SAFe Vs PMI-ACP: Which One is Better ?

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Jan 31, 2024

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If you want to grow and rapidly progress in your job, then you need to upgrade your skills. Obtaining agile skill sets offer a bright opportunity. As per the recent trends in the market, it is suggested that for an agile career you not only need to have agile skills sets but also get certified. There are various certifications available for the agile and scrum frameworks. 

Many companies ask for the certifications and prefer candidates with these identities when compared to other requirements.  It is because the certifying bodies have made it a mandate that certificates will be offered only to those who duly get trained and understand things with practical sessions. Thus, hiring managers feels that having the agile certifications helps them in their work with exposure to teamwork, cross-functional communications, and as a leader in product ownership.

Which are the certifications to consider in the Agile Domain?

There are many certifications to consider in the agile domain, they are listed below,

1) SAFe 4 Agilist from Scaled Agile

It is a 2-day training course provided by the Scaled Agile. The course teaches leadership principles in agile and conducts transformational skills. Pre-requisite is 5 years of experience in software development or testing or as a Business Analyst. The exam consists of 45 questions to be answered in 90 minutes and a minimum of 34 questions to be answered correctly to pass the exam. Average salary is $130,000 per year

The career paths are 

  • Release Engineer
  • Agile Coach
  • Agile Executive

2) Agile Certified Coach from ICAgile

This is a program for 3 days of training that gives an in-depth knowledge of agile coaching. The course contents are discussions, case studies, and classroom exercises. This certificate can be attained without the exam. Pre-requisite is the basics of agile and little experience in the agile methodology. Career path leads to an Agile Coach. The cost of certification is approximately $1795. The average salary after the certification is $119,000 per year.

3) Agile Manager Agile Certified Practitioners (ACP) from Agile Project Management Institute also called ACP-PMI.

This is one of the most demanding courses among the agile frameworks; the prerequisite is that you need to have 2000 hours of experience in projects and out of which 1500 hours in managing agile projects. This also considers other frameworks like Kanban, Scrum, and Lean. The average global salary, once you are certified, is $123,000 per year. The career path after the certification is as follows

  • Technical Business Analyst
  • PMP Scrum Master
  • Digital Channel planner
  • Business Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • Agile Trainer
  • Agile Project Manager

The certification cost for PMI members is $435.0 and for Non-PMI members, it is $495.0. The duration of the exam is 3 hours, with 120 multiple choice questions and the passing percentage is above 70%.

Also Read: Advantages of PMI Membership

4) Certified Scrum Master from Scrum Alliance.

There are 6 certification courses offered by the Scrum Alliance in this field. They are as follows

  • Certified Scrum Professional
  • Certified Scrum Master
  • Certified Scrum Developer
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner
  • Certified Scrum Coach
  • Certified Scrum Trainer

Pre-requisite for Advanced-Certified Scrum Master is to have basics of scrum and experience of 1 year as a Scrum Master. This career path leads to the following

  • Mentor
  • Manager
  • Coach
  • Scrum Master
  • Product Owner

The cost of certification is $1495 approximately and the exam consists of 50 multiple choice questions out of which a minimum of 37 questions needs to be answered correctly to pass the exam. The duration of the exam is 1 hour. The average salary ranges between $100,000 to $130,000 per year.

5) Certified Scrum Professional from Scrum Alliance

CSP certification provides the skills of roles, procedures, artifacts of the Scrum framework. The pre-requisite is to have A-CSM and 2 years of experience as a Scrum Master. Career path leads to 

  • Coach
  • Manager
  • Scrum Master
  • Mentor

Average salary after the certification is approximately $115,000 per year and the cost of certification is $1290

Even though we can add many more certifications to the list, the most demanding certifications for those with experience in the agile projects are SAFe and PMI-ACP. Let us see how these 2 certifications help to shape a career. 

SAFe Agilist

Certification Course

Get Certified from Scaled Agile

View course

How safe is SAFe for your career?

Scaled Agile Frameworks (SAFe) certification is in high demand in more than 70% of fortune 100 large corporate and enterprises around the world demanding this certification from the candidates and their employees. SAFe certification provides in-depth knowledge in the agile transformational skills such as scaling in agile. That is why it is the best certification for the top executives, managers, and Agile change agents.  The benefits of SAFe are as follows,

  • Credibility to the SAFe professionals in terms of agile change agents and scaling.
  • High Demand for the SAFe Certified Professionals
  • High Salary
  • Career paths as executives, managers, and mentors
  • Getting network access to 150,000+ SAFe professional community in the world
  • Progression from entry-level SAFe practitioner to SAFe expert. 

PMI ACP and your career

The Agile Certified Practitioner offered by the Project Management Institute offers a high dividend when compared to other agile skills sets and other agile certifications. As per the recent study, you stand a better chance for a salary increase of close to 30% hike after obtaining ACP-PMI certification. There is a high demand for this certification than any other. It is due to the lesser availability of people in the market with these agile skill sets. ACP-PMI certification covers a whole lot of topics, frameworks, and methodologies. Also, it includes tools like Kanban, Scrum, XP, Lean, Crystal clear and DSDM, etc which are in high demand.


Differences between the SAFe and PMI-ACP are listed in the table below

Serial #
1Cost of certificationIncluded in the course registration fee, retake cost $50$435 for PMI members and $495 for Non-PMI Members


Accreditation BodyScaled AgileAgile Project Management Institute
3Pre-requisites for the certification5 years of experience in software development or testing or Business Analyst2000 hours of project experience out of which 1500 hours in agile project teams
4Career paths

Release Engineer

Agile Coach

Agile Executive

Agile Manager

Technical Business Analyst

PMP Scrum Master

Digital Channel planner

Business Analyst

Project Manager

Agile Trainer

Agile Project Manager

5Average Salary$130,000$123,000
6Certification Validity1 Year3 Years
7Certification Renewal$100 per year to renew the certificationCollect 30 Professional development units (PDU's) in agile concepts before expiry to renew
8Modules covered in the training

A brief intro to the Scaled Agile Framework

Core Principles

Lean and Agile Values

PI Planning experiences

Making a High-Performing Team

Empowering Agile Portfolio 

Creation of Large Solutions

Lean-Agile Enterprise growth

Problem Detection and Resolution

Value-Driven Delivery

Adaptive Planning

Engaging with the stakeholders

Agile Principles and Mindset

Team Performance

Continuous Improvement

9Preferences for the certificationsIf you work in a large company and a large team sizeBasics and advanced level of understanding the agile concepts
10Exam formatMultiple-choice questionsMultiple-choice questions
11Exam duration90 minutes180 minutes
12Number of questions45120
13Passing the examMinimum 34 out of 45 questions to be answered correctly that is nearly 76%Minimum 70%


Your final call which is the best 

It now depends on your position in the organization and experience in agile projects. We would suggest you go for SAFe Certification in case you want to take agile at an enterprise level. On the other hand, opt for PMI ACP Certification if you have a hunger to master all agile frameworks. 


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