) and is passionate about all things agile and leadership. With over 20+ years of experience and commitment, he trains and coach organizations to be agile and more importantly to stay agile. Preeth holds an enviable record of conducting over 10,000 hours of industry-specific training and coaching.

1 Comment

  • Kedar Pathak
    Posted May 8, 2020 6:29 am

    Thanks for sharing this Preeth. Some comments –

    1) For Leading SAFe , 5 years of professional experience is recommended. Its not something which participant must have.
    2) Learning involved – Lean Agile principles of SAFe is one of the key component of program and so I feel worth mentioning in addition to lean thinking while embracing Agility. Most of these principles are valid and useful even if organization is not going for scaled agile implementation.
    3) Eligible attendees – Is Scrum Master not eligible to attend CSM training? Or are Project Managers , Delivery Manager/Lead, QA Managers are not eligible to attend SAFe Agilist training? There is no such eligibility criteria. At the most one can say SAFe Agilist and CSM training are ideal for these groups.

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