SAFe Scrum Master(SSM) vs Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

By Simpliaxis


As Agile Methodology is adopted in several industries, there would be many discussions among companies about which framework to implement and which would give the best results for them as expected. Organizations that have just adopted Agile Methodology, go for the Scrum framework as it is lightweight and easy to understand. However, multinational companies that handle complex projects and have numerous people working for a particular product development use the Scaled Agile Framework as it can be used for a huge team in a large organization. A person who wants to advance their career and pursue a course in an Agile framework may get confused whether they have to go for the Certified Scrum Master or the SAFe Scrum Master. The individual first has to understand what roles and responsibilities they have to fulfill by being a Scrum Master and later decide the framework that they want to work in. This article highlights the differences between the Certified Scrum Master certification (CSM) and the SAFe Scrum Master Certification (SSM).

Certified Scrum Master Certification (CSM)

The CSM certification is one of the most well-known certifications in the Scrum Framework as it is widely recognized by several recruiters of renowned organizations. The course involves the participants attending a 2-day Scrum Master training which is instructed by a Certified Scrum Trainer. The candidate will learn about all the foundational knowledge in Scrum; the Scrum values and principles, the Scrum meetings, Scrum artifacts, and the roles and responsibilities of a Scrum Master. After learning about the basics of Scrum, the individual has to give an exam that consists of multiple-choice questions which are not difficult. The Certified Scrum Master workshops are a great way to learn about the world of Scrum as they allow the candidate to look at Scrum as an important flavor of Agile. 

How does one get the CSM certification?

After enrolling in the CSM certification through a registered education provider (REP) who is accredited to Scrum Alliance, the candidate has to attend a 16 hours workshop (2 days) which is taken by a CST. Generally, the institute provides the study materials and gives practical examples which implement the Scrum framework. The trainer explains Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospectives, Burndown charts, Planning poker, etc. such that the candidate gets an idea about how Scrum works. At the end of the training, the individual should take a test and clear it so that they get certified. The institute gives a gap of 90 days after the training to take up the test which could be used as a period to study the concepts taught. 

CSM course details

The candidate need not have any prior experience as a Scrum Master or any specific qualification as such. Any professional who is interested in the Scrum framework can attend the CSM certification. The candidate may have to know about the basics of software projects so that they can understand the concepts taught in the training. Look for education providers that include study materials and coaches who can help you understand the concepts. You have 2 attempts to clear the test; if you are not able to clear in 2 attempts you have to pay USD 25 to re-appear for the test for the third time. If you fail the third time, you have to attend the training program and start from the beginning. 

Details of Exam

The exam consists of 50 MCQs with 60 minutes to complete the test. The exam is easier as most of the questions are basic and are questions that have been taught during the training. To clear the exam, the candidate has to score a minimum of 37 out of 60. 

Renewal of Certification

After the candidate clears the exam, the certificate is mailed to the individual along with a 2-year membership of Scrum Alliance. The validity of the certification can be extended for another 2 years by paying a sum of USD 100 on the Scrum alliance website through the login credentials given during the CSM examination. 

SAFe Scrum Master Certification

Scaled Agile Framework is a framework that is implemented by organizations that are looking to increase their Agile enterprise to a bigger level. SAFe can be used to replace any Agile framework such that the business can grow and get results in a short period. The SAFe Scrum Master certification (SSM) is a course for individuals who have experience in working with the Scrum framework and want to know how they could fit in the Scaled Agile framework. Existing Scrum Masters can also take up this certification and gain more knowledge about the SAFe environment. The SSM certification provides practical and applicable management skills and leadership qualities to individuals so that they can qualify as knowledgeable Scrum Master. 

Certification and Exam details

The candidate applying to the SSM course should have experience working in a Lean-Agile environment. The candidate has to attend the SSM workshop where they learn about various concepts used in SAFe. Attending the training becomes a requirement for the candidate to write the SSM exam. The exam would be in the form of multiple-choice questions; it is web-based and closed book. Outside assistance is not allowed and the individual gets 90 minutes to complete the exam. There are 45 questions totally, and the candidate needs to score at least 33 out of 45 (73%) to pass the exam. The first attempt at the exam free as the exam fee is included in the course fee. However, each re-attempt would cost $50, also the individual has a window period of 30 days to take up the exam after the completion of the course. The second attempt for the exam could be taken immediately after the first, but the third retake could be taken after a 10-day wait, and the fourth retake after a 30-day wait. 

