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Differences Between CSM and SAFe Agilist

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The Certified ScrumMaster and the SAFe Agilist certification are two of the most in-demand Agile courses in the software development field. Starting from trained professionals to beginners who wish to work in an Agile environment, go in for these courses for excelling in their area of work.

Scrum Alliance’s CSM has been the go-to certification since 2007. In the last few years, the Scaled Agile Framework has gained ground because of its effectiveness. 

Both the certifications are valued and well-recognized because of the success that Agile and Scrum enterprises have experienced over a period. In this blog today, we present the differences between a Certified ScrumMaster vs. SAFe Agilist. We will also explore the details of getting certified as a CSM and SAFe Agilist and how your current role and eligibility plays an important role in choosing either of the certifications.

CSM vs SAFe Agilist

Understanding the key differences between SAFe Agilist and CSM from the table below:


SAFe Agilist

Certified ScrumMaster 

Accreditation body

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Scrum Alliance 


At least 5 years of work experience in software development

Open for freshers. It is important for the candidate to be hands-on with software development.

Target Audiences

Scrum Masters, Product Owners, Product Managers, Release Train Specialists, Program consultants, DevOps Engineers

Project Managers, Team Leads, QA Managers, Business Analysts, software developers.

Key Learnings and Concepts

Lean Thinking in Agile SAFe enterprise. Implementing Agile Release Train. XP, Kanban, and DevOps.

Agile principles, Scrum framework, and values. Artifacts planning and executing.


To work as a SAFe Agilist and improve productivity.

To work as a Scrum Master for the team


Daily Standup, Iteration planning and review, Program Increment Planning, and Iteration Retrospective

Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, Daily Standup

Exam Details

45 questions 

50 questions 

Difficulty Level



Duration of the exam

90 minutes

60 minutes

Exam Pattern

Multi-choice questions

Multi-choice questions

Passing score



Certification Cost

The exam fee for the first attempt is included in the course fee. The first attempt needs to be done within 30 days of completion of the course.

The exam fees for the first two attempts are included in the fee. The first two attempts should be taken within 90 days of completion of the course.

Exam re-take

Re-test can be taken by paying USD 50 per attempt

Re-test can be taken by paying USD 25 per attempt.

Certification Renewal Process

The certification is valid for 1 year. After that, you need to renew the same by paying $100. 

The certificate is valid for 2 years. After that, you need to renew the same by paying $100 and submitting 20 SEUs.

Expected Salary

According to PayScale, SAFe Agilist earns an average of $100k. With experience, the salary will increase.

According to PayScale, CSM earns an average of $90k annually. With experience, the salary will increase.

Value Add-on

Get 1-year membership of the SAFe Community Platform

Get 2-year membership with Scrum Alliance

Now that the main differences between SAFe Agilist and the Certified Scrum Master Certifications are clear, let us get into the details of the process for obtaining both the certificates. 

A. Getting CSM Certification

There are multiple steps involved in getting the CSM certification.


  • First, you need to enroll for a 2-day workshop with a Scrum Alliance licensed institute for the CSM course.
  • Attend the course.
  • Create your login details with Scrum Alliance
  • Schedule the test and appear for it on the scheduled date.
  • You need to score a minimum of 74% to get the certificate.
  • On getting the passing score, you will be sent the license agreement.
  • You need to accept it post which Scrum Alliance will email the Certificate and the two-year membership.
  • The membership needs to be renewed every two years.B. Process to get SAFe Certification
    The process involves similar steps as CSM.

  • First, enroll for the SAFe Agilist course from a Scaled Agile Inc. registered institute.
  • Undergo the 2-day mandatory course 
  • After the completion of the course, the Scaled Agile Inc. will send the details of the examination directly to the candidate.
  • Schedule the exam which consists of 45 MCQ questions to be completed in 90 minutes.
  • You need to get a passing score of 77% or 35 correct out of 45 to be eligible for the certification.
  • Once you have passed the examination, Scaled Agile Inc. will send you the certification and disclose it.
  • You will also get your membership for the SAFe Community Platform for a year. 
  • The renewal is required after every one year. 

Should I do CSM or SAFe Agilist?

As is quite clear from the comparison above that there are different cost implications, earning potential, eligibility criteria, and learning potential in SAFe Agilist vs. CSM. Here are the tips to choose the right certification:

a. Which agile process is the Enterprise using? 

This is the first question that needs to be answered. If you are on a Scrum team, go for CSM; if your enterprise is using SAFe, go in for SAFe Agilist.

b. Are you a beginner or experienced in Scrum?

If you are just starting, it is good to go ahead with CSM. This is because CSM is a basic level certificate and easier. While SAFe Agile is for experienced people who are working on agile projects as the level is difficult – the course eligibility mentions that the person should have at least five or more years of experience in software development, project management, product testing, and have knowledge of Agile and Scrum.

c. Which career goal are you setting out to fulfill?

If you wish to work in an agile team and currently working as a project manager, take the CSM certification. However, if you are looking at working in an enterprise-level agile environment, and wish to work in the implementation of Scaled Agile Framework, you should choose to become a SAFe Agilist. 

d. If budget is a constraint.

Comparing the cost of Certified ScrumMaster vs. SAFE Agilist, it is evident that the CSM fees are considerably lower than that of SAFe Agilist. Accordingly, you can choose if the budget is an issue. However, this should be the last consideration when choosing between both certificates.


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