The professional taking up the exam should refer to various study materials provided by the institution during the training. Reading through the study guide is also a great idea as it includes a detailed reading list. The candidate should take up the practice tests so that they can understand the concepts that they have to work on. Also, they have to look through the sample questions as it gives them an idea about what kind of questions they could expect during the exam. After passing the exam, the candidate gets a digital badge and a Certified SAFe Scrum Master certification. They also get a one-year membership to the SAFe community and access to meetup groups which can help them network with other certified SAFe professionals. 

SAFe Scrum Master Vs CSM


Certified Scrum Master

SAFe Scrum Master

Roles and Responsibility

They act as a true leader of the Scrum team and ensure that the team follows the principles and values of Scrum and functions accordingly. 

The focus on the foundation of team-level Scrum and understand how Scrum could be used in an enterprise context.

Accreditation body

Scrum Alliance

Scaled Agile Framework

Eligibility Criteria

Professionals who are interested in knowing the basics of Scrum and wants to become a Scrum Master

Professionals who have experience in Scrum and want to learn about using Scrum on a larger level.

Exam details

Has 35 MCQs where candidates have to answer 24 questions correctly to pass the exam.

Has 45 MCQs where candidates have to answer 33 questions correctly to pass the exam.

Benefits of the course

2-year membership of Scrum Alliance. 

Candidates can claim 14-16 PDUs and SEUs 

1- year membership of SAFe community

Candidates can claim 16 PDUs and SEUs

Renewal policy

CSM is valid for 2-years and the renewal costs USD 100

SSM is valid for 1 year and the renewal costs USD 100

The focus of the course

Learning how Scrum works at a team level

Learning the use of Scrum at an enterprise level and understanding the bigger picture of the program


Team level Scrum ceremonies such as Daily Scrum, Sprint planning, retrospective, and review

Events such as iteration planning and review, Program increment planning, Iteration retrospective, and Daily Scrum.

Scrum Master Interacts with 

Developers and the Product Owner

Developers, Release Train Engineers, Program Managers, Product Manager, Product Owner, System Architect.

Learning about 

Scrum and Agile principles

Lean Thinking, Kanban flow, Agile and Scrum principles, DevOps, and System Thinking

Metrics and tools

Planning poker and Burndown chart

Planning poker for estimation, Continuous flow diagram, burn down chart for metrics.

Which one should you go for?

Certified Scrum Master and SAFe Scrum Master are both professional courses that help in the career growth of the individual. If you are a professional who is new to using Scrum and want to know more about Scrum, then the CSM course is the best choice. The CSM gives an idea about the fundamentals of Scrum and its principles such that the individual knows their roles and responsibilities of the Scrum Master. However, if you are a professional who has experience working in a Scrum environment and wants to progress your career in a larger organization that uses Scaled Agile Framework, then the SAFe Scrum Master course is a better option. Many professionals who may not have done the CSM course but have experience in working in a Scrum environment can also apply for the SAFe Scrum Master course. Also, the course you want to choose also depends on which company or department they want to pursue their career in. Ask your superior about which position is open and whether an SSM or CSM certificate would add more value to that designation. 


The CSM and the SSM courses are promising courses that would increase the career prospects of the candidates. The CSM course is one of the most popular and long-standing courses in the Scrum world. The SSM course gained more awareness as many companies started using SAFe for project development and management. The bottom line is that candidates who want to work in the SAFe environment and understand more about it and make a career in it should opt for the SSM course. Also, this candidate should have experience working in a smaller Scrum team as a Scrum Master. Professionals who are relatively new to the idea of Scrum and want to start their career as a Scrum Master should opt for the CSM course and understand the basics behind the Agile and Scrum principles.



